The morning had always been my favorite time of day, since as long as I could remember. It happened to be a very clear summer morning in July when I decided to take a nice walk outside and take a look at what was going to be my new neighborhood. Quietly, I left the entrance of my new apartment and made a calm stroll down my block, appropriately named Walnut street thanks to the calm shades of brown found on nearly every building. The morning air was fresh and soothing; a tender reminder of why I loved taking long walks alone with my thoughts. The sun still sat on the horizon, rising more with each minute and changing the night's grayness into a cheerful bright blue.
I wore the same shade of blue over my shoulders as I paced along the sidewalk in my warm jacket. After a minute's travel I found myself approaching a vast park which I had noticed near my apartment days earlier. My feet were still sensitive to the hard concrete in my rather worn out shoes as I looked up at the small sign which stood next to the main gate. It read 'Tranquil Gardens'.
Upon reaching the rather secluded entrance to the park, I gently brushed a lock of my tawny hair away from my face, placing my hands in my pockets. For a park so large it didn't appear as if many people were inside, most likely due to my early rising. I passed through the gates of Tranquil Gardens and took in a deep breath as my feet met the soft grass. The air seemed almost fresher inside the park, as if I had left the boundaries of the city streets and entered into an untouched area of wilderness. I smiled to myself, glad to have already discovered such a comforting environment. It seemed almost like something out of a fairytale.
"I think I'm going to like it here," I said to myself, softly.
The path led deeper into a wooded area, still lit by the odd lamp post but gradually growing brighter as if the light were following my steady stride. A faint breeze rustled the branches of the full and green trees, whispering quiet morning sounds along with the crickets who were still chirping in the distance.
I almost felt like closing my eyes and imagining that it was indeed an area of my dreams, as it felt more inviting than I could have imagined. With that thought, I made my way to a small brook near the center of the park and took a seat on what appeared to be the only wooden bench in the park, which rested partially under the tallest tree.
The brook's stream was about ankle deep with small stones lining the bottom. Along the edges of the water were various flowers which had seemingly grown in naturally though they were obviously planted by someone. The colors reflected the warmth of the flourishing summer season. I listened to the sounds of the brook for a few minutes, letting my eyes just rest. After a short time passed, I heard a small thump a short distance away but didn't bother looking. I just continued to rest and breathe silently to myself.
With my feet together, I waited for the sun to find its place in the sky and bring first light to the quiet morning. Just as I thought I might doze off from the soothing voice of the brook, I was met with a soft utterance near my ear.
"You're sitting in my spot you know."
I almost leapt from the seat out of fright, turning my head to see a small, thin figure standing just off to my side. Her hands were holding a number of thick books and I couldn't make out her expression. I quickly jumped from my seat and stood on the other side of the bench, throwing my hair back into my face clumsily.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't know, I'll go, I'll..."
"No, it's not your fault, I was just teasing," she giggled.
I finally brought my hand to my face and parted my hair to find a young woman standing near me, her hands clutching what appeared to be school books. The sun rose just above her head, casting a bright aura around her as I squinted to make out her expression. She was wearing a pair of half-glasses which were definitely bifocals, and a white cardigan which had a little dirt on it near the waist.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know this was your spot."
"It's all right, It isn't actually," she said in a soft voice similar to mine. "I do sit in it often when I'm reading though. What's your name?"
"Holly," I answered.
"My name is Grace. How are you?"
"I'm okay I guess, you just startled me is all."
She smiled brightly, gently letting her books rest in one arm.
"That's a first, usually it's the other way around for me," she giggled. "So you're new here, Holly?"
I hesitated for a moment.
"Yes, I just moved in yesterday."
She stepped closer, not making a sound in the green grass.
"So you're new to this park then, too?" she asked. I nodded. "Well, you've found one of the best spots in it for sure. There aren't many people are out here this early in the morning."
"Would you like to sit here? I will leave if you want me to," I said.
She giggled to herself and rubbed a smudge from her bi-focals.
"No, no, I would love some company for a change. Would you like to sit down on the bench with me this morning, Holly?"
I shifted slightly, letting my first smile appear.
"Okay... I guess."
Grace stepped over and quietly sat on the bench, her books resting comfortably in her lap.
"Sit down here and let's talk then," she exclaimed, smiling.
I moved back beside her and sat down, placing my hands in my lap nervously. Grace had her books to attend to but I was empty-handed. I hadn't even brought my purse out for the walk.
"I... don't really know what to say."
"Well... where do you live, Holly?" she began, soft with her voice so as to calm my tenseness. I thought to point out where I lived but soon remembered how far into the gardens I had travelled realized that I had already lost my sense of direction.
"Just up a few blocks, on Walnut Street," I said, softly.
"That's a nice neighborhood. Do you live in an apartment?"
I nodded again, this time turning to face her on the bench.
"Do you live by yourself?"
"Yes," I answered. "I haven't even really unpacked yet."
"No friends here in town to help you?" Grace inquired, tapping on her books now as if she were feeling nervous herself.
"No, I don't know anyone here personally."
"Oh," she said, smiling still. I started twiddling with my thumbs. "So what do you like to do, Holly?"
"Well, I would like to get a job here soon. I've got a few writing skills."
"Are you a good writer?" she asked, happily. "I'll bet you are."
"I... well, I'm okay."
I began to blush, looking at a row of flowers which closely mimicked the flesh tone of my cheeks.
"So how old are you, Holly?"
"I'm nineteen. How old are you, Grace?"
"Same," she replied.
She lifted her hands to her glasses and rearranged them again. Grace had bright green eyes which were nearly doubled in size through her bifocals; a perfect match to her tied back chestnut colored hair which looked so elegant and shiny compared to my messy, greasy look. Grace's eyes didn't seem to mind at all somehow. Her gaze was one of quiet happiness, of caring and compassion. I looked into them calmly, and she did the same with mine as if we were locked in silent communication. We both paid attention to the sound of the brook as it lulled us both away from the nervousness of introduction.
"I know, I know. I tripped back there as I noticed you on the bench. A clumsy, four eyed bookworm, not worth sitting next to a pretty girl like you, aren't I?"
I tried to hide my blushing, but at the same time was surprised by her own self-perception. I believed she was definitely more attractive than I was for sure.
"Of course not, Grace, that isn't what I was thinking at all."
"What were you thinking, Holly?"
"I was thinking how nice and pretty you are actually."
Grace let out a small cough, quickly calming herself as she gripped her books tightly.
"Thank you, Holly; that's so nice of you to say. I wish more people would talk to me the way you do."
"How do others talk to you?" I asked.
She didn't answer.
"Ummm... I have classes today but I would love to see you again sometime," Grace said, quickly smiling once more. "Can I give you a call?"
"I haven't got my phone connected yet," I replied, embarrassed.
"Oh... I suppose I could back come here early again tomorrow; I do pretty much everyday anyway. It's so easy to fall in love with Tranquil Gardens after visiting a few times."
"It certainly is wonderful the first time," I added.
Grace rose from the bench, sniffling for a second and holding in a second cough.
"Goodbye, Holly. I hope to see you again soon."
"Goodbye," I answered, pushing my hair out of my face and waving a bit.
Grace made her way around the bench and back onto the small dirt path which she had fallen on earlier. She looked back several times, smiling a little happier with each one as she watched me gaze at her. After a moment, she faded into the surrounding trees and I was left alone again, now with the sun high in the sky as a sign of the new dawn. I hummed to myself for a minute or two and lied down on the length of the bench, allowing myself to doze off into a peaceful, dreamless rest before returning home.
I rested my head against my couch armrest for a moment, smiling to myself. After a few minutes I looked up at my new apartment, my very messy new apartment. A few items of clothing were hanging out of some of the boxes I had opened, nearly blocking off my view of the window. I stood from the couch and held my diary in my arms with both hands after just having written an entire page about meeting Grace. I then made my way to the bathroom for what should have been my morning shower though it was turning out to be more of an afternoon noon shower.
I set my diary by the sink and kicked off my ugly shoes, then my socks. After slipping out of my jeans and shirt I gazed at myself in the mirror wearing only my underwear. I made a few faces, some of them smiles, and thought about Grace's smile. She had said I was pretty; that was more than enough to brighten me up for the remainder of the day. With that, I slipped off my bra and panties and stepped into the shower, thinking about Grace.
The next day I was even more excited about seeing Grace than I had been before I hesitantly doze off in my bed. I jumped up as soon as my 6:30 alarm went off and darted into the shower to get ready for the day.
I wore a clean pair of black jeans and the same jacket with a nice collared shirt underneath and, of course, my favorite earrings. Set with a nice pink hue, and surrounded by silver, they were as close to diamonds as I could afford. They dangled each time I took a step. As a final touch to my outfit I attempted to curl my hair a bit in the front, though it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. With that, I rushed out the door and headed towards the park in hopes of meeting Grace again for the morning.
When I entered the park, that same feeling of quiet happiness filled my spirit. It was the perfect place to see Grace, and I quickly made my way along the grass and then the small dirt path until I found our bench once more. I had hoped she would have already been there waiting for me but she hadn't arrived yet. The bench wood was still a bit cool from the night air as I sat down, waiting, hoping. Sure enough, after about ten minutes, Grace appeared on the very same path, the sun shining at her back in a calm aura.
"Am I late?" she asked, holding a different set of schoolbooks.
"Of course not," I replied, moving over to give her room.
"Good morning," she said, sitting down beside me. I returned her salutation, smiling for her and keeping my hands at my sides instead of fidgeting nervously. "Oh, you're all dressed up today. Is this for me?"
I began to blush again, looking at my outfit compared to hers. She wore a similar cardigan but this time more of an oatmeal color. She had also cleaned her bifocals of all the smudges they had been marked with a day earlier.
"Oh, well... sort of... yes."
"That's sweet of you," she answered. "I love your earrings, too. I think I have a pair just like them."
I shook my head a bit, letting them dangle. We both giggled.
"Ummm...so, why did you come talk with me yesterday?" I asked, hoping not to sound rude.
She looked at me. "Well, I've just been feeling a little... no," she cut herself off. "I noticed how pretty you were and thought that it would be nice to have a little company for once."
"For once?" I asked.
"Well, I guess I could get a lot of company if I really wanted to. I just don't want... that kind of company. I want someone who I can talk to and laugh with right now."
"I can talk and even laugh sometimes, too, if I try," I added.
We both giggled again.
"I can see that."
I moved a little closer to her for once, feeling my heart begin to race.
"So what are you studying?" I asked, looking at her books.
