Skinny-Dipping

I loved the way the water beaded on his shoulders and trickled down his arms, finally dropping onto the ground at his fingertips. I loved the color his hair turned when it was wet and the warmth of his breath on my cheek as he whispered goodbye. I loved the way his hand cupped my chin as we had our last kiss. It was raining so hard he couldn’t tell I was crying.
He was leaving today and the heavens were weeping. They were pleading for him to stay, but he paid no attention to the clouds. The thunder was pounding, “Please don’t go!” But he did anyway.
I chased him as he drove away until I couldn’t breathe. The heat of the storm and the smell of worms smothered my lungs. My heart had been in my throat all morning, making it even harder to swallow. I sank to my knees and waited on the muddy road until the rain stopped. All that I wanted was for him to come back to me, to wrap his strong arms around me, and carry me home.
Beside the pond where we used to go skinny-dipping, there was campsite that we built together. He made a bench out of logs and we placed rocks in a circle to keep the flames from the fire inside of it. We would bring blankets and lie on them near the fire after going swimming. Into the big oak tree, under the old raccoon nest, he carved our names inside of a heart.
The pot-holes in the road were filled with water from the storm the previous day. A few dead earthworms, drowned, lie at the bottom. Taking my rain boots off, I slipped my bare foot into the puddle. The water was warm, though the late-spring sun had only been shining for an hour. I hopped and splashed in every puddle along the winding road. When I got to the fork in the road, the turnoff, I headed right and began down the mossy path. The ground was muddy and the grass was still wet but I didn’t put my boots back onto my feet.
Following the narrow path alone was much easier than walking with him; I missed the way our elbows and hips knocked together as we held hands. I preferred the closeness.
The pond was cool against my bare thighs but the sun was now shining brightly. I took a deep breath and dunked my head. As I surfaced, a cold breeze started blowing. I sunk back to the watery depths but could not force myself to return to the air that mocked me. Through the trees, “You’re alone now,” it whistled. While the water filled my lungs, I thought of him…
Warmth filled my body, wrapped me in a blanket, and kissed my lips. “I couldn’t leave you, don’t leave me,” moaned his voice; my brain played cruel tricks, “I love you.”
This was not death. He came back for me.

Skinny-Dipping

Erin Heggenstaller

Selinsgrove, United States

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