The warmth enveloped her as she lay inside the tent. It was comforting and familiar but she knew something was wrong. He was beside her as always, his body stretched out, waiting with her for the sun to set.
She watched one of his legs as he bent it, took in the dark skin, embedding it into her memory forever. Her eyes never left him. He was her life, his essence stitched tightly into her soul.
He suddenly rolled over and handed her a pipe. She took it from him and sat up, inhaling the smoke that always took the edge off. As she watched the white swirling exhalations move around inside the tent, she began to feel better. “This will pass,” she thought “I just need to rest a little longer.”
Soon, she felt strong enough to step outside the tent. The sun burned into her own dark skin as she walked slowly back and forth, watching her bare feet contrast with the paleness of the sand. She looked around the desert…..nothing. There was another tent nearby but then the hot soft sand she stood on offered her only more and more of it.
As she stood there taking in her surroundings, hoping her eye would catch something different that would lead them in the right direction, she knew it was useless. She would just have to stay strong and keep moving. Happy to be standing, she continued to move around a little longer until the weakness arrived again.
Crawling back into the tent, he looked at her concerned but she just smiled at him which instantly made him smile back. She reached out for the pipe again, knowing it would help her fool him until they found help but he pulled it away from her, shaking his head with confusion in his eyes. He knew this was unlike her. The pipe was only a small pick me up to help when the sun was at full heat. She had never reached for it so often.
As she lay back down again, she reached for his hand. It felt warm against her own skin for some reason. She didn’t care to question it, she just needed to rest. He propped her head up with some rolled up cloth and she felt better, mostly because it allowed her to see him better. Something deep inside her wanted to take every inch of him in lately. It had become almost an obsession. She knew he wasn’t going anywhere but she continued to watch him with an intensity she never thought could exist within her.
Her eyes began to grow heavy but she fought the exhaustion, wanting to continue feeling his skin against hers, wanting to see him, see him, see him………and then he was below her and she was rising away from him fast fast fast. “NO!!!” she screamed out but continued to rise out of the tent, infinite desert spread out underneath her.
There was nothing she could do but watch and wonder as the tent faded out of view. “Will he be okay?” she thought. “I should have warned him, let him know how weak I felt. I don’t want him to be shocked when he discovers I’m no longer with him…..where will he bury me?”…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
…………. Ava opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She didn’t want to get out of bed. She was heartbroken for absolutely no reason at all. She pulled the soft warm comforter over her head hoping to be forgotten about, but no such luck would be gifted to her.
The door flung open and hit the side of the wall “Get up, Ava!” her younger sister shouted as loudly as possible. Ava could hear her padding across the room toward her closet. That was enough to get her to sit up.
“Ariana, do not touch anything in my closet! I’ve finally got it organized to my liking.” Ava flung the covers off of her and sprinted across the room towards the entranceway of her new walk in closet. Ariana was tossing clothes onto a white velvet chair while precariously holding a cup of coffee in her other hand. “Do you have no respect for other peoples belongings?” Ava walked over to her and took the cup out of her hand, placing it carefully on a side table.
As she walked back into the bedroom, she caught a glimpse of herself in a full length mirror. Her long blonde hair and pale skin made her remember the strange dream she had. It felt so real, yet it wasn’t……was it?
The dream was more like a memory. She wasn’t dreaming of a dark skinned woman, she was the dark skinned woman. Now she gazed down at pale feet blending into white carpet. She remembered the love she felt in the “dream” and longed to feel that way about someone, someday.
Suddenly, Ariana appeared behind her in the mirror, startling her back into the moment. She held up a pink dress. “I need to borrow this. I don’t know what’s wrong with you but if you’re trying to think of a way out of taking me, think again. A promise is a promise, Ava.”
Ava turned around to look at her younger sister who stared back suspiciously. She hadn’t been paying enough attention to her lately and that needed to change. “Ariana, I will be ready in twenty minutes. We are going to find you the most beautiful prom dress anyone has ever seen and anything else you want. By the time this day is done, I will be borrowing from your closet.” She winked at her. She watched as Ariana’s face lit up and gave her sister a hug. “Now, go! I’ll meet you downstairs.”
A feeling of appreciation washed over Ava as she got ready to leave. She couldn’t get the dream out of her head. It just kept replaying over and over in her mind. She couldn’t help but think that maybe it meant something, even if just to remind her how lucky she was and to not become so absorbed with her own trivial problems. There were people in the world living incredibly difficult lives compared to her own, yet they continue to smile and love. They stand strong with hope of a better future.
As she accompanied her sister into boutiques and dress shops, she tried her best to make the day as fun and exciting for her as possible but found it hard to focus completely. She felt an anticipation but wasn’t sure why. An urge to keep moving would overcome her at times and she would find herself shuffling Ariana out of a store to look for something better.
After they had found the perfect prom dress, they went in search of accessories. Ava decided her little sister needed diamonds for her special night so their next stop was a surprise for Ariana. As their driver pulled in front of the location, Ariana looked over at Ava. “Ava, no. It’s just prom. I don’t need anything from here. Everyone will think I’m showing off.”
“Oh, who cares what they think. Anyway, it’s prom, you are supposed to show off. C’mon, we will pick something delicate.” Ava held out her hand for her sister as they exited the car and walked toward the very private door their family had been entering for many years.
“Bellissima!” an older gentleman exclaimed when he saw Ava walk through the door. “I wasn’t expecting to see you today but what a delight it is!” Ava gave him her most charming smile as she also gave Ariana’s hand a quick squeeze before letting go.
She walked toward the man “Antonio! I apologize for dropping in so unexpectedly but we are shopping for Ariana’s prom and I thought she needed something special to remember it. Would you happen to have a little time to spare with us?”
“But of course, Ava dear” he replied while looking toward Ariana. “Little Ariana is already going to prom? I barely recognized her. Ariana, darling! Come say hello. You are becoming almost as beautiful as your sister. Let us pick out something perfect for you.”
Ariana smiled shyly and walked over to them. She had always hung back in environments such as this, always feeling rough around the edges compared to Ava. “Thank you, Antonio” she replied in a voice softer than she’d ever used before. She looked over to find Ava smiling at her and felt comforted. She so wanted to be like her older sister. She always seemed to instictively know how to shine in any social environment, like she’d lived a thousand lives or something.
As they began looking at different pieces, Ariana became more comfortable so Ava stole a few moments to look through the showroom. While admiring a necklace she could only dream of owning, she felt eyes upon her and turned.
And there he was. The most beautiful man she had ever laid her eyes on. A sense of longing mixed with familiarity completely overwhelmed her leaving her frozen. He stared back at her with such warmth but said nothing…she didn’t need him to, she already knew him.
“Ah, Cristiano!” Antonio called out across the gallery, “you are back just in time. Ava, meet my favorite nephew, Cristiano. He is here for the summer to learn the business although it is he that will probably end up teaching me!”
Cristiano glanced toward his uncle with an amused smile before turning back to Ava. “My uncle, he is always the charmer.” he began in a deep velvety voice that made Ava want to listen to him speak forever. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Ava” he continued. “My uncle has spoken of you fondly over the years.”
Ava knew she needed to say something but the words escaped her. She was never rattled around anyone but she was with him. They had to be the perfect words but what were they? “It’s nice to meet you too.” was all that came out as she looked down disgusted in herself but when she looked up again he was just smiling at her which instantly made her smile back.