"Everything pretty much," she answered. "I don't want to close any doors on my future so I'm taking everything I like."
"Isn't it hard? I could never do that; I would eventually give up."
There was a long pause. I began to cringe, thinking that I had somehow upset Grace with my words. She lowered her head, staring down at her books.
"Don't ever give up hope, Holly... It will always be there for you."
Her words were sincere, perhaps more memorable than any action. I felt a surge of emotion rush through my body as I noticed a single tear run down her cheek.
"Okay," I whispered almost.
Grace raised her head up as I spoke, her eyes a bit watery as she managed another smile.
"Besides, look how beautiful it is this morning. We should have some fun."
My eyes brightened.
"You know, fun," she answered. "Like we always used to, back when life was more simple. Stand up." She set her books aside and rose before I did. I stared up at her for a second, her eyes seemed so caring. As I continued to gaze, she slid her hands under my arms. "Up, Holly."
I stood from the bench and blushed a bit more, not sure what to say. Grace took in a deep breath, as if she were preparing to jump off the highest diving board at a pool.
"Okay..." I said, waiting for her to continue.
"Come over here by the stream, and take your shoes off."
"Your shoes," she repeated. "I'll do it too... come on."
Hesitantly, I proceeded to take off my shoes as Grace watched and slowly began to remove her own. She had a nice pair of expensive looking black heeled shoes compared to my ugly runners. She didn't seem to care at all that they looked as if a dog had chewed on them. Once our footwear was off, we both stood in our socks on the grass, mine black and Grace's white.
"Now, off with the socks, too," she stated, smiling happily.
She quickly got out of hers and tossed them near her shoes, turning to me as I stood still, confused and even a bit embarrassed.
"I don't know, Grace, I..."
She stepped towards me. "Oh come on, scaredy cat, get a little dirty."
Quickly, Grace made a quick lunge towards me, sweeping my feet out from under me with a swift trip.
With tender care I was caught in her outstretched arms and set on the soft grass. A huge smile rested on Grace's face.
"Walnut street Karate class, yellow belt," she declared, grinning.
She reached for my feet and proceeded to take my socks off herself. I began to giggle uncontrollably, tickled profusely by her actions. Finally, after about twenty seconds, Grace was able to get both socks off, tossing them near my shoes as she jumped back to her feet.
"Now you can get up and come in with me," she said, smiling.
"Come in where?"
As I spoke, Grace turned and stepped into the brook's water with soft steps, sighing for a second as the cold stream rushed between her feet and ankles. She raised her arms as if she were balancing herself on a high wire and made her way to the center of the calm stream.
"Come in with me, Holly," she smiled. "It's a little cold but you get used to it."
Without speaking, I looked at the water and then back at Grace. She looked at me, smiling and tilting her head to the side a bit. I just couldn't resist. After looking down at the water once more, I made a tiny hop from the edge of the brook and landed right beside her in the stream, making a small splash that mostly got me.
We both laughed.
"That's more like it," she said. "But I'm not sure how I'm going to explain my clothes to my professor now."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I replied, feeling a little guilty.
"Don't be, Holly. I'm glad you jumped in, I couldn't have done it like that without finding my face in the water at the same time." She bent down and picked up a rock, showing it to me as if it were a piece of jewelry before quickly whipping it downstream, making it skipping three times. "You try it now."
I bent over and grabbed a rock, mimicking Grace's toss as closely as I could. With a small plop it splashed into the stream, not skipping once.
"No, Holly, do it with a disc shaped one; kind of like a frisbee I suppose." She bent over again and grabbed one like she had described, wiping it off a bit with her wrist. "Toss away."
I tried once more, this time with a little more power. It still didn't skip. I felt a little disappointed.
"I'm no good I guess, Grace."
She smiled, putting her arm around my waist slowly.
"You just need a little practice, Holly, that's all."
I looked in her eyes. This was the closest to each other we had ever been. I could practically hear my heartbeat from within my chest.
"I didn't know you went to Karate classes, Grace."
"I started about a month ago. I'm going for a black belt one day, I hope."
"That would take a long time, wouldn't it?" I asked.
There was another long pause as Grace lowered her eyes for a moment. After a few moments I looked down as well, thinking that she was staring at something by her feet.
"But one day it could happen, Holly, don't you think? One day?"
I felt a lump growing in my heart; Grace was making me want to cry somehow. She seemed so sincere, so determined, I couldn't bring myself to say anything but what she wanted.
"I guess so... yes, you could do it. Of course you could."
"I'm sorry, Holly. Thank you. Just talking to you makes me feel so happy, even a little nervous too."
"And you do the same for me, Grace," I stated, not sure really what to say.
Grace closed her eyes, concentrating for a moment before quickly reverting to her cheerful self again.
She took in a deep breath. "Well, that was refreshing, don't you think?"
"Very," I said, a bit more cheery.
"What are you doing later today, Holly," she asked. "I was wondering if maybe we could have some lunch together... or something."
Grace definitely sounded nervous, just like she had said, and just like I would have been had I asked the same question. She took off her glasses and started cleaning off the little drops of water from my big splash.
"Lunch sounds wonderful, Grace, I would love to come. Where?"
She put her glasses back on, blinking to focus.
"Hmmm... you live on Walnut street, right? I think I know a good little place on the way here to the park, you've probably seen it."
"There? Okay, I know it. When though?
"Let's say noonish, that's my lunch break."
"I'll be there," I said, smiling.
"Wonderful," she smiled. "Now, let's get out of this stream before I freeze my toes off."
Grace stepped out ahead of me, gently holding out her hand.
"Thank you," I said, taking it and stepping out beside her.
As I knelt over by my ragged runners, Grace knelt to her knees and set her shoes upon her lap before me.
"Holly," she said, softly. "I want you to have my shoes. As a sort of first gift for our friendship."
My eyes widened.
"Oh, no, I can't, Grace, I can't accept these. They're your shoes and they look so nice on you, and..."
She smiled tenderly.
"I know we're the same size, I checked while I was grabbing for your socks. Please, I want you to have them, I've always wanted to give a gift to my best friend."
I felt my emotions pouring to the surface again.
"Best friend?" I asked, in a whisper.
She nodded. "Yes, even though I feel so nervous telling you this. I must look so stupid right now."
"No," I began, "I'm honoured, Grace, I..."
"Oh, okay," she replied, softly.
Grace reached forward with her beautiful black shoes, setting them in my lap. A tear came to my eye and ran down my cheek, and then a warm smile.
"Thank you so much, Grace. You are the best friend I've ever met."
She leaned forward and gave me a large hug as I held my clenched fists against my chest. She stayed there for a moment, looking over my shoulder and holding me tight. More tears came to my face as I waited for a chance to reach up and brush them away. Grace was so warm against me, so warm and full of life, I thought. Her heart beat against the back of my hands, steady and soft just as her breath in my ear. I closed my eyes, trembling for a moment, and struggling with the words I wanted to say. Grace made a sniffle; she was teared up as well apparently.
When we finally released each other, I opened my mouth; the words so close to being spoken. I couldn't find it in myself to say them. Instead, I quickly rubbed away my tears and looked up again. Grace was already peering into my eyes.
"Holly, I..." There was a pause that seemed to last forever. "Why don't you try them on for me."
I took the shoes from my lap.
"Okay," I whispered.
I slipped my black socks back on and loosened the laces a bit on her shoes before I slid them both on. Grace was right; they did fit, better than my runners had even. For so small a gift it meant more to me than I could have imagined.
"They look beautiful on you, Holly, I'm so glad."
As Grace remained seated, putting on what had been my runners, I walked back over to the bench and picked up her schoolbooks. A small flower lied between two of them, its pedals sticking out from the top. I brought my nose to the flower and took in the sweet fragrance. It reminded me of Grace somehow, and its color was a soft green, almost identical to her beautiful eyes. I stared at it for a moment, lost in its familiarities as Grace tied the laces of my former shoes. She kept a small cough inward, and then rose fully.
"Your books," I said softly, reaching my arms out for her to take them.
"Thank you, Holly," she replied, taking them from my hands with care. "I probably would have forgot them there actually." I looked down at her feet. I could see a bit of her socked toe through a hole in one of the runners. Grace reached for my chin and lifted my face back up to hers. "It's okay, Holly, you already make me happy. you don't have to worry for me, too."
"No, I... I guess I don't. But I can worry 'about' you, right?"
"I suppose you can. But if you're going to, Holly, I don't want that to ever make you sad or anything, that is very important for me."
She kept her hand under my chin for a second then released it.
"Okay..." I said, softly.
"Promise?" she asked, looking at me through her bifocals tenderly.
There was a pause.
"Goodbye, Holly," she said.
"I'll see you at lunch, Grace."
We came close to each other again, this time both trembling a bit. A final hug against her warm body was enough to calm my raised emotions. I felt her tenderness, her strength, all at once with her soothing touch. The flower which protruded from her books lightly brushed up against my neck as she held her books at my back. Grace took in a deep breath as we both listened to the sound of our hearts beating so close to each other. She held on much tighter than I did, breathing very quietly in our embrace, almost as if she didn't want to let go.
I set my pen down on the open page of my diary, tapping against it lightly as my pinky nail rested between my front teeth. Grace's words continued to stick in my head, as if she had just spoken them seconds earlier; 'Don't ever give up hope'. I began to wonder what Grace thought about; if she thought about our seeing each other, if she even really meant everything she said. She appeared to have a very busy life ahead of her; I wondered how big a part I played in it. After closing my diary I fixed up my hair and makeup a bit before beginning a little maintenance on my new apartment.
The nervous feeling of anticipation I had been feeling a lot lately wasn't in any less excess as I closed the door to my apartment and left down the stairs towards our meeting place for lunch. I actually didn't feel hungry, my stomach seemed full of butterflies or other crawly
With quick strides, I made my way down Walnut street, staring at my new shoes as they trudged along the sidewalk. They reminded me so much of Grace, her sensitivity, her sense of fashion. I smiled to myself and thought to skip along the sidewalk instead of walk, but decided not to seeing as how I was alone. I restrained myself until I got to the corner of the small cafe where we were to meet.
When I stepped in the door, I noticed that the cafe was nearly deserted. One or two elderly people sat on benches at the counter and a husband and wife with their two rather noisy children sat in a booth in the corner enjoying a family meal. I sat in a booth by myself near the door, next to a window where I could see outside. As I took my seat, a waitress in plain clothing came up to me.
"Can I get you something, young lady?"
"Oh, I'm actually waiting for someone but... could I get a lemonade maybe?"
"Sure, I'll be right back, you just wait here," she said kindly.
