/Author's Note: I had a few objectives with this fanfic, and I'm pleased to say that I met none of them! :D One, this was supposed to be a drabble of 500 words, and it's about ten times that now, and two, it was supposed to go in a completely different direction than it did in the end, but it took on a life of its own and the result is what's in front of you now.
So anyway, I hope you enjoy this brief summer with Chase and Selena, and I'd love to know what you thought of it! End Author's Note/
- Unsung Songs of Summer -
"My, my," the leathery corners of her mouth rose into a tight-lipped smile, "So my fame has reached even the mainland. I told Jake he'd have to hire me an agent sooner or later."
I cracked a smile of my own, because really, how else do you respond to that when it's said by your potential employer?
She sat across from me, drumming her brittle fingers against the wood of a table smack in the middle of the bar I'd be working at. Well, there was no guarantee yet, but I could read the flattery in the wrinkles of the woman's face – and after all, a bit of flattery was all it took to turn most women to butter. And she had been buttered enough by this point that I could have slathered a slice of bread across her face and eaten it.
I didn't voice this, of course.
Yolanda's drumming was joined by the seasonal songs of the cicadas wafting in from the open windows. I gave myself a second or two to admire the odd bit of percussion between the two.
"There's no reason for you to not be known across the entire world, Yolanda," I said as warmly as I could, putting an end to her drumming as I cupped her hand in both of mine, "I made this journey for you. And It'd be an honour to study under your tutelage."
She only smiled back at me blankly, her mouth upturned but her eyes unreadable.
The elderly woman knocked my hands away in a swift motion – and along with them, any perceptions I had of her being aged and kindly - and got to her feet with speed she most certainly should not have had at that age. I don't think I even had time for my face to contort in alarm.
"Ha! You're soft, boy. You think I haven't heard that all before? Of course it's an honor to study under me and of course I deserve to be known worldwide. That much is a given." She towered rather impressively over me as I remained seated. Though glowering, her chesire smile widened. "Now get up and let's get started. You're soft, boy! I couldn't use your wit to cut an eggplant."
She shoved the chair in brusquely and turned to the kitchen. I allowed myself a few seconds to let the metamorphosis sink in, because who in the name of the Harvest Goddess was expecting that?
The seconds I took were apparently a few too many, as Yolanda looked over her shoulder, smile dissolved, wearing an expression of pure disdain. "I was calling you dull, boy, If you weren't able to catch that. Simple? Vacuous? Half-baked? Does that clear things up for you? Goddess knows this will be a learning process for the both of us; though while you temper your cooking skills, I'll be learning the patience required not to stick you with a cleaver and sell it to the villagers. Now up!"
So I got up.
And I decided that I liked this woman far more than she probably wanted me to.
# # #
I did end up liking Yolanda, a lot. Neither of us really expected it; she was accustomed, I'm sure, to young apprentices balking at her intensity, and I was accustomed to… well, not liking people. Cooking with Yolanda was unlike anything I had ever, ever experienced.
Sometimes she'd drop everything she was doing to challenge me to an arm-wrestle, to make sure I had the strength to properly grip a kitchen knife. Other times she'd force-feed me spoonfuls of spices, ensuring that I never forgot their distinct tastes. Then there were the times she'd – Ugh – force me to eat her granddaughter's cooking, as a precise example of how food should not taste.
Yes, cooking with Yolanda was very different. I had never worked harder in my life, and I had only been here two weeks now. Those two weeks easily could have passed for years.
But no, it wasn't Yolanda that made my life difficult. I enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed having an abundance of things to fill up my day with, even enjoyed how the kitchen would often become a warzone. Yolanda kept me on my feet, kept the days rolling on without much time for thought or introspection, and part of me enjoyed this the most. She made an art out of cooking; it was ballet, it was theater, it was aestheticism. There was no time, no room, for anything else to breach my thoughts.
Which was made it even more frustrating when it seemed that she was succeeding in doing just that.
She was a distraction.
Living at Sundae Inn while I apprenticed there meant sharing a home with a few other eccentric individuals. I didn't mind it so much. Two weeks was enough time to get used to Kathy's incessant blathering about horses, or to get used to Hayden's quaking sneezes, or to get used to Maya's … well, very being.
But then she was the most eccentric of them all.
I couldn't stand her.
