Water drips from upper branches, the wet canopy of the forest, following temporary paths from leaf to branch to leaf to twig to leaf, gravity-fed rivulets filling the backyard frog pond.
Soon, the creaking doors of tree frogs will fill the woods with sound.
A morning lullaby.
A sweet echo of last night when angels filled the room into which he floated unexpectedly.
He’s an artist, a Wanderer of the capital kind.
His performances are almost legendary, remembered by the few for whom he creates artwork of their lives.
Crafted happiness out of thin air.
Spending weeks prepping a moment so that when he enters a room, the one person for whom he plies his trade fills with joy, leaping with elation, chasing his whispery shadow as he disappears, floating out of the room again on paper wings.
She calls his name.
She flies around the house asking her guests, “Am I going crazy? Did I just see an apparition?”
He stands behind a door, turning it on its quiet hinges as he sneaks small bites of a delicious birthday cupcake at 12:30 in the morning.
She pounds on a closed bathroom door across the hall from him, sure he is hiding there when a woman inside protests, “Hey, Shelmi, it’s me.”
“Oh, sorry, I’m looking for Lee….
“Lee! Lee! Where are you? I know you’re in the house. I know I saw you. I know I’m not imagining things.” She runs upstairs, her bare feet padding on the wood floors above him.
Lee waits to reenter the stage, giving his audience of one just enough time to question her sanity.
He steps into the hallway and walks around a corner, looking at a whiteboard where the host and her guests have written their cosplay aliases next to their real names. He picks up a green marker and contemplates which column to enter his name, either Angels or Demons.
Under Angels, he scrawls, “Lee says hello!” just as her voice reaches him from the stairwell.
He starts to run away but stops at her loving inquiry when she makes eye contact.
His heart melts instantly.
For whom was this performance planned?
She rushes down the stairs and leaps into his arms, the two of them locked in a loving embrace.
No one else has ever hugged him like her. He has never let anyone hug him like her, never let someone hold onto him for dear life, afraid to give himself completely, afraid to let his guard down, even to his wife of 30 years and lovers to whom he given his deepest thoughts.
They didn’t have to say a word.
She’d told Lee more than once his hugs were the best.
He whispered in her ear, “I’d spin you around but I might knock over the giant model rocket that says, ‘Will you marry me?'”
She whispered even more quietly, “Spin me.”
He wrapped his hands around her waist and spun in place.
She locked her legs behind his back and held on.
Both of them unsteady, he drunk with love, she a little tipsy from a night of drinking at her birthday party, they almost fell over.
Knowing how many times they had fallen on the floor, she unlocked her ankles and let her legs fall freely as he spun faster, sending her legs outward, creating a balancing effect.
How long did he spin?
He doesn’t remember, seconds are like minutes with her.
He set her down on her feet and she looked up to him with loving eyes.
They wanted to kiss.
They almost kissed.
Instead, she leaned toward him and hugged him even tighter.
“I’ve been worried about you. You vanished. Nothing from you for weeks now.”
He nodded as he rubbed his chin on her pink wig. “I know.”
“Should I have worried about you?”
“Probably. But I think I’m okay now.”
She buried her face in his chest, squeezing him as tight as she could. “I sent you an email but it bounced back. You really must have wanted to be gone.”
“You know I do that sometimes.”
“I know. But I still worry.”
She relaxed her grip, pulled her head back and looked up at him.
He was in love all over again. He memorised her face, her rosy cheeks, her green eyes, the yellow rim around her pupils.
“You’re wearing contact lenses?”
“Yes. You like ’em? They’re part of the costume.”
He held her cheek in his hand as leaned in closer. “I love them. The yellow circles make half-moon shadows in your eyes.”
He dove through the yellow circles and swam into her core being.
She ran her hands across his back. “By the way, I like your paper wings.”
“Thanks. I made them just before I came here.”
She waited for him to kiss her, their faces getting closer.
She whispered to him, “Do you want something to drink?”
He knew she knew he needed to relax a little, rubbing the tense spots in his back muscles with her fingertips.
A person stepped into their peripheral vision. “Oh, hey, Shelmi! There you are. Thanks for the great birthday party. I think we’re going to leave now.”
Shelmi let go of Lee’s waist and locked her right hand in his left, claiming Lee as the boyfriend he’d always been to her, telling her guest publicly that Lee was hers and her alone.
“Thanks, Gina. It was great having you.”
She let go of Lee’s hand to hug Gina goodbye.
Lee took the moment of Gina’s distraction to step around the corner and find something to drink.
He could either drink alcohol, stay a while and let the night play out, just the two of them, their spouses asleep, content that Lee and Shelmi were responsibly free adults, or drink a carbonated soda and disappear into the night as quietly as he had entered…
Which final scene did he want to add to this night’s performance?