The first thing you notice is the salt spray clinging to her hair and skin, like she’s just climbed out of the ocean. Her smile’s softer than you remember, sadder and sweeter all at once. No longer hundred-watt and fluorescent, it’s warm, incandescent. Like a punchy wine that mellowed out. Her eyes still burn insatiably in a way you’d forgotten; her mouth still dances with little ticks and smiles and smirks and laughs, bursting with the expressions her words never give voice to. Her voice sounds less like an act. The perkiness and cheeriness have faded, leaving behind a soft melody you hope you’ll have time to learn. This is what you are doing - relearning her. The last time you saw her she was a hungry-eyed girl with a pout and a sneer.
And the next time you see her? You run into her at a coffee shop. You buy her a shot of espresso. Or she’s jogging at the track, and you run up behind her, watching the cat-like, fluid movements of her legs before you catch up to her. She’ll smile at you, surprised and pleased. But you go to the café you saw her at once, years ago now, and she’s never there. You run every day until your legs are about to give out, like an extra mile could bring you closer to her. It doesn’t.
You refuse to believe that you’ll never see her again. She’ll drop in on you, you tell yourself, with an Americano and a laugh reserved for you. You’ll see her out shopping and this time, you won’t just watch her pass. You refuse to believe this is the last time - but still, you save every detail of her after she’s gone, taking the sea with her. You save the new tones of her voice, the colour of her summer lipstick, the way her hair settled when she brushed it out of her eyes. You don’t need to save her eyes. They’ll never leave you. You tell these details to yourself like stories but you know they’ll start to fade, anyways.
You still remember her, every time you see the ocean. You wonder if the next time you see her she will be walking out of the waves, coming back to you at last. You tell yourself you won’t let her go this time. It takes a few years for you to stop believing in this. It takes a few more before you’ve forgotten everything but the burn of her eyes, that you called insatiable, once, and you wonder if you were talking about her or yourself.
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