"Those aren't good for you, I hope you know," husked the islander one night, her voice oddly melodic against the cicada songs of the summer eve.
I lifted the cigarette to my lips and took a drag in response, leaning against the wall of the Inn. "This is how you decide you want to speak to me after two weeks of ignoring my existence?" I can't help but snark at her, not in the mood to meet her eyes.
Selena just flipped her hair. "It's not like you paid me any attention either." She didn't sound particularly sad about this. Curling a lock behind an ear, she continued, "And let's face it, that's a much more impressive feat, boy. I just had to find out what was tick-tick-ticking in that head of yours for you to not even bat an eyelid at a girl like me."
"Your dancing is distracting," I told her.
"Oh?" she sounded hopeful.
"It's not easy to concentrate on cooking with all that movement around you. Can't you find somewhere else to practice?"
"No," she said, not giving it a moment's thought, "I was here first."
That wasn't something I could easily contest, so I asked her why she was here to begin with. "Where are you from, anyway?" I allowed my eyes the indulgence of considering her clothing: her lithe legs were enclosed in loose-fitting Arabian-inspired harem pants accompanied by a midriff-revealing – no, midriff-flaunting – top. Hoops and bangles adorned her person, and were the cause of so much of my chagrin. If there's anything worse than a person who never knew when to shut their mouth – Maya, for instance – it was a person who decidedly made noise with their entire body. "Did the circus forget to pick you up on their way out of here?"
She didn't have anything to say to that. Or, should I say, she never decided to grace me with an answer. Turning her back and swaying out of the small enclosure around the Inn, she stretched to the heavens and began dancing, limbs tracing graceful paths through the summer air.
My eyes followed her bronze arms, those bangles I so hated glinting in the extraneous light of the Inn's windows.
I poked my cigarette into the corner of my mouth and turned away, ignoring her metallic anthem. I would rather listen to the cicadas.
"I need her number, man. Oh my Goddess you have no idea how much I need it."
"Ignoring the fact that, living at the Inn, her number would be our number, did it ever occur to you that I'm in the middle of working?"
Luke fidgeted like a kettle about to whistle. Steam streaming out of his ears in the coming seconds would not have surprised anyone.
"Just tell me everything you know about her, then! What is it about her that… that makes me want to rip off my shirt and tame a lion and ride it to a mountaintop and scream her name out loud enough to wake the Harvest Goddess? Tell me!"
"I know nothing about her, Luke. Not a thing. And, equally amazing is that I don't give a damn." It was so truthful it hurt. I couldn't even spare him a glance as I kept my eyes trained on the cutting board in front of me. The endless chorus of jingling and jangling continued somewhere behind me. A full month and I hadn't yet learned how to tune it out.
The woodcutter looked to be on the verge of pulling his own hair out. Not that this was uncommon for the boy, who took everything to the extreme. Axe dulling? Better bust out the chainsaw! Little brother was bullied? Better get a hit put out on someone! Door locked? Better get out the dynamite and blow up the building!
"Do you think you could get me a job here, bro?"
"Just to be closer to –"
"You are a Grade A cockblock, dude."
"I'll add that to my business card," I replied absently, mind ringing with the sound of golden bangles.
"Why is the heater on? Why, why, why?" cried Kathy as she slapped her book down on the coffee table. "It's mid-summer! Who the hell does this?"
I would answer her, but opted for taking another sip of my orange juice instead, flipping through a magazine. The question was largely rhetorical anyway, and my mouth had better things to do.
Yolanda muttered darkly under her breath, violently scraping a baking pan with steel wool and breathing heavily. "That she-demon," she croaked, "If the blistering heat isn't a sign that she's from the underworld, I don't know what is."
The she-demon in question decided to make her entrance, weaving her way down the staircase and looking ill. I looked up from my magazine only to take in the newest feature of her already odd attire: a garish, patched scarf.
"Why." She uttered, the word dropping like a boulder of steel, "Why is it so unbearably cold here? Do you sasquatches even pay your heating bills?"
She whipped the scarf over her shoulder with a flourish, and I saw a tag whip around it that had a name scrawled excitedly in marker. "The Harvest Goddess really has forsaken this land, this I can see! How am I supposed to access my artistic aura here? Can anyone tell me? This cold… it freezes the brain, addles the mind!"
The scarf seemed to have been a gift from an excited admirer, and it didn't take any strenuous use of the imagination to figure out who.
