And with each night spent at your grave
Our dreams, they danced as phantoms lost
I lay in velvet haunted silence
You in lilies kissed with frost
That year winter had arrived unnoticed, unchallenged. I surrendered to its darkness and embraced the cold with an empty heart. Imprisoned within its gripping claws felt more comforting than my life without you, Leila.
The summer months when I first glimpsed your impish face are long gone but I still remember the sound of your cheerful laughter echoing behind me like a call of sirens that I knew if followed would see me drowned in the ocean of your love. But in the beginning there was only a hot day in July that held me captive in the shadow of a tree, sketching in my notebook whatever came my way. That day it happened to be you Leila, a little girl of twelve with emerald eyes and prettiest smile I have ever seen. Your ethereal presence held my gaze at ransom by its unforgiving spell, then your eyes caught mine on the margin of your world and you looked at me longingly, dreamlike, like a bird trapped in its cage, waiting to spread its wings and soar into the wind and rain until it became lost in its own allure.
Nothing comes easier than friendship when you're twelve or a lonely student in a new town. And so it was with us. We were made for each other from the first glance, a flirty hint of smile on our lips, a shy touch of hand. You made me chase you around the tree and I pretended I couldn't catch you until you let me, falling into a dewy grass, laughing joyfully, and me falling next to you and falling for you there and knowing it was the sweetest falls of all.
All summer days we romped in our park, playing chase and hide and seek, sketched pigeons fighting over bread crumbs that people fed them and as you sat beside me I tried hard to resist the growing attachment to your tender weight resting gently against me. The smallest details of you fascinated me - the way your smile started out slowly, playing hide and seek upon your lips so childlike, until it bloomed fully like a delicate flower after the rain; the way you idly ran your fingers down your arm and pulled gently at your lower lip with your teeth when you were lost in thought. That slight hesitation that furrowed your brow and the way the tip of your tongue pressed between your teeth when you spoke. I loved to watch the subtle parade of moods shift across your face, all caught in the fraction of a second. I had learned to anticipate each nuance of shadow and light that illuminated it.
But even in our friendship I felt your veiled loneliness, hiding somewhere behind those wide eyes and mischievous smile. I felt it in the way you held my hand as if fearing it was going to leave you any moment, the way you looked up at me, your eyes never leaving my face, begging, pleading but understanding that nothing lasts forever.
Perhaps it was something you knew all your short life, a shadow of a broken home you tried to escape by looking for someone to love you when no one else would. Blonde curls bouncing with joy were only a thin veneer hiding another world behind their captivating beauty, a reality I could feel in touch of your hand as it clung to me in desperation of hope and longing. And I was more than happy to oblige, holding on to you just as desperately, hopelessly aware of the cursed path it led me down yet running ahead and into your arms with smile on my lips and fear in my eyes.
For a while nothing mattered but our small, secluded world. I can still taste sweet cookie dough on my lips as we lay on the floor after another food fight in my small, rented apartment, oblivious to time and space but aware of the imminence of a kiss, the first touch of our lips and their sticky, syrupy taste as they brushed against each others. Your taste rolled upon my tongue. It lingered, faintly exotic, teasing, imploring me to trail the same path across your skin again and again.
Sated, we lay in each other's arms, your hair a lustrous curtain spread across the two of us. My finger tugged gently at a wayward lock that curled against your cheek and, looking into your eyes, I couldn't stop wondering about everlasting rain clouds dwelling inside them.
Your finger upon my lips told me you feared too many questions. As if I could not read that message on your sweet face for myself. But could I have done better if I wasn't completely distracted by that too full mouth of yours and longed for it to burst like ripe fruit against my tongue? Bruise it a soft shade of crimson with my own? But then, haven't I done that a hundred times already that evening and evenings thereafter? Each kiss eliciting the tiniest shock deep within you as my lips delicately run the length of your throat and ended at your tiny ear to whisper my promise of everlasting love.
