Long after the mourners had dispersed and the sextons had emerged from the tomb, closing the great stone door behind them, she stood upon the cliff, gazing with unseeing eyes upon the scattered headstones and monuments while night slowly fell around her. When the temperature dropped and she began to shiver, she pulled her cloak tight about her shoulders and turned to make her way back down the path that led toward the huddled coastal town. The moon burst forth from behind the gray clouds that had hastened the advent of the darkness, and for a moment her heart quickened within her. How many times had this same moon lit her way across the garden to her lover’s window, where she could steal a few hours of joy in the darkness when no one could come between them? Now its pale brilliance mocked her, and she scowled as she turned her eyes back toward the earth, stumbling for a moment over the rocky ground as her vision adjusted to the darkness once more.
On that last night, as she had turned the latch of the windows from the outside with the tip of her knife, the moon had shone more brightly than ever, so that she had feared at every moment to be discovered and banished by force. With greater caution even than usual, she had eased open the windows and stepped into the room, parting the curtains so that only the narrowest ray of moonlight fell upon her lover’s sleeping face—luminescent and pale, growing ever more angelic as consumption sucked away the mortal life within.
Laying herself down on the edge of the bed with slow, gentle movements, she rolled herself over until she could rest her head against the side of the rising and falling chest. Gradually releasing the breath she had kept pent up in her body, she laid her hand over the burning fingers that had found their way out from beneath the stifling coverlet. Thus content, she composed herself to wait until her lover woke, or morning came to drive her away once more. The moon rose high up in the clear sky, withdrawing its light by degrees, and the rhythm of her lover’s breathing lulled her toward a dim semi-consciousness in which the comfort of their proximity could dispel the impending certainty of their separation.
“You should have woken me.”
“I was happy as I was.”
“Selfish woman! You were with me, but I was not with you.”
“You are always with me.”
“Can you never be serious now? You know what I meant. No… no! Pressing your face into my arm won’t help you.”
“It usually does. See, you are already laughing.”
“Because you make yourself ridiculous. This is how cats and small children ingratiate themselves, not grown women. Stop that! Stop—”
“Oh no, Darling! I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have made you laugh.”
“It’s only a little cough, I’m—”
“It is not! Lay back down now, don’t tire yourself. Here, doesn’t this feel better? No, don’t speak. I’ll talk for both of us. I’ve been tormented all day without you. ‘I know; I am very wonderful and it is hard to be away from my side.’ If I don’t struggle to think of other things, I just imagine myself lying next to you, touching your skin, feeling your hands in mine. ‘Just hearing you speak of this makes me long to hold you—’ Why are you laughing? This is all very serious.”
“I’m—oh, gracious… I’m sorry. You’re just so delightful. How I love you. Who wouldn’t love you?”
“I can think of several close at hand.”
“Now, don’t be sad! Why must I always make you sad?”
“Please forgive me! I promised myself I would make you happy; why do I always make you unhappy?”
“You do make me happy. Just to look at you makes me… I don’t have the words any longer. But you know.”
“Of course—of course I do.”
“Don’t feel guilty. Put your head on my arm again.”