Hell...” His voice was thick, rough. “Mallory, you’re...”
“What?” I whispered, feeling my body burn for two very different reasons.
“You’re beautiful.” His gaze dipped, tracking the lacy edges of the bra. “Never thought I’d see you like this. So freaking glad I have. You’re so beautiful, Mallory.
I always wish there was a portal to an unknown and unseen place from my home and yours too. Where the time would always stay froze and nothing changes ever. Where no other human exists except us and everything is utterly beautiful. Where we can say forever and really mean it and live it every single day.
Standing there small among the boxes of Kandy Kakes that rose like brownish cartoon cliffs around him, he resembled the videos I'd seen of sea lions floating angelically among the kelp, black bodies filmed from below, their shapes cut out in bright sunlight, bodies mistakable for those of a human being. I felt the memory of a shadowy arm around me, a watcher again, sitting there on the couch with my boyfriend, watching the animals become prey. Somewhere there were giant whales feeding on creatures too small to see, pressing them against fronds of baleen with a tongue the size of a sedan. There were polar bears killing seals, tearing ovoid chunks from out of their smooth, round bellies. In the surrounding vastness of the warehouse, I heard something scratching against the concrete floor and knew there were rats here, scraping a thin film of nutrient from the dry packaged matter that surrounded them. Life was everywhere, inescapable, imperative.
Kiss your scars. Fall in love with them. They ought to serve as life-affirming reminders—a lingering trace of hope. The only reason we have these scars is because we survived and are still here.
I used to be lost in us. Blurred were the lines that separated us. But now, I see our togetherness in our separateness. I see the you in me and the me in you. We are two independent beings who complement one another like photographs that are beautiful on their own but are enhanced when juxtaposed, creating an altogether new photograph.
I do, and the now-familiar warmth of his lips steadies me. He tastes of salt and the wine we shared with the others at our small farewell party.
Aladdin pulls away first and lifts one of my hands to his lips, kissing the delicate henna patterns on my skin, then turning my arm over to kiss the inside of my wrist. The ship’s crew makes themselves busy on the other side of the ship, giving us privacy.
“You’re the most beautiful girl in the world,” Aladdin murmurs. “Have I ever told you that?”
“Enough to make me wonder if your father was a parrot.