Heat haze rose from the lush meadow, bathed in sunshine, mottled here and there by the shifting shadows of clouds.
In counterpoint to the warmth of the scene was the mood of the couple lying there: Christopher and Jennifer, on their backs, side by side but miles apart, his right hand scant centimetres from her left.
All around them sounds, some of summer: birdsong from the trees on the edge of the meadow; the buzzing of large bumble bees on their last sorties of the day; the chirping of the first of the evening’s crickets.
And Jennifer’s quiet sobs, making her chest rise and fall in tiny jerks.
Christopher looked over at her, pain and shame etched on his youthful face. He moved his hand nearer to hers, to the ring that kept them together. But he didn’t touch her. He couldn’t touch her.
So they lay, as the clouds above them took on a pinkish hue, beckoning to the dusk.
Jennifer’s sobbing subsided and she let out a heavy sigh.
Chris took a deep breath and exhaled long and steadily, preparing himself.
“It was a stupid thing, Jen, a one-off, after drinks. And we didn’t go all the way.”
Jennifer shook her head.
“I don’t want details. I don’t want to even think about it. Though I want to know. Does that make sense?”
“A whole lot. But I swear: nothing … we didn’t do anything.”
“Does she mean …?”
Jennifer turned on her side, facing away from Chris. He saw that her body was jerking slightly, like before. He gave her time.
After a while she turned back and looked him in the eyes, searching for truth and assurance.
“You must promise me something, Chris.”
“Never again. I don’t think my heart could take it. Never?”
Chris smiled gently with gratitude.
Jennifer tried to return the smile but her lips weren’t ready.
The pink of the clouds was slightly deeper. The couple relaxed into the sounds of the meadow, gazing up at the blue beyond the clouds and the pale moon floating there, almost full.
Jennifer raised her arm and pointed.
Chris followed her long, elegant finger. Sure enough, one of the clouds had formed a near-perfect triangle, with a separate cloud forming an indistinct hull.
“Yes, a yacht.”
Jennifer dropped her arm and her hand fell on Chris’s. She left it there.
They stayed that way for several healing minutes. Then Jennifer raised herself on one arm, leaned over and kissed the man that was her life, seeking to seal his promise.
And they made love, slowly, tenderly, rocking as if floating on gentle waves. Afterwards, they lay on their backs again.
The clouds were almost red. Chris pointed.
“That one’s a bit like a fox — see the tail?”
Jennifer’s response was immediate, though tentative.
“But that’s not you, is it, Chris?”
Chris knew what she meant.
The bees had stopped buzzing, the crickets providing accompaniment to the crystalline song of a solitary blackbird.
Jennifer’s lips were ready now; her joyful smile came from somewhere deep within her. She raised her arm and pointed again, her ring gleaming golden in the last light from the sun.
Her smile broadened further still.