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When You Loved Me
by Paula Shablo
When you loved me, it never mattered that I couldn’t face the sun. You agreed to drive us to the top of the mountain so we could descend it from East to West in the early morning.
When you loved me, it never bothered you that even so, I was covered from head to toe to protect myself from the penetrating light. Huge floppy hat, long sleeves, and gloves in the summer heat never phased you; you sought my eyes behind the dark, dark lenses, and smiled.
You were a man who loved the sunshine, but you spent so much of your time with me in the darkness—moonlit picnics, midnight walks on the beach, dancing on the patio once the sun had set.
The morning on the mountain was one I faced in fear, but I can never forget the beauty of the day.
The sun burned through the back of my shirt until you figured out just where to walk so I could remain in your shadow as we moved down the path. I longed to hold your hand, but that was impossible; I had to walk ahead and in shadows to finish the hike unscathed. When you loved me, you never minded walking behind.
Birds sang, and sunlight filtered through the ever-moving leaves on the trees, creating a dazzling display of dancing sparkles on the dew-wet grass and flowers. The dense growth of trees on either side of the path further protected me from any onslaught of damaging rays, and even through the dark lenses of my sunglasses, I reveled in the beauty of shifting patterns of light and shadow.
When you loved me, I dared to walk in daylight. When you loved me, it was worth the risk.
When you loved me, you found ways to include me in a life that had previously been filled with outdoor work and sports. You built shelters; you hunted for gigantic umbrellas; you bought the best sunscreens and sunglasses. When you loved me, you found ways to keep me safe.
When you loved me, I sat in screen tents wearing one or the other of the many huge and floppy hats you found for me, watching you play baseball or soccer. I slathered on enormous amounts of sunscreen and dressed in clothing meant for the coldest of winters and covered my head and carried ridiculously huge umbrellas to get from the house to the car, and from the car to the club.
When you loved me, it was easy to carry another set of clothing to wear once we were indoors. Your friends may have wondered why you bothered at all with such a troublesome woman. I saw how they watched my transformations with curious eyes; saw them bite back the questions they longed to ask. When you loved me, you never noticed that at all.
When you loved me, you went out of your way to schedule most of our outings at night, even when you would have rather been out in the sunlight.
That was the reason I suggested the hike. When you loved me, it seemed to me you gave up so much of what made you who you were. I was afraid to give up much myself—who I am is not negotiable, and accommodating a daylight lifestyle is not an easy thing for me. But I wanted so much for you to know that when you loved me, it was reciprocated. I know loving me is not an easy thing.
And so, we drove to the top of the mountain, and we hiked down. I led the way, and your shadow protected me, much like you always protected me in my vulnerable times. I breathed in the rich odors of earth and pine, flowers and wood. I laughed at the antics of the squirrels and stared in amazement at the deer and rabbits that crossed our path.
When you loved me, it was my greatest pleasure to hear your rich baritone voice raised in joyful song while we walked. Even while you walked away from the sun, instead of up the mountain and into its brilliant glow, you were happy to be with me.
I will never regret the risks. I will never regret the beautiful day—the marvelous path, man-made, but so natural, the birdsong, the wildlife. I will always remember your brilliant smile, your song, your sweet, sweet kisses and the strength of your arms as you held me tightly. Time passed too quickly while we waited for Ignacio to bring the van.
Back inside, back to the darkness, back to the night. Being in your arms was never sweeter.
I made my decision while you slept. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make.
To one who lives for the night, morning always comes too soon, but it was cruelly quick in coming the day after the hike. Kissing you goodbye was worse than dying.
I know that pain all too well. Believe me. Kissing you goodbye was worse.
I knew I could never take you away from daylight.
Even when you loved me, I knew I must take flight while you were away.
I could have made you what I am—a creature of the night. I could have kept you with me forever. Perhaps you would have grown to love the darkness.
Reputation would lead most to believe me selfish. Perhaps I am, but … no.
I know who you are. I know you are meant for the sun. When you look up into the sky, your face glows with appreciation. Your skin is kissed by the light, and I don’t ever wish to see it grow pale, washed out by night.
When you loved me, really loved me, even knowing what I am … I knew it would have to end this way.
Because, you see, I really loved you, too.
This is probably as close as I will ever come to writing a vampire story. It’s not that I don’t like vampire stories; Barnabas Collins gave my seven-year-old self such chills that no other vampire can ever take his place in my heart! No, the genre lives on, and I do enjoy it, but until today, I never was inspired to go down that path. Heck, I’ve barely gone down it now.
She didn’t even mention blood.
Oh, well. Love is weird.
Visit Paula at her blog and follow her! https://pshablo.blogspot.com/