She is glad for the silence because where would she even begin?
You were my first kiss. My father had died. Instead of dancing with him at my quinceañera, I’d watched them put him in the ground. You held my hand through his funeral. A month later you danced with me in my room for hours. You kissed me goodnight and said I tasted like a fresh apple.
He had been her only friend, her protector, her lover. You were my first everything. Everything.
Even though they’d managed to hurt her enough to wipe his name from her memory she’d held fast for as long as she could—until everything she’d known of him finally blurred beyond recognition. He eventually became her saudade, her profound longing for something she’d lost but could never quite recall.
When he finally touches her it is at once familiar and strange. There is a part of her that fights and strains to be closer to him, to spark the recognition in him of who they once were together. It is the part that wants to press against those tender places in him she knows would cause him to shudder and ache for her, the part that never forgot the way her name sounded in his mouth. She wants to pull him out of this sterile box and run to somewhere with dirt, roots, and sky. She wants, she wants, she wants. She knows better. This is not her Mihai, not really. This Mihai never let her tend to his anguish, never allowed his painful secrets to darken her chin and mouth so he could let them go.
He is thinner, drawn and watchful like a wounded animal. His hurts have never healed. His is the much harsher reality; not the life she’d imagined for him, not the one she’d lived with him in her head. He is a stranger to her. Realizing this, she now understands why she had wanted to avoid him as much as she’d been pulled to him. His touch, however, is the same—cool and reassuring. Her own hand is warm. You feel like a sunset, he used to murmur against her skin. She reminds herself again that this man’s past is not the one she shared with her Mihai. The past they shared had been a sanctuary, a place where they were what could have been. A place where he laughed often, a place where he loved her without reserve, a place where they had been happy. This is not that place. This is not that man.
Still, she is content to simply sit with her hand in his for a while. Whatever this is will be enough, she tells herself. It will have to be.
When Mihai’s voice finally breaks the silence with the mention of her grandmother, Maya’s eyebrows raise and she turns to look at him. His expression makes it clear that he had, indeed, met her abuela. She smiles slightly. “She can be," she nods, "but only if she likes you."
She sees herself reflected in his dark eyes. "I miss her," she says quietly.