We’ve been driving for hours, mostly on unmarked roads. Not that I mind. Ireland is as beautiful and magical as I’d hoped. The perfect birthplace for the perfect boy on my right.
The wind makes his shining black curls bob and corkscrew like party streamers but he never brushes them away from his face. The black of his hair is echoed in an impossibly darker shade on his stomach and upper thighs. It starts as a scattering of hairs on his swimmer’s belly and becomes thicker as it travels down and over his taught thighs. In the light, made shimmery by the air’s heavy moisture, it’s easy to forget that he’s as human as I am.
“Where are we going?”
Caleb turns to stare at me and my stomach does this crazy rolling thing. It’s been six months and still, every time he looks at me, a nervous shock short-circuits my cell functions. I lean across the seat, pressing my face into his shoulder to hide how awestruck I feel. I inhale deeply and drown in the rich smell of him; fresh oranges, sun-kissed wheat fields, and the sweet-salty aroma that comes from him just breathing. Dizzy, spinning, intoxicated, that’s how I feel. Far from myself and falling even further away than that.
“I told you, swimming.”
“That’s a what, not a where.” I start smiling, faking a security that I’m not even close to feeling. Inside, I scramble to believe in this new reality. Trying hard to accept that he really chose me. That in spite of everything, after all is said and done, Caleb is mine.
“Look around, can’t you tell me where we are?”
“It’s really real!”
I leap out of the car, not caring that I land in ankle-deep water. In a few quick steps I’m immersed in paradise. All around me is the sort of perfection that you can’t paint because its magic won’t translate onto the canvas—people call this sort of thing sentimental.
Piercingly green hills rolling downward and disappearing into a white and gray beach. The sugary sand taking over the world, never stopping, simply disappearing beneath the more powerful ocean. Overhead, pregnant clouds push this world into a tight circle. Connecting all of this fantasy to reality, are dozens of magnificent, white cows—all contentedly munching the greenery.
“It’s just like you said.” I turn back toward Caleb. For the first time, my heart and my smile feel easy and light.
Caleb pulls my long braids forward, wrapping them around his fist, drawing me to him. The rainbow streaks that I’ve added to my jet black hair look like living jewels against his skin.
“A rúnsearc,” he breathes the words against my lips, “I’ve never lied to you.”
Already my tears are salting the kiss, making it feel like it’s the very last. Still, he leans down toward me, waiting for me to lift my face, to show him that I want this.
“You never lied,” I agree. “But you didn’t tell me the truth, either.”