All she could think about were his hands.
Warm, strong, surprisingly big for a man of his height, they were unblemished. She’d always thought that strange. A man who worked with his hands should have some calluses, some signs of the labor they did. It was as if magic protected them from injury, the same magic she felt when they passed over her skin.
His touch was pure magic. It brought life. To the withered wisteria in the garden. To the buildings where he lay block. To the congas he was playing the first time she saw him. Watching his hands make music, with his head thrown back, his eyes closed and his body moving to the beat, her imagination came to life. Her skin was all goose bumps, tingling as if he were playing her with those hands.
She’d wondered what it would like to be his instrument, to feel the music and magic flow from his touch through her body. What sounds would he evoke from her? What variation of touch and rhythm would he use to make her sing?
The reality made her fantasies fade, like the moon before the rising sun.
Five years later, the images still tracked her, chased her, pounced on her in moments of weakness. She’d answer the phone at work and stutter as she pictured his hand taking the phone from hers as his mouth closed on the back of her neck. She’d reach for her shoes and get lost in the thought of his hands rubbing her toes, her heel, the sensitive spot on her arch.
In moments of strength, she indulged her imagination, remembering his hands on her body. Her own touch was a poor substitute for his, but it brought her release. Not the melting ecstasy he could create with the tip of one finger, but a temporary respite from need.
“How do you do that?” she’d asked a hundred times.
“Magic,” he’d said every time with no hint of a smile.
None of the men she’d met since had magic hands. She’d be drawn to a lazy smile on this one’s face, a spark of humor in that one’s eyes, an air of heat and urgency surrounding yet another, but their touch always left her cold. She never gave them a second chance.
After they broke up, it was his hands she’d missed most. Not the green eyes that turned icy with fury when she disagreed with him. Not the mouth that spit vile insults at her when she’d threatened to leave the first time she found another woman’s fingers laced in his dark curls… and again the second time, when she’d let herself into his apartment unannounced and found him between a stranger’s thighs.
No, his hands were the best part of him.
How strange to think he’d never touch her again. No, not strange. Unreal. In five years she never quite believed it.
She’d always imagined them together one more time. They’d see each another through the smoke of a bar and meet on the dance floor, a slow tune throbbing too loud from the speakers. They’d collide on a street corner in the rain, their umbrellas getting mangled and forgotten as they embraced. She’d be thrown into his lap by a sudden stop of the subway train and her legs would become too weak to stand as the bone melted away in the heat of her desire for him. Every scenario ended the same way: clothes disarranged or torn away, walls shaking with their cries of pleasure, her body alive again with the magic of his touch, so alive it became almost painful, explosions of ecstasy, joy, hope.
She’d never let herself go beyond the hope. In fact, she avoided even that emotion. She knew after hope would come disappointment, then jealousy, then fear. Finally, sorrow and loss. She couldn’t go through that again.
She’d never run into him, though they knew the same people and went to the same clubs and stores. In New York City, that wouldn’t be unusual, but they lived in a small college town, where it should have been statistically impossible for them not to run into one another at least once in the five years since she left him.
Of course, statistics are meaningless in the presence of magic, she’d decided. And a man with magic hands might be able to bend the rest of the universe to his will as easily as he’d wrapped her around his strong, perfect pinky.
“He’ll never touch me again,” she said aloud, her voice tentative and unsure. She looked at herself in the mirror and straightened her shoulders without thinking as she stared herself in the eyes.
“He will never touch me again,” she said again, louder and more firmly, daring her reflection to contradict her.
The third time’s the charm, she thought and said, “He will never touch me again.” Her voice broke and she had to swallow hard to regain her composure. Her eyes flooded and her face felt hot. She leaned against the tile wall to cool it.
It was the five-year anniversary of their breakup. When she’d seen his smiling face in the newspaper above an engagement announcement, she’d wondered if he’d chosen May 6 deliberately. Maybe he’d wanted to give the date happy associations after five years of painful ones.
Now she pictured him whitewashing over the black spot on his memory that had been labeled “The Worst Day of My Life: The Day She Left Me,” leaving the space clean for “The Day I Married the Real Love of My Life.” She laughed at the melodrama and washed her hands.
The blood came off quickly, with a little soap, warm water and elbow grease. She watched it swirl down the drain, pink suds becoming white.
She’d been surprised how little he bled when she planted the butcher knife in his chest. Must be bleeding internally, she’d thought. She’d smelled the cold steel and the faint copper of his blood penetrate the fog of alcohol that surrounded him. He’d been sleeping off a tequila drunk, probably from his bachelor party, and never heard her let herself in with the spare key he’d always kept inside the fake rock along the walkway. He sure woke up quick when she stabbed him, although not for long. He looked pissed off at being awakened, even as he grabbed the knife almost by reflex. For a split second she thought he would pull it out and fling it into her chest in pure fury. Then comprehension hit and his eyes met hers with the beginning of a question, a question that died with him before the words reached his lips.
“You’ll never touch me again,” she’d told him as she watched the light fade from his eyes. How calm she’d been. “You’ll never touch anyone again.”
After a few seconds, he twitched and sucked in a last thick breath, like he was breathing mud. His body relaxed into death, deflated with a sound that was a cross between a shudder and a sigh.
She turned off the water and left the bathroom. She stood over him, looked at his splayed body for a moment, then moved in closer to examine his hands. Perhaps she’d take them with her, keep them as talismans of love and passion. He didn’t need their magic any more.
They were smaller somehow. They looked so ordinary, soft and pale. Like an accountant’s hands. And there, on the side of his ring finger, where his wedding ring would have been in twelve more hours, a shallow cut, fresh and filled with congealing blood. He’d sliced his finger on the butcher knife, she realized, when he grasped it.
Poor baby, she thought. All the magic must have leaked out then.
She let herself out of his house, locked the door behind her and replaced the key. The darkest part of the night concealed her as she walked down the tree-lined street and around the corner, then three short blocks to the 24-hour grocery store where her car was parked beside a dozen others.
She was unlocking her car door when her hands started shaking. She watched the keys fall to the asphalt and the jingle seemed to come from far away. She was leaned against the car and rode the waves of dizziness that hit her like a tsunami.
“Hey, are you all right?” A man’s voice close by her ear gave her a focal point in the swirling darkness and she looked into the most beautiful golden-brown eyes she’d ever seen. They glowed in the halogen parking lot lights with concern and something else, something she was sure must be magic.
(Approx. 1450 words)
I wrote this story about 10 years ago. I hope you enjoyed it.