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Sun on Skin

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When James was a kid, the view from this window almost seemed magical at this time of the day. The sun turning the land in gold, glossing over neglected paths and letting the gate look like the entrance to a magical kingdom where some good witch might grant you your wishes. Too bad he had already learnt that no magic kingdom was behind this gate. Quite the contrary, it was the gate to a harsh and brutal reality, to loss. It almost seemed fitting, that today would mark another loss. For a short moment he searched for Quentin in the gleaming sun, willing himself not to let his gaze linger, afraid that he would change his mind.

Their last kiss still burnt on his lips. James could still taste Quentin’s surprise, his worry, when James had turned the kiss desperate, a good-bye. He had seen Quentin’s searching look, but somehow he managed a smile. He saw the moment when Quentin decided to set it slide, probably blaming the accident for it.

The accident. Oh yes, in a way Quentin was right. This happened because of the accident. Because now everything was different. There were things he had to do now, needed to do now for himself. Like packing. But his gaze returned to Quentin and he couldn’t turn away. With burning eyes he watched Quentin leave, to the Smiths or the Dowagers down the road. A machine only he could fix, something only he could build. Too bad James wasn’t a machine.

He closed his eyes against the burning – the burning of the sun, he told himself, even when he had to blink the moisture away. He recalled the last moment with Quentin, concentrated on him leaning over him, his lips still wet from their kiss, his eyes full of love. He wanted to keep this memory forever, wanted to burn it into his retina, into his brain. It would be the last memory, it had to be.

Otherwise he would never leave.

In his thoughts he followed Quentin’s footsteps across the land, through the gate until he was out of sight, hidden by the walls one of James’ ancestors had built. To be on the safe side, he waited some more minutes until he opened his eyes again, his gaze sweeping over the area, looking for a slender body, that wasn’t there anymore.

He turned around and got the suitcase out of the cupboard. It was not much to pack, just  change of clothing, toiletry, two picture frames. The one with the black silk around it, the one with his parents smiling broadly. He couldn’t remember seeing them this happy in a long time. The other one was of him and Quentin, also from the beginnings of their relationship. If his memory was right, it had been taken a few days after their first kiss. He looked at it for a moment, feeling even older than the years that lay between the photograph and now would warrant.

Carefully he wrapped them both in shirts and closed his bag. He took the letter from his drawer, written shortly after the notary had read the will, shortly after he realised that he would be stuck here, in this god-forsaken loneliness, where nothing ever happened and nothing ever changed. Well, at least not for the better. The only good thing about this land was Quentin, the only one who could persuade him to stay. With a smile, a kiss, a simple plea. That’s why he hadn’t told Quentin about his plans, that’s why he chose the coward’s way.

He wanted to see the world, wanted to explore what had once brought a smile to his mother’s eyes. And if he had to leave his heart behind, so be it. If he stayed, someday he would resent Quentin for that. This was better, knowing that the only one to blame for the heartache was himself. And Quentin could find someone, someone who didn’t watch the tide and wondered what could wait for him behind the sea.

With a last look around, he took the bag. Despite the minimalist content it weighed heavy in his hand. But he stepped out of their bedroom, down the stairs, out of the door to his car. He took one last deep breath, the smell of the land mixed with the sea. He opened the car, threw the bag on the backseat.

It was time to leave.

He didn’t dare to look back.