After about a minute she returned with my lemonade.
"Thank you," I said, reaching for my purse, which I had remembered to bring this time.
"Don't worry, it's on the house," she smiled. "You know, you look very familiar to me."
My eyes widened for a moment as I took a sip from my straw.
"Ya, don't you have a funny looking pair of magnifying glasses that you sometimes wear?" she asked, grinning a bit.
"Oh, sorry, no. I'm actually new to this neighborhood," I answered.
"I must be mistaking you for someone else then. There's someone who looks almost just like you who comes in here sometimes; always has books, always orders a lemonade like you just did."
She gave me a kind wink and proceeded towards the booth with the family, carrying a coloring book for the kids who sat restlessly, asking when their food was coming. I took another sip from my straw and smiled with the mother as I made contact with her eyes for a second.
The door to the cafe had a small set of bells near the top which sounded every time someone walked in. Even though I thought I was paying attention, I was snuck up on yet again.
I looked up from my straw and saw Grace standing over me, this time without her books and her hands behind her back.
"Hi," I pronounced softly.
Grace motioned for me to scoot over on the seat, which I did, though I was a bit surprised; the other side of the booth was empty. She took a seat and looked down at my lemonade first, and then back up at me, backing her head up as people with glasses seemed to do when in close quarters with others.
"I was just about to ask for the same thing, Holly. You have good taste."
"For drinks anyway," I answered, looking down at my outfit for a moment.
We both smiled. I looked up across the room towards the waitress who now noticed Grace sitting beside me. She covered her mouth as if she were concealing a smirk, then walked back over.
"Now, what can I get 'you'?"
"I'll have a lemonade too, please," Grace said, looking up at her.
"Of course, I should have remembered," she returned, flashing me a smirk before turning towards the counter once more.
Grace turned back to me, tilting her glasses down onto her nose a bit.
"So, did you have fun today in the park?" she asked.
"Oh, yes I did. How did your professor react to the umm..."
"He didn't seem to mind, but a lot of people noticed in the hallways when I came in."
"I'm sorry, again."
She smiled. "Don't worry, Holly, I was fine. And besides I wore this oatmeal colored shirt just in case I happened to fall over again, see?"
We both made a small laugh, the two kids in the family booth heard us over their bickering and looked up at as from across the room.
"I didn't really have the chance to tell you but... I wanted to say that you look very nice today," I said, looking down at my glass.
The waitress returned with Grace's lemonade and then went on with her duties.
"I suppose I didn't really notice, seeing as how your smile seems to make me feel just as nice."
"You're so flattering, Grace," I mused.
"Well, this whole thing isn't very normal for me. People don't talk with me very much, or even spend time with me for that matter."
"I can't imagine why," I replied.
She took a sip from her lemonade and then folded her arms on the table, setting her chin down on them.
"I guess not very many people in my life have ever wanted to just sit down and talk sometimes. They were always waiting for it to end so that they could get back to more important things. But I like to talk to others; it makes me feel like I'm not alone in life. I want to be able to say one day that I lived knowing that I was more than just an object or someone to be sorry for. I want to live, Holly..."
I looked up at her, our eyes met, this time unhindered by the lenses of her glasses.
"I... don't really know what to say, Grace."
She perked up again, smiling.
"You don't have to say anything, Holly. It's nice to just listen sometimes, too."
"Mmm hmm," I nodded.
We stared at each other for the longest time, locked in silent communication. The gentleness of Grace's eyes enveloped my consciousness and I smiled softly for her, gradually letting go of my anxiety. Grace reached up with her hand, placing it tenderly against my cheek. I closed my eyes, letting her fingers soothe my skin. It felt almost as if a feather were embracing me.
She let go of my face, smiling.
"Having a little daydream are we?" she asked.
"Oh... I guess so," I managed to get out.
She closed her eyes as she said, "What do you dream about, Holly?"
I looked to my sides for a second, feeling the nervousness start to knock at my door again. Grace kept her eyes closed and waited, as though she were listening to a soft serenade.
"I...don't dream very often."
Grace opened her eyes, a little sullied but still cheerful in her expression.
"You don't dream?" she asked. I nodded hesitantly. "Well I love to dream. I've always thought of dreaming as glimpses of a better life, of the next world even. A place where everyone is happy and there is no pain or misery, but only love and caring. Dreams are something to strive for, to live for, don't you think, Holly?"
I paused, holding onto a nervous smile. What could someone say to that? Instead of uttering a respectable reply to her lively words, I let out only a whisper, signifying that I was listening at least, but uncertain of what to say.
Grace giggled to herself.
"It feels like I'm talking to a zombie here," she stated.
I shook my head, quickly livening up.
"I'm sorry, Grace, it's just that I was so in tune with what you said."
Grace took my hand into hers gently.
"Oh Holly, I wish we could just sit like this and talk for hours," she pronounced, happily. I prepared to make my obvious answer which would have been 'why can't we', but before I could, Grace gently gripped my hand and took in a calm breath. "You know what I like to do everyday?"
"What?" I asked.
I immediately thought she was going to mention something very strange on unethical, something to make her seem like a complete stranger again, but instead she said something that was more true and life-changing than most people can possibly imagine.
"Everyday of my life I try to do something that I've never done before, or something that I would normally never consider doing normally. You know that one special person you met while you were out by yourself but you never had the courage to go and try talking, or someone who you thought was so beautiful they would never, in their right mind, want to be with you?"
"You do something like that everyday?"
"Yes," she replied. "Today mine was hoping you would step into the stream with me in the park."
I focused on the last part of her previous sentence; seeing someone so beautiful that you felt so nervous about approaching...
"And yesterday's?" I asked, looking at her softly now.
Grace paused, looked down at herself and then back up at me.
"Yesterday's," she said, slowly. "Yesterday's was having the courage to walk up to you in the park."
Her words felt like a wave of happiness against my body, so open and truthful. Grace held my hand tightly and then let go, unsure of whether her words were about to scare me off. I reached up and gently placed my hand on top of hers, returning the smile that was so much like my own. At once, the Grace who I saw as above me and so much more secure was revealed as the caring and vulnerable woman she truly was. I felt a great weight lift from my heart as I looked into her eyes.
"I felt exactly the same way, Grace. I was so nervous then, I even am now a bit," I said, letting my shakiness show just a bit.
"Really?" she asked, attentively. I felt her warm hand beneath my own as I nodded.
"This almost feels like a dream," I whispered to her.
"I hope it isn't," Grace said. "Because it's one of the best that I've ever had."
We both smiled at each other; a loving smile, the smile of two friends who shared the same feelings of happiness in one another. Grace turned her hand over underneath mine and allowed our fingers to lock together. For the first time in my life I felt open, complete, just as Grace did. I immediately thought of her words, her vow to do something that she would normally never do each day. The words came out as if they were spoken by another person, I was so frightened.
"Would... would you like to come to my apartment to... today, Grace?"
She looked at me for a second, her smile still soft, her eyes still big and cheerful. She seemed to realize I was beginning the same daily vow she had taken.
"I would love to, Holly," she said, softly. I felt as if I was going to faint. Nearly doing so, I dropped my head against her shoulder, wearily. Grace giggled. "Was that today's little risk for you?"
"It was," I managed to let out, only in a whisper.
Grace gently lifted my head with her hand, bringing my eyes back to hers. A small tear rested behind her bifocals. She smiled and stood from the table.
"Let's go then, Holly."
"Okay," I answered, just above my breath.
Grace reached out her hand and I took it, rising beside her. We were almost exactly the same height. Before we left, she left more than enough change on the table to cover our two unfinished lemonades and even tip the waitress who had called her 'the girl with magnifying glasses' behind her back. I doubt Grace would have resented her for it, had she known.
It hadn't been much of a lunch, but as I walked with Grace towards my apartment I thought of it as one of the best lunch dates I had ever been on. We both walked down the sidewalk together, looking at some of the places Grace knew. She pointed them out and gave them each a little description as we passed.
"There's the Walnut street office building, which is full of a whole bunch of small businesses, including my karate class I might add. And there's..."
Without her books to hold, Grace kept her hands wrapped together near her stomach, as if to keep herself warm though the weather was still quite fair for the early afternoon. I set my hands behind my back and looked down, letting my new shoes avoid the cracks in the sidewalk, playfully. Within a few moments Grace realized what I was doing and joined in with me.
We both giggled.
"You do this too?" I asked.
"All the time," she replied, trying not to screw up.
Another pedestrian up ahead noticed the two of us walking all over the sidewalk with large erratic steps and crossed over to the other side. The next one wasn't as passive though; he walked right between us, making Grace almost trip to avoid a crack. Instead she stepped down hard and allowed herself to lose our little game.
"I win," I said, happily.
"Hmmphh, that wasn't my fault," she replied.
I looked up from the sidewalk.
"My apartment is right up there, the white building."
I pointed to my building for Grace. She looked at it and nodded.
"Okay, which room though?"
"I'm in 308 I think."
Grace stopped walking, so did I. She reached out her hands and took mine in both, looking at them.
"Holly, I actually have to go to class again today, but I promise I'll come over after I'm done. Is that okay?"
"Okay, Grace," I answered.
She released my hands and started to turn.
"Oh and don't worry if you haven't unpacked yet, I don't mind messy apartments at all."
She took the thought right out of my head; I was so worried she was going to despise the conditions in my home. I felt very relieved.
Grace turned around again, and then turned back to face me a second time.
"Hug?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied, beginning to blush a bit.
She walked back towards me and reached out her arms as we embraced with a gentle hug. I felt Grace's quiet heartbeat against my chest and sighed. Something as simple as a hug seemed enough to make her content. She held her breath the entire time, waiting for a long pause before releasing her grip.
With that she turned and walked off quickly, starting up another attempt at missing the sidewalk cracks.
After reaching my apartment, I opened the door and stepped in, immediately noticing the horrid conditions that Grace was about to see soon. Caught up in excitement, I threw off my shoes and jacket, running over to a nearby stack of boxes to begin unpacking as fast as I could.
I pulled out my phone from one of the boxes but couldn't find the cord which plugged into the wall. I then pulled out what little silverware I was able to buy before moving and placed it in the kitchen drawers. After what seemed like sixty minutes of work I looked at the clock and noticed it was already five.
I rushed into my room and put on a clean pair of jeans, just in time to hear a quiet knock at my door from the hallway. After nearly falling over while slipping on my last pant leg, I jogged to the door and opened it. Grace stood there, holding a small pot full of the same light green species of flower which I had found between her books. She held it out, politely.
