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Romance. (C) 1999 Martin Horton.

She stands with her toes over the edge of the cliff. Her eyes are closed, playing with memories of wormwood and blue liquor, of dancing at the Festival of the Dead amidst paper-mache skulls in the warm Mexican rain, and the glittering image of David with his wet lips smiling at her with his hair full of origami delights and a grin of enduring love. Below her the sea waits, grey and flecked with white foam horses. One step and it is done. Just one more step, one more step to seal the perfect romance. The wind blowing across the English Channel flattens her hair against her forehead and she runs her fingers down her cheeks. She can smell salt and the sweat of her love, lying on a beach somewhere over the horizon with the sun dripping through his long eyelashes. She opens her eyes and thanks the waxing moon for the life she has led. Luna winks in return. She knows indifference is worst. Romantic tragedy is best.

Her thigh muscles tense as she prepares to take the step to end all misery and to cement herself as a fossil in the limestone below. She hopes that some lonely wanderer might find her remains in the rock, and chip away at her bones to release her scent and suck in the perfume of things that some believe cannot exist in this world of rain and disappointment.

She drinks the tears of a father as he cradles his first-born. She remembers times of cocaine vampirism and Amsterdam nights, of furtive sex with orange pith stuck between her teeth. And the little porcelain drummer boy dancing around the fire beneath the Oak tree on the first occasion that she tasted David?s lips. The back of her throat tingles with flakes of Cress and Lavender. She takes a step forward.


She halts, one foot hanging over the edge of the cliff. The sea frowns, nothing more than disappointment of thwarted expectation. The clouds sigh, gulls swoop low over her head like confetti at a wake, and her lover, on that beach thousands of miles away, buries his fingers in the hot sand and wishes that any moment now he will feel her cool blue shadow falling upon him.

?Please wait.?
She takes a step back and turns to face the call. A fat man in an ill-fitting suit, covered with mud and hay, staggers towards her and slides to a halt at a safe distance. He bends over, hands on his knees, catching his breath. ?Please,? he wheezes. ?Please.?

?Yes?? she asks.

He lifts his heavy head. ?Please don?t do this.?

She smiles. ?You don?t even know me.?

He tries to say something but emphysema strangles his reply. ?Please,? he squeaks.

She shakes her head and looks at the man, the buttons of his suit hanging by threads like an excuse for cheap grief. ?I know you followed me.?

He nods, spitting chalk and gin into the dirt.

She tilts her head slightly. ?Why did you do this?? Fingers from the sea pull at her neck. Come, come to me. Come sleep in the pouch of a Sea Horse.

He coughs again, lifts himself up, and self-consciously straightens his tie. ?Because I don?t understand why you want to die. I don?t,? he coughs, ?understand why you feel you have to do this.?

?Because,? she replies, ? I have tasted love, the purest love, perfect moments.?

He bares his teeth. ?So you?ve been in love. Haven?t we all. Why end it? Why now??

She lowers her gaze. ?Because nothing ever endures.? She cocks an eyebrow. ?Best finish while you?re ahead, yes??

He shakes his head.

She takes a step backwards. ?Don?t cry.?

He shakes his head and buries his face in his hands. ?I don?t understand.? He begins to weep, weighty tears of true anguish.

?You will,? she replies.

She steps back with arms open wide, her wedding gown fluttering like the torn wings of a dishevelled angel, and falls to her death with a smile of crystallised joy.

The fat man sobs. An enormous tear rolls down his jaw. He looks up at the sky and howls, and hesitates to remember things in his own life that are not yet lost. And with that remembrance, and in spite of himself, he begins to live. To live and to forget.
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