I remember how it was before he left. The sun was shining a brilliant gold, the way that it does in late afternoon on a day somewhere between summer and autumn. The sky was a light shade of blue with those big fluffy clouds that change shape the longer you looked at them, the kind that when they traveled over the sun you could see its rays glimmering through. We were lying perpendicular to one another underneath a tree whose leafy shadow covered our bodies with a funny speckled pattern. There was a gentle breeze dancing through the treetops and whispering over our bodies. I remember the grass not only being a vibrant green but also soft, not the feeling of being freshly mowed, but more as if it had been mowed two days before. The breeze was telling jokes to the grass, causing the blades to bend over in silent laughter and tickle my bare feet. My head was resting on his chest and I could hear his slow breathing and beating heart, I couldn’t help but smile whenever there was an irregularity in that beating. The only sound apart from the dancing leaves was the crisp, quick rustle as we turned the pages of our books. We didn’t speak much that day, the majority of our communication was through the quiet smiles we shared and the way his free hand stroked my arm. It wasn’t that we were angry with each other, or that we had nothing to say to one another, it was that we didn’t need to say anything to know what the other was thinking. I closed my eyes and inhaled through my nose as he brought his hand away from his mouth and let the smoke twist up and weave its way through the gentle breeze. He smiled as the last of it escaped his lips; he knew how much I loved the smell.
That was the first time we danced. He stood up abruptly and pulled me to my feet with him. The air had a thick amber glow as the sun inched closer to the horizon. He grabbed my hand and spun me, then pulled me close. We didn’t know the steps to any fancy ballroom dance so he made up his own silly waltz, holding me tight, making sure I never got left behind. He dipped me and I laughed, a full laugh, the kind that makes your whole body shake, the contagious kind that makes anyone within earshot laugh with you. I felt light, like that feeling you get after two glasses of red wine. In fact that’s how I felt, I felt like red wine. I was filled to the brim with warmth and delight. I could feel my cheeks burning, becoming a color that matched the way I felt as the veil of night fell over our made-up waltz. He went to dip me again, but this time I fell, pulling him with me and we both laughed, our faces taken up entirely by the idiotic grins we wore. We lay back down, nuzzling against each other as the stars sparked into existence. He pointed out his favorite constellations; he even dedicated one of the stars to me, the brightest one at the corner of his favorite. We fell asleep in that spot, with the crescent moon promising she would protect us through the night. That was the last time we danced.
Melissa Mason is a senior English major at UMass Amherst with a specialization in Creative Writing. She plans to enter the world of publishing as an editor but her ultimate goal is to be a fantasy novelist.
Photo credit: Italy, Latium Region, Tarquinia (Vt), Etruscan Necropolises, Tomb of Lioness, 6th century fresco with couple of dancers, she wears a transparent vest, he’s naked with an olpe of wine, premise of an orgiastic dance. Photopgraphy. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/126_3750512/1/126_3750512/cite. Accessed 17 Oct 2016.