Don’t say you love her. Let her think it. Wake up with her slung under your arm and the sheets twisted tightly about your hips.
Watch her teeth tug at her lower lip. When she opens her eyes tell her hi. Just “hi.” If she says it back smile. Lift her chin to reach her lips with yours. If she says anything else yawn, stretch, rattle her body loose of you. Play it cool. Play dumb. Do a late brunch at the restaurant off the square. Sit on the patio and wonder about rain. Point to the clouds and suggest a shape. Tell her it’s too dark really to see anything in them. Tell her she’s glowing. Watch families in suits and ties and floral-print dresses come along the sidewalks. While the Methodists and Presbyterians mix together, become indistinguishable, ask about church growing up. Ask her about Sunday school, catechisms, baptism. Tell her you still wonder about salvation, the universe of hope and charity out there. See how she feels about that picture in your mind: straightening up one day and a family running tallest to shortest along a pew, going to lunch, laughing, smiling, growing. Understand what it means when she answers. Don’t tell her you love her yet. Let her run ahead up the hill to the college, the park. Watch her spring forward, turn to face you, walk backwards. Let the noise of traffic and crowds fall away behind you. Watch her bare feet hum through the grass. Wonder about thistles, oddly pointed stones. Don’t say anything. Drop beside her where she finally stops on the lawn. Wrestle for her fingers. Kiss the tip of each. Check the sky again. Think it’s too warm. Huddle together to keep her from the breeze. When she talks be quiet. When she tells her story don’t be surprised. Expect it to be terrible. Hate everyone that wronged her but do it silently. Wrap your thumb and forefinger about her too-thin wrist and ask if you’ll be any better. Want to be. Tell her you want to give her the world. Tell her it’s okay. Stop there. Act surprised by the first fat drops of rain to fall. Pull her to her feet. Shriek when she shrieks. Chase her to the pavilion at the center of the field, onto its sheltered porch. It’s a little too far. You’re a little too slow. Shake the wet. Wrap together and shiver with the cold. Push the heavy hair back from her face, her widened eyes. Watch her smile fade to blank expectation. Still don’t tell her you love her. This is only a moment in the storm. Don’t say it. Wait.
Illustration by Olly
Olly is a nomadic artist from Germany, illustrating her way through the world, currently based in Pune, India. LoveMeParis showcases an attempt to depict vulnerable beauty in simplicity.
Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems) and Tall Tales from the Ladies' Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming). His work recently has appeared in Kenyon Review, Wigleaf, Necessary Fiction, Split Lip and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter: @WorderFarmer.