A full moon turned the tops of the coastal dunes blue and shone silver off the Pacific. Alex sat next to Sophia, not touching, silent. They stared into the bonfire fueled by creosote bush and sage. Its smoke filled the air with a musky, earthy scent. Sophia’s shoulders shook. With her head bowed, her long blonde hair hid her face.

Alex turned, reached out and raised her chin. He leaned forward and lightly kissed each tear-filled eye, tasting the salt. Her trembling lips felt as soft as he remembered from months before.

“I’ve gotta go,” he said.

“Not yet.”

“It’ll get easier.”

“Easier for whom?”

Alex dropped her hand and struggled to his feet in the deep sand. “Goodbye, Sophia . . . sorry.”

He moved along the trail and into the nearby trees, using his cell phone light to guide the way. The eucalyptus rustled in the onshore breeze, their scimitar leaves rattling. Don’t look back. Whatever you do, don’t look back. Don’t look.

But he did.

Sophia sat cross-legged before the fire, still close enough for Alex to hear her sobs. She beat her legs with her fists and rocked back and forth. A night heron called. Alex stared at his cell phone screen.

With trembling fingers he texted, “Sophia, are you all right?”

Her cell buzzed and she dug into her purse and retrieved the phone. She stared at it for a long time before answering, “No.”

Alex’s cell buzzed when he received her reply. Sophia turned and stared toward the trees where he hid. She struggled to her feet, the curve of her belly mirroring the curve of the moon. She faced him across the darkness, a ghostly silhouette rimmed in soft blue. Alex felt that exquisite pain, that internal compression that can bend iron. He took a step back into the trees and breathed in their fragrance. The eucalyptus rattled even louder.

He moved forward, toward the fire and Sophia.


Terry Sanville

Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and two plump cats (his in-house critics). He writes full-time, producing short stories, essays, and novels. His short stories have been accepted more than 440 times by journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bryant Literary Review, and Shenandoah. He was nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes and once for inclusion in Best of the Net anthology. Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

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