i wake before her. it's rare; we're both early birds but she'll normally be up around five or six. today, however, i open my eyes to find her asleep, legs intertwined with mine, fingers curled around the pillow and her breathing soft and even. the light softens her creamy skin and turns her hair into spun gold. my dark skin contrasts with the sheets.
i know i should get up. we've got limited time here today; we plan to leave in the afternoon. after all, we want at least a night at the beach. still, lying here, with the sunlight spilling into the room like molten gold and the eiffel tower in the distance, it doesn't feel like i should ever get up. it's too calm and quiet to disturb it, this perfect peace hanging by a thread.
a moment later, however, it is disturbed. "he-lloo, thumbelina," murmurs amber groggily, pushing back her wavy, shoulder-length hair.
"he-lloo, sentient tree. has gollum awoken from their slumbersss?"
she raises her arms like she's going to push me, but instead they close around my shoulders and amber's kissing me, for a long time. god, she feels safe.
she pulls away."okay. let's stop being sappy now. i'm hungry."
i push back her hair and kiss her forehead. "did i tell you i love you?
"mmhm. tell me again."
"i love you."
she makes a face of mock-surprise and rolls me off the bed onto the carpet. "let's go. food awaits us.
we dress quickly and skip breakfast at the hotel in favor of grabbing something outside. the air is crisp and cool and clouds hang over us, obscuring the sun. the inn's off a gorgeous street filled with vendors and shops, and with an ancient cobblestone street underneath us. we note the age of the buildings, the century-old bullet holes in homes. it's a big city but the whole thing feels quite like a small french town.
amber and i decide on a little hole-in-the-wall near the metro. we sit on little chairs outside and watch the people walk by, barely saying a word with our mouths full of croissant and jam. finally, she speaks. "i almost wish we could stay here for the weekend instead of going on to the beach."
i lick my fingers. "you'll regret saying that when you smell the ocean."
she nods but stays silent for a while, tapping out a faintly recognizable rhythm on the table. "do you think anyone else ever got out?"
"spencer, iowa." she adopts a mocking tone. "home to the world's most famous library cat. population, ten thousand."
"i don't know. i sort of blocked all the high school people out of my memory. i do remember carter, though. thought he was going to leave. he always said he was going to steal his dad's car and drive to cali. what a load of horseshit."
amber squints. "isn't he the one who got anna pregnant?"
"yep. apparently they're married now. last time i checked facebook, he was a used-car dealer living in the crack district."