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leslie nikole
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ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER, A SHORT STORY.
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ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER.

lower east side, new york city.

She woke up without his presence. Half awake, she tossed around on the worn mattress, her legs trapped in a confused sea of sheets. “Where is he?” she wondered silently, blinking slowly as she reached around, hoping that her fingertips would graze flesh that was not her own. Her eyelids retracted once more softly allowing her to peer around the small room, illuminated only by the soft rays of sunshine coming through the thin makeshift curtain and the dark stained iron bars. With a soft sigh, she pushed herself from lying on her back to resting on her forearms, to then finally sitting up ever slowly. The “12 for the price of 10” hour and a half yoga sessions at the studio down the street were doing her good. Maybe those gentrifying hipsters were good for something.

Pulling at the 3X all-white t-shirt that wasn’t hers, she released the cotton material from the 3-D nameplate she wore proudly. Gold was her favourite color, as she made sure to wear a hint of it anywhere possible. Slipping the thick black elastic off of her left wrist, she rolled it over her right hand before stretching it. Pulling her thick and curly hair to her left side with one smooth motion, passing her left arm around her head, she dumped the majority of her hair with her left hand before slipping the elastic over the unruly mass of hair, pushing the leftover strands into the confusion as she secured the more so messy than a bun at the back of her head. Allowing her shoulders to drop along with her arms, her smile also vanished. The room was silent and the apartment was even quieter. Turning to her right, she peered over her shoulder at the large reading in neon green on the black digital clock that sat uneasily on a cardboard box. At only minutes past five o’clock on a Sunday morning, she had no idea where Burgundy, her boyfriend of six years, could be. Her gaze fell off the clock and onto the side of the bed closest to it, the outline of Burgundy’s body permanently embossed into the aged mattress. It was evident that he slept predominantly on his left side.

Before her very eyes, Burgundy’s still, sleeping figure appeared. His sun kissed skin stretched over his back smoothly as he slept quietly. The one hundred and sixty-eight pounds looked good on his five foot eight frame. She smiled to herself as she imagined herself tracing his warm body, her finger trailing in the imprint on the mattress. Inhaling deeply through her nose, she smelled the faint hint of the cologne he wore, allowing it to engulf her senses and not only the physical parts of her body that were covered by the shirt she wore. Exhaling once more with a sigh, she realized that she was not only alone, but lonely as well, the feeling getting stronger with every second that passed without her significant other.

It was that same feeling that brought her to his apartment only hours before, without a care for the rain that was falling that she couldn’t shield her jet black dyed hair from. That same loneliness that made her slide down her apartment’s back staircase and sprinting for the nearest subway station and making her way up Burgundy’s cold and rain slick fire escape before climbing into his bedroom. The same loneliness that vanished as soon as she lifted the comforter and latched onto his curled spine. She was more than lucky that he was close by; continuously brought together by the friendship of their mothers, they were bound to fall in love. Born a year apart, Burgundy in New York and she back in Cuba, they were intertwined like twins. It wasn’t long before they became more.

"Six years," she whispered as she softly dragged her hand across the Ninja Turtles bed sheets as she reminisced over the memory of their first kiss. During a black out caused by an ice storm, she felt trapped and afraid in the last place her mother thought there could be enough electricity to ride out the storm. Sobbing to herself, through tears she saw him appear in the room with a small candle cradled by his favourite Batman cup in his hands, the tiny flame flickering wildly in attempt to illuminate the room. He shrugged her over to the middle of the bed before placing it on the small overturned cardboard box, acting as a makeshift side table.

"As long as this is going and I’m here with you, you’ll always be safe, okay?" She let out a small chuckle, thirteen years old and he was already a romantic. With remnants of the watermelon Lip Smacker smeared over her lips in efforts to fill the cracks and Vicks under her runny nose, she pressed her lips against his. She could see him blushing between the flickering candle and moonlight. The next morning, she woke to a Spanish new announcer with a thick accent hastily giving updates on the working trains and areas where power was slowly being restored. The candle was still burning and Burgundy’s arms were still wrapped around her.

They stuck by each other ever since that day. From then to the present, he’d always been the only man she could and would rely on; he wasn’t perfect, but he was close enough for her. She had no idea when Burgundy snuck back in the room behind her. She jumped at the sound of his weight bearing down on the old wooden floor, cursing loudly as he snickered. She watched him kick off his worn black and white Air Forces with two breakfast sandwiches rolled in cheap foil paper in hand and two cans of Arizona under his arm.

"I didn’t want to wake you…your stomach was growling in your sleep."

She studied him closely, as if she couldn’t pick him out of a crowd of clones already. Everything was just the way she left him before slipping away from insomnia. The same haircut, the same scar over his right eyebrow he got in a fight over her, the same demeanour; most importantly the same love.

"Why you staring at me for so hard? I was only gone for like two seconds…"
"I just love you that’s all."



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