by Val Griswold-Ford
Just one. But I have to step alone for the first time.
I’ve never stepped alone – you’ve always been beside me, holding my hand, a devil-may-care grin lighting our way, putting the fluorescent lights above us to shame. Now all I have is the uncaring glow of inanimate bulbs and my way is shadowed, dim, cold.
My hand reaches out automatically, as always, and a painful spasm cramps my knuckles as I grasp nothing but air. My eyes blur – a single tear wets my cheek. Even my sorrow is singular now.
Once again, I look up, look forward, but all I see are stairs mounting into an unknowable future. No one stops to help me; I may as well be invisible, immobile, a vase or a rock, unmoving and unnoticed.
And then, as I hesitate, something warm wraps around me, a quick breath that wipes the tear from my skin and kisses my lips. The same kind of fleeting kiss you always gave when I faltered, when you had to turn back to help me.
“One step,” the breeze whispers in my ear. “One step towards me. You can do it.”
One step. I shift my weight, ready to move.
After all, you won’t wait forever.