The moon coughs pebbles from its throat. Bright, milky pebbles the size of sickness spew across the sky, rolling the night in tumours. The couple didn’t prepare for this; they huddle in the husk of a single sleeping bag and their stolen night of love lingers at the edge of a rainstorm.
Katy, he whispers. We gotta go.
His words are wrapped in leaves as a squall hits. She is tired. She doesn’t hear. Instead she coughs and her body rubs against his, squeezing lightning from his limbs. She does not wake and in the cough he hears the slice of spade in soil. He breathes it in.
Lately those sounds are everywhere; the dry rattle of cornflakes in a bowl is the scatter of pebbles on wood; the whine of a train leaving a station is the restraint of cries in the throat. He likes to soak in the sound of her sickness. He laps it up.
He opens his mouth. The rain, painted like snowflakes but tasting of ash, falls where she had fallen. He knew the weather would turn. He knew they would be caught in a crisis, far from either of their homes, and from the parents who kept them apart. In his mouth, the sweetness of her body washes away and his tragic self swells. He imagines carrying her to her father’s, as insubstantial as an angel. He’s imagined this moment many times. This, he will say through the tears, is what she was. You wouldn’t let her love. You wouldn’t let her live.
He tightens his hold upon her. The sound of the sleeping bag is the sound of a snake. His mouth finds her ear. The difference between living and loving, he tells her, is found in the centre of you.
Frank has it all worked out. He’s the unwilling survivor, the one they’ll talk about. The one who will weather the storm after she’s gone.
The one who will lie about love.