Eden Rain sipped her coffee, letting the warmth of it travel through her body as she waited for Michael to appear. It’s five o clock in the evening and the snow outside fell gently to the already crystallized ground that’s mostly snow. Eden clasped her cup of coffee with two hands, looking about the small café for any signs of his slight limp, his rectangular glasses that framed his emerald eyes, and wry sense of humor that made her fall in love with him. When they were still together.
Four years ago, during the summer right before they started their Freshmen year in college, Eden was dumbfounded when Michael told her that they should take a break. A four year one. What Eden loved about him was that he was forthright, he didn’t sugar coat any matter that needed to be taken into account right when it was right there, floating around them. It was a Saturday night and they were both in Eden’s bedroom, sitting side by side next to each other on her bed. Some indie song was playing in the background and light guitar strings and inaudible voices sent the room into a placid microcosm of her house, which was empty but the two of them. Eden remembered how smooth his skin was when he caressed her hands, how gentle, but firm his voice was when he spoke into her ear. Like caramel running over velvet.
“Eden, you know that long distance relationships never work out. I mean, it’s very rare that one does, but I want to spare us the feelings of heartbreak when we reconnect years later and find out that we’ve found somebody else to call girlfriend…and boyfriend.”
Eden closed her eyes, letting the silent tears stream down her face and land at her feet. They spent the entire night in each other’s arms before tomorrow came when Michael had a flight to Portland, where he’d be attending Lamont University. Now, once every month, they both met at Vetta’s Café in Fellerton, Wisconsin, where they grew up, catching up with one another and integrating themselves into each other’s lives as long as time stood still in the timely café, where the smell of roasted coffee beans and whipped cream passed through the air.
“Where is he?” Eden said to herself as she stared out the frosted window. She pulled out her phone. It’s six o clock. Did he forget about me? Did he wipe me away from his memory like chalk on a chalkboard? Did he find someone new? The thoughts consumed her head until she noticed a figure outside, running to the café’s front door. The bell over the door jingled violently as the lanky man barreled through the door, nearly sending a podium of coffee packets tumbling over.
“Sorry, sorry everyone!” He straightened the podium, apologizing to nearby customers. She could tell he was out of breath by the rosy color of his cheeks and the way he coughed into his fist, sounding like an animal on the brink of starvation. When he turned around, she caught his eyes and he caught hers. Everything that was them before came flooding back into her brain again. Wearing a green flannel shirt and generic jeans with brown boots, he looked like a lumberjack.
“Hey Eden,” he said, taking off his beanie. He sat opposite of her.
“Hey Michael.” She hadn’t seen him since November and he still hasn’t changed one bit. Besides the slight stubble and messy brown hair, he was the same. She noticed that his glasses were new. Black with steel hinges.
“Let me guess…you lost your old pair of glasses again?”
Michael put a hand on his chest. “I am appalled that you would even consider that out of all my miss endeavors, you automatically assume that I would be stupid enough, clueless enough, to lose my only source of vision to see this world.”
“So, what happened?” Eden added cream to her coffee and stirred.
He rubbed his neck and looked away, mumbling something.
“What was that?”
“I said I sat on them.”
He laughed and bit his lip. Eden thought that it was wonderful that despite them only meeting once a month, they still held the familiarity of being in a relationship, where they were the ones inside looking out.
“So, how’s Portland, hippie? Still treating you well?” She asked him.
“You know not all hippies come from Portland, right?” He raised his left eyebrow. Eden loved it when he did that.
“What world do you live in?”
“Anyways,” he continued, “Portland is amazing! I was able to take some amazing shots with my camera.”
“Oh really, do you have them on you? Let me see them.” Michael wanted to go to Portland, the so-called hipster haven of Oregon. He would send Eden pictures whenever he got the time, mostly of goofy selfies of himself. Eden saved them all to her phone.
Michael reached over his chair for his bag and pulled out a binder, a portfolio of his work over the years.
“Oh my God!” Eden said, nearly spilling her coffee. “That one’s amazing!” It was a photo of a waterfall surrounded by luscious green plants.
“Those are the Multnomah Falls. A couple of my roommates wanted to explore nature and shit. I managed to capture this shot.” Eden noticed that Michael looked crestfallen.
“You okay?” She took his hand, veiny but soft to the touch.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just…I wish you were there to see it.” Eden remembered their junior year in high school. Back then, during their walks around Lincoln High School, he would tell her without a pause in his breath about their future. He wasn’t naïve. He knew high school relationships wouldn’t last after high school, due to long distance. Eden however relished in the ambiance of him, how he would talk about places such as Columbia, Dubai, Europe, places in the world that their young minds could experience.
“Slow down, Daguerre,” she said, as they walked hand in hand through the surrounding forest of their high school. “How about focusing on the now?”