"House warming gift for you, Holly. I hope you like them."
I took them from her hands, lowering them so that I could see her fully.
"Oh, I love them, Grace, thanks so much."
"I actually picked them from Tranquil Gardens, but I'm sure no one will mind."
"I think so too," I said. "Come in, come in."
Grace stepped passed me and peered around a bit as I closed the door. We walked into the kitchen area and I set the flowers down on the already cluttered table.
"A very nice place you've got here, it's bigger than mine I think."
"But no where near as clean," I added.
"Well maybe we could fix that, Holly. Would you like me to help tidy up?"
I pondered her offer for a moment, wondering if it would seem rude to accept, but decided to say yes anyway.
It didn't take us very long to unpack all of my things, but when it was finally over we were both a little exhausted. I felt particularly warm after I had dropped one of the boxes, spilling out some of my underwear right at Grace's feet. She giggled and helped me pick them up though. After a few more minutes of work, walked into the living room, allowing Grace the opportunity to sit down on the couch and stretch her arms above her head, breathing heavily. She attempted to hold in a cough.
"There, all settled in now."
I sat down beside her and stretched my legs out for a moment. Then, for the longest time we just looked at each other; almost a blank stare, without words but with great thought. Grace's green eyes seemed to glimmer from beneath her glasses which reflected the light from the window. Her soft features seemed more elegant than usual and her smile appeared more soothing. Both of us were very warm and the perspiration from our foreheads showed through as a result.
"Grace," I said. "Have you ever had a boyfr... someone special in your life?"
She looked into her lap, then straightened her glasses.
"No... not really. I've never met anyone who was particularly interested in my life, instead of just my body."
"Oh," I answered, quietly.
"That's why I like being with you, Holly, because you are interested in what I have to say. You enjoy being with me on more than just the physical level."
Grace looked back up into my eyes.
"Yes, I guess you're right."
"And that's why I love being with you, Holly," Grace said, softly.
I felt the room temperature seemingly double. I turned red at my cheeks.
"It's... it's very hot in here," I said, stuttering very noticeably. I stood from the couch and turned towards the kitchen. "Would you like some... something to drink, I'll get some drinks, I'll be right back."
Grace lowered her head.
Before she could finish I stepped out of the room and opened the refrigerator, feeling the first rush of cool air against my face. I took a deep breath, wondering if I had really heard Grace right or had simply imagined it out of exhaustion. I felt my heart pounding against my chest as I picked out two cans of Pepsi and walked back into the living room.
Grace sat with her legs up on the seat and her head tucked into her arms. I heard a faint sob from beneath her curled up body. She looked up, her glasses down to her nose, and tears in her eyes.
"I'm... I'm sorry, Holly, I didn't mean to scare you like that. Maybe I should go."
I felt my knees begin to shake.
"No, please don't go, Grace, I..."
"I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable like that. I know you don't love me that way and..."
Love. She loved me? Out of all the people I had met and cared for in my life I never would have guessed Grace to be the one to express her feelings first. Possibly because I had never been with another girl but also because I felt the same way she did about holding the importance of another's life before their physical appearance. I dropped one of the Pepsi cans as I stood in front of her, trembling and ready to collapse.
"You... love me?" I asked, in a whisper.
Grace looked up at me. Her glasses fell off of her face and onto her arms. She grew a very emotional smile beneath her tears and nodded.
"Yes, I do."
I felt as if I were going to pass out. The heat became almost overwhelming as I fell to my knees in front of her, gripping the cold soda can as the only source of cold in the room.
"I love you too, Grace."
She widened her eyes, just as I had the first time I had been called her best friend. Yet again the progression of our feelings had crept up on us both unexpectedly. Grace set her legs back down on the carpet and opened her arms up. I fell into them and she hugged me more tightly than ever before, sniffling as I just began to tear up. She made a tiny cough near my ear before her breathing steadied.
"I've always loved you, Holly, I just couldn't bring myself to tell you. I didn't ever think that you would feel the same way. I'm... I'm happy."
I raised my head, our faces now directly in front of each other.
Like the first moment we had hugged, when our lips met the feeling was a thousand times greater. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, or had ever guessed I would do. Her touch against my lips was more soft than I had ever imagined, so warm and soothing. I felt the room grow a slight bit cooler but at the same time my vision became shrouded with light, as if the sun had somehow begun to shine twice as bright. Our tears poured over our lips slowly, finally ending, though our first kiss did not for nearly another minute. My first kiss, I thought, though it actually wasn't. There was no other description for the experiencec; it felt more angelic than any of my previous ones put together. It wasn't a kiss of lust or pleasure, but one of love; the kind two feel when they finally realize they were meant to be together. I dropped the other soda can abruptly when we finally parted.
"Wow..." Grace said.
"Wow..." I said at nearly the same time.
"Can we do it again?" Grace asked, softly.
Our second kiss was nearly the same, but even more emotional if that was possible. I felt the heat seemingly eating away at me and I also felt a warm itch between my legs at the same time. The light shined on Grace as it would an angel. Her hair became damp, as did mine and it stuck to our faces with perspiration when we parted again.
"That was...incredible, Holly. How do you feel?"
My head began to sway back and forth.
"I feel, I feel... warm."
As I finished speaking, my head flopped into Grace's lap, too weak to pull itself up. I passed out from the heat almost immediately.
When I awoke I was lying on the couch, the two Pepsi cans resting on my stomach, and Grace standing over me as she bit her nails nervously.
"You're all right," she said, letting out a huge sigh. "I was going to call an ambulance but your phone..."
"...Isn't hooked up, I know."
I reached for the soda cans on my stomach.
"That's the best I could think of," Grace said, smiling timidly.
"I think it worked," I answered. "Now I'm feeling a little cold."
Grace sat down beside me.
"I love you, Holly."
I smiled with her, soothed by the soft words which I knew could never be worn out.
"I love you, Grace."
"Whenever I even say that to you it feels so wonderful, it tingles even."
"It does for me too," I added.
Grace looked into her lap.
"Maybe it's because we're not supposed to love each other like this," she said, quietly.
I sat up, a little concerned.
"What do you mean."
"I mean... I don't think I'm ready to run out and tell everyone that..."
"That we're gay?" I asked.
"Actually, I'm a little surprised myself... when you put it that way."
"I don't think you just wake up and realize it. Maybe this is how it is for everyone, I don't know."
I picked up one of the soda cans and proceeded to open it.
"It feels nice to share it with someone though, not be alone," Grace said, softly.
As she spoke, I popped open the can, spraying fizz onto my face and remembering that I had dropped both cans earlier. Apparently none of my clumsiness had changed following our little relvelation.
Grace giggled to herself and just stared at me. After a few seconds I was able to open my eyes and stare back. The sun was at her back yet again, as if it followed her somehow, again casting a bright aura around her. I watched as she slowly slid across the couch and brought her face close to mine, causing the hairs on my arms to stand on end. Her lips came to my forehead and kissed me softly, taking in the majority of the pop fizz which had splashed onto my face. I took in a deep breath, letting Grace's subtle perfume tickle my senses. It was a sort of fruity fragrance, the kind younger kids wore when they couldn't afford the designer trends. Still, it suited her more than any expensive perfume did, I thought.
"I tried to bring you to your bed after you passed out, but I'm not exactly... I couldn't lift you," Grace said, pulling away.
"I've never preferred the tough, strapping type, Grace. I love you just as you are."
I was truthful with my words. Grace seemed like an angel in my arms, just as gentle if not more than I was, and more beautiful than words could accurately describe. I reached my arm around her and brought her close, smiling as the glare from the window clouded my vision.
"That feels nice, Holly."
I rested my hand on her back.
The same tingling feeling which I had felt earlier returned as Grace whispered her words in my ear. We both began to move against each other, softly. A soft grinding as we repositioned ourselves. I pulled my legs up onto the couch and lied across the full length of the cushions and Grace sat upon my thighs, leaning over and tucking herself between me and the back cushions. Our hair intertwined a bit as we breathed quietly together. She then reached out her free hand, the other tucked under her body, and took hold of my own. She brought it close to her and gave my hand a small kiss on the backside.
"I've never... been touched like this before, Holly," she whispered.
"Neither have I."
"I love you, Holly, and I trust you..."
With the gentleness of a feather, I set my hand on Grace's shoulder and ran my fingers up and down her bare arm. In return, Grace set her head down just above my chest and closed her eyes, resting her own hand around my waist. With each soothing stroke she took deeper, more comforting breaths, sighing as if it were the first time she had felt another's touch. Across the room, the blinds of my apartment windows swayed back and forth in the calm breeze, cutting the sunlight into long shards which stretched out over the room and the couch. I was reminded of the same peacefulness which we had both encountered in Tranquil Gardens. The warmth of Grace's body against mine seemed like a soothing blanket; the first real indication of companionship I had felt in my life.
I let my hand move upwards towards her neck, resting my fingers upon the back of her head under her chestnut hair. Grace's pulse was steady and calm, full of a life so giving and compassionate for having ever talked to me in the first place. I stared down at her feet which were clad in another pair in white socks which showed recent dirt stains. I wondered if the pair of shoes she had given me were her only pair, as I hadn't noticed what she had worn when I answered the door.
Grace turned her head to the side and rested it on my chest, making only the slightest sound with her breathing as I ran my hand through the hair at her neck. Between my legs the feeling of warmth seemed to vibrate softly. My fingers ran through her hair, pushing it out of her face and away from her forehead.
"I love you," I whispered.
Grace's hand lied limp in my palm as I gently reached down and grasped it. She had fallen asleep in my arms. I rested it back at my side and let my head rest on the arm of the couch, covered by my sleeping companion. Without a sound or movement, I let myself close my eyes and drift away into a dreamless sleep, hoping that if I did one day dream, it would replay the moment we had first met and the experiences we were sure to share together in our new life.
I awoke with Grace's warm body still huddled up between mine and the couch, almost silent with her breathing. The light from the windows was faint, the sun hadn't risen yet, and the room felt cool from the open blinds which calmly swept back and forth in the morning air. I looked down to see Grace, her glasses hanging off her nose from subtle movements during the night. Her hair had fallen into her face and her one leg rested between my thighs where it was still slightly warm.
Grace yawned inwardly and cuddled in closer, oblivious to the fact that I couldn't move with her on top of me. I reached out and took her hand, rubbing it gently.
"Hey... Good morning, sleepy head," I whispered.
Grace pushed her back against the couch in a stretch and looked up at me through her hair.
"Holly... is that you?"
