Diane stood by the large window and gazed down on the city that restlessly kept moving below her.
It was snowing and she tried to focus on the small swirling snowflakes falling down with a purpose to cover the city in their whiteness. She was sure many, many people would be happy to wake up to the winter wonderland scenario. Many children would smile in delight.
Tomorrow will be Christmas after all.
The hour was late.
She only just got back from another Christmas party that was held by an office's client. She didn't had to go, but no one else from her partners could, so to simplify everyone's life she took the dreadful duty upon herself, the client was too important for all of them to ignore. And what harm could another party do? After all these years, they all tasted in the very same way.
She'd shed her coat and taken off her new pair of Louboutin that she'd bought very recently, as a Christmas present to herself. They matched perfectly the black dress she had chosen for tonight's gathering. It was a simple gown, maybe a little too tight in the bodice area but she had little care for that. She still looked good for her age and she never doubted herself. Its simplicity was broken by an old snowflake broach, she'd pin on the left side of her chest, the spark from it now was reflected on the window and made her smile. It belonged to her mother. She cherished the item as her most valuable possession.
The winter in Chicago was colder then she'd ever remembered.
Even the short walk from the street to her home managed to chill her through her skin. Upon arriving and closing the front door, she was reflecting if she should make herself a cup of tea to warm herself up or if maybe she should open that bottle of cognac someone gifted her this year. Tea was a more sensible solution, given the fair amount of champagne she'd consumed tonight.
Moving through her kitchen she'd replaced few objects around left by her housekeeper as decoration for the jolly season. The angel that usually adorned her fire place was now the center of her table and she didn't like it. While she'd relocate the figurine, she noticed her untouched stack of mail. Her day turned out to be more hectic than she anticipated and for the lack of time she forgot to go through it. Perhaps with the tea in front of her it could have been a perfect time for it.
She'd opened one envelop after another. It seemed all the mail were holiday good wishes. It was heartwarming to know she wasn't all that forgotten by her family and friends despite how she withdrew from many of them.
There was one card left and after opening it, she thought, she would start to get ready for bed, initiating the nightly routine and then fall into a deep dreamless rest between her sheets. Except, when she opened the content of the unfortunate card her breath cut in her throat and her mouth went suddenly dry.
The message in it was simple. Only a few words.
Words that apparently were able to agitate her. Suddenly her heart reminded her of its position in her chest, clenching and pulling, stealing her breath. The erratic beat sprung her into pacing. With the corner of her eye she caught the vision of the falling snow. She always liked the act of snowing. It never failed to sooth her easily. Slowly she approached the window and she willed her body to relax while flashes of memories and emotion flooded over her mind.
It was just a card.
And yet it felt like everything.
She wasn't expecting it. Surely not after the way they parted. They haven't kept in touch like they promised they would. She weren't strong enough for it. Every time she saw his dark eyes with that gaze of devotion and longing for her it hurt her more. Every time he rubbed her arm out of habit his touch burnt through her. It hurt, physically hurt, so no, after everything that had happened between them she weren't strong enough to let him be in her life. But by God, now she wished she was.
She missed him.
And admitting that to herself felt like a great defeat.
Their breakup was an amicable one all things considered. When she finally got all the answers to the questions she was brave enough to ask, when she raged and threw at him all the insults and object in her vicinity he stood there taking it all, with a stoic silence and a plea in his eyes, when they tried to fix it by pushing and pushing till they found themselves at the edge of the precipice that was their marriage, they'd finally decided it was time to divide their paths, choosing separation over divorce. It was time for them to detach and to try mend their broken hearts.
Of one thing Diane was sure tonight, her heart never moved on.
Maybe it was Christmas that made her so infuriately nostalgic after him.
Until she had met him, the holidays where the time were she had to remember to decorate the office for the festivities, and she even enjoyed that part. Choosing the colors for every floor, sometimes a theme. It was a time of numerous parties that she had to attend. Also it was a time where she worked harder than anyone around her, trying to forget that there was no one to wait for her at home, no one to spoil with gifts. She came to terms with it a while go. She had made different choices and had no regrets about them.
And then he came into her life. Barging into her living room with a huge, living Christmas tree demanding they would decorate it together, like the family they were. She'd laughed at him. Oh how much she'd laughed and he'd waited patiently for her to be done, her mirth spread to his own lips with which he'd kissed her until she'd forgotten about his absurd idea to put such a massive tree in her living room, he'd kissed her until she'd forgotten the whole world around her. To her surprise he brought some of his own ornaments for the tree. They'd decided to spend their first Christmas together in the city, it was easier for both with their busy life.
