The train started pulling in past more familiar factories now, as they penetrated the city outskirts―and he knew that they would soon be arriving.
“Eva …” he said, nudging her again.
“Yes babe?” she murmured, half-dreaming. Even half-asleep she sparkled.
He felt better already, hearing her soft voice. His edginess began to wane.
“Welcome back to New London, kitten,” he said, admiring her feline features with a steady adoring gaze.
He brushed a bang back from her crisp blue eyes, zeroing in on her visage.
Her freckles were more pronounced today―and her jaw-line seemed especially fine in the train’s slanted, slatted light.
From the first second they had ever met, he had swooned for her extremely sweet, sly and slinky ways―mesmerized by her whiny put-on sighs—and those innocent sudden smiles, that sent his hardest cares packing, into the cold pitch.
An eyelash dashed across one ivory cheek. She made him brimful of marvel. She seemed more than deserved.
The folding shadows of passing poles and lines complicated the planes of her otherwise plain face. Her smile widened.
She slipped the window shade up all the way―to see the wet city now sliding so slickly by—as they passed the old factories and barren fairgrounds—heading into the heart of New London at a fair clip.
It was the first thaw of a mild winter―on a late December day—and the skies were full of a trillion tiny crystal tears. Sobbing in synchronicity with the heartbeat of the universe—they pulsed through time—with their hearts in tune.
“Oh, I’m sooo excited,” she cooed dramatically. “It’s just like I remember.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to get a room in town tonight—before we head into French’s Forest?” he asked hopeful.
He wanted to put off the family visit for as long as possible―for he knew full well that the moment they crossed that wooded threshold, they would be putting themselves at the mercy of Faye’s hateful hands. The Silverskin drew so close now.
Deep down he knew, if Faye were jealous enough, She would not hesitate to set French’s Forest ablaze in Her wrath.
“No, no—I want to stay at your parent’s place tonight, like we planned … I think it will be fun for us, don’t you?
“I can’t believe its been this long and I haven’t even met your parents yet …” she remarked in amazement—shaking her head—oblivious to the real reason she had never set foot this far.
He sighed―heavy in a brewing tension—for he had stalled her as long as he could—and staying positive was quickly waxing difficult in the dwindling hours before their arrival. All he could think of now was Her. All of his thoughts gravitated toward Faye. The Silverskin now devoured him in heart and in mind.
By the time they had their bags and were ready to go, dusk had furtively crept in upon them—spreading its long grey fingers across the city, squeezing until the daylight was all but done and dusted.
They cabbed around Victory Park to see the glittering evergreens, all dressed down in a thousand gowns of shimmering lights. It was a shiversome spectacle.
Beyond the trees, over the gloomy uptown buildings―a rose moon dawned, dropping a warm aura over the evening, lifting spirits in a Christmastime warmth.
“Ooo-oooh … … It feels like magic tonight—and the trees are so pretty … Look―it’s the rink where we met … Babe―do you want to stop for a bit first?” she pleaded―batting her lashes at him.
“Maybe we should come back tomorrow,” he hedged, suddenly rathering to face the family than postpone it, instead of worrying about it while they skated back through memories that were supposed to be enjoyed. “It’ll be late as it is by the time we roll in if we go now.”
“Aw …” she said—pouting. “Fine … But only if you promise we come back … This is not just your way of getting out of skating at all is it? You want to right?”
“I promise, babe. I want to go, I swear. I treasure every second we met.”
“Remember how I almost fell, when I was turning on the ice―and you caught me so gallantly? You were my Knight.”
“We both went down …” he said grinning. “I was a clumsy fool—a Jester.”
She cuddled up next to him―as he wrapped his arms around her—and together they reminisced. It was grand.
“You broke my fall …” she said. “Remember how I asked you the time …”
“I remember … I remember it all.”
“You didn’t have a watch—so you just looked at your wrist and guessed—saying: ‘Seven.’ That was so silly of you.”
“I didn’t want to lose the moment.”
“I remember … Then later on, I said, ‘Silly me, I haven’t even asked you your name yet.’ Well that was history.”
He nodded. “Then when I told you my name, you looked at me all funny.”
“Mhm … I was so confused. ‘Is ‘Seven’ your answer for everything?’ I said. Of course your eyes won me over.”
“I’ll never forget. I swear to God.”
“Then whenever you asked me anything, I just answered by saying: ‘Seven.’ I was being a flirty little brat.”
“I know,” he said smiling. “I know.”
“You loved the attention, just like when I fawned all over your hands―and you got embarrassed―but then you said that they were in truth your Lucky Hands, because they had in fact caught Me …”
“It’s still so true. It’s all so true.”
“Aww, well … It was hard not to fall for that one, I guess. I made you tell all my friends why you had such Lucky Hands, didn’t I? You loved repeating it.”
“I told them too. I never blushed.”
She grinned. “Promise we go back, babe? Please, please, please …? You know I always love going back with you.”
“Yes babe, we can pretend we’re strangers again … We can bump into each other on the frozen path―and fall down again, just like we did back then.”
“Ooooh … Remember how the walkways were like shiny silver streams criss-crossing? We got spinning so dizzy.”
“You said they were like people’s lives merging and touching off throughout the days, just like ours were now uniting.”
Then as their minds drifted into past times, their pinky fingers curled together in an unsaid bond of trust. It was real.
It was their silences that sealed their sweetheart deals―saving words for less honest exchanges. They were in tune.
She leaned into him―and he could feel her heart beat―as they listened to the drone of traffic―and wallowed in the tenderness of their young primal romance.
It was love in the eye of the storm of their lives—as dark clouds of thunder and lightning closed in upon them, swiftly shrinking all sanctuary into eternal night.
Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr