A familiar flash of strawberry blonde curls swept past me in the crowded street and my heart skipped a beat. Acting on its own volition my hand reached out to her, catching us both by surprise. She turned, startled by the touch, confusion creasing her smooth pale skin.
Recognition flashed through her eyes and she stopped suddenly, oblivious to the people streaming past. Her eyes met mine for an instant before glancing down at my hand desperately gripping hers. She silently curled her fingers around mine as I tried to pull away and I felt myself flush; I hadn't thought this far in advance.
Trying not to stare as I burnt the image of her into my memory, I looked her over. She had changed - the freckles scattered across her nose were darker, her hair lighter, dimples deeper. Eight years had blurred the image, but she was still the same woman I saw each time I closed my eyes.
We stood in amongst the crowd, clinging to each other, neither knowing what to say. A light summer breeze blew wisps of hair across her face and I reached out automatically with my free hand, tucking it behind her ear, something I’d done a million times before, done without even thinking. An action so simple, so familiar; a reminder of what was, and what could have been.
As though reading my mind, she averted her gaze. I followed her eyes down to our intertwined hands - to a gold band on her finger, glittering in the sun, gloating over its victory.
"We would never have worked," she said quietly, her words echoing my thoughts. Pain was etched across her pale face as sparkling blue eyes turned dark, searching mine, pleading for absolution.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. She was right; she always had been, and I hated her for that. Holding tight to my hand, not letting me run, she silently implored for something that would not be given.
In a swift movement she gently pulled me towards her. I was close enough to feel her breathe, for her hair to tickle my face, and for her to feel my heart hammering in my chest. Slipping her free hand behind my neck she closed the gap between us and kissed me gently, as though afraid I would break.
I melted into the kiss, aware of people’s glances but not caring. Her familiar taste, the comfortable way her lips fit with mine sent me back in time, craving her in ways eight years absence had previously dulled.
We broke apart, breathing heavily. The sparkle had returned to her eyes and she smiled, if a little ruefully.
“I want you to know I meant it all,” she said softly, so I had to strain to hear, “both then and now, I meant it.” With a final sweet kiss she turned, pressing her lips to my hand before uncurling our tangled fingers.
As I watched her walk away, head bowed with strawberry curls falling around her shoulders, I realised I had not said a word. I didn’t have to; had never needed to. She knew exactly what I felt, what I was thinking. That was the way it had always been. The way it always would be.