Her eyes couldn't seem to focus on mine, instead looking at the whole of my face as she couldn't focus without her glasses. I gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
"Yes, it's me. It's morning now, Grace."
"Morning?" she replied, a little confused. "Did we..."
"We fell asleep on each other, yes," I quickly returned, not answering what she might have intended to say.
"I can't feel my arm," she said, quietly.
I quickly moved myself away from the back cushions of the couch and let Grace free her arm.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
"It's okay, Holly, it's always okay. What time is it?"
I looked around for a clock but couldn't find one.
"The sun hasn't risen yet," I answered.
"I'm sorry I dozed off like that, I just get tired sometimes. You were so gentle and..."
"I've never had someone spend the night before, it was wonderful."
She finally gathered the strength to lift herself up from my chest, dropping her glasses from her face onto my neck.
"Did you dream, Holly?"
I thought of what to say, knowing in the end that our love was built on trust, on honesty.
"No," I said, sounding a little discouraged.
"You will, Holly, one day, and it will be wonderful."
"As long as I have you, Grace, I don't need to dream."
Grace lowered her head and stood from the couch. She straighted her wrinkled clothes out and turned towards the window where the sun still sat on the horizon.
"As long as you have me," she whispered, her back to me. "I guess some dreams aren't that far off after all."
I pondered her words for a moment, thinking to myself what they might have meant. As she always would, Grace was able to brighten up instantly as if her emotions flowed from a hot and cold running tap. I reached for her glasses at my neck and put them on, playfully. I couldn't see anything at all in them, but I clearly heard Grace's giggle when she turned to find them on me.
"I guess I should get cleaned up," I said.
There was a pause.
"Would you like to walk with me to the park this morning?"
"Of course I would," I replied. "Was that you're risk for today?"
"No," she answered. "I'm still thinking about that one."
"I can't go out like this," I noted, looking down at our clothes. They were indeed wrinkled from our night together on the couch.
"I don't have anything else to wear either," Grace said.
I removed her glasses and handed them back to her, looking towards my room.
"Come with me."
After searching my newly decorated closets for a few minutes, we were finally able to pick out two nice outfits for the both of us. I handed Grace a clean pair of black jeans and one of my loose white t-shirts. Grace set them on the bed as I pulled out a similar outfit, only with a tank instead of a t-shirt.
"I guess I should leave while you change," I said, quietly.
Grace didn't reply but gave a passive nod and watched me step out of the room. I leaned against the wall on the other side of the door and waited, listening to Grace's quiet movements. After a few moments the sounds stopped.
"I'm done now."
I turned and walked back in, getting my first look of Grace wearing one of my outfits. It fit her perfectly, though the jeans seemed just a little loose at the waist without a belt. Grace tucked in the t-shirt and quickly appeared flawless again.
"It fits," I said.
"Very well too, thank you." Grace walked towards the door slowly. "I'll let you be alone to change."
As she passed my arm I reached out my hand and gently took hers.
"You... can stay if you'd like, I won't mind, Grace."
"I... okay," she replied, looking back and forth between me and the living room.
Just as with all of the other rushes and anxieties I had felt during my time with Grace, a new one became apparent, the thought of actually changing in front of another person. I knew that to some, such a thing was trivial and almost stupid to dwell upon, but I wasn't exactly the type who flashed others on a daily basis or even wore skirts often. I wondered if what I had said was my risk for the day, or just something that I wished for Grace to see.
She stood with her hands behind her back in the door frame as I walked over to the bed and pulled off one of many tarnished shirts that I often wore under my jacket each day. I kept my back to Grace as I unclasped my bra and set it down on the bed, reaching for one from my dresser. The floor began to gently gently creaked; an indication that Grace was trembling a bit on her feet. I giggled to myself, wondering if she felt even more nervous than I did.
"I don't do this often," I said, stopping for a moment.
"What?" Grace asked, quietly, desperately restraining her eyes.
"Change in front of other people, not even at swimming pools whenever I can."
I let my hands come to my sides as I turned back towards her. Grace looked up at the ceiling, nervously.
"Neither do I... but I usually try to avoid situations like that altogether," she said, finally built up the courage to look down at my body. Her eyes remained on my face for the longest time before she looked down. "You're beautiful, Holly."
"I guess that's what companions are for, to remind each other that," I said, trying to sound calm. "I think you're more beautiful than I am, Grace, for sure."
She blinked rapidly for a moment, and her legs became noticeably shaky.
"I love you, Holly, I really do."
"Will you hold me, Grace?" I asked, softly.
With a calm, deep breath, Grace stepped forward and came towards me, taking me into her arms. My bare skin met with the material of her t-shirt. She lowered her head and rested it on my shoulder as we turned in very slow circles almost like a dance. I closed my eyes.
"I've always lived in a rush, Holly," Grace said, her voice becoming softer with each word. "Pushed into things that I don't think I was ready for. I was always told that it was best for me, and that when I was old enough I would be thankful" Her voice continued to grow softer with each word, as if the memory of such a past were painful for her. I felt her tears begin to run down my chest. "You're the only person in my life who has taken things slowly, the way they are meant to be taken with people. I always want to be with you, Holly, forever."
Forever; perhaps one of the most powerful words when it came to love. I held Grace tightly and knew that it was something possible for us. A promise that we would both keep for the rest of our lives, and long after that.
I returned Grace's tender embrace and felt her tears upon my body more than ever before.
Her words were less than whispers now, and she spoke without looking into my eyes.
"Even when we one day part?"
I lowered my head to try to see her eyes though they were still hidden.
"What do you mean, Grace?"
"I... I want to go to the park now," she pronounced, holding in a cough.
The morning seemed quiet, peaceful, soothing. Across the horizon, Grace and I viewed the calm aurora which rose over the entrance to Tranquil Gardens as we both entered. It was well before seven, and the cool air of the night had not yet left the interior of the park. I held Grace close to me, keeping us both warm, and she never once took her eyes away from mine until we reached our bench and the sounds of the serene brook. We both sat down, not having said a single word between us since we had left the apartment. Grace finally found it in herself to slide right over beside me and hold me as she had before.
"What did you mean before, about one day?" I asked, quietly.
Grace peered across the brook at a patch of the flowers which I thought reminded me of her.
"Do you believe in Heaven, Holly, of angels and life hereafter?"
"I've... never really thought about it, why?"
"Do you believe in a place where there is no pain or suffering, where two lovers can live on, forever?"
"I already live that life with you," I stated.
"But we won't live forever," Grace returned.
"We may not, but hope will, love will."
Grace looked up at me.
"Hope," she whispered. "Hope will always be there."
"You taught me that, Grace, and I believed you."
"I do too... now," she replied.
I took Grace's hand into my own and looked into her green eyes as they shimmered with tears yet to be shed.
"Why are you telling me all of this?"
There was a long pause, and yet Grace couldn't find it in herself to turn away this time as she spoke. The honesty, the trust of our love couldn't stop her from hiding what few knew.
"I'm sick, Holly..."
The words struck me as if the world had only one minute left to live; a sharp pierce into my heart which drew forth tears of bewilderment and fear. Grace continued to hold my hand tight as she sensed the great pain.
"Sick? I... don't understand."
"It's been like this for a long time now. To only dream of what a life is like that's normal, to live every day as if it were your last. But... when I met you I finally felt as if I were truly alive. You've taught me what it is to be loved by another, and to love, and you have given me what I could never have by myself. Hope."
Tears burst forth from my eyes, and from Grace's as well as I stared into hers. She took off her glasses and tossed them onto the grass at our feet, taking me with both arms. The warmth... the life inside her. I couldn't accept her words as the truth.
"But you can't be. Your life, your school... you said you wanted to finish it all."
"I never wanted to give up hope, Holly. I've always tried to live my life as if nothing were wrong, as if I would live to see my life lived out at my own pace. I always believed that one day I would be happy... and then I met you."
Grace now openly cried in my arms, taking quick, heavy breaths and gasping for air.
"I don't... want to lose you, Grace. I love you."
"We will always be together, Holly, that was my promise."
"You won't die, Grace, I know you won't. You're stronger than I ever could be, you've lived a happier life than I ever could. I only hope that things will always be that way for us."
Grace reached her hand under my chin, exactly as she had done once before.
To live with the knowledge that you would one day die had been one of my greatest fears. For those who lived such a way, they could only pass on what little they could, to tell those of us who question our lifestyle how truly lucky we were.
"As long as your hope is alive, I can never truly die, Holly. I'll always be with you, in your heart, in your dreams..."
"...And in my life, I swear it. Good people don't die."
The wind gently picked up as we held each other, crying for what seemed like hours though only minutes passed. The sun rose for us both, bringing the promise of a new and loving day which we would spend together. It cast a bright beam upon us both, illuminating the hope that we both held as if it were something tangible. Across the brook, the flowers I adored swayed back and forth in the growing wind; some strong, some less so. I opened my eyes to see the smallest flower in the patch bend against the breeze, finally snapping from its bed and flailing into the stream. When it finally left my sight I could still remember its beauty as vividly as if it still bloomed.
Grace held me in her arms, feeling the cold now blowing against her own body as it drew near us. Our tears met the wind together.
We held each other for nearly an hour, not speaking, but looking at the calm waters of the brook instead. Grace kept her eyes closed for the majority of the time, compensating for her glasses which she hadn't yet picked up from the grass. Her warm touch against my skin was more than enough to help me bear the cool breeze which seemed to circle us continually. The sun continued to shine through the trees, persistent and full of a hope all its own.
Grace opened her eyes every so often to look at me, her tears finally dried. I let my hand run up and down her arm as I had before.
"Is this the end of our relationship, or a new beginning?" I asked.
"I think it's a beginning for us, Holly. I can't keep anything from you, you deserve to know, because I love you."
"Are you ever afraid, Grace? Of dying?"
She looked out over the brook again, managing a smile through what I would have thought to be misery.
"I think about it sometimes, not very often though. I've never believed that life should be about waiting to die, but living the time you have as best you can."
"And are you?" I asked.
She looked back up at me, gazing into my eyes, softly.
"Of course I am."
A smile came to my face, after what seemed like so long. Grace was calm and quiet, not frightened or miserable. She looked upon life as a gift, and knew that some of life's most precious things could never end, even in death. I found it in myself to function under that same belief. Grace had once said that she didn't want me to worry for her, so I decided to be happy for her instead.
"So, where do you live, Grace?" I asked, brightening up a bit.
"Hmm... about four blocks away from you, near the university."
"Is it a nice neighborhood?"
"I like it," she replied. "Though it is a little smoky near my apartment."
