The loft wasn't supposed to be a storage room for Giovanni’s things. It just evolved into one. Each anniversary, she would pack away his summer things, and they celebrated one more year of them, together, one loving one, them, loving them. He would laugh at her.
“All things are temporal, Kathleen Katy-bear,” he’d say, combining her birth name with the pet name he’d