"Are you out of your mind?" Kathy worked very hard to keep from screeching. The girl was usually on good terms with Selena; she was one of the few.
But Selena was gone before the blonde barmaid had finished her question. And by 'gone', of course, I mean she had departed into the depths of her own mind, giving a customary stretch and giving herself over to whatever music seemed to loop constantly in her mind. The tag on the end of the scarf danced with her, the name 'Luke' twirling with the motion of her arms.
Kathy grit her teeth and seemed to be in danger of combusting on the spot.
The island was in celebration. A young couple had gotten married.
Anissa was the daughter of a couple of farm-owners on the north end of town, and Jin was the town's doctor and clinic-owner. Neither, upon first impression, seemed capable of smiling, much less loving, I idly noted, so the whole thing was a bit strange to consider. What was even weirder was that Anissa, at least, was around my age.
They apparently had a history together, but not one I particularly cared to learn. I worked with Yolanda for half a week before the wedding, preparing food for almost the entire town. It had been a true test of skill, resource & time management, and patience. Especially on Yolanda's part.
The afternoon after the ceremony, everyone had returned home and basked in the novelty of having the rest of the day off, as the mayor decreed. Yolanda nor I had that pleasure, of course, since dishes had piled up and leftovers had to be stored.
Selena strutted in, stretching like a cat and letting out a sound not unlike a purr. "What a gorgeous day it's been. The town was dead this morning! I danced to my heart's content in the square! No gawking men, no one mistaking me for being part of a circus, no evil eye from that stuck-up son of a mayor!" She pulled the skin down around her eye and offered an exaggerated glare to give us an idea, then shrilled with laughter.
"Goddess, is that so," Yolanda snapped off a pair of rubber gloves and put on instead her most pointed glare, "I guess the Mayor must have declared today 'Selena Day' and told us to steer clear of the streets all morning so that her majesty could flaunt her body for the world to see. I hear he's having a statue of you commissioned, to be erected high enough for the whole island to bask in its shine!"
Sometimes I liked Yolanda, and sometimes I loved her.
This was one of those times.
Selena's laughter died like the scratch of a record. Her thin eyebrows arched and her lips formed a pout. She sent Yolanda her best death glare, but the older woman refused to shrink under her gaze.
"Or maybe," she barked at the dancer, "You missed the first wedding of the generation, between two very respectable young villagers. And you don't even care, do you?"
"Like I'm supposed to keep up with the soap operas of you rubes!" Selena spat back, "I didn't even know Anette and what's-his-face, why would anyone care if I missed the wedding?"
"Heavens, woman! Jin treated you when you were sick with the flu last winter! Anissa brought you flowers the day you moved here to welcome you!" Yolanda's eyes bulged slightly, and I realized at that moment that she didn't get Selena at all.
She thought her self-absorbed, insolent, uncaring - but it wasn't all true. I didn't know much about the girl but I knew she was not a bad person – she simply danced to the beat of a different drum as the rest of us. Selena had one foot on earth, and one on cloud nine.
Though she didn't show it on her face, the silence around her was saddled with guilt. I put an arm on Yolanda's shoulder and gave her a look, one that possibly only myself and her son could get away with at this point in time, and I felt her muscles ease.
Selena stalked off, her strides long and cutting, but she flashed me a look that may or may not have expressed thanks.
"You don't like me," the words came out as tactfully as one could imagine. I let the cicadas sing a little longer before answering.
"What gives you that idea?" I removed the clips from my hair and let the strawberry blonde strands messily obscure my vision. "I'm not saying you're wrong, though." And she wasn't.
"I've never seen you without those in. Maybe you're warming up to me after all! Shall I remove a piece of clothing too?" she teased, and bent forward with her arms behind her back.
I pressed my palm to my forehead, and the reason was twofold: one, a head-ache was coming on that I was attempting to quell and two, the corners of my mouth were tugging themselves upwards in what I feared might be a smile. That just wouldn't do.
"Well, that just about explains how you've been paying for your lodging."
Kathy would have slapped me. Maya would have dissolved into tears. Yolanda – not that I'd ever, ever dream of sassing her like that – would have probably let out a bark of laughter and clobbered me with a frying pan. Selena? She frowned a little, tilted her head, gave it a moment of contemplation, and replied, "Not a bad idea. Wanna be my first customer?"
