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111 Town Square Pl, Jersey City, NJ 07310, U.S.
111 Town Square Pl, Jersey City, NJ 07310, U.S.

It was on the sun-drenched coast that it happened; sitting on the boardwalk and
watching the grey waves roll in without aim. The sky was darkening, and Rose picked
up her heels and walked back to the little town, one foot in front of the other, balancing
carefully with the dizziness of the heat still pulsing through her veins. It was in this
delirious state, half-conscious, half-asleep, that she saw her, walking in the other
direction.
Rose meant to walk straight past. But the air shimmered with humidity, and she was
tired and sleepy, and what she meant to do and what she did ended up being at odds
with each other. Her words came out tangled, confused and fell on top of each other. She
could see them in a heap in front of her, wriggling a little, faint tendrils in the sunlight.
“Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to walk into you, right into you, I didn’t see you there” – which
was a complete lie, of course. She felt her fingers tremble, as if she was being irresistibly
drawn towards the other woman, as if something was compelling her. Rose reached for
her words, tried to order them into a sentence, by they were slippery as a fish and
eluded her.
The woman’s name was Michelle, and when she spoke each word rose and fell with a
gentle cadence. Rose drowned in the soft curls of her voice, feeling the vowels reach out
to her. Rose reached back.
Michelle’s hair was scarlet, a vivid streak of colour against the skies. It was like a fire,
not the tame flame of a candle, but a fire that raged through the forests, that made Rose
want to reach out and feel its heat for herself. Rose had known many shades of red
through her life, but this was the first to make her burn. She had known cold reds, a
sinister colour, akin to dried blood, but never this before.
The carpet of the aisle where Rose was married had been a cold red. She could
remember the stained glass window, how the sunlight cast its colours across the church.
She had stepped through it, watched her dress briefly light up with the scene of St
Joseph’s dream. Red, across the aisle, and the red of the angel’s hair across her dress, yet
all she had felt was a winter chill, seeping through the fine layers of her dress, a touch of
ice across the delicate lines of her veil.
The wind picked up across the sea, and it was a true cold now, across her arms, through
her fingers. It woke her up, returned her to the present, slammed her down feet first
and head spinning, and for a second, she could not reconcile the past and present, could
not figure out where she was. Rose turned, searched for an anchor, something to hold
on. She found the scarlet of Michelle’s hair, its warmth.
They walked across the boardwalk, just the two of them, trading small pieces of
conversation. Rose looked at Michelle, memorized the constellation of freckles across
her cheekbones. It was strange, to feel so alight, she thought, strange to feel desire so
silent and yet so fierce. It was terrifying, it felt like standing on the edge of the
boardwalk, about to unbalance at any moment.
It started to rain. They walked back together. Rose walked ahead, steps slightly too fast,
and suddenly, the fear was there again, shadowed at her feet. She walked faster, faster
as if she could outpace it; this new knowledge that had unveiled itself, this new desire
for someone so unattainable. She took one last look at Michelle, promised her that they
would meet again, but as she was walking away, Rose knew she was leaving her behind,
the allure, the fear, all of it. She felt the warmth of her ring on her finger instead.
Rose could no longer see Michelle, had left her behind, and she felt unanchored again,
her veins pulsing with helium instead of blood until her feet were only skimming the
streets and her fingers clutched to return to earth again. She closed her eyes and her
mind swam with memories, of her wedding day, of the first time he had put the ring
onto her finger. For a second, it hadn’t fit, and she had felt a wash of panic set into her,
until it had eventually slipped over her knuckle, cold and alien. Everything had been so
cold, her feet in the heels, the dress that was too stiffly boned and pressed into her flesh
as she sat down, another rib cage – externalized, an exo-skeleton that damaged, rather
than protected, the soft organism within. She had wanted to be happy, she had wanted
to laugh and spin until she was dizzy, to rest her head, and feel the true warmth of
contentment. Rose had wanted it so badly.
She reached the lane into her house, and it was still raining. She was soaked to her skin,
but she could still feel the silent fire within her that Michelle had lit. And it terrified her,
that she hardly knew this woman, didn’t know anything except the curve of her smile
and the pattern of her laughter, yet Michelle had such a hold over her. It wasn’t right.
She walked to her front door. There was a mark on the wood, where her husband had
accidentally burst a light bulb. It had shattered, the glowing filament burning the paint.
They had laughed. Rose smiled at the memory, held onto it and let it fill her. Let it
extinguish Michelle, the new sense of disquiet that whispered inside of her.
The fire was gone. She could feel the cold now, and her fingers were shaking. The whole
day, Michelle, it was all an accident, it never was meant to happen, never should have
happened. Rose looked down, buried the memories, let them fall under layers of shadow
until light could no longer reach them. She imagined a great flood of water, so vast that
no fire could survive its power, saw the image of Michelle, blurred beneath the depths of
an ocean, obscured by fleets of fish and long tangled weeds. It was never meant to
happen. It was better, she decided, better if perhaps it never did.

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