And each secret night with you in my arms brought some small, new treasure. I loved that tiny pulse that beat savagely under the pale skin of your chest, the heat that my hands drew off you as they passed over your skin; the gasp that stopped your breath when I touched you. But above all, I loved to keep you safe in my arms, at least for a little while, until your inevitable return home to face another round of drunken abuse and yelling and slamming of doors that left you shut away in dread and darkness of your little room.
As much as you tried to hide your unhappiness, no amount of disguise could prevent tears from falling down your cheeks when I had to let you go from my arms and out on the street in the dusk of a new evening. Just like Cinderella, your presence was required before anyone noticed you missing; before accusing questions could discover the short moments of stolen freedom and happiness. And it was on one such evening that I walked you home, trying to steal every last second of that precious company I grew accustomed to before you disappeared once again behind the crumbling walls of your nightly prison. A warm breeze played with your golden hair as you leaned against the tree and allowed me to endow one last kiss upon your cheek and whisper a promise of another tomorrow. I still remember the soft touch of your fingers as they slowly slipped away from my hand and you walking all alone until darkness claimed you for itself.
I dreamed that night I died for the first time. And in the morning when I found you sitting under the tree in our park I knew it was true. From a distance you looked so small, like an abandoned doll, a forgotten toy waiting for someone to pick her up. But it was only when I drew closer, I realised we had to escape before it got any further, before either of us was hurt worse. I turned slightly to look at you and, at first, could only look at the mottled bruise on your little cheek and cut lip with a hint of dried blood. Even without words spoken you made it clear this was the courtesy of your daddy who spied on us holding hands last night before my hurried kiss left you all alone in your nightmare and this was your punishment, his attempt at "curing" his daughter.
"What?" you asked softly, your whisper a balm on my frayed sanity. Despite the black and blue and signs of tears in your eyes, you still captivated me with your beauty. The long golden tresses and big green eyes effortlessly pulled me into your tragic world. Your lips were a pink bow and in the light of a morning sun your skin seemed to glow.
"Nothing," I finally managed to utter, my hand cupping your cheek of its own accord.
"You're silly," you smiled when you saw tears spilling from my eyes and covered my hand with your own. "It doesn't hurt. Not any more."
"I love you," I said before cradling your face between my hands and kissing you softly on those little lips of yours. You returned the kisses and the passion between us built until I imagined the air around us sparkling with a rainbow of fireworks, yet I sensed you holding back, hesitating. After only a few short moments you pulled back, cheeks flushed with love you've never been able to voice aloud. You put a restraining hand out before you, stopping me from kissing you again.
"I must go back. Daddy will look for me."
"Will I see you again?" I asked, desperately wanting to hold you safely in my arms if only for a second longer.
And I remembered the smile playing on your lips and in your eyes as you waved goodbye.
It didn't feel right. The park felt empty without you, like the sky without sunlight or a forest without birds. I waited for you the following morning and the morning after in the same spot where we chased each other and drew pigeons in my notebook. But there were no pigeons this morning and my notebook was slowly filling up with your name, Leila.
It took two long days before I learned you were not coming back. There was an atmosphere of dread hanging over your street, an emanation of something that happened but could not be revealed. Neighbours told stories and people spread rumours but despite all apprehension, no one expected a girl of twelve to commit suicide. They said you died. Wrists cut with daddy's razor blade and bled dry on the floor of your cold, little room. The same cold now imprisons my heart, Leila, frostbitten and iced over like your beautiful green eyes were when they found you lying on the bloodsoaked floor.
I sleepwalked through people's whispers and rumours about you lying in the hospital room as your heart monitor died for the last time. Doctors came in and left but all they could do was try to start your heart. It did for only a moment, just one second of life... Then they began to wheel your lifeless body out of the room and the infinite loneliness filled my thoughts with the sound of your voice whispering in my ear.
