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THE FOURTH

 

You who suffer because you love,

Love still more.

To die of love is to live by it.

-- “Les Miserables,” Victor Hugo

 

Shelly cried, the tears on her face indistinguishable from the misty rain.

He loved Sarah like a daughter. Wanted to adopt her. Didn’t care that her presence meant no sex for a few days; Sarah and Shelly were his girls, the presents the universe had handed him for no good reason. That’s what he wrote her in her birthday card.

There was a house out in the country he wanted to buy once they were married. It wasn’t much to look at, needed a lot of fixing up, but it wasn’t the inner city and the band was finally getting royalties from their latest single. Besides, he knew she wanted kids, and wouldn’t it be great for them to have a yard?

When they made love, he touched her slowly, with sensual purpose, building sensations into towers he could knock down. He loved the way she stayed quiet, loved that he had to watch her face for clues--the widening of her eyes, the parting of her lips, the deep intakes of breath that marked her pleasure. He loved the quiet gasps she tried to stifle when she came, loved that she would claw at his shoulders and kiss him hard to keep from screaming. That’s what he wrote her in her Valentine’s Day card.

I can’t live without you. That’s what he wrote on a note pinned to the refrigerator before she left for work. The note he wrote the day they died.

The nightingale absorbed these memories, sorted them into a chronology, and then flew off into the sky.

I’ll be back , she promised. I’ll leave you with one more memory. Be ready with your vows; I’ll show you his.