I sat in the window seat in my aunt's house and hummed softly to myself. I was feeling lonely and I always hum or sing when I'm alone or feel like no one understands me because I'm eleven years old. First I hum a lullaby my father used to sing to me. I don't remember the words anymore, but the melody has been imprinted in my mind, and the long, low tune seems to clean out my head, emptying it of any unwanted thoughts. I sing it several times, making up my own words the last time through, but forget them as soon as they are out of my mouth. Then, I sing a song of peace I learned in kindergarten. The words are cheery and hopeful, but the notes have a haunting quality. I remember being scared of the song when I first learned it. The last line of the song is "And the stars above us will reign our world of unity." It seems natural then to look up at the stars.
It was a particularly clear night, and I pressed my head against the glass to see the milky way in all it's magnificence. A little lower in the sky, but ten times brighter was the moon. It was not full yet, but it would be in a few days, and I sat staring at it for a few endless moments.
Suddenly, I feel a hand on my bare shoulder.
"Looking at your namesake?" Mark asked me, smiling warmly.
"Yes," I said softly enough so that he has to lean forward to hear me.
"You both share a radiance," he said gently. Of course, it would be Mark that would compliment me when I needed it most.
"But the moon's radiance is not real. She steals it from the sun. My parents are being romantic when they call me Daughter of the Moon," I answered. I knew I didn't deserve the compliment even if I needed it.
"Oh, Anna. You always were the scientist of the family!" He laughed quietly, "It's okay to be romantic sometimes. It makes the world less scary."
"Father always says you should face your fears," I responded.
"Your father is a very wise man, but he isn't right about everything," Mark looked me in the eye, as though he was challenging me.
I looked away, and when I raised my head he was sitting opposite me in the seat that had previously been occupied by our cat.
"So what is on your mind, little one?" he asked gently, putting his finger under my little chin and lifting it up from where it had been resting on my knees. The dark brown eyes bore into me, and I knew that I would tell him everything even though I didn't want to.
Mark has been my secret friend since we met at my school where he worked as an art teacher a year ago. We went everywhere together, and if my parents couldn't find me, they knew without asking that we were just at our 'other house'. I was never allowed to sleep at his house. My parents thought that it was not proper for a little girl of eleven and 25 year old man to be such good friends, but we had survived it all. It didn't seem to concern us two, and we paid it no mind. Then six months since we fell in love, Mark was sent off to a different school in the capitol, but whenever he came home I would find out, and we would meet in our secret place by the river. We had cleared a small spot right on the river bank and would meet late at night. I would climb out my window, and Mark would be there waiting for me. He would tell me about all the things he did in that fancy school of his, and I would tell him all the town gossip. It was always during our moonlit talks that we kissed. Looking out at the stars I remember those nights vividly.
Our conversation was slow, we were both somewhat shy. Imagine, me, shy with Mark! At one point, I was talking about my father, and how he ignored me now.
"Father doesn't even say hello when he comes home from work. He only acknowledges me when I serve him dinner, and then it's only to ask for more of something." I looked out at the stream, watching the water flow furiously past. It seemed in a hurry to go somewhere, and I longed to go with it.
As I stood there, I became aware that Mark was standing right behind me. Slowly, without a word, he wrapped me in his big arms. I remember the soft touch of his face, smelling what must have been the smell of musty books. I molded into him, right under his chin, and I could feel his pulse beating with a loving, consistent rhythm. I closed my eyes, and lost myself in the thumping of his heart. His hands squeezed my shoulders, and I felt my eyes fill up with tears. As the first one trickled down my face. Mark slowly turned me around until I was looking up at him, and then, gradually, he lowered his face to mine, and began to kiss away my tears. I could feel his eyelashes gently caressing my face, and I cried even more then.
"Shhh, Anna. Don't cry my little princess," he breathed. Mark always called me little princess when we were alone.
I squeezed my eyes shut, and held on to him tightly. Then, as I felt the tears stop, I looked up to see Mark's face bending towards mine. Delicately, he kissed me. It was a soft, gentle kiss. And I lost myself in it. Sometimes, even now, I think about our first, perfect kiss.
I was ten back then. Only a year had passed, and yet, there had been worlds of changes for both of us. Six months later came the brutal news that my Mark was moving to a new school, and that we won't see each other any more.
I have seen him only a few times since then, and it had only been for an hour or two. It had taken longer than usual to convince my parents I was asleep, and they had come in to check on me at their normal time. I ran all the way to our small spot where the water bubbled over large rocks, and where the trees hung low to the ground.
Mark was waiting for me. Without a word he folded me into his arms. I stood there for a while panting from the run over, feeling a large lump well up inside my throat.
This time, I could see his eyes glistening with tears too, and together we spent the hour holding each other, kissing occasionally, but mostly just clinging. I stood there, trying to memorize the moment. Trying to etch into my mind the slow evenness of his breathing; the feel of his cotton shirt on my face; the live warmth of his hand in mine; the texture of his silky hair through my fingers; and most of all, the tenderness of his touch.
"I'm going to miss you, little princess," he whispered into my hair.
"Miss you more," I murmured, my voice catching in my throat as I try to swallow back tears.
I could feel him grinning, and heard him say, "I don't know if that's possible."
Mark's hand pointed up to the moon, which was full, and white as a china plate.
"When you're far away, Anna, you look up to the moon. I'll wait for you on the moon. Remember the moon, little princess." After a long moment of silence, as we both listened to the water bubbling softly in the river, and watched the moon suspended in the middle of the sky. He looked down at me, and whispered so quietly I was never sure he actually said it, "At least I have made the most of the time that is left."
I know that Mark has never told anyone about our love, and I wouldn't dare ruin it for him. For me, it wouldn't matter; none of the boys in my class are even close to Mark.
While I was lost in my dreams, he put his hand on my cheek. Slowly, slowly, he moved toward me. His mouth met mine, and I felt my heart rise into my throat. Was this really happening?
After what seemed like forever, he stopped, and moved away. I felt myself deflating like a balloon. Softly he whispered in my ear, "Love can soothe what others have burned." It was then that he bowed his head to me, and gave me the good bye kiss that still haunts my dreams.
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