One Autumn, a long time ago:

"This is why it's so bad," he says, collapsing, heaving, on top of me. His voice hot in my ear, his words like ice in my heart.

Why is it bad?

"There's no balance, no brakes. You can do anything you want to me, and I you. We don't need to talk, we just go on instinct. It's too much. It's like an overloaded circuit. It's wrong."

It's only wrong if you make it wrong.

"All I know is that I can't go on this way. It's too overwhelming. It's too good. We're too young to deal with these issues. I'm too young, at any rate."

You're not my first lover, that's true. Are you telling me that if you had these sorts of experiences with a girl, you wouldn't feel this way?

"No. I'm saying that I wouldn't feel this way at all with a girl. I wouldn't have these kinds of experiences. I wouldn't feel this way at all."

So what happens now?

"This is the last time for us," he says, still naked, still beautiful, still mine, "After today, we're just friends, all right? You know I love you, but ... I just can't do this anymore. It's not right. This is why everyone says what we do is bad and wrong. We could spin out of control, addicted to one another. Nothing could hold us back."

Your call. I think you're wrong, but I can't make you do anything you don't want to do. I also think you're punishing yourself for making yourself feel so happy simply because of who it is you're making yourself happy with. But what do I know, we're too young. Edge of seventeen, and all that bullshit.

"So now it's bullshit, huh? We're not adults yet. We don't control our own destinies yet. Well, you're almost there, but I'm a year behind you. If anyone found out ... no one can find out if there's nothing to find out. We've come too close before."

Which is why we always come here. To our little grove of aspen. *sigh* How will you feel twenty years from now?
I look up, above him on top of me. The leaves are falling, falling, falling like lover's tears gently shed. Reaching up, past his beautiful face, I catch one. Take the stem, trace it down his spine...

"Stop that," he says, quietly, muffled words in my collarbone, his unshaven chin rasping on my skin like a cat's tongue, "you're making me dizzy for you again."

This is the last time. I promise.

One Winter, twenty years from then

"I thought I'd find you here," he says, still beautiful, but no longer mine. The years have been kind to him. Or my feelings are being kind to him. Either way,
he is beautiful.

Of course I'm here. This is the only place. Looks different in the winter though. Pity we never came here during winter.

"I just want you to know," he starts hesitantly, "that I..."

Don't. You don't have to say anything. I understand more than you know. Let's just remember the things that happened here, and leave it at that.

"I can't do that. You wanted to know how I'd feel, twenty years later. I'm going to tell you."

You were afraid of failure. That the life you had planned for yourself would never come to be if you were with me. That you'd never make it as a professional athlete. You'd never get the gold. But you didn't anyway. You got married. You live in a smaller town than this one now. You failed anyways.

"That's not it at all," angrily he spits his words at me, his eyes pools of bottomless jade glaring into me. Twenty years since I've seen him and he can look past all of those years and see the boy that took an aspen leaf and traced it down his spine. He does it effortlessly. Because I let him in. "You don't get it do you? Everyone thinks they're afraid of failure. Not me. Success is what terrifies me. Don't you remember I told you I needed some brakes? Something to put a check on myself? You wouldn't have done that. You couldn't have done that. But she can, and has, and I'm happy. Much happier than I would have been if we had continued, I had made it, only to have the world find out about us and rip it, rip YOU, away from me. Neither of us would have survived."

I suppose so. I was willing to try. But we were just kids. She doesn't know any of this, does she?

"Of course not. I don't know how I'd make her understand. You were the first and the last, you know. I've never cheated on what we had. I hope you believe me."

I think I can do that. I can't say the same you know. I have him now. It's not the same as you and I, not even close. Every relationship is different, every love is different. I let go of you, and you didn't come back, and I moved on. So there we are.

He comes around to stand behind me, and his arms slip around my waist, no different than it was then, that final fall. His breath is still hot on my neck, and his words still slip into my heart like a dagger made of ice-cold diamond. "She doesn't know how much I need this," he whispers, "and she never will. She doesn't have to, this is for us," and then he's kissing me, just like nothing ever happened, just like when we were kids. And I let him.

I look up, at the sky. Overcast, the sky is gray. The first snowflakes begin to fall, coating our hair with a fine layer of snowy dandruff. I get dizzy all over again. I remember everything about him.

And then

For Chras4 ... with apologies for taking so long.