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Before the War

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You will remember this, in the years to come.

You will remember this, sitting in your dusty office, three flights up, across from Regents Park, with a light rain battering against the windowpanes and the clickity-clackity-clickity-clackity of the typewriters in the office pool pounding out their alloted words per minute.

You will remember this, on your way home through the twilight gloom. On your way home to me, where I will meet you with a kiss and we will sit down to a supper of cabbage soup, bread, and precious cheese.

You will remember this, our stolen afternoons on the sun-warmed bank on the river -- that place where the willow tree hangs low, sheltering us from the mid-day sun and the unwanted gaze of passing strangers.

You will remember setting out for town on your day off, studiously non-chalant, taking morning tea at Mrs. Maddsen's tea room on the town green and purchasing postage stamps at the stationers before turning back and taking the path through that winds through the western edge of my father's estate, down through the grove of larch trees.

You will remember how I meet you, every Monday afternoon, with thick wool blankets to lay beneath us and a basket packed with a picnic luncheon -- egg and cress sandwiches, crisp red apples, biscuits and a flask of sweet lemonade.

I leave the Abbey several hours after you, walking in the opposite direction, sketch pad and satchel of charcol and oil pastels over my shoulder. No one questions my need for solitude in order to draw or paint -- it is our saving grace, this passion of mine: this, and your determined bravery to risk yourself on my account.

There are days, my love, when I cannot understand what you see in me: the sheltered daughter of the aristocracy who dabbles in politics, dabbles in art. You tell me we can escape this life: there are days when I believe you with all my heart, and days when belief is hard to come by.

Yet in the end, you will remember that too: how difficult it was for me to believe in our future, and how despite everything we moved heaven and earth (while heaven and earth were heaving around us) and arrived there, arrived here.

Arrived in the days of rationing and raids, of the maimed and mourning, the war they always claim will be over by Christmas and somehow never is, never will be.

And when we have arrived, you will remember this: How endless this summer is. How willfully we ignore the coming storm and the changes it brings. How we focus on now and cannot bring ourselves to imagine when. We are both right to be afraid and wrong to imagine the future impossible. Yet that knowledge must still work its way into our bodies and minds. In this moment, on this day, I wait for you with a certainty you will remember, a secret terror you will forget.

You will remember how unerringly you find me on these timeless Monday afternoons, head bent to my work, and place your hand against the sun-warmed nape of my neck.

You will remember caressing the sweat-dampened curls behind my ear, turning and tilting my head toward you so that lips could touch, taste, tell: I have not forgotten, I have come to find you.

You will remember the taste of charcoal as you take my fingers in your mouth and suck them pink and clean as we sink together, on to the blankets I have laid for us beneath the willow tree.

You will recall the way my breath catches in my chest, my pulse against your lips as you lay a line of kisses from the soft lobe of my ear to the base of my throat, while your nimble fingers undo buttons, clearing the way for your mouth to move lower.

"Please," you will remember my gasps as your warm lips find my already-hardened nipple, ripe beneath the last layer of cotton. "Oh, yes, please." Your legs straddling my hips, settling back against the curve of my pelvis, pinning me to the cool earth.

You will remember the gurgle of the river against the bank, the call of a passing crow, splash of a turtle as it slips off a log into the water.

You will remember the urgency with which my hands scrabble with your skirts, seeking garters and ties, undoing, exposing, laying bare.

Fingers slick with sweat and other things, mouths meeting, bodies entwining.

In these days we are still learning one another, you will recall, and tastes and sounds that will become so familiar to us in the days to come are, in these moments, sparkling in their newness.

You will remember. You will remind me. You will say: Those were the days that made us what we are, and gave us all the days we have to come.