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Walking By

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Claire Redfield sat in the rickety old chair on the front porch of her small cabin. The air was crisp. Alaska in October, what more could she expect? It was raining. She hadn’t seen rain in years. So many months spent in the deserts of Nevada, she had almost forgotten what it looked like. How it smelled. How it felt against her skin.

She had the smallest desire to go stand under the droplets falling from the sky. To let the water wash away all of the dirt and grime from her body. To let it wash away all of her sins. But that rain was cold. She could feel it in the misty spray every time the wind changed directions.

Instead, she sat protected by the small roof of the porch and listened to the sound of the raindrops falling through the evergreens that surrounded her small cabin. Their song was ethereal.

Though K-Mart was just on the other side of the thin wall of the cabin, she felt completely alone. The night air surrounded her like a lover, completely engulfing her within its cold, dark embrace.

Her fingers twitched against her front pocket, instinctively looking for the lighter she knew wasn’t there. She hadn’t seen a cigarette in months. Instead, her fingers closed around the frosty glass bottle that was sitting beside her. She brought it to her lips and let the dark, red liquid pour into her mouth.

She’d never liked the taste of wine before the outbreak, but something about it now – the way her brain would start to go fuzzy after a few drinks – was comforting. It helped dull the pain. It helped her forget.

She wasn’t pathetic. She didn’t need the alcohol to get through the nights, but every once in a while, she welcomed the numbness of her cognizance. Nights when K-Mart would fall asleep early, and Claire would have to carefully remove the girl’s shoes and take the book from still-clutching fingers to lay it on the nightstand.

She’d blow out the lantern and slip silently out into the night, wrapped in a blanket and carrying a freshly opened bottle of merlot.

Tonight, instead of pushing the memories away, she let them invade her mind. A hard, stoic face. Strong, rebellious jaw. Stormy blue-green eyes. There was always a war just below the surface. A tumultuous swirling of dark emotion and pain. Lines of grief and guilt forever etched onto beautiful skin.

Alice was a symphony of silence. A melody completely derived from the pause between each keystroke. To say that the woman was beautiful would be to lie in the most unforgiving of ways. Beauty did not compare…

Claire still yearned for the soft press of the woman’s lips upon her own. Something she would never feel, no matter how many times she had been so close – so close to breaking her own rules.

She refused to become attached to anyone, but even in her distance, the older woman’s presence shaped and moved her. She was drawn to Alice’s aloofness. Imprisoned by her unapproachable stoicism. The space the woman kept between them had only charged the redhead’s desire to be closer. To slip inside of this dark creature. To know Alice’s pain. To cloak herself in the enigmatic woman’s indifference.

She brought the bottle to her lips again, pulling deeply and gasping for breath afterward, the fuzzy warmth pooling and spreading throughout her body.

She rested her head against the wall behind her and watched the rain gathering in the dips and curves of the earth. When the moon slipped out from behind the clouds, bathing everything in an eerie glow, Claire watched the puddles ripple under the constant pelt of raindrops. They undulated against themselves, welcoming each new drop in a lover’s caress.

She closed her eyes and imagined them rolling against her skin. Tickling her senses as they trailed down her body seeking their paths toward the parched earth. Then the rain of her fantasies transformed into rough, calloused fingers moving against her. Chapped lips and sharp teeth, pursuing the most sensitive areas of her flesh.

Her face was flushed, but it was the wine, she told herself. She took another drink, allowing the bittersweet liquid to pool in her mouth for a moment before swallowing. She imagined the taste of Alice. Salt and tobacco.

She didn’t need alcohol when Alice was around. She could get high just from breathing in the other woman’s scent. But Alice had just been passing through her life. The woman had never meant to stay.

Still, Claire had to wonder what she had done to make it so easy for Alice to just walk right out of her life. Maybe some day their paths would cross again. When Alice had run out of people to exact vengeance upon. Perhaps when the woman’s eyes were a bit less forlorn, and Alice’s face was less impassive, Claire could finally close the distance between them.

She took one last drink and set the empty bottle beside the chair. She closed her eyes and leaned back. Some day. Some day Alice would be walking back, instead of just walking by…