Days turned into endless night and life became a dream, a nightmare in which I remembered the sensation of your breath tickling my ear, making me shiver with delight, the feel of your hands touching me. In my nightmare I could taste your mouth kissing me, the faint flavour of strawberries, the feel of your skin under the palm of my hand, the sound of your sighs when I kissed you back. Your voice, your face, your hair, those hands, those eyes... the gracefulness with which you moved... everything about you that used to leave me breathless, but feeling more alive than ever. The sight of you in my bed haunted me, covers tossed so carelessly, making you look so beautiful and safe... that mischievous smile when you woke up... the giggle as I kissed you and joined you under the covers... Your moans as I touched you... your laughter as I teased you... your dazed-over eyes, full of pleasure and desire as we kissed for what seemed like hours... The feeling of loss when I had to let you go before your parents came home... the fluttering in your tummy as you looked over your shoulder, leaving and blowing me a kiss... the sound of your laughter as I caught the kiss and gave you one of my own.
Memories of you filled up my days from the first incoherent mumble to my last waking thought. But even in dreams I found no solace. Images of you overwhelmed my mind, making me yearn for you in the flesh. At times they were simple things; holding hands, watching clouds, star-gazing, a small kiss on the cheek. Others were less chaste; more intense and my breath is stolen without fail.
How can I stop dreaming about you - thinking of you - when you are all I ever wanted? You torture me with this blessed love that has been bestowed on me only to be ripped apart and buried six feet underground. I hunger for you, yearning for just one more touch, one more taste, a glimpse of ecstasy. You, my love, have consumed me. I'm lost in ceaseless desires with every waking thought. Swirling through memory like an autumn leaf on a careless breeze, forever fluttering just beyond reach, you are the girl with the skin of moonlight and deep emerald eyes. An unconscious temptress in silk soft motion, an enchantress draped in dusky promise, you tease and tempt without ever realizing your own allure.
Try to fight you as one might, to banish the memory of you and salvage my fracturing mind... Your downy skin, your gossamer laugh, your sweet scent, they all hang around the borders of my mind, secreted out of sight until I believe myself safe from your charms. You will catch me in unguarded moments, insinuating into my dreams, intimating delights unknown without promising a single one. Silly sap, I'll follow you deeper and deeper, willingly surrender to your wiles.
You are smoke on the wind. You are the willow-the-wisp followed into the wilderness to no remuneration. You are the echo called to in hopes of hearing answers, when all there is, is reflections.
You will be my destruction. You will drive me mad and never dirty your hands.
There lays the depth of your charisma, your cursed loveliness... the conclusion if anyone pursues you. I know what end awaits me... and still I trail after you. Helpless to your gravity, I am pulled to my irrevocable annihilation without ever a care because I remember how it used to be.
I want to feel your fingers across my skin again - lazily trailing along, smoothing over my freckles, circling each and every kiss you gave me. I want to lie in bed, holding you close - close enough to feel your dead heart beating once again. I want to feel your cold hands in my hair, gently playing with the strands. I want to look deep into your still eyes, as my own hand traces your features - your brows, your nose, your cheeks, your jaw, your lips - how soft, how pliant, how kissable, so babylike.
I want to feel you in my arms like I'm the only one who can breath the life back into your frigid limbs. I want to feel your warm breath again on my skin - my lips, as you tempt me into kissing you first.
I want to surrender everything I am to you.
I had lost all concept of time. When I stepped out of my home the sky was black, it was either very late or very early, though it mattered not. I stumbled in the dark along the narrow, winding path. My feet led me to the place of my woes and I barely had to look at the path ahead of me. I could have walked there in my sleep, the journey was engraved upon a map within my heart.
Cemetery... the only place where I don't feel lonely. The footsteps I left in fresh snow reminded me I was still alive yet weeks of seeking amnesia in alcohol and heroin made me feel closer to you in death. From darkness around me, stone angels loomed in their judgement of the sinner trespassing their grounds. Their pointing fingers and fists raised to the sky cast the shadows across my path. Their accusing faces and eyes wide open in outrage; their mouths frozen in cry: here comes an outcast wearing all black, her lips the colour of dead roses, her eyes covered in smokey black as she gazes at the moon.
