SHORT STORIES: Daphne

"He steadied himself from his dizzying fall into unconsciousness, propped himself up on his elbows and opened his eyes."

The rich orange of the low sun was almost incredible. It lit the dusty streets, but at no point irritated, it pulled the colour from the tattered masonry, while only offering a comfortable heat. And in a small enclave of green to the east of the most intense maze of streets, James rested in dry medium length grass.

His bare chest was covered in small flecks which had fallen from a sandwich he had eaten earlier, and a green, half empty bottle of Bonarda was resting gently between his arm and his slowly rising torso. He felt he was floating, every second his aching frame tumbling deeper and deeper into the earth, while still basking in the sun’s relaxed embrace.

Then a shadow was cast over his eyes. He steadied himself from his dizzying fall into unconsciousness, propped himself up on his elbows and opened his eyes.

“James?” asked a small voice from in front of him. He could only see a silhouette, but he recognised it, and it sent him back into a disorientated fuzz.

“I can’t believe it’s you”, said the figure, twisting down to sit next him in the grass, the sun suddenly illuminating her smiling face. Her eyes were a deeper hazel than he had ever seen before, and the locks of her hair shone a deep red as they tangled amongst the sun’s beams.

“Daphne!” he yelped, delirious with nostalgic amour. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here on holiday.”

“Me too! This is crazy!”

“It is quite a coincidence. I haven’t seen you in years.”

Without her elaborating, he immediately knew the last moment they had seen each other. He paused briefly to wander in the reverie of their erstwhile romance, but on reaching its disquieting close, he jumped back into the conversation without her noticing.

“Shall we walk to the embankment?” he asked.

She smiled, placed her impossibly soft hand into his, and they stumbled back through the thick blades of stubborn grass, and then along the dusty trail back towards the city, where they continued to walk for hours.

***

“Do you ever have dreams that appear so real, so intricately crafted, and so accurate, that when you wake up, you are convinced you are dreaming and try to wake yourself again?” asked Daphne, gazing out at the deep green of the river.

“I don’t think so,” replied James, giggling slightly at the notion, spotting on the water a solitary mallard, his usual majesty replaced as he struggled bashfully against the current on his way upstream.

“Don’t laugh, it happens!”

“I’m not doubting it, I was just charmed by your train of thought.”

“That really never happens to you?”

“Not really. There’s always something askew when I dream. Something that doesn’t quite add up.

She shrugged. She had said very little, but seemed happy to listen to James’ tales of travels and other banalities.

“Oh well, tell me about Rome again.”

“It’s gorgeous. Every second a perfectly crafted chapter in a magnificent tale.”

She smiled up at him. “We should go sometime”

***

They stood together, locked in each other’s arms, in the deserted piazza, the colosseum silhouetted in the sunset behind them.

“I’m so happy.” Whispered Daphne, as she looked intensely into his eyes. His heart raced.

James said nothing, but there was an implicit understanding. They were so intricately connected, yet it seemed like no time since they met each other again in the park in the city.

There was nothing else on his mind. The backdrop disappeared entirely, and it was just him and her in that perfect moment, untarnished somehow.

She pulled on his shoulders, and lifted herself up to his height to kiss him.

***

James awoke to soundless dark.

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