I nearly swallowed my cigarette.
After a few moments of coughing and hacking, I tried to regain my composure enough to tell her off, but there she was again, out in the moonlight, dancing to a beat that only she could hear.
Wisps of red curled and spiraled in the metal basin, writhing into shapes and dissolving just as quickly. I probably should have done something more than just stare into the sink, but there was something hypnotizing about the effect blood had in water. I held my thumb sideways to my lips and nursed the cut, frowning at my own ineptitude. I was silently glad that Yolanda hadn't been around. No one, in fact, occupied the Inn's ground floor today, and I was left with the company of the raindrops against the windows. No cicadas sang into the building today, and I found myself missing them.
Rain was easy to tune out, and so I had decided to use the day productively and tackle some of the harder recipes Yolanda had tacked onto the bulletin board. But the serenity of the Inn that day had been so encompassing, I lost my focus entirely as my mind wandered, and the knife had come down on my thumb instead of the tomato.
I ran water over it again and looked up when the door opened and closed, letting in a brief spell of wet wind. In tromped Selena, the threads of her silk clothing languid with rain. Her face carried much of the same weight, her eyes downcast and her mouth pursed in a most displeased manner.
"You're getting the carpet all wet," I told her, "Colleen will have your head for that."
"Let her!" she burst out, flinging her hands outwards, "Let her take it, and mount it on the wall, it might make this place look a little less ugly!"
It was an odd thing to envision, so I tried not to. Something was obviously bothering my crimson-haired housemate.
"Where have you been?" I asked, for it was not like Selena to leave even her room on a day as miserable at this. The girl was solar-powered, and if the sun wasn't out, she was as good as dead to the world. I turned back to the tomato and began cutting it again, to emphasize that I didn't care too much. Which I didn't.
"That stupid boy," she threw herself onto the couch, droplets of water flying everywhere, "What's his name? It starts with an L. Come on, you know him."
"Luke, yeah." The 'stupid boy' descriptor had helped more than I was willing to admit. It was hardly inaccurate for a boy who gave scarves as gifts in the middle of summer.
Selena wrung her hands, the incessant jingling of the bangles returning. I bit my lip. "Stupid Boy wanted to meet me under a tree in the Praline Woods. Said he had an offer I wouldn't be able to turn down."
"Oh?" My level of interest was dropping with every word, for Luke's crush had been about as low as Kathy's infatuation with horses on my list of interests. "What was Stupid Boy's offer?"
She turned sharply to the window and spent a few seconds staring out, eyes narrowed. The sound of rain and the monotonous chop-chop-chop of my knife against the cutting board once again filled the Inn. Then, still with her head to the window, she answered, "He wants me to marry him."
I let out a sharp intake of breath and a curse and felt pain blossoming from my hands. I had cut my finger for the second time that day.
"You're bleeding," Selena said without sparing me a glance, getting up and striding towards the staircase, as if I wasn't already aware.
I was now well into my third month of work at the Sundae Inn, and the third month of summer. The wedding day was approaching with all the speed of an oncoming train with nowhere to stop but its terminus. It wasn't going to take place at the town's Church. It wasn't going to be a big deal.
Not a big deal.
Four people knew about the whole thing, in fact. Luke and Selena, of course, and Luke's brother Bo. The fourth member in on this secret was me, as unwitting as it was. I had asked Selena why she confided in me, when she had a friend in Kathy and a sort-of mother figure in Colleen, but she just shrugged and told me that she needed someone to make sure she didn't oversleep on her wedding day. She never told me to keep it to myself, but I did, anyway. I didn't really want to think about it. The two most maddening people in the village were getting hitched, deep in a forest, in a few days' time. They'd probably high-tail it out of here, and that would be that.
"Why?" I had asked her, on another night outside the Inn, as I lit the end of a fresh cigarette. It was curiosity that drove me to ask, plain and simple; Selena had never taken much of a shine to Luke, and even now had trouble remembering his name. Yet against all odds, she had accepted his offer.
"He wants to leave."
"He's like me. He can't stay in one place for too long. He said he'd take me wherever he went." Her dancing was slower tonight. Not sluggish, by any means, but maybe a bit more somber.
"You're like a couple of kids," I scoffed. I realized a moment later that I hadn't meant to voice that thought, but I had no intention of apologizing either. Kids needed someone to bring them back to reality every now and again.