"You mean smog?"
Grace made a quiet giggle through her dried tears.
"No, cigarette smoke, silly. All of the smokers like to use the benches near my home."
"You don't like smokers?" I asked.
"Well, I don't like what they do, but I don't dislike them as people. I understand how hard it is to quit."
"I think it would be a lot easier if they didn't start at all," I added. "Maybe we should stop glamorizing it the way we do, in books, on TV."
Grace and I smiled.
"I suppose it has to start somewhere."
Grace leaned over and retrieved her glasses, putting them back on and standing from the bench to stretch. Her hair blew in the calm breeze and the sun reflected off her bifocals as always. She continued to stretch, eventually moving into a more complicated position.
"I've never seen that stretch before," I said, smiling.
"Oh, I like to do yoga every so often," Grace replied. "I actually had a class for this too, but I bought a book on it instead, so I could do it at home."
Grace stretched her legs and spread them far apart, leaning towards the ground with her outstretched arms.
"It looks hard," I said.
"Would you like me to show you some, Holly?" she asked.
"We might be seen."
Grace giggled, straining a bit from her maneuver.
"It's not like we're naked or anything. I guess it could be today's risk for you."
"Okay... I guess."
Grace stood fully once more.
"Come stand beside me then, Holly," she said. "You don't usually do yoga in jeans, but we won't try any really hard positions, okay?"
I stood next to Grace and watched her position. She stood with her feet balanced, and her hands together in sort of a prayer position. I quickly mimicked it.
"Let's try... the sun salutation, that's a nice one," she said, smiling. "Stand like me... okay now take in a deep breath... good. Raise your hands above your head, kind of like reaching for the sun or something, I'm not sure how that goes."
We both giggled.
"I take it you don't know a lot about the spiritual side of yoga," I said, grinning.
"Well, there's only so much in the book I've got," she replied. "Okay, now keep your arms up and bend them back behind you, get those hips forward..."
Grace was doing the movements twice as well as I was, but I was doing okay for a first try. It felt so nice to exercise with Grace in the park. She was quick to cheer herself up and I admired her for that. The cold that had chilled our bodies moments earlier began to fade as a warm, burning sensation built up in our limbs.
"Now start to breath out while bringing your arms forward, and touch the ground," Grace said, watching me out of the corner of her eye.
"No, no...do it without bending your knees, Holly, like I am."
I grunted as I attempted to do it correctly. I wasn't exact the most flexible person in the world.
"Easy for you to say," I managed to say, in a heavy breath.
"Well, it all takes practice, Holly, you'll get it someday."
We continued our yoga until we got into some even more compromising positions for the two of us, seeing as how we were both wearing jeans. At one point we were both down on our hands and knees in a position that Grace called the cobra; we couldn't help but giggle at each other for how it might have looked to anyone watching. When we finally finished, Grace came back into the starting position with her hands together in a prayer. We did it two more times before she finally noticed me struggling with each position.
"Shall we do it again?" she asked, looking over to see me sitting down on the grass heaving.
"Ohhh... sure, that was easy."
I slumped my back down to the grass and stared up at the sky and the branches of the nearby tree. Grace gave me a scolding look before smiling once more.
"You should try this stuff more often, Holly, it's a great energizer."
I continued to breath heavily.
"Ya, maybe after I regain my lost strength from trying this stuff so early in the morning."
Grace bent down to her knees near my legs and sat with her hands in her lap.
"I'm glad you tried it with me though, Holly. Thank you."
"It was great," I said, inbetween breaths. "We should try it again sometime... next year."
Grace smiled softly, and then lied down on the grass beside me, directly in line with my eyes. She put her arm around my waist, as she had done the night before.
"How can I repay you?" she asked, softly.
"Just... be here with me." I whispered.
She smiled her soft smile.
"For as long as I can, Holly."
I paused for a brief moment, looking into her eyes and admiring her soft features. Grace let her bifocals come down to her nose, coughing inwardly. I took a deep breath, staring at her soft expression.
"Will you die, Grace?"
"One day," she whispered, looking away for a moment. "But it's not our choice to decide when. I'm here now, Holly, and I'm living the way I want to. If I do focus on anything in the future it's our life together, not the day I will die."
"Don't ever leave me," I whispered.
She looked down at herself once more, closing her eyes.
"I have to go now, Holly. I'm... late for class."
"Please stay, Grace... please."
"I wish I could just stay here with you, forever," she said, softly. "I'll stay, for as long as I can."
She sat back up and waited for me to stand first. I stood over her and just looked down at her silently. Grace looked down at the brook off to her side, a bright glint in her eyes.
"I remember when I first came to this park, Holly. It was with my mother when I was twelve. We sat together under this tree, the bench wasn't here back then, and neither were the flowers. I loved it here so much. It was the day before I found out... And ever since then I've always come back here to try and relive that same happiness I felt when I was a child, but through all of these years it never felt the same until I found you sleeping so quietly on the bench. I wondered if I was dreaming, if our meeting was real."
"And what do you feel when you come here to the park now?" I asked.
"When I'm with you, Holly, it's almost as if I'm reliving that day, but not only here in the park but... everywhere."
"I love you so much, Grace, and I hope we'll always be together."
There was a pause.
"Don't ever lose that hope, Holly. If we should ever part, or not be together for any time."
"Don't say that, Grace," I said, reaching for her hand.
She lowered her head and allowed me to take her hand. It trembled slightly.
"I'm... not afraid anymore, Holly."
"Afraid?" I asked, softly.
"Afraid of being alone, afraid of not living the way I wanted to, afraid that I would never find love in the time I have."
"You don't ever have to be afraid again," I whispered.
Grace wrapped her arms around my neck and brought her face close to mine. Her tears broke through the barrier she had put up to restrain them, but I couldn't cry with her. I knew that she didn't want me to be sad for her. We kissed each other openly, a kiss of love, as was our every embrace. My heart pleaded the words that I almost couldn't say out of a fear that my answer would not be met. Our lips parted, Grace let go.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Grace, I love you. Will you stay with me?"
The pause lasted for an eternity, our hands held on together. Grace cried still. I could not.
"I will, Holly, I will."
I felt her hair with my fingers, struck with a surge of joy.
"But... I have to go now."
"Don't leave, Grace."
"I will always be with you, Holly," she said. "As long as you don't give up that hope."
Grace rose to leave. I grasped her hand, holding her back.
"I'll be here tomorrow, I promise," I said, not wanting to tear up.
She peered down at my hand.
"Grace," I said, watching her green eyes flutter with tears. "What if you don't come?"
Her gaze remained soft, loving, and full of hope.
"If I don't come," she said, pausing for a long moment and looking towards the stream. "One may always dream..."
I didn't ever want to let go, but gradually I let her fingers slip away. For the first time in our relationship I felt apart from her feelings, her life. Grace stepped back as I stared into her eyes, once filled with a hope that I felt present only in my own heart somehow. I opened my mouth to speak, but could not breath life into the words I wanted to say. I looked towards the brook where the flowers watched on silently. When I looked back, Grace was gone.
The sun became covered with clouds for the first time since I had visited the park as I walked down the path of Tranquil Gardens to return home. The warmth still beat down on the trees and flowers, but I felt empty somehow, without Grace by my side. I found myself continually looking back, hoping that she would come running up the path to be with me, but soon I reached the end of the path and she did not come.
"I'll see her tomorrow," I said to myself. "Tomorrow."
I let myself walk slowly on the sidewalk, staring down at my shoes, Grace's shoes, and remembering the day she had given them to me. I managed a smile for the first time since leavingI the park.
When I reached my home I stared up at my building, noticing the blue sky above it, and the clouds which had gathered. I sat at home for hours, alone with my thoughts. I wondered how Grace truly felt about our love. A love which, to some, would never be accepted or understood. I imagined Grace, alone somewhere, scolded by those who had caused her the pain I felt when I held her; the pain which seemed to vanish whenever she merely spent time with me throwing rocks in streams or sitting in my home.
I managed to fall asleep for a short time. It was a sleep without dreams, as all of my nights had been. My rest was a pleasant relief from being away from the one I loved, but it could not distance my thoughts from her. I woke many times, hoping to see her in my arms as she had been the night we had slept together.
After only a short period of time, I stood from my couch, filled with a strange anxiety. I walked into my room and picked up Grace's old clothes which she had left from our evening together and pressed them hard against my cheek.
I'll see you again, Grace..."
The clothes faintly smelled of her, not the smell of any fancy perfume, but her hair or rather her shampoo. Even without her face before me, I could see her features in my head as clearly as if she were standing before me. I cried for her until the sun no longer shone in the sky. Before I turned away from the window, I whispered the words that had become more important in my life than I had ever thought possible.
That night, I fell asleep on the couch again instead of my bed.
The next day seemed to arrive sluggishly. I awoke to find myself shivering, thanks to the open window and a cold breeze. I rose and made haste to get ready for our next meeting, throwing on some clean clothes and brushing my hair as best I could. Before leaving my home, I grabbed Grace's clothes and put them into a bag which I carried out the door on the way out.
Outside, the air was still chilled and only a few cars lined the usually busy traffic lanes. It was early morning, my favorite time of day. I entered the park, hoping to find Grace sitting on the bench early for perhaps the first time. The bench was empty, as was the rest of the park. I walked over to the bench and sat down, setting Grace's clothes down beside me.
Minutes passed, the sun rose higher, and Grace did not come. I looked behind myself every so often, hoping to see Grace come skipping down the path with her loving smile. My hand rested on the bag of clean clothes, gradually tightening my grip as the minutes continued to pass. Soon the sun found its place high in the sky; the first time it had reached its highest point without Grace with me to see it.
I closed my eyes, trembling as I felt a tear run down my cheek.
"Don't leave me, don't leave me," I repeated to myself under my breath.
I lied down across the bench, hoping... crying. The feeling of fear and anxiety pressed against my heart, lost in the worry that she wouldn't ever show up, that she was truly gone. I waited on the bench until the sun left the sky. I was alone...
I returned to the park every day, and every day I sat alone on the bench for as long as I could before leaving. My love for Grace gave me the strength to return, the strength to keep the hope that one day we would walk together again. Her memory beat deep within my heart, willing me onward each day, reminding me of the love we shared and the memories we created through our experiences together.
A great time had passed. I had a job as a writer, I studied many subjects in university, I took karate lessons, I practiced yoga nearly every day, and I wore glasses. I often slept on my couch, crying at night and waiting for the day I would see Grace again. My happiness for life itself pushed me forward, and our vow to try something new each day had lived on for the time we had been separated. I had never held anyone closer to my heart than Grace, though many others had entered and left my life since we had last met. I lived the same pain that Grace once had, but with the strength of hope and undying love to guide me each day; something that she had never had, but gave to me as what I still refused to call a 'final' gift.
