“Do you love me?” She asked him. The words came every night as they met by the lakeside.
“Always.” He said. Sometimes he said ‘of course’, or ‘I love you’ or simply ‘yes.’ The answer changed but the meaning behind his reply was as constant as her question.
And she smiled, maybe a little wider this time. He couldn’t tell. But her breath smelled of the mushrooms and lilies that inhabited the white shore. He breathed it deep before kissing her lips, cradling her small sharp chin in his fingers.
When she pulled away the sliver moon reflected in her earth colored eyes. “Promise?”
He blinked, surprised at the new question. He’d been coming to her lake for a spring and summer, ever since he’d seen her narrow form in the water. His father had warned him then, pointing with his gloved hand, to stay away from the shore. That danger lurked within mountain waters for foolish men in love.
But he’d come back. This time without his father or his rifle. He’d watched for her standing on the strange pitted pebbles that made up the lakeside, breath misting in front of his face. A swirl of dark against the darker water had been the only sign she’d seen him that time. But the next night large eyes watched while the smile under the surface made them shine. He’d come back in the nights when his father and brothers slept soundly and she’d be there. Sometimes a sharp shoulder would slip above the water or a smooth fingered hand. Slowly he pieced her together.
Until one night she was waiting for him. The moon had been a bright silver coin and it illuminated the waxy glow of her skin from the small widow’s peak in her hair to the water lapping against her ankles. He’d stopped, taking her presence in with the warm almost summer air. He’d been afraid to step closer over the ivory pebbles to the water. That his approach would send her back to the so long obscuring water. His first step was tense, the second more so. And then she’d laughed a long low throaty sound. ‘Do you love me?’ she’d asked for the first of many times.
And he’d nodded.
Now as he stood, taking in the details of her delicate cheekbones and full lips, he didn’t know why it was so difficult to repeat the gesture.
The eyes narrowed and the beginnings of a pout furrowed her smooth brow. He wanted to give the promise and erase the anger and hurt lining her face. He loved the firm curve of her stomach, her strong long legs, the way her shoulders bowed elegantly to meet her neck, the place between her jaw and ear. He loved the hollow of her throat, and the way her hair smelled of deep green things. He loved her voice, soft, powerful and unlike the high gigglings of the other girls he knew. Every glimpse he’d pulled from the water formed a portion of her he loved.
Her strange eyes fell, leaving his face and she stepped away. Something like a sigh escaped her mouth and she turned away. Again he counted little pieces he loved so very much. The muscles of her back that lowered to intoxicating curves. Her hair falling like wet spider webs across her shoulders….
“I’m sorry.” He said. And he was. It would have been nice to love something more than the pieces of her.
She stopped long enough to turn her head, her profile outlined against the silver sheened water. “Go.” Then she was gone, running over the rocky shore to become just a darker shape against the dark water. He watched the surface for a while, and then the gentle tide lapping against the pebbles of water-smoothed bone.