She left Him asleep. His sweat was still drying on her skin as she tip-toed across His bedroom to a table laden with books. There was a large one on the blotter – something the size and thickness of a keepsake album. He stirred, and she looked back at His sleeping form, still naked.
And still lovely.
She sighed and opened. There were photos of a woman, older and paler than her, but still beautiful. She saw every secret fold and and hollow, the familiar bruises that purpled her own limbs. She flipped through quickly. As the subjects changed, bile rose in her throat. Her jealousy tasted salty and acid, not bitter.
Another woman, this one with a ring that matched the one He still wore.
She was shorter, with a solid body He slowly broke down into something softer, more malleable – something undeniably His. His handprints were all over her even when she was dressed, pulsing softly underneath the cloth. Her face became steadily brighter as time went by, and most improbably, the lines around her eyes and mouth faded into a smile that got steadily broader…
Then, there was nothing. Just a glossy lock of her chestnut hair, a hospital bracelet with her name on it and no more photos – just page after page of empty space. Realization made her chest contract.
He snatched the book out of her trembling fingers. His face was set in stone, but His eyes were soft.
“This is not for you.” He opened a drawer, threw the book in and slammed it shut. The lock clicked and she knew she would never see those faces again. She also knew that he had counted on her to look, and was pleased that she hadn’t failed Him.
There was another keepsake album on the blotter, underneath the old one. It was bound in evergreen leather, embossed in a beautiful leaf motif traced with silver. It looked like something she might’ve chosen…if her taste was more refined. He took her hand in His and traced the letters that were embossed in the leather. His new name for her.
He whispered it in her ear. It was a sigh, heavy with tenderness.
When she looked back at Him, her eyes were luminous with adoration.