She places the last of her things on the passenger seat and closes the door. That little smile she does lights up her face as she turns to me. She tells me goodbye and raises her arms. I pull her close and we embrace. I breathe her in, feel her warmth and softness beneath her clothes with my fingertips. She nestles her head into my shoulder and we stand there, together, entwined like lovers. I don’t want it to end. The illusion is too comforting, too beautiful. I close my eyes and forget that anything has happened, and for a brief, fleeting moment, I am happy again.

When I open my eyes, I cast my gaze to the gutter by the car. Autumn leaves are trundling down its length, vibrant yellow, fresh, not yet browned by the elements. Soon they will crumble to dust, or become mulch in the rain.

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