When She Came Back
by Devi Pearl
The breeze that blew through the window was hotter than the stifling air already in the small room. Across the way Daniel lit a joint and coolly looked Jessica over.
"Itís hot, eh?" he said quietly. The wispy smoke escaped his fleshy lips. A small radio was sitting on the chipped windowsill. Reggae tunes flowed from the box into the room, itís beat resonating and snaking between the two of them. Jessica pulled her hair, damp with sweat, into a messy ponytail. She felt the sweat beads trickle between her breasts and thighs. Uncomfortable, she dragged the large wooden chair she had been sitting on across the room and propped it next to the window. Sighing she closed her eyes and leaned her head against the wall. Daniel watched this and leaned back against the headboard of the bed.
"Canít be silent forever you know."
"I can be silent for as long as I want."
He rose from the bed with itís bare mattress and strolled towards the window. Opening her eyes she sat upright in her chair.
"Why did you come back then?" he glanced at her nervous face and peeked briefly out the window. On the street below children played ball in the street as the sun beat down on them. Older ladies sat on their porches sipping cool drinks.
"Not sure why I came backÖnot sure Ďbout much any more." She forced her dignity. Forced her strength. Returning to the edge of the bed, he sank onto the mattress and leaned forward to study her. He wasnít sure about much either. How a woman he met once, a year ago could suddenly return to him, as if by some force she didnít herself understand. How her body language could be so closed up, but her spirit so open and hungry. How every simple movement she made could be salacious and powerful enough to make him want to grab her, to hold her so tight in the strangeness of that sweltry afternoon.
"There was a connection that night." She said finally, her lip quivering slightly. "We felt so connected, yet we never touched. Is it all in my mind that we could reach for each other on such a deep level? So deep in fact, that we were afraid to venture further? Afraid of what might have happened, afraid that we might have fallen in love?" She crossed and uncrossed her legs nervously. She was no longer looking at him but down at the street at the playing children. Exactly that day, a year before, he had been drinking. His woman of many years wanted to leave him. They were children when they first loved each other, but then it was time to move on, or so she had said, and so he had been roaming the streets in search of nothing in particular when he saw Jessica. She was dark, almost as dark as the night, and slender.
"Youíre lost." Was her reply to him when he stumbled towards her.
"Iím not lost at all. I know this neighborhood very well. Itís my home."
"Thatís not what I meant." She said. They talked for hours after that, and she walked with him to his apartment where he collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her presence was a comforting one. She had lain on the bed beside him.
"Get rid of the ceiling and look at the stars." She whispered.
"When youíve loved someone for so long, itís hard to see beyond anything else." He replied.
"Get rid of the ceiling and look at the stars." She whispered again. They lay in silence for a while then she explained that she too had to find her life. She had been a disappointment to herself and her family time and time again. She too had to find new footing.
It was twilight when she slipped out, disappearing into the streets with tall buildings and empty sidewalks. He was plagued by her brief memory for months after that. And now she had returned exactly a year later, sitting in his apartment on a hot afternoon looking confused and torn.
"Where are you now in your life?" he asked. "Have you achieved any of the things you dreamed of achieving?"
"I have." She responded and popped open the top button of her sundress, revealing more of her sweaty cleavage.
"Things are going good for me now. Iíve found a man."
"Is that so?" he tried to hide his irritation.
"Yes. Weíre engaged to be married."
"Congratulations." He lit another joint and swung his legs up on the bed. "Why did you come back?" he asked, repeating the same question he had asked earlier.
"I donít know. I guess I still donít completely understand myself." They listened to the smooth reggae for a moment then she abruptly rose to her feet.
"Well, I guess I better get going." He tried to remain calm.
"Where? Back to your life and your fiancé, when youíre still not sure of what is missing inside of you?"
"There isnít anything missing inside of me." She continued staring at the door and he stared at her slender back from the bed. Her thin dress was clinging to her back. He longed to take it off. He longed to hold her.
"This is crazy Jessica. Look at you, look at us." He suddenly leapt from the bed and moved towards her. She turned around swiftly and backed against the door. Was it his eyes that captured her? His lips she longed to kiss? His masculine neck she longed to bury her face against? She stared at his wet bare chest, his long linen shorts, then studied the wooden floor trying desperately to gather her thoughts.
"Why marry, Jessica? Why?" he gently lifted her head with a thick finger and tried to read her eyes. "Are you really going to do this? Are you really going to walk out that door again?" he was so close she could feel his warm breath on her face.
"Iím so sorry for confusing you like this. If we were truly meant to be together, it wouldnít be so complicated would it? Why is it, the first time we saw each other your heart belonged to another, and now the second time itís my heart that belongs to another?" He reached up to stroke her soft face but she opened the door.
" I have to do this. I must marry this man I love. Please, remember me but donít hold on to me." She stepped out and motioned for him to stay back. With tears in her eyes she ran, disappearing again.
Daniel stood in his apartment on a hot afternoon. Outside the children played, smooth reggae flowed from his radio like a lullaby. His chest was heaving and he let the sweat spill onto his face. He looked up and heard her whispers from the summer before. "Get rid of the ceilingÖlook at the stars." He yanked open the door and ran after her. He believed in miracles, and he knew it wasnít too late for this one.