“The day did not turn out how I imagined.”
The Washington Monument shone in the distance, blinking its twin red eyes into the night sky. She pulled the jacket he’d let her borrow closer around her.
“No, it didn’t,” she replied, her eyes intent on the reflecting pool. They sat on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, watching the planes go by.
Everything had gone wrong.
They’d met up too late and taken the Metro during rush hour, so they hadn’t been able to converse for all the people squeezing between them. His card had been declined when they’d gone to a restaurant, and he’d spent 45 minutes on the phone with the credit card company. She’d picked the wrong shoes for walking and ended up buying herself a pair of flip-flops. The museum they’d most wanted to visit was closed for maintenance. At day’s end, they decided to buy hot dogs and watch the sun go down at the Lincoln Memorial.
He shivered beside her but didn’t get any closer. They were alone and the silence was occasionally cut by the distant roar of jet engines. The stars twinkled in the autumn cold, but she was warmer than she’d been in years.
She walked to the reflecting pool but he didn’t follow. He brushed his hand on the marble where she’d been sitting, feeling her warmth. She didn’t see.
She bowed over the edge of the pool and dipped her fingertips in the water. She got goosebumps at the water’s cold. Only when he put his palm on the back of her neck did her nipples harden.
“What were you humming? It’s beautiful.” His voice was welcome gift in that silence. She dried her fingertips on her jeans. He followed her every movement as she tugged her shirt over her belly button and tucked her hair behind her ear. When she finally looked at him, his lower lip trembled.
“Chivalry’s not everything it’s cut out to be, is it? We can go now, if you like.”
He ran his fingers through his hair, then shook his head.
“No. I really like it here. It has the same atmosphere as a temple.”
She looked at the pale ghost of Lincoln and the Potomac flowing past in the dark. “I never told anyone, but that’s exactly what I thought the first time I came,” she said. He chuckled. She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. When I first visited the memorial.”
A cold gust blew in from the river and fractured the surface of the pool. He wrapped his arms around himself. Before she could talk herself out of it, she unzipped the jacket and wrapped it round both of them. He stood stock still for a couple of endless seconds, then wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer.
She tucked her face into the crook of his shoulder and he shivered from head to toe. She held him closer, rubbing his back through his shirt. His muscles tightened, so she stopped. One of his arms moved higher, to her rib cage. It made her nipples ache again.
“Seriously – what song were you humming earlier?” His grip tightened and their hips touched. She stirred his hair as she sang a melancholy love song in his ear. Her voice was soft… private.
“I really love… that,” he said. Her face was suddenly kissing-close. He didn’t know dark eyes could be so luminous. He shivered again, but stepped out of her arms. She exhaled and her arms remained extended for two heartbeats before she let them fall to her side. Her face flashed a hurt he couldn’t miss, even in the dark.
She wrapped herself tightly in the coat. Her skin shone golden in the sodium lamplight.
“I think we should call it a night,” she said, her voice remote.
He bobbed forward and grabbed her forearm a bit tighter than he meant to.
“If there’s any day to end with a stiff drink, it’s this one. What say you?”
She balked, but he pulled her toward the memorial for one last look. His sudden warmth was promising.
“You know what? I’d like that.”
“It’s done, then. We’ll grab a cab to any bar you suggest.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea? Nothing I’ve suggested has gone well today,” she said.
He laced his fingers through hers. “Our luck may change… the night is young.” The moon was rising over the river.
“It just might.” She grasped his hand tighter.
This time, he didn’t let go.