The sky is bruised, the clouds a mottled purple. The air tastes of freshly-mown grass. I try to brush the wet blades from my back but the dampness has soaked through my shirt.
Next to me, Lila stirs, then reaches to stroke my forearm.
“Not yet,” she whispers, and I return to the earth, to our patch of backyard. Our elbows brush, an electric force between them, and she hooks her leg around mine. We watch the purple sky fade to black and the silence feels warm, benevolent.
The dry grass is thick, itchy. The heavy summer air presses on my chest; sweat gathers behind my ears. Sounds from the neighbor’s backyard stream through the wooden fence: a sprinkler running, children laughing. Lila presses my right hand to her belly, which has swelled to a noticeable size.
“Can you feel her kicking?”
We stay locked together, my hand tracing lazy circles on the bump of our daughter. A firefly lands on Lila’s red cotton dress. We watch as its light flickers once, twice, shimmering in a kind of blessing to the unborn child.
“Andrew!” Lila calls, insistent, her voice carrying through the open patio door.
Brilliant streams of sunlight cast across the hill. I stay silent. The increasing light has no effect on the cold ground. The damp leaves crunch under Lila’s feet as she approaches. I reach for her hand, trying to pull her down next to me, but she resists.
“I’m late for my appointment,” she says, pulling the leather jacket over her deflated stomach. My chest throbs, and I wait for an invitation to join her, but she remains fixated on her watch.
“I’m already late,” she repeats. I keep my head on the ground. Her upside-down face looks disjointed, unfamiliar.
After she disappears, I stand, brushing the debris from my hair and shirt. Somewhere, a church bell rings. I lose count after twelve distant chimes. I see the outline of my body in the leaves and grass and dirt, the imprint of where both Lila and I used to be, nothing but ghosts in the grass.