I came to your graveside and saw you in my mind warm and alive before me, alone among the angels and wearing moonlight like a solitary jewel, wrapped in its luster of newly spun silver. A bright spangle of stars tumbled across the night, spilling in a beaded mantle across your shoulders as you sat poised against the thick, rich black of my thoughts.
And each of those thoughts this night is a pernicious minion, a testimony to the impulse of my arrogance, a livid bruise born of my impossible whims and desire for you, Leila; my unending love for the little girl. I do not even need to conjure them; they come of their own accord, recalcitrant children set on taunting me with the possibility of what I have lost. How and why do you bear the careless waste of my ego? What do you see, night after night in me that is worth salvation?
A world left unsaid hovers over my heart... it is born of fear and regret... tinged with the acrid wine of bitterness. And a sweet tangle of words behind your dead eyes, wrapped around your tongue, pulses under your skin and breaks like the heated rush of fever over me where you are poised like a faint riot of desire that tears into me without mercy. I deserve none at your hands... and yet you spin what should be chastisement, even rage, into a deep draught of pleasure.
Your child body moves in the dark velvet of eloquence. It ripples under my skin, its taste running like a whisper against my depraved soul. It trickles into my blood where it starts as a low, melodic hum and builds into a deep thunder of notes that resonates in music the gods have forbidden. The edge you take me to runs against my bones, honing muscle and nerve into dangerous poetry. You leave me bare and raw... my skin the harsh throb against your own that bursts open the night.
Forgiveness is surely more than I deserve this time. It is the gift that shadows your eyes and smile, that lights the hollow of your cheek resting against my shoulder, that haunts the bleak spaces, left vacant by your absence, with hope that I will join you in death.
The world looks different tonight. Not the same graveyard of decayed monuments to love and death that I have wandered alone within the past weeks. The dirge of my broken heart has at last faded, the incessant bow of torment that would glide over my veins; relentless was the haunting tune of my solitude. My life at its best became a hopeless chase for that which was unattainable. My life and my heart were buried six feet beneath the earth with you, Leila, and I watched as all I had ever loved was sealed out of my reach forever. Your little ghost eluded me no matter how fast I would run. Always a whisper too faint to detect; words that I ached for; a voice that I dreamed of in the most agonizing nightmares. The little girl voice I would never hear again. Like smoke dancing in the air before me, I could not catch you. I could not touch you.
Endless nights I would lay at the grave of stone. My tears seeping into the ground that divided us. I pleaded until my voice was raw and tore my nails as I clawed helplessly at the earth beneath me. You had promised that you would never leave me and I hated you for this abandonment; leaving me lost in an empty scene without a script. Every song, every place, every moment a reminder that you existed... and that I lost you.
So is it foolish to fear Hell when I was already in it, silently longing to climb within the frayed lining of your little white coffin, to rest my head upon decomposed flesh while you dance above in supernal heights oblivious to the thief claiming your tomb. I ache to embrace all that you left behind, to hold you to me so that we can be one. And I, in my final breaths, may hear the distant pitter-patter of rain and tears, the resonating songs of love and mourning, to feel the love seeping into the ground which imprisons me and weep for the last time in the knowledge that beneath the mound of earth above me.... I am the closest to Heaven I ever could have been.
I love you more than I love life, Leila. I loved you even as I was slicing slowly across my wrist, so deep I felt my flesh shred like soft fruit against the thin razor.
Is this how it felt when you did this? Did you think I would not follow? That I would leave you all alone in darkness and death, abandon you, forget you...?
I've never been more sure of anything in my life, except you. "I love you, Leila..." I said as I dug the blade deeply into my forearm and saw blood spill from the rent flesh. I watched in morbid fascination for a long moment as the blood seemed to turn silver in the moon's glow. The earth drunk it up as it hit the ground beneath me, painting the snow under which you slept in the essence of my love for you.
At the break of dawn, the shadow of who she used to be lays upon the grave of a small girl buried beneath. A ghost in the light of the new day sways in a dance of memory, of hours past that they held dear and echoes of a heartbeats so pure and true. A silhouette of love that lives forever in everlasting darkness, in the slumberless void of their shared tomb.
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