What does moonlight sound like?

I feel the gentle vibration of my phone in my back pocket. The small LED screen comes to life with text.

I’m in your driveway

Ready when you are

I slip into a sweater before scrawling a quick note for my parents in case they come back from their monthly dinner date to an empty house. I grab my wallet and house key and step out of the house into the amber-streaked outside world, locking the door behind me.

Cole waves at me from the driver’s seat. I pull open the passenger seat door and he smiles back before giving me a surprise kiss on the forehead.

“Where are we going?” I sign.

“You’ll see,” he signs back, hazel eyes gleaming.

The past year with Cole had been a mix of unplanned excursions and spontaneity–a welcome change of pace to my usual overly protective lifestyle my parents provided me for most of my life. My parents approve Cole, though; I think they were pretty much sold after he started signing along with us when we had him over for dinner one night. He’d practiced for months.

Car rides are always without conversation for the sake of Cole not being able to take his eyes off of the road or his hands off of the steering wheel. The lack of conversation is comforting, though; the two of us have become close enough that there’s no need to fill the air with small talk every moment. His presence is all I need most of the time.

Instead I lose myself in the scenery that rolls by. I watch shadows of trees elongate and the sky fades from amber to rose to violet. I watch as the populated suburbs morph into rolling hills and mysterious forests and green everywhere I look.

The sky is on the verge of navy blue as Cole eases on the break pedal and pulls into a gravel lot big enough for only two or three cars. We bounce around in our seats with the uneven ground.

“We’re here,” he signs.

I’m not exactly sure where “here” is other than a vast empty field covered with unkempt grass dotted with patches of dainty wildflowers. The green seems to extend for miles before it meets the dark blue sky.

We step outside and the cool summer night air brushes across my bare skin. Cole pulls a plaid blanket out from the trunk. He walks toward me and laces the fingers of his free hand with mine. We walk across the grass until the car fades into a blurry red dot.

Cole grabs two corners of the blanket and lets the breeze unfold the rest before laying it down on the grass. We sit with is arm around my shoulder. I run my fingertips over the blanket, age only making it softer. The sky is now on the verge of blackness with stars beginning to poke through the dark. Cole gives my shoulder a gentle squeeze. I turn toward him and he points somewhere to my right to get me to look.

And there it is; a perfect circle with smooth edges and a color that is neither white nor grey, but somewhere in between. It’s glowing and I can’t tear my eyes away. I’ve seen the moon outside my bedroom window, but it was always jabbed with tree branches or rooftops. Here, there is nothing in the way.

He squeezes my shoulder again to interrupt my gaze.

“Full moon tonight,” he says with his hands as he smiles.

The moon illuminates our faces as we shift to face it.

“What does moonlight sound like?” I sign to him. He cocks his head to one side and looks at me, apprehensive.

“What do you think it sounds like?” he signs back at me without a hint of condescension, despite the fact he has functioning ears and is fully aware what the moon actually sounds like.

I consider this for a moment.

“I think it sounds like what a hug feels like,” I sign, “Safe and comforting.”

Cole huddles closer, eyes steady on me and my hands, ready to absorb what I sign next.

“Or maybe it sounds more like the smell of cinnamon,” I continue. “Sweet at first, but also vivacious with a certain sharpness that doesn’t stick out, but blends in. Maybe it sounds like the color blue, calm and tranquil. Maybe it’s more like the taste of apple pie. Home.”

I lower my hands and stare at them and consider what I just said. I slowly raise my head and meet Cole’s gaze, expecting him to look at me like I’m crazy for thinking that moonlight sounds like all of these things. But he doesn’t. He just wears a smile soaked with endearment and I can’t help but smile in return.

I rest my head in the curve where his neck fades into his shoulder. We sit there gazing at the moon, at its magic and mystery and elegance and I wonder how a single sound can capture such a thing.

Then, I figure it out.

“I know,” I sign. “The moonlight sounds like your voice when you speak.”

He smiles at that and I watch his lips move as he says something in his moonlight-sounding voice.

“I love you too,” I sign back to him.

(inspired by a prompt from whynot41: “what does moonlight sound like?”)

The Beginning

The Beginning

“Could you put the forks pointing down when you load the dishwasher?”

My mother gave this seemingly innocent request to my father one evening.

My father gave an unconvincing “Yes honey” in return.

My mother paused, apprehensive, but didn’t say anything. Neither did he. The conversation was over.

But it wasn’t over. It was just the beginning–the beginning of the end.

The next week, my mother agreed with gritted teeth with my father on how much to tip at the restaurant.

The week after, neither of them held back. They weren’t afraid to let the other know that they didn’t agree. Innocent requests turned into criticisms.

Every week after that it was something new. How my father didn’t fold my mother’s shirts correctly. How my mother wouldn’t stop backseat driving. How my father was late coming home that one night she wanted to go out. How my mother rolled her eyes whenever my father cracked a joke.

Months dragged by of my parents making something out of nothing.

 

The Middle

Now it wasn’t an issue of leaving the toilet seat up or having one too many glasses of wine. My father said things like “controlling” and “manipulative.” My mother said things like “lazy” and “impulsive.”

I woke up early one morning before school to find my father sleeping on the couch. I stand there for a minute, taking it in. I leave before he wakes up so he doesn’t know that I know.

My mother curses under her breath whenever she finds something she disapproves that my father does. She thinks I don’t hear her. But I do.

My father took his wedding ring off to do the dishes. All of the forks are pointed down. But he never put his ring back on.

 

The End

“Let’s take road trip,” my mother said one morning. She usually isn’t one for spontaneity, but part of me saw this coming. I knew my mother wanted to take one last trip.

So we drove to the beach, blasting The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel for all 247 miles. We told jokes and made up stories and laughed–really laughed–for the first time in a long time.

At the beach, my father and I ran toward the water and splashed each other and my mother and I collected shells and it was like the past year hadn’t happened.

I sat by the shore, letting the waves caress my toes before retreating back to the ocean. I listened to my parents talk in hushed tones behind me, thinking that I couldn’t hear them. They said things like “Let’s just enjoy today” and “Let’s try not to fight.”

I steal a glance at the two of them sitting side by side on a beach towel. It’s the closest they’ve been to each other in the past year. Their idle hands are pressed into the sand, almost touching. But not quite. They think I don’t know what’s going on. Part of me wished they were right. Part of me wished that I was blind to their deteriorating relationship.

That day the three of us existed in a bubble–an alternate universe in which everything was okay. It was a last hurrah, one final good memory of my parents together.

It was the end.

The end of the end.

 

The Beginning

The next day, everything was real again.

They sat me down with solemn faces and bad news one year in the making.

They said things like “Things will be different from now on” and “It’s for the best.”

“It’s for the best.”

The house was calm after that and for the first time I felt like this wasn’t the end.

It was the beginning.

The beginning of the beginning.