He taught me how to read people’s eyes.
Brown for sorrows,
Blue for gold,
Hazel for gallows,
Green for lies told.
I didn’t understand until I was older, coming home on the heels of heartbreak.
“What color were ‘is eyes?” Grandfather asked.
“Brown,” I sobbed, but understood.
My friends thought it was crazy advice.
“Only sadness, riches, death, and deception – what about love?”
“Not for me.”
It could never be that simple.
I met him at the pool, his lean mahogany body slicing through the water next to me.
“You’re fast,” he said when he got out. He wore sleek black swim shorts and goggles with mirrored lenses. The reflection of my towel-wrapped figure stared back at me.
“So are you,” I smiled. My prayer was one word: Blue.
The goggles slipped over his head.
When I emerged from the locker room, he was waiting for me. We walked through campus together. His name was Demetrius, but everyone called him Meter. Studying to be an architect, he pulled out a notebook with things that inspire him: lots of Stanley Kubrick sets and Frank Lloyd Wright, and a surprising M. C. Escher print with a waterfall and steps and layers. He has a flair for the dramatic and innovative, the type of design that would inspire someone to stand still and appreciate a building.
“I never got your name,” Meter said. His hazel eyes mocked me with their happiness. My stomach flipped, and I’ wasn’t sure if it was because of my attraction or my fear of the fate those golden eyes foretold.
“Delaney,” I said. “My friends call me Lane.”
“Meter and Lane, meeting at a pool,” he chuckled. “I better give you this.”
He jotted his phone number on a page in his notebook, and with a gentle tear it separated and I found myself staring at it, taking it, and writing my own number on the now-damaged page.
Meter called me that night. And the next. And the next.
Now we’re swimming by day, dating by night, and I wait for Death.
I feel like I’m wading into the water by Grandfather’s house, where the bank is soft and the river calm. When I leave the ground behind, the river surges around me and I have to stand strong and solid to keep from slipping and floating away in the strong current. I’m like a rock planted, forcing the water to flow around me, but time may loosen and free me.
“Hazel for gallows,” my roommate sing-songs when Meter comes by to study. She sashays out of the room on a cloud of perfume and “I told you so” glances.
“Is she…okay?” Meter tips his head back and mimes pouring one back. I can’t laugh. I have to tell him.
“It was something my Grandfather said about eye color,” I reply.
“You have one of those, too?” Meter says. “My grandmother had a thing with hair color.
“Red is shallow,
Brown is fun,
Blonde is fallow,
Black’s the one.”
“That can’t be true!” I laugh. My hair is like autumn leaves.
“Neither is your grandfather’s rhyme,” Meter kisses me slow and soft. “I love you, Lane. Even if you’re shallow.”
“I love you, Meter,” I say and blink back happy tears.
In the morning, my mother calls. I listen to her as I fight back sobs and scribble times and instructions. I sit on my bed and cry. Meter arrives, worried I missed our daily swim. He sees my face and the shaky scrawl on the notepad. He pulls me into a hug and I am silent as he packs my suitcase, escorts me to the student parking lot, drives to his dorm, and comes back with his duffel bag.
I sob the four-hour drive from school to home, and the only smile I see when I get there is from my mom, realizing that this man I love has taken great pains to get me here.
My eyes are red and puffy on the day of the wake. Meter holds me up as I walk to the coffin.
I’m not prepared for it: his supine state, the fancy suit, his pale cold skin. Worse is the picture of him, ringed by memorial flowers. He’s young and handsome, full of life and so different from the man I knew, with milky eyes and liver spots, hunchbacked and hobbling.
That’s when I notice Grandfather’s eyes were green.
This piece was written for the speakeasy #166 challenge. Word count is 740, under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!