A short story, last revised 28/12/12

His dream was an old dance, down at the ferry wharf. She spun by herself on the dock, smiled, and beckoned him closer. The sounds of waves sloshing at the beach mingled with the bustling music behind them. They were stealing away for a sweet moment and it gave the moment suspense, vibrancy. It was time taken just for them.

She reached the end of the pier and he brought himself in and laid his lips gently across hers. He never knew how to kiss her. He felt such unbridled passion that he felt the force of it reach up right to the back of his head and push him to kiss her hard, desperately, as if the force of it might make it all less passing. But she was also so... gentle. She was something that he wanted to preserve, beautiful, perfect, and he felt his force couldn't do any of that.

They parted, and she smiled a little to herself like she did at the end of every kiss. He wondered if they would be together tomorrow. It was a constant thought, nowadays, one that spoiled little moments like this. Or perhaps it made them more valuable? The approaching demise of the moments made them precious to him. Every kiss seemed like the last. Every sentence seemed like the one he would remember forever.

"Promise me nothing will change."

"I promise."

Making such oaths, that he knew he couldn't keep, hurt him. For either of them to stay the same would be not to live. Life is change, and to keep oneself locked into one snapshot in time is to be dead. It saddened him. But what could he say? "I can't promise I won't change. But I love you right now. I want to love you in the future. I want you to love me in the future. But life is life and life is change and guarantees are for computers." He didn't say anything.

"It's 6 months. That's all. 6 months is nothing."

She smiled and he couldn't tell what she was thinking. She'd put up walls these past few weeks, and he didn't blame her. Perhaps he had as well. They were walls to protect against the hurt. There were walls between them, after 2 years, and it made him feel alone. In their situation, lies and walls were all that made it tolerable. Lies allowed him to not think about the vast distance that would soon be between them.

They kissed again then. He felt her warmth against him, her life, her beating heart and veins and truly believed in that moment that she loved him. It had been only hope up until that point, and would only be hope after that, but for a brief moment it was true faith like some prophet of hearts in the throes of religious ecstasy.

"I love you."

"I love you."

He decided then that if they made it then he'd propose. Maybe he'd even discuss with her how he felt about kids. He had said he didn't want any - a mistake, he saw now, but one made out of confusion and not dishonesty. It was a plan born of desperate hope. It was an "if we make it" plan and then he realised that all their plans were "if they made it". All their plans were little flickers of hope that popped in and out of existence to the whims of emotion and circumstance and bad decisions and arguments and passion and mistakes.

A voice came from behind them and she looked past him back down the pier and smiled her other smile, her not-so-secret smile that was for friends and family, and called back. "I need to go home."

A dream, this was.

"I'll see you at the airport tomorrow."

Just a dream.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

Everything was a dream and he was back when they first met and he had it all in front of him. He cupped her face in his hand and looked into her eyes, the soft, warm wind whipping her hair around her neck. He leaned in slowly for their second-last kiss. They both felt each other's tears, each other's lips, each other's warmth and blood. And he didn't think either of them had ever felt more alone.

She turned and walked away from him, their hold on each other trailing off into desperately groping, diverging motions. She kept walking and he wanted her to stop. She kept walking and he wanted to call out, to stop this turning of the world. But he didn't. Pain, regret, and pride all welled up and mixed and ate at him as he saw her walk away from him and towards her dreams. She got into the car and blew a kiss, and he blew one right back. The door closed, the engine started and he sensed that his perfect life had just gotten a little more distant, a little less tangible, and there was nothing he could do to get it back.

So he turned back to the sea, hearing the approaching footsteps of friends offering their sympathies. He watched the waves and the stars and after a while his friends left and he was left with nothing but the tiny core of self that had managed to cling on. The rest had been washed away.