A Charm Invests A Face
"I'm leaving tonight."
His breath tickles my ear and I put down the knife and move the carrot that I'm chopping knowing what even a breath from him can do to me. "I know Leo." My words come slowly and methodically, "I know. You told me weeks ago and haven't let me forget it." I sigh in frustration with the situation. "I heard you."
"Hey now--" He sighs, I feel his breath on my neck and his lips touch me there, kissing my skin so lightly that I have to wonder if it's really happening. All of the nerve endings in my body rush to pull in his touch, savor it and store it for later when I'll need it. "No need for that."
"How am I supposed to react?" My chin drops to my chest. I take a deep breath. "What am I supposed to do?"
I swing around and find the apartment empty.
It's not the first time that this has happened, but it still startles me all the same. I take a deep breath, press my hand to my chest to push back the ache there and turn back to my vegetable stir fry. "What am I supposed to do?" I ask again into the empty room, my voice breaks and tears well in my eyes.
"Make the best of it." I'm surrounded by a warm feeling again and I keep my eyes on my work as his arm slips around me, palm stopping to press on my stomach for a moment as he slides up against my back. He sighs near my ear then puts his lips to my temple and speaks in soft tones, "You knew this was coming and you know you'll see me again soon."
"No I won't," I say quickly causing a cold sensation to run from my toes to my head and land with a poof of air against the back of my neck, "I'll see him and I'll get hurt and I'll be right back in this apartment alone again."
"Trust." His fingers massage my neck. "Patience."
"I can't Leo." My hands shake and my head nods side to side. "I can't trust something this out of the ordinary. You tell me that I'll see him, that I have to return the necklace and he'll be mine and that he'll know me, but that's ridiculous. This whole thing is ridiculous. I mean look at me--"
"You're fine," he says. His fingers slip away from my neck, but his cologne stays in the air as he backs away. I don't hear a thing, but I can picture him in my mind climbing up on the counter behind me to sit and pick at the bowl of grapes I have there while I cook the rest of dinner. He's done this most nights that I've spoken to him. He'll sit in the corner of the room like a fly on the wall and spout poetry and wisdom at me like he's some traveling minstril.
"Don't eat those," I say absentmindedly scolding him like a child, "You'll ruin your dinner."
His soft caressing laugh fills the air for only a moment before I hear him, a garbled speech, and I know he's eating the grapes. "You'll be fine princess. You're what he needs. He's what you need. You were the one who found it. That has to say something about the two of you."
"I didn't even know it was his," I say speaking of the necklace that now hangs around my neck. It's been there for six weeks now, since the night I realized who it belonged to and the importance of getting it back to it's owner. "I found it on the ground and picked it up then much much later found out that it belonged to him and then you appeared in my life and have been telling me that on August whatever it is--"
"Tomorrow," he says with a firm voice. I picture him nodding with such conviction that I wonder for a moment if he'll get a headache from doing it, "Tomorrow is the day. The eighth. His birthday."
"You tell me that tomorrow--" My hands work across the carrot cutting it into pieces and my hands automatically throw the pieces into the frying pan. "Tomorrow that I'm going to meet him and that he's going to know me and that my life is going to change forever and that he's my soul mate." I reach and shake the pan a bit, listening to the sizzle. "I should be committing myself to the Looney Bin right now."
"But you aren't," Leo says, "Because you believe. You want to believe." The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. "You need to believe that something amazing is going to happen to you and you know deep down that if this does happen to you then you'll never have to worry about anything like this again."
"Yeah," I say with the frustration that has built up since the necklace came into my life, "Because I'll be IN THE LOONEY BIN."
His laughter fills the room again. "He'll love you girl. He really will."
"Leo," I sigh, "I just can't--"
"You'll go there tomorrow like I told you and you'll find him and everything will be ok." Leo stops chewing and his tone gets even more serious. "You've dreamed of him. Dreamed of him kissing you and making love to you. Making you whole."
"I never told you about that." I stare at the stove collecting my thoughts before I light the burner to start the stir-fry.
"But I know about it." He said with a cocky tone, "And so does he."
My shoulders slump again. "Leo."
"Eat your dinner sweetie." There is the noise of him getting off the counter. "I have some things to check on. I'll be back to tuck you in and say goodbye."
"Leo. Don't go." I don't turn around because I know it won't do any good. "I didn't mean to be upset with you."
"I know you didn't sweetheart. Take your time with this and think it through. I'll be back to kiss you good night."
I turn around to find the kitchen empty again. The grapes in the bowl are untouched and I'm alone again.