In the time that had passed, I had kept my promise to return to the park each day, to keep the hope that Grace was alive and that she would be there for me, to love and to hold as we once had. I knew that no length of time could distinguish our love for each other. I knew Grace and I were meant to be together, and her words stayed with me through all of the days gone by, through all of the tears shed.
It was that day I waited for a short period of time before leaving for the park, Grace's clothes in hand. It felt as if a lifetime had gone by, time enough to truly test the bounds of my hope for Grace.
I left my apartment, taking in a breath of fresh air, and passing the old cafe where we had once met. Skipping along the path, I smiled to myself softly, avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk, watching Grace's shoes move effortlessly on my feet. My glasses slid down my nose and rose back up with each stride, shining in the sun's light after passing each intersection between the buildings. The streets were lined with cars, leaving for work as they did each day.
I entered Tranquil Gardens, our park, hoping to see Grace there already as a result of my lateness. She was not near our bench. The branches of the trees waved back and forth in the light wind along with my hair which I allowed to flail into my face as I approached the bench. The golden leaves fell gently from the large tree overhead to the browned grass, carried by the quiet wind. I held onto Grace's clothing with both hands, wrapping my arms around them as she had once done with her schoolbooks when we had first met. I embraced the memory tightly, knowing that I would never forget that day, and wishing that she with me.
The water of the brook was cold as I came to one knee and let my fingers dip into it. I thought of myself in bare feet, laughing with Grace and tossing rocks; just living. Living the way we both wanted to even though I hadn't realized it at the time. I remembered our laughing, our giggling, and our crying together, cherishing the memories which were now more important than ever. I often wondered when I cried if my tears were of sadness, or of happiness. I believed them to be tears of life, of one's hope and desire, and dreams.
A voice rose above the brook.
"Is everything all right?"
I spun around, hoping to see Grace again, smiling happily and looking at me with her beautiful green eyes. It wasn't Grace, but a middle aged woman with black hair; the first person I had seen in Tranquil Gardens besides Grace. She had not made a sound and yet she was directly beside me as I continued to cry.
"No... I'm waiting for someone," I managed to say.
"Why are you crying, child?" the soft voice asked.
"I... I don't know..."
The woman wore a white garment that seemed to be bright even in its shadowed areas. Her eyes showed a similar gentleness to Grace's; the look of love and compassion. Her voice was just as soft as her appearance.
"Who do you weep for?"
"Grace," I answered softly.
"Do you care for her?" she asked.
I looked up at her, surprised.
"Yes, do you know where she is?"
"I'm sorry, I do not," she replied quietly. "Why do you wait for her?"
I looked down, the tears running down my cheeks and onto my clothes.
"I... I care for her, with all of my heart."
Her smile was soft as she looked upon me. The sun began to blind my vision slightly.
"How long have you waited here for her?" she asked.
"Will you continue to wait for her should she not come?"
I paused, looking down at myself, my shoes.
"I will always wait...for as long as I live."
"Why, child?" she asked, quietly.
"Because I... love her."
She smiled, and reached out her hand slowly. I took it. Instantly my hate, my pain, and my sorrow were taken away. Her touch held a gentleness I could not describe. My tears came to an end.
"I do hope that you one day see the one you love again, my child. For two lovers, a life is sometimes a long time to wait, but it will never let them be apart if they truly love each other. You will see Grace again. But until then..."
"Until then?" I asked.
Her smile remained as she released my hand and turned towards the path. Her footsteps were silent as she found it and vanished into the trees. I looked down. In my hand she had left a small gold pendant which glimmered in the morning light. I opened it slowly. Inside was a ticking clock and the inscription 'One May Always Dream'. I held it tight in my hand for a moment, looking back to where I had last saw the woman, my eyes with tears. The pendant rested around my neck as I left the park, holding Grace's clothing tightly, hoping... wishing.
The morning had always been my favorite time of day, always. It was a cool autumn day when I arose and found myself lying on my couch, like so many nights in my past. The sun sat on the horizon, as it had nearly every day for years, waiting to fully find its way into the sky. It was that day I decided to visit Tranquil Gardens for the last time.
I left my home wearing my jacket; the one which I had kept for six years, and the one that I had first hugged Grace in. Outside the air was fresh, quiet and peaceful. The sun peaked over the buildings calmly, as if to wait for my arrival into the park. The streets were empty, no one walked along the sidewalk, and the sound of my feet skipping along the path echoed through the vast buildings which lined Walnut street. I avoided the cracks without effort, and I was able to travel faster than I ever had before as I skipped along. Grace's shoes clicked against the concrete path with each stride, sounding far off in the distance as I approached the entrance to Tranquil Gardens.
The sign at the entrance gleamed in the morning light and I pushed my tawny hair out of my face to see it fully. I calmly passed into the boundaries of the park, embracing the same feeling which I had once felt on my first arrival, and taking in the air which seemed endlessly fresh. It still felt like a setting out of a fairytale.
"I was right," I whispered to myself, remembering the first words I had ever uttered upon my entrance into the park.
The golden trees along the path rustled in the faint breeze, dropping their leaves as slowly as the tears of my memories, leaving the dirt path clear for my feet to walk. I closed my eyes, able to guide myself along the path as easily as if they were open. Soon, I approached the sound of the gentle brook, and the rustle of the tree which sheltered our bench.
My eyes remained closed. I passed the trunk of the tree and reached out my hands for the bench. It came into my hands and I came to a stop, opening my eyes slowly amidst the near blinding light of the still rising sun.
Grace lied on the bench, huddled up as she had once done on my couch, silent in a gentle sleep. The sun shone down on her as it would an angel, staying with her through every slight movement she made. She was there, she was with me, she came back...
My tears burst forth as I became filled with an incredible happiness, hardly believing my eyes as they looked down upon the most beautiful, caring person I had ever met. I felt my knees tremble, my heart race, just as they had the first time we met. I reached out my hand, almost blinded from tears of absolute joy. My arm cast no shadow on her as I whispered almost too softly for anyone to hear, but she did.
She curled up tighter, making her first sound above the brook's quiet flow. Her arms stretched out and finally came to her face, filling with life as she awoke to my gentle call.
I fell to my knees in front of her, the sun behind at my back but still shining perfectly down upon her. Grace opened her eyes, her beautiful green eyes. The tears coursed down my cheeks as I took her hand into mine and felt the warmth of life within her.
"Hi," I whispered, smiling with joy.
She looked upon me, her eyes able to focus without her glasses, which rested on her nose.
"Why are you crying, Holly?" she asked.
"I... thought I would never see you again. I thought that you had left me."
"I didn't leave you, Holly. I've always been here, waiting for you ever since that day. I never gave up hope, I never stopped loving you."
"I... I've been waiting to, Grace, and I've never stopped loving you," I said.
Grace sat up slowly, pushing her chestnut hair out of her face. Her features glowed in the undying light which surrounded her, and she looked just as she had the first day we had met; she had not aged.
"I must have dozed off," she said softly. "I'm sorry."
I wrapped my arms around her, feeling the same loving person I had felt the first time we had embraced each other.
"You don't ever have to be sorry, Grace. You taught me that."
We parted, our eyes still locked together. Grace looked around for a moment, seeing clearly for the first time. She took her glasses from the tip of her nose and held them in front of her.
"I can see, Holly. I don't need..."
"And what do you see, Grace?" I asked, softly.
She set her glasses down.
"I see the one I love, the one that I always want to be with. Forever."
"Forever," I whispered.
Grace leaned forward, we kissed. It lasted for longer than any of our others, and it was filled with the happiness that I had waited for after so long. There were no more troubles anymore. There was no pain, no suffering, no fears, only the love that we had waited for so long to live again. Our lips parted, we stared at each other, wrapped in a joy that coursed through us both.
"Can we... make love, Holly?" Grace asked, softer than ever before.
My heart jumped within my chest.
"Was that your risk for today?" I asked.
"It's my risk for all of the time that we've spent apart, for every day that you waited, and kept hope."
We both continued to smile, just staring at each other and not really sure what to say or do. Grace finally built up the courage to lean forward and rub her hand up against my cheek and hair, breathing softly and trembling at the same time.
"I love you, Holly. I think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever met."
"Grace," I whispered.
I reached out my arms and assisted Grace up from the bench. We held each other, walking next to the edge of the brook and finding a soft place upon the grass. Grace lied her back down and looked up at me with her big green eyes, smiling and trembling just as I was.
"Do you remember the night we spent together, Holly? The way you touched me?"
"Do it again," she whispered.
Grace lifted her arms above her head and closed her eyes. Her soft, beautiful body lied before me, trembling in anticipation. I let my hands rest on her stomach, caressing her skin through the material of her shirt, my shirt; the same one she had worn the last time we had seen each other. Grace took in a deep breath with each pass of my fingers across her navel, and we both giggled out loud.
"I love you, Holly. I trust you."
My fingers unfastened the button on Grace's jeans. I began to feel warm, and the wonderful feeling between my own legs returned just as it had the first time we lied together on the couch. Our breathing quickened, and Grace's eyes remained closed. My arms shook with nervousness as I pulled her jeans slowly down her legs. Grace let out a quiet sigh, resting her arms on her stomach.
"Grace, you are wonderful," I whispered, listening to her breathing which calmly mixed with the soothing flow of the brook nearby.
Her jeans reached her knees, and then her ankles. Grace jerked her legs and kicked them off, sighing in between her heavy breaths. Her chest heaved up and down, anxiously. I let my fingers run up and down her thighs, feeling her silky skin and the warmth of her body in the bright sunlight. Grace moaned for the first time, tensing up as my fingers passed near her beautiful vagina. She began to writhe slowly, moving her legs and tensing her toes in anticipation. The first touch of my lips against her soft skin sent jolts through both of our bodies.
I began to kiss Grace's thigh, inhaling her soft fragrance with each gentle pass, and squinting as my head still didn't seem to cast a shadow upon her. After a deep breath, she began moaning quietly, keeping her eyes closed as the leaves gently fell to the ground around us.
The moment finally came. With one final pass across Grace's warm thigh, I rested my lips upon her, kissing her vagina softly, still through the wet material. Her moaning remained calm as she continued to breathe deeply, gentle with her movements beneath my embrace. It was the most erotic moment of my life. Between my legs, I felt the same arousal press against my own underwear, slowing growing more warm. The soothing heat surged through us both, willing us forward and building our passion to heights I never knew were possible.