The following year the great snow storm got them stuck at his farm. There absolutely was no way for them to make it in time for the Fran and Lyle's party, to his unhidden relief. She couldn't say she minded the moment he spread a thick blanket, scattered lots of fluffy pillows on the floor right next to the roaring fire. In that fashion they opened their mutual gifts. Shared their holiday gratitude with whispered words of love, reaffirming touches of belonging and kissed ever so deeply until the passion consumed their tangled bodies in lust.
The year after that one was a little unclear to her. What she remembered from it was the rush and voiced apologies. They didn't make time for each other. Both stuck at work and in their own ways. He had to drive up north to help out in an important case, and she was stuck in the office fighting a battle that was so irrelevant at the present. There were gifts, a piece of cold jewelry and a ticking watch wrist. Back then they didn't spend much thought that they would be apart from each other for Christmas. So lost in their routines they forgot to celebrate the meaning of the festivities. Totally underestimating the importance of it and how it silently affected their future.
At the thought of that vast failure Diane's mouth went dry. She licked her lips and wished that she'd opened that damn bottle of cognac. Just to have something stronger that would burn her throat and settled that crunching feeling at the pitch of her stomach.
How is that one silly card could stir up all this memories? All of these overwhelming feelings that she placed in the vault and locked it all up in her memory land far, far away from her fragile heart.
The slender paper weighted like a lead in her palm. She gained some inner courage and looked at the offending card once more. It was beautiful in its plainness. Red, with a trace of a white gentle image on it. It was so easily meeting her taste, he would know what to choose to please her.
While she observed the item it felt like she was struck by a cannonball. The high fortress she'd created around herself to guard her was now crumbling down under the heaviness of a thin layer of paper.
It wasn't like she had forgotten completely about him. She wasn't fooling herself. She was reminded of his absence every time she touched her ring finger, not finding the familiar weight around it. When she heard something amusing she still reached out for the phone and composed a text message; it gotten to a point she had to delete his phone number. It didn't matter, it was engraved in her memory regardless. But above all, she had desperately missed him during this presidential campaign. When nothing made sense and the world seemed to be going upside down she desperately needed him to keep her grounded. Someone to pick up a fight or simply laugh at the absurdity of the events. Their passion for politics was as strong as the bond they had with each other. Nevertheless the president was chosen and the disappointment over it would never really go away. That pain was so similar and yet so different by the one caused by him.
However she was ready to move on. Or forward at least.
Diane was planning to retire. Finally she felt it was time for her to slow down and enjoy what the fruits of the hard work from her entire life would bring. She was thinking of buying a nice house in the country or maybe somewhere in Europe. Spain or Italy. She was undecided on that one. Somewhere where she could enjoy tasteful wine, eat fresh sweet fruits but still be surrounded by class, art and always sunny weather. Tuscany was the perfect destination for that, but she didn't know if she could last in that country. She spoke a bit of Spanish and knew French very well, probably if she set her mind on it she would learn Italian as well. It was her new dream, since her old ones where now forbidden, unattainable.
And yet now, she longed for his large hands on her bare flesh, hands that moved over her with arrogant familiarity. She craved his hot mouth on every sensitive spot that he smugly discovered and once left marks of possession. She missed the warmth and the scent of his flannel shirt and those only few words that were able to stir a fire within her.
She missed him, and hoped he was well. That he was getting by just like her. Sometimes through the fog of memories, sometimes through the easier lonely time.
Before she would go abroad and change her life forever, she knew, she would have to say goodbye to him. And for that, her body, heart and soul weren't ready yet. Letting go of him would take away a piece of herself. That invisible part of her that he still held in the center of his palm.
She should call him tomorrow, a call for Christmas wasn't something unusual; hearing his voice would reassure her if he was fine. She was genuinely curious about him, about his old and yet so new life he was living. She wondered if he also missed her likewise. Yes, she made a silent promise to herself that she would speak to him the next day.
She watched the card and took a long breath before reading its content again,
"Merry Christmas, Diane."
With her thumb she traced the words of the very familiar handwriting that could only belong to him. Slowly she let out the air from her lungs and closed her eyes that blurred with unshed tears.
"Merry Christmas, Kurt," she whispered into the silent night.