Edward had no reason to be afraid.
She said she would be there ten minutes ago; but—per usual—she had no sense of time. She was always worried about years rather than minutes, and Edward always wanted to remind her that minutes add up to years. But she wouldn’t listen, so he stood out in front of his car, parked on the nearly-deserted downtown street. The sky was grey, the breeze from the lake filled his bones with chill, but he maintained that he wear his thin black sweater with the grey slacks because he was convinced that his scrawny frame looked best in them.
He stood outside of his Ford waiting for her to approach. He knew where she was, where she would be coming from, but he continuously looked in various directions about the sidewalk to see if she would change things up, like she always did. He considered climbing back into the car to warm up and maybe listen to some music to help pass the time, but his legs were already cramped from the four-hour non-stop drive and there is only so much Joy Division that one man can take while at the wheel.
He didn’t realize how eager he looked until an older woman carrying a grocery bag glared at him as she walked by. He nodded at her before she could say anything and she carried on, her eyes wide and unforgiving. He rubbed his dry, cracked hands together for warmth. He thought he knew where she was. He knew it wasn’t but a block or two, if he remembered correctly. After all, he had only been to this city twice in recent memory, but he purposely parked in the same spot he always did so he could have something resembling bearings. He decided to brave the concrete and walk around.
Edward pulled out the keys and locked the door to the Ford (careful to check the handle because his two-days worth of luggage sat in the back seat) and trekked toward a set of somewhat familiar-looking building—a pub that they drank at together, watching a middle-aged band play Tom Petty covers while equally-middle-aged drunks danced about, reminding them both of their parents. He wished he could remember that night fully.
Things became more and more familiar as he walked about, although he wished he had an address or something to use as a reference. He kept going for another block and turned to find a group of teenagers walking and holding skateboards. They looked at him and he looked back, wondering how on Earth they could skate in such dreary weather. He looked above their heads to see a few flurries fall past their faces. He continued to hope that he was walking in the right direction.
Up the street a little ways he saw the blue Victorian house with the white trim and the porch swing. The odd thing was that the door was wide open. If there was one thing that he knew about Leah it was that she hated the cold—a shame for a girl who spent her formative years in this northern lakeside town. He carefully walked up the porch steps, peering into the window to try and catch a glimpse of her. There were no cars in the driveway, but he could see the shifting light of the television screen from inside the front bay window. These old houses frightened him a little, mostly because he felt so unprivileged setting foot in one because of his ranch-style rural upbringing.
He stepped into the doorway and knocked softly to announce to anyone in the front room that he was there.
“Hello?” he half-yelled, careful not to startle anyone who may still be in the vicinity of the door. He then heard the bang of her winter shoes coming down the oak stairs in front of the door. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Leah stood there, dressed in a flowered knee-length skirt, a blue blouse, stockings, and a black cardigan. Her hair was darker than her remembered (she was a notorious dyer), but it highlighted her milky pale complexion well. She stood there, her hands on her full hips and finally took the last step, her black shoes creating a booming echo throughout the front room. She smiled with her childlike grin and he couldn’t wipe his off of his face.
“Hi!” she said.
“When did you get into town?”
“About twenty minutes ago,” he responded. “I parked about two blocks away.”
She grabbed his arm with her thin, soft hand. “You weren’t waiting too long, were you?”
He shrugged. “No, it’s fine. I guess I got in earlier than I expected.”
“Alright. Come on in.”
She led Edward into the living room where the television showed House Hunters: International, a show he was not particularly fond of. She plopped down on the white sofa as he noticed a gleam on her breasts. He looked at the gold name tag pinned on her sweater.
“Just get out of work?” he asked.
She looked down, slightly embarrassed.
“Oh yeah!” she giggled. “I forgot about this!” She reached up and took off the gleaming tag and set it on the coffee table to her left. “Come sit!”
He nodded and sat down on the couch, maintaining his distance from her. She looked at him with her shining blue eyes and she buried her head into his chest. He slouched in the sofa, and she grabbed his hand and put it around her shoulders. He secretly sniffed her hair.
“I like your new color.”
“I’ve missed you, Edward,” she sighed.
“I’ve missed you too.”
She weaved her thin fingers into his dry hands.
“I can’t kiss you, you know.”
She grinned. “I know. Michael wouldn’t like that so much.”
“I want to.”
“I know. Me too.”
He picked up his chin and began to kiss her forehead like he used to all those months ago, before the snow and before the long drives, before the city when they were together, before Michael, before they fell apart and he clanged to her and her memory in his head every day, with every message and phone call asking him to please just be her friend even though he knew he couldn’t. He picked up his chin and puckered his lips. His dry quivering lips barely graced that holy spot on the side of her forehead.
He woke up, this time not in shock or disgust—his eyes merely opened.
He looked toward the wall then rolled over to look at the clock on his nightstand. 7:06. This was the latest he had slept after thinking about her. This time was different: he actually dreamt about her.
He had not dreamt about her since the day she left. He knew it was all a dream: the hair (hers was lighter than ever now); the house (she lived off in the suburbs in model-type home); Michael (the man she was with now went by a different name).
He waited for that sinking feeling that he usually felt when he thought about her, but it never came.
He grinned a little bit, knowing that his dreams were a place where it could all be okay. Then he realized that the dream was probably the closest he would ever get to kissing her again.
Although he was sure that he wouldn’t be able to, he closed his eyes and fell right back to sleep. He thought his body would be able to help him get back into that glorious state again where he could hold her hand again and maybe even touch her lips with his.