Much later in the evening, after I've fed myself and slipped into bed, I turn out the lights and curl onto my side, hugging my pillow to me and breathing deeply trying to fall asleep.
"Leo?" I close my eyes and listen and wait and soon I'm rewarded with a warmth up and down my backside as he spoons against me. "Where were you?"
"I was out," he says, "I was out and making sure--checking up on him."
My eyes open and I stare into the darkness of my room with a slight fear in me. "Checking up on him?"
"I visit him too you know. Tonight I comforted him when he was going to sleep. He called out for you--"
"He's scared Princess." His tone is serious and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. "He's scared and he's lost and lonely."
I press my cheek to the pillow when fear fills my heart. I'm scared for him and that feeling is real, more real than Leo and what happens outside of the apartment. "Why?"
"Because you have his heart."
The words fill the room and I lay there in silence thinking. How did it come to be that this man. This stranger of a man has now become the center of my world and that I feel my heart breaking for him even though I've never really laid eyes on him from anything more than a glimpse. "It's a necklace Leo." I need to stay grounded because this has already gotten out of control.
"It's a symbol," Leo says, "He needs it returned."
"I'll get it to him tomorrow." I say and start to try to get to sleep. "You've told me what I need to do."
"Relax Princess." His hands smooth over my arms and slip around me and he presses his lips to my cheek. "Sleep."
I sigh and move a little to get more comfortable and listen to the sound of his breath in my ear. "Tell me the poem again Leo."
His voice drones out the poem that he's been reciting for weeks now and I find myself falling asleep to it as his lips and words wash over me.
"Leo," I breathe out. My heart jumps into my throat, all the hair on my body stand on end and my stomach churns as if I'm going to throw up and then the strangest thing of all happens. I have this calmness that washes over me. I sit up in my chair a little and watch him. He's sitting there in the corner, back to the wall, book open leaning against the table and he's reading.
From here I would even be able to know what he was reading. His lips move clearly over the words even though across the room I can't hear him.
A charm invests a face Imperfectly beheld. The lady dare not lift her veil For fear it be dispelled. But peers beyond her mesh, And wishes, and denies, ?Lest interview annul a want That image satisfies.
"Leo," I sigh again and as if by magic he hears me and looks up.
Confusion washes over his face for a moment and his eyes are forced back to the page and he reads again.
As I watch him I reach and touch the necklace and lean against the table preparing myself for what I must do. I push myself to my feet and as I walk across the room I unite the string necklace and pull it safely into my hand.
"Leo--I mean Josh--I mean JC--" I groan when I stumble over my words.
"It's you," he says with some surprise. His eyes stay wide. "I mean--it's--" He sighs, "I mean. It's not you--you just look like someone I--" He coughed and sat up in his seat.
I try to ignore his nervousness and try to remember that Leo is only a figment of my imagination and that a normal sane person would just do what needed to be done and leave the poor man alone. "I wanted to return this to you," I say and hold out the necklace to him, "And to wish you a happy birthday." I close my eyes and count to ten and recite the poem in my head.
"Thank you princess," I hear and for a moment I think that Leo's back perched on my shoulder reassuring me that things are going to be ok. "I was worried that this was really lost."
My eyes come open and I see relief washing over his face. "I found it and a friend of mine told me that I could find you here and return it."
He stares at me, no words coming out of his mouth, book sitting open on the table.
"Well you have it back now and I should go." I turn and start to walk away but soon realize what I've just walked into. The book straight at my eye line is a copy of a collection of poems by Emily Dickenson and I'm sure without checking that the poem he was reciting, the one that Leo recited to me, would be in that volume of poems.
Its as if I've walked into quicksand. I try to make my feet move, to get away from this place, but nothing is working.
He walks up behind me and puts the book he was reading back onto the shelf. He has his whole body pressed against mine. I'm shrouded in a cloud of warm air. "I'm leaving," he says with a soft voice, his breath touching my shoulder and my ear as he speaks. "I'll be out of town overnight, but when I get back I'd like to take you to lunch--" He steps back and I turn around and find him standing there. It isn't Leo. It's him--and he's smiling. "To thank you for finding this."
"That'd be nice," I say slowly not to move too quickly for fear that he'll disappear like Leo and I'll be standing there in the middle of the bookstore alone.
"Can I call you?" he asks.
"Sure," I say, "Of course."
He looks me straight in the eyes. "Good."
Silence hangs between us, but the sparks fly.
"I'll give you my number," I say.
He reaches into his pocket as if he's looking for his phone then pauses. "Can I get you to do me a favor?" he asks.
"Definitely," I say.
"Tie it for me?"
poem is Emily Dickenson A Charm Invests A Face.
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