"Kids have the most fun," she remarked, bangles travelling up and down her caramel arms as they shot through the air. "I don't think I mind. I like fun."
Deciding to interpret my words literally, my mind presented me with a series of dreams the night before the wedding day.
Selena and Luke, the former with a poorly crafted wreath of flowers around her head, skipped through a forest, childish laughter joining the ringing of her metallic ornaments. They had to have been about seven or eight, but Selena retained her impressive bust. Thanks for that one, subconscious, that's not screwed up at all.
I woke up with irritation buzzing around my head like a gnat. Blonde hair made up the most of my frame of vision, so I immediately reached for the slender barettes on my end table and clipped them in.
True to my word, I rapped on Selena's door and found her in a tangle of hair and blankets and sheets, oversleeping on the day of her wedding. The shock, I assure you, was too much to bear.
She slept just like a child too. There was no hint in her demeanor that said it was the 'big day', the day a normal girl would spend years dreaming of. No, Selena didn't look like she was dreaming at all. I scanned the room, found the unmistakable marks of someone who had been here for an extended period of time. Clothes littered the ground, all ornate and impractical, and makeup crowded the small table in the corner. Those bangles I so hated lay in a velvet-lined box on her bedside table, and glinted proudly in the light of the newly risen sun.
Three months in the same building as this woman hadn't yet allowed me a proper look at her face. Without the mask of eye shadow, blush, and lipstick, and without the crease on her forehead and the eyes narrowed in disapproval and the mutterings constantly playing on her lips, the only word that came to mind in describing her was 'vulnerable'.
She was no longer that strange entity, 'Selena', the one who seemed to exist on a plane alien to the rest of us, one where music was always playing and people were as worthy of acknowledgment as insects and the sun was a source of endless life and ardor. With her face plain and her eyelids bare, she was just another girl, just another soul drawn to this island in a fervent chase for happiness.
And today was the day she would find it.
"Why don't you come with us?" she asked later that morning, arranging the few possessions she had in a travelling bag. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, but her voice carried over like a stiff wind that got caught in my open mouth and choked me.
Spitting the toothpaste out, I grasped for words. "W-What? Why would I?"
It was ridiculous. I had come all the way to Waffle Town to study under Yolanda, to bring myself one step closer to realizing dreams and ambitions I'd held onto since childhood.
It was ridiculous.
Selena just continued packing, tuning everything out like she did so expertly countless times before. "Just a thought," she said after a very long five minutes of rummaging. "You don't seem very happy."
"I'm not crazy about being woken up at this hour, especially by a bride-to-be who should have the awareness to wake up on her wedding day." My tone managed to retain all of its edge, even with a toothbrush lodged in the corner of my mouth.
Selena tittered. "Then why'd you do it?"
And I had no answer for that, so I proceeded to rinse my mouth.
It was ridiculous.
It had taken a year for it to fully sink in that Selena and Luke had been serious. More serious about eloping than likely anything else in their lives.
I didn't attend the 'wedding', of course. It was, I thought at the time, nothing more than a childish pact being made in the heart of the Praline Woods, and was hardly something that needed an audience to indulge in it. I just stood out on the balcony of the Sundae Inn, decided to enjoy the novelty of being up this early, and unlike the day of Anissa & Jin's wedding, there were no bells, no fanfares, no excited chattering. Everyone continued to sleep in, or otherwise went about their morning business with bleary eyes, unaware that two people were being bound together, potentially for what remained of their lives.
What would Yolanda have thought? Tradition meant so much to her, and the two youths had broken each and every single one like brittle branches off a conifer.
The younger brother, Bo, had arranged for a trip to the mainland the morning of their 'wedding', claiming he was going to meet with some relatives in the city. Selena and Luke snuck aboard the ship and they were gone.
Of course, I let days pass me by unfazed by any of this. Any day now, Selena was going to burst through the Inn's doors, lament about the weather, throw her arms in the air and dance furiously, beads of sweat catching on my face every time I'd walk by. Days turned to weeks which turned to months which turned to seasons.
Was I sad?
Of course not. She had been an annoyance and a distraction and I wasn't about to let my mind be eaten away by insipid questions. I didn't care if she was gone, I didn't care about her reasons for leaving her life behind to be with someone she clearly had no prominent affection for.
