The sun had touched down into the ocean. The day was leaving fast, and the beaches were emptying out. The waterfront would take on a different life in the next hour, as it got dark. The smell of suntan oil would be replaced by perfume, and down the strand the sparkle of sun on water would give way to the lights of the Ferris wheel.
Annie took my arm and stopped me. I turned to face her.
“I'm leaving,” she said.
The quiet became absolute. The noise of the street went away completely. There was only the hush, and only her face.
“I know,” I said. “I guess I've always known. You don't have a choice now. Where will you go?”
“Even if I know, I can't say. Not now.”
The pain came then, and stretched the moment out. All of the things that I finally wanted to say seemed pointless now.
“I played so long,” she said. “I need to rest.”
She stood on the sidewalk and looked at me. She was very, very still.
“Will you come back?” I asked.
The twilight painted us blue. Signs and windows were lit softly behind her. It was how I mostly remembered it later, the other colors mixed gently into all of that blue. I suppose that there were traffic noises, and perhaps drifts of music. There must have been the smells of a dry summer, bougainvillea, vanilla, hibiscus, and the ocean underneath all of it. I don’t remember any of that; I only see the watercolor evening.
She pressed something into my hand. I knew without looking down that it was a playing card.
“If I can find my way, I will,” she said. “It’s mostly crumbs… but a pebble, just in case.”
I stood there, afterward, watching the place she had been. The skin on my face stayed warm for a long time where she had kissed it. It was the end, but I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know yet that everything perfect begins with an ending.