Denyse Loeb, or domynoe (as she prefers to be called), started writing at the age of 10 and fell in love with fantasy when a fifth grade teacher read The Hobbit to the class. She started annoying friends with weird stories in high school but didn't take her writing seriously until after earning a college degree in English and having a family that took pride in interrupting her every minute. Her short stories and articles have appeared in several online and print magazines and anthologies, including Aoife's Kiss, Beyond Centauri, Golden Visions, Grim Corps, and Wrapped in Red: Thirteen Tales of Vampiric Horror. As an editor and an admin of Dreaming In Ink Writers Workshop, she's had the honor of working with a number of authors whose works have been published by both small press and trade publishers. A foodie, a baker, and the mother of four children, domynoe lives in Georgia with her chef husband, her autistic son, one grandson, and five cats.
THIS by D. "domynoe" Loeb
I sat on the bleak, wooden expanse of our beach house deck, staring over a leaden sea, trying to say goodbye. This was the last place Daniel and I had been happy; it had been our home. I should have sold it last year, but I just couldn't bring myself to let it go. Even now the hollowness of parting with it was almost too much. Every room held memories, memories renewed by the damp roar of the ocean and the chilly smoothness of the wood.
Sighing, I rose and went to walk along the edge where water and sand meet. The night breeze brushed my hair against my shoulders and neck, whispering down my back, and icy water spilled over my feet, but I barely felt the cold. I was far away, in another time, remembering the last night of Daniel's vacation.
After dinner we had curled up together on the deck, watching the ocean waves wash over a water-colored sunset of orange and golden yellow touched with pink. I snuggled deeper into his arms, my back to his chest, and they tightened around me. I still felt his body pressed to mine, his heart a steady beat echoing within me.
I closed my eyes as he nuzzled my hair and murmured, "I could stay here forever."
I smiled. "I could too. Perhaps you should call in sick tomorrow?"
He laughed, a deep, rich, baritone that sent a delicious shiver down my back. "Not if we want to keep living here. Vacation's over."
"Ah, well, you can't blame a girl for trying."
He pulled me around to face him. His sandy blonde hair played in the breeze and tempted my fingers. "Are you truly happy, Jenn?" His hazel eyes darkened with a hint of worry.
I kissed him, the soft tickle of his mustache brushing my upper lip. "If this moment is all we have, I couldn't ask for more."
He caressed my face. "Tomorrow—"
I didn't want to think about spending the days without him, waiting for him to come home. I knew it was selfish, but I couldn't help it. I placed a finger on his lips. "Sshhh. Let's not talk about it right now. Let's just enjoy here and now. Let's just enjoy this."
His kisses were warm and deep, the kind that reached to the bottom of my toes and tightened my belly. I closed my eyes and savored the sweet taste of him. I never felt like I could get enough of his kisses, his touch, his presence. They poured over the desert of my need, filling me but always leaving me thirsting for more.
"Make a wish."
I opened a lazy eye. "Hmmm?"
"Somewhere a star is falling. Make a wish."
I tilted my face up to our sky, where no stars fell, and made a wish.
"What did you wish?"
I chuckled. "I can't tell you or it won't come true."
"I wished never to forget." His gaze drifted away from me, out over the ocean. "Never to forget...this."
The touch of my lips to his brought him back to me. "We will never forget."
"Let's go watch the sky by the edge."
"Where the water and sand meet."
He stood, pulling me up with him. "And the edge between here and somewhere past perfection."
"I don't understand." He liked being cryptic. Usually it annoyed me, but I didn't want to disturb the peace of the night with a petty disagreement. I just wanted to enjoy being with him before we lost our days to his job.
He just smiled and drew me to the water's edge. We sat on sand dunes with our feet in the waves watching the night pass by. And he was right. It was more than perfect. The moment I will always remember. The dampened breeze, cool where his skin left mine bare, the wash of the waves over the sand, these would be with me forever.
I barely woke when he kissed me goodbye the next morning and let his caress take me back into my dreams. The phone woke me hours later. I almost didn't answer it, but it was after 9 and time for me to get up anyway. Now I wish I had never picked it up. Only bits of the conversation stayed with me: a drunk driver, I was needed at the hospital, nothing could be done.
We had three years in our new home then our time was gone. It just wasn't enough for me.
I tore myself away from the memories and the wounds they opened. My friends said it was time to move on, time to let myself heal. They told me I needed to sell the beach house so his ghost could go free. They wanted me to break my promise and forget.
I dropped to my knees. Needles of icy water spattered my face and shirt and soaked into my pants, making me gasp.
"Daniel, I miss you." The grief crashed over me and tears welled up. "They want me to let you go and I just can't."
If this moment is all we have, I couldn't ask for more, my love.
I'd been lying to myself. Three years had not been, would never have been, enough. I didn't want to say goodbye. I wanted to cling to the memory of him and keep it close enough to bruise the raw edges of my pain. I didn't want to know how it felt to say goodbye, to let the pain ease. I needed it to keep him alive.
I looked up at the sky, the same black velvet from a year ago, only colder. Lonelier.
A star fell, leaving a fading, silver streak in its wake.
I smiled. Somewhere Daniel was making a wish. A wish to never forget. Tears stained my cheeks again.
I turned away and wandered down the beach until I came to the next house. Boards covered the windows and door, but the paint still had a newness about it. The owners had closed the place up when fall began to creep in along the sea, abandoning it to a desolate winter. Most the families here were summer people. Daniel and I were among the very few who stayed year round.
Most days I could just imagine he was away at work. The nights were sharp-edged and painful. Daniel and I had never spent a night apart since the day we had moved here. Even after a fight, we slept in the same bed—or didn't sleep at all as we tried to sort through whatever was between us. I still slept on my side of the bed, curled up in one of his T-shirts, inhaling the faint memory of his scent, now with my back turned to avoid seeing the emptiness where he should be laying. It took all my strength to keep from turning to him, to keep from shattering the illusion I wrapped myself in.
I turned back to our place—the beach house with the burnished wood and warm memories. As I reached the deck, the sky shed another star, a glittering, silver tear falling in the night.
"You miss him too, don't you?" I smiled. What a thought, the sky missing someone.
I caressed the railing and remembered the day we moved in. Our first night here was spent on every floor. "A christening," he called it, chuckling softly as he nuzzled my neck, his fingers leaving a tingling trail along the side of my breast. Even now the memory made me blush. We'd held his promotion party here, and a celebration of my first gallery show. For three summers in a row we had a dozen cookouts with friends, family, and beach house people all invited. Winters were spent enjoying each other's company in the front of the fireplace or curled up on our overstuffed couch soaking in the moments we had alone together.
Loneliness washed through me. And something more. I felt as vacant and deserted as the summer families' beach houses. Closing my eyes, I watched the falling star as it streaked the back of my eyelids.
Make a wish. Somewhere a star is falling.
I wandered back to the edge. What would Daniel wish for this time?
To never forget.
The sky glowed as a shower of stars fell towards the sea and the warmth of Daniel's love wrapped itself around me. Every memory would remain forever etched in my heart, but only I could choose whether to color those memories with pain or with joy. Daniel had never left pain in his wake. The pain was mine and mine alone.
Lifting my face to the night sky once more, I let the stars fall into me and burn away the pain, leaving only the sweet glow of our memories.
I will never forget.