I had other things to worry about in the interim. My cooking skills deteriorated quickly once the summer season came to an end, and there was no real reason why. Yolanda would bark at me for being distracted, Maya would giggle at my clumsiness, Colleen would take my temperature and coddle me even when it was evident that I was at the peak of my health.
It was a mystery that took up a great deal of my time as I tried to mentally untangle it. But in the end, the only factor in my life that had changed recently was that an annoyance in the form of a caramel-skinned dancer had been removed from the picture.
But that couldn't have been it, obviously, so the mystery continued to plague me.
No, that couldn't have been it.
So. Did I ever see Selena again?
Yes, and no.
Colleen had given in and, for his next birthday, bought Jake a television from the General Store a street down. He was getting older and his quota for things to complain about as a senior citizen was expanding at a scary rate. At least with a TV, he'd have hours upon hours of content to disapprove of, grumble about, and criticize. It was the best gift for any aging man.
The days were sloping towards summer again, but spring wasn't going out without a fight. One afternoon, I once again found myself in the kitchen, cooking. I was alone, save for Jake, who sat in front of his TV. Colleen was upstairs making the beds and Maya was in her room and I couldn't even care enough to take a guess at what she might have been doing.
Jake's TV provided a constant aural backdrop of sounds and music, and it encouraged time to carry on at least a bit more swiftly. A host on some second-rate talent show cheesed on, but none of his words could reach my ears before dissolving into nothing but noise.
The rain hammered against the window, much like the day Selena had announced her 'engagement' to Luke. It was the rain that had inspired me to use my day off to practice, and I decided to attempt the dish I had never finished a year ago: a pot of Bouillabaisse, despite Yolanda's constant reminder that I shouldn't even attempt it until I had a fourth of her talent.
I remembered, while preparing the ingredients, how badly I had cut myself that day. History seemed doomed to repeat itself, as my hands shook just as badly, if not worse. Not that this was worthy of note these days – my entire left hand was peppered with band-aids, lacerated over the past year like a scratching post.
My first instinct was to put the knife down and go for a cigarette, when I remembered that I hadn't had a cigarette in months. There was no real reason, it had just come to be a waste of time. It bored me.
Taking a breath and letting my eyes wander to the window across from me, a sense of déjà vu overwhelmed me.
That was when I heard it.
A rhythmic clinking.
My teeth automatically snapped together and were ready to grind, and I already felt the familiar headache coming on. 'Again?', I thought, 'I just had to deal with this - …' And when my mind couldn't produce a point in time to end my sentence with, I realized that the last time I 'just had to deal with this' was nearly a year ago.
Snapping back to the present, I whipped around, looking for the source of the sound. The clinking continued, carrying through the room. My head snapped to the staircase landing, and my mind came so close to conjuring that fluid dancing, the lithe movements, the sun-kissed skin…
But the projection was gone before it had fully formed. She was gone, after all. But then where…?
It was the TV.
Goddess, I needed sleep.
I went back to the preparation of the bouillabaisse.
"Oh my…" I heard Jake mutter, then he called for Colleen and Maya excitedly. "You've got to see this! You'll never guess!" he told them.
Like cats drawn to the sound of milk being poured, Colleen and Maya had come out of their respective rooms, first looking at each other inquisitively, then bounding over to Jake and his TV. The graying man looked reasonably excited, which was a rare occasion in itself.
They formed a wall around the flashing box, chattering excitedly and gracing me with such utterances as 'I never would have thought!' and 'Wowie, look, Mommy! She's on TV!' and 'She's looking great these days!'.
And I found, to my surprise, that I wanted them – yearned for them - to be quiet.
I needed to hear it again.
After the excitement simmered down, I strained my ears, and the familiar jingling surfaced again. First slowly, then growing more frenzied, then winding down. It was unmistakably her. Had there even been music while she danced? Or commentary? I couldn't remember, even seconds later, and realized my ears had been perfectly attuned to listening for the sound of her bangles.
The rhythm pounded its way into my head as I turned back to the vegetables in front of me. It was so easy to stare down at the cutting board, the same one I had been using since I had come to Waffle Town, and just imagine her on the landing behind me, like she always was. I could turn around right now and she'd be there, lost in her own world, legs and arms in a whirlwind of movement, body in synch with a song I now realized I'd never hear.
Steel thudded against wood as I brought the knife down, and for the first time since a summer ago, cut the tomato cleanly into two halves.