The sun was teasing its way through the lace curtains, illuminating fractions of the room and uncovering pieces of her skin as she slept peacefully. Leon stared at her with fervor, attempting to memorize every single piece of who she was in this moment. He started with her hair, disheveled in long blonde waves across the pillow, bits of it in strands across her face. How he loved her luxuriously long hair, loved to run his hands down the length of her head, grazing the nape of her neck and landing on the soft fuzz at the top of her spine. Such an intimate place, such a sacred place. It was where he lived inside of her: this gentle curve of bone covered by soft skin and flowing hair.
Her dark brown lashes lay flat against her cheek as she slept. They weren’t curved, but rather straight and very full. She rarely had to wear mascara if she didn’t want to—but of course she always did. Elise slept soundly with her mouth closed most times, a gentle purring coming from inside her. Leon loved that about her, often commenting on it to others who spoke of noisy sleeping spouses. As anxious as Elise could be in everyday life, somewhere in the wee hours of dreamland, she found peace. He wondered what she dreamed about. She never spoke of it, at least not yet. They hadn’t been married that long, after all.
Elise had near-perfect skin, almost entirely without blemish. Her cheeks had a peach-colored glow about them, with pure porcelain surrounding the shell of her tendons, bones, and muscles. She had one scar—a rather unfortunate one—across the small of her back where she had been burned on the flesh between her pants and shirt in a kitchen accident a few years prior. But besides that, her body was not marked at all: no freckles, acne, or moles. She had a rare specimen of marble-like epidermis. Leon occasionally got jealous of her perfection, knowing that his Greek-Irish skin with its olive tones and abounding freckles was no match for this beautiful body. He was grateful that his kids might have a chance to inherit Elise’s body, if he could not.
She began to stir slightly as the light finally broke through the clouds, the lace, and now her eyelids. She smiled a tiny, secretive smile as she moved to re-position her body among the haphazard sheets and blankets surrounding her. Leon wondered what she had been thinking about, what had made her smile as she began to slowly wake. He decided to kiss her. He leaned in and gently brushed her nose with his lips, delicately moving his way toward her still smiling mouth. When his lips touched hers, she opened her eyes, looking at him so near, and sighed in contentment.
“I don’t ever want to get used to this.” She said, kissing him fervently and stroking his stubble with her hand. His eyes glowed a fierce blue, the light from the window illuminating the intensity in his soul.
“I love watching you sleep.”
“You want me to roll back over?” She teased. Leon’s eyes set into her.
“I want you to stay this way forever.”
Elise was shaken to her core at his words, deeply moved by his earnestness and passion. She ran her fingers over his slightly chapped lips, never moving her eyes from his and kissed him again.
“Promise me you’ll love me this much when my body is sagging and my mind is senile.”
“I already do.” He said, with longing.
“The funny thing is, I don’t think you’re lying.” She said, with a little edge of skepticism.
“Why don’t you trust me?” Leon pleaded.
Elise sighed and turned away, lost suddenly. Leon ran his hand through her hair and found that magical spot at the nape of her neck. He stroked it gently, affectionately. She relented.
“No one has ever loved me as much as you do, and it scares me.” She confessed.
“Let me in.” He whispered, breaking down some barrier into her heart once more. How many times would it take? Would he ever fully break the walls down? He resolved that no matter how long it took, he would never stop trying to free her of the prison of doubt that she had surrounded herself with. He would keep pressing into her, keep loving her with all his might, until she believed.
“Hold me.” Elise pleaded. Leon wrapped himself as tightly around her as he could without crushing both of them and held her until her breathing was peaceful, like it was when she slept. He wondered what she was thinking at this moment. He seldom knew what doubts and fears were pulsing through her; he only knew how to calm her, to quell her anxiety until it passed once more.
Leon let the doubt slip away and closed his eyes, finding a pace with her breathing. He inhaled deeply and let the smell of her hair permeate his senses. She really was an exquisite creature, inside and out. She was an unknown territory in need of extensive exploration, which of course Leon was happy to pioneer. He was no fool. He knew that he had won Elise’s heart over by some incredible chance and was thrilled to be the other half of what made her whole.
They were a dynamic team, full of spark and wit, charisma and tenderness, passion and optimism. They were the couple you saw across the room at a party and wished you could be. But in this moment, Leon knew they also had a lifetime’s worth of pain and heartache building one fear at a time, slowly poisoning their intimacy with each other, and it scared him. It scared him that his love might be as fragile as Elise’s porcelain skin; as prone to aging and wrinkles, to burns and scars. A shudder went through him.
“You okay?” Elise asked. Leon swallowed hard as the thought made its way from his mind, leaving a mark in the recesses of his subconscious.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a chill.” He said, covering. Elise turned around and faced him. She ran the fingers of her right hand over his thick eyebrows, down his nose, around his firm jaw line, down his neck over his Adam’s apple, and finally across his clavicle, resting her hand on his shoulder. She stared intensely into his eyes, trying to read them. Elise took a deep breath and slid her hand over his heart, leaving it there.
“I love you.” There was a tear sliding down her cheek. Leon caught it with his thumb.
“I know.” he said. That was all he needed. All the proof in the world. Her hand over his heart, her tears, her words. He kissed her with passion and she returned it, embracing him as they lay entangled in the early morning light, abandoned to all but each other.