“Now?” He hooked his arms around her waist. They were in the middle of the forest, their feet under the growing lilacs and violets. Around them, trees rocketed towards the orange sky and through the leaves, beams of light shed down on them and all around.
“Yes, now. Where would I play a role in your future?” She noticed how his brown hair became slightly yellow under the breathtaking glow of the light.
“Well…you would assist me by making sure I wouldn’t get into any trouble. You know, not doing anything stupid that would most likely involve me ending up in some jail for years.”
Eden scoffed. “What else?” She felt him grip her tighter.
“Then…I would photograph every moment of us. It could be something insignificant as you sleeping to something major like us standing under the Eiffel tower, our faces stuffed with every Parisian pastry.”
Eden raised her eyebrow. “You would take a picture of me sleeping?”
“Not the point. Then…I would ask you…” He looked down at their feet, their toes touching.
“You would…” Eden prompted him.
“I would ask you if you wanted to get married,” he whispered. Eden read his eyes, filled with content for what is now, but a desire for what’s to come. Eden couldn’t contain herself and they both kissed under the trees, her emotions becoming a kaleidoscope of love, adoration, and desire. Seventeen. It feels like a lifetime ago, in another reality, Eden thought.
Michael continued to show her his photographs. Eden awed in how he was able to catch atmospheric shots, how he was able to capture moments effortlessly in his own eyes. The gleaming Columbia River Gorge. The breathtaking view of Mt. Helens. Even his own campus. Eden watched him light up, his monotone voice rising, revealing his goofy and enthusiastic personality when he was in high school.
After twenty minutes of perusing photograph to photograph, he put away his binder. Eden’s coffee was finished, but they had another ten minutes before the café closed. The barista was already wiping down the marble countertops and the last of the guests had left.
“Wow, it’s dark out,” Eden sighed. Through the window, she could see the snow being illuminated, revealing crystals of snow under the orange streetlights.
“Yeah,” Michael agreed. Eden turned to him, watching him put his hand in his pocket.
“Michael,” she said, grabbing his one free hand. “I’m really glad that I was a part of your life. You know when I first met you I didn’t think you would be able to take on the world. I know it sounds mean mostly because we were freshmen when I first met you and you were this cliché quiet photographer dude. But now look at you. You’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, taking photographs, exploring the world. It may not be Europe or Dubai. But it’s a start.”
Eden watched Michael smile. It was off. It was weary but still happy.
“Still wish you could’ve gone with me.”
“Well…maybe when you meet that someone who changes your life all over again, you can show her.” Michael nodded his head, slowly. Without a word, they both stood up and put on their coats. The barista called out to them a good night and both did the same.
They stepped out onto the sidewalk, lightly powdered with snow. They stood to look at each other and hugged. Eden didn’t want to pull away, to separate from his warm embrace, but he had a flight to catch tomorrow and he needed sleep.
“You’re my rain through the sunshine,” he said as they parted.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around.” He always made a joke about that because her last name was Rain.
He shrugged his shoulders. “You take care of yourself, Eden.” He gripped the strap of his bag and walked down the sidewalk, leaving her standing in the silent night.
“I love you,” she whispered. Snowflakes that fell from the sky melted just under her eyes. She proved it to be grateful. Then no would notice her crying.
Michael stared out of the airplane window, admiring the timeless beauty of the sky. They were well above the clouds, flying just above their hurdling formation. Through the reddish orange hue, the sun cast a warm glow on his face. He breathed in and out, wondering how Eden is doing under the clouds. Was she looking up at the sky right now, waiting for his return? Was she tucked away at home, reading one of her many books to escape the reality that didn’t have him in it every day? Michael tried to clear his head, but he couldn’t. Sure, he loved Portland and living his college years as this slightly more extroverted photographer, but it was nothing without someone to share it with.
His camera bag was at his feet. He pulled out his portfolio and flipped to the very back of it. He slipped his hand through the secret pouch and pulled a string. A compartment opened up like a book, revealing a photo of Eden lying in the grass. It was the day they spent in the forest. Her auburn hair was flowering above her, like she was suspended in animation. Her lips were lightly coated with clear lip gloss and her smoky eyeshadow made her all the more beautiful.
Michael patted the inside of his coat pocket. He was going to do it at the café, to change his whole life around for her. But after she said how proud she was of him, how could he? How could he drop Portland for her? He pulled out a small black box, the touch of it smooth, but slightly rough. The diamond inside of it wouldn’t shine as bright without her wearing it.
“Until December,” he said to himself. He put it away and looked out at the window, letting the heat of the plane and the increasing altitude send him into a peaceful sleep.
“Until December.” He closed his eyes. He would see the rain again soon.