Around us the leaves continued to fall, creating subtle breaks in the rays of the sun upon my body. The waters of the brook trickled with a gentle rhythm in our ears, mixed evenly with our breathing. Grace was at peace; we both were, and the sensations were slowing beginning to drown us both in a tranquil bliss, one without lust but gentleness, devotion.
Grace moaned louder, opening her eyes narrowly. I lifted my lips from her warm vagina and saw her gentle gaze, the endearment of her eyes more clearly than ever.
"Are you happy, Grace?" I asked, softly.
After a short pause, she sat up and smiled softly, coming to her knees as I did as well.
"I've never been more happy in my entire life," she whispered.
Grace leaned forward and kissed me. I closed my eyes. Her hands gently became rested on my shoulders, then ran down my arms until she reached my hips. I kept my eyes closed and slowly slid my arms out of my jacket, letting it fall behind me just as Grace began to mimic what I had just done with her jeans. She undid the button and began to blush profusely.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I've never done this before, Holly, I..."
"Let your instincts guide you," I whispered. "And don't be afraid, Grace."
"Okay," she answered, quietly.
With that, I took her hands into my own and guided them to the base of my cardigan. For one last fleeting moment, Grace peered at my body, fully clothed and waiting for her soft embrace, the embrace of an angel.
Gently, she pulled my t-shirt over my head, revealing the last item of clothing above my waist. I peered down as Grace gently let her hands run across my bra in a caress that felt truly divine. I let out a quiet moan, causing Grace to look back up into my eyes, pulling her hands away.
"Did I hurt you?" she asked softly, frightened even.
I softened my expression, sighing.
"No, Grace, your touch is... nice."
She looked back down at my bra and smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek. We were both still trembling, unable to abandon the anxiety of making love to each other for the first time, and filled with an excitement that we were unsure of how to express. Grace's tenderness showed through in her every subtle action. The love, the admiration, all of the things I had hoped I would feel again for so long.
The leaves continued to fall around us, creating a perfect circle as if a storm had enveloped us but both but left us in peace amidst the calm center. Grace reached under my arms and unclasped my bra, blushing at her cheeks uncontrollably as we both sat on our knees. She held onto the straps and slowly let my bra fall to my lap, pulling her hands away and staring at my breasts with clear eyes for the first time.
"You're so beautiful, Holly," she pronounced, nervously almost.
"Thank you, Grace," I whispered, returning her smile.
She reached her hands out once more, this time taking my bare skin into her hands just above my stomach, then reaching upwards and cupping my breasts gently. I let out a more prominent moan. Grace continued to blush. Her touch against my bare flesh was a soft as a feather, warm and caring but a little ticklish at the same time. Grace let her fingers run over each small mound, holding her breath, smiling, and narrowing her eyes. After a moment, she slowly moved one of her hands away, setting it between her legs as if to hold something in. Our bodies both pulsed with a vibrant energy, bombarding our senses.
"Oh, Holly, I feel so..."
She looked down at herself, and finally let her other hand return to her knee as she looked back up at me, flushed and red.
"So do I, Grace," I whispered.
With my continued words of support, Grace seemed to calm slightly, allowing her trembling to slow and her breath to become paced once more. She had not coughed once since I had roused her.
Slowly, she leaned her head forward, placing a delicate kiss upon my breast. Her warm breath sent shivers down my spine as she backed away. I immediately let out a great moan, louder than all others before it. It felt as if I had reached a small peak of excitement, quickly subsiding as Grace calmly blew against my bare skin.
The entire park seemed to grow brighter, and the sound of the brook more rhthmic, as she spread her knees further apart and let out a whimper in between her breaths. Grace gazed down as my hand gently reached between her legs, slowly beginning to caress her. After a short pause, she let out a deep whimper, looking up into the sky and letting the light shine on her soft face.
After a long sigh, Grace leaned forward and hugged me tightly.
"Yes?" I asked.
Without speaking, Grace reached for the bottom of her own shirt, pulling it off slowly and letting it fall to the grass.
"Do I look okay?" she asked, peering at herself.
She smiled, letting another tear run down her cheek as she pushed her hair out of her face.
"Thank you, Holly," she said softly.
I felt tears begin to run down my own cheek; a cry of happiness, of experiencing such a wonderful thing with the one I loved. Our eyes became watered but neither of us wanted to truly cry, we were too happy.
"I never dreamed this could happen between us," I whispered.
"Some dreams are worth waiting for," Grace replied.
I didn't answer but instead I reached out my hands and set them on her shoulders, gently pulling the straps of her bra down her arms. Grace looked down at herself and smiled, still blushing as she let out another sigh. She reached behind herself and unclasped her bra; it fell into her lap. I stared at her beautiful breasts as they rested bare before me.
"They're so beautiful, Grace," I said quietly.
She looked up at me.
"Thank you," she answered, very slowly.
I looked up into the sky, the brightness of the sun, and then back down at Grace. The same light shone on her as she sat before me with a single garment of clothing left on, and tears of happiness in her eyes. I had once said she looked similar to an angel, but she wasn't at all similar; she was even more beautiful. I blinked my eyes and the tears ran down my cheeks as I let my hands embrace her breasts for the first time. Like I had felt with my own, Grace sighed and began to whimper rather than moan, remaining slightly more quiet than I had been, but cherishing every second of my touch as much as she cherished my presence at her side.
She finally looked directly at me, then down at my body.
"Do you feel the same way I do, Holly?"
"Yes," I whispered.
Slowly, she reached past my unbuttoned jeans.
Upon her touch, I let out a quiet moan, releasing her breasts as a second peak of excitement coursed through my body. I slowly lowered myself backwards, gently resting my back on the soft grass. Grace removed her hand and took a hold of my jeans, sliding them down my thighs with gentle care. They stopped at my knees as Grace stretched her legs out behind her and lied down on her stomach, resting softly on my jeans.
Without speaking, Grace removed the final layer of clothing between her and my vagina. The sensations of the next few moments were the most passionate I had ever felt. The brightness of the park soon exploded into a white light which remained even as I closed my eyes.
I let my hips writhe back and forth, pressing into the soft grass and tickling myself at the same time. The excitement I felt grew to tremendous levels, and I moaned as loud as I could; crying, not holding back. Another explosion of light, another jolt of pleasure as Grace kissed my body, my vagina.
All at once I cried out, unable to control my excitement, my emotions. It was the most incredible feeling I had ever experienced. It was the happiest and most special moment of my life, and I was so happy to have shared it with the one I loved.
Soon, Grace brought herself up just above my face, smiling softly, her face still blushing. The sound of the brook came back into our ears gradually
"How did it... feel?" she asked quietly.
I smiled, and narrowed my eyes in the blinding light which covered her entire body.
"It was heavenly, Grace," I whispered.
She lifted herself up and came beside me before lying down once more. Our eyes were parallel, full of tears and happiness. Our love seemed so alive now, so powerful, that I felt more than complete. It was the first time I truly accepted my life with Grace and how wonderful it was; we were both living the way we had always wanted. Our care for each other beat in our hearts as we stared at each other, lying on the grass near the quiet brook. Nearly every leaf from the tree overhead had fallen, and yet none had touched us somehow. The sun's rays seemed to shelter us both with a bright protection and soothing heat. The wind rustled the hair into our faces every few seconds, but we still continued to look at each other, into the love which could be seen in both of our gazes, as clear as the waters of the brook.
"I love you, Holly. I wish there were more to say for what I feel when I'm with you."
"You don't have to say anything," I replied. "I love you just as much, Grace."
With that, Grace looked down at herself, and I did too. We didn't have to speak, but removed the last garments of clothes we were wearing and stood up together, naked but more comfortable with each other than ever before. Grace took my hand and held it tight, not wanting to let go. We made our way to the bench, our bench, and sat down.
We held each other for the longest time, not sure what to say but knowing that our love would never die even though we could never truly be together.
"Why did you leave me, Grace?" I asked, letting the tears run down my cheeks slowly.
She ran her fingers through my hair, smiling softly, her touch lighter than a feather's.
"I said I'd always be with you, Holly, and I will."
"I don't want this day to ever end," I whispered.
Grace wiped away the tears from my cheek, and looked out across the waters where the flowers stood strong in the gentle breeze, full of life and untouched by the autumn weather.
"It doesn't have to, Holly. As long as you don't forget me, we can always come back."
I looked up and let my hand come to Grace's chin, pulling it towards mine gently.
"I'll never forget you, Grace... I love you."
Our kiss was the most passionate of all our embraces. A final consummation of my affection for Grace, and the last time we ever had to affirm our love for each other. Her angelic body remained close to mine, forever lit by the warm rays of the sun, and forever happy as I wished her to be. We made love on the bench until our tears finally came to an end, but it was a new beginning for us both, I believed.
Our love was special, our love was forever. I held Grace in my arms, her memory the last gift I would receive from her. When we were together there was no pain, no suffering, no death, just the love of two women who had cared for each other more than they ever thought possible. She taught me to live, she taught me to have hope. Hope enough to push forward with her love as a light to guide me through the darkness.
We both held each other, forever, until we fell asleep in each others' arms. When I awoke, the love and affection of the one I loved remained with me as I found myself alone on the bench. The sun sat in the sky and shined down upon me, reminding me of the life I still had to live, and how happy it was going to be.
I peered down at my pendant, and then looked up to the sky one final time to see a single light green flower fall from the trees and land in my lap. It was Grace's flower, her reminder, her promise that we would see each other again. In its pedals glowed the color of Grace's caring eyes, so full of life and hope. I took the beautiful flower into my hand and set it in my hair, standing fully and walking towards the brook, full of an endless happiness. I stood in the center of the stream in Grace's shoes and bent over to take a final stone in my hand. Looking down at it, I opened the pendant and smiled softly, whispering the words that a loving girl had once said before tossing the stone as hard as I could and skipping it for the first time.
"One may always dream..."
Grace died of cancer eight days after we met. It spread to her lungs shortly after her nineteenth birthday, but she lived on long enough to have experienced a happy life in my arms. Her wish to live her life without fear came true for the short time we were together. Her memory would always be with me, and so would her love, forever. I knew from that day forth she would never be truly dead; she would live on in my dreams, just as she promised and I always hoped. Love can exist between two women, and my love for Grace would live on, for always. Until the day we would hold each other, and walk together once more...
For my girlfriend, the one I care for and will always love for as long as I live. "Don't ever give up hope, it will always be there for you."
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