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in flanders fields

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The field is full of poppies -- bright red and speckled crimson -- bending ever so slightly to the will of the eastern wind. Maria rolls over on the blanket and stares up at the sky. The clouds are moving in faster now, they really should be on their way.

The horn honks twice, and Maria raises her head for a second before settling back down. He'll do it again in five minutes before coming down to get her. But five minutes pass, then ten and maybe a couple more, yet no Michael. The car is still there, she can hear the ever present rattle of the engine from even this distance. Maria knows she should get going but these quiet moments -- amid simple, lovely flowers no less -- are so rare these days that each cell of her body begs to stay here just a little longer.

The rattle shuts down and soon after a lumbering figure casts a shadow across the blanket. Before Michael can speak, Maria reaches for him, lightly wrapping her fingers around his ankle. He's barefoot -- a surprise -- and she smiles up at him though she can't quite make out his face in this blinding sun. Her hand slides up his leg and nudges him forward, silently insisting as each fingertip presses into his muscle. Michael falls to his knees, not giving her any more than that. They have to leave, she knows he wants to remind her, they need to move on.

Maria curls herself into a ball, resting her head in his lap. The scent of the poppies is intoxicating -- it's no wonder they make such addictive drugs, she thinks. Michael twirls small pieces of her hair, slowly working his way down to her neck. If only there was more time, more time, she repeats as his hand rubs into her shoulder. This moment won't last any longer than it can, and they've been lasting less and less as days go on. As Maria stands, he catches her hand and squeezes. She squeezes back, feeling the weight of his grip melting away.

Maria folds up the blanket and makes her way back to the car. Her half-eaten lunch is still on the passenger seat and the backseat is scattered with garbage bags of clothes. The map is where she left it on the dashboard, starting to bleach from the sun. She gets into the car and touches the plastic poppy Michael once wrapped around the rearview mirror. She turns to wave goodbye to the last ghost of her past -- the one she can't ever seem to leave for good -- and finds he's already gone. It's time to move on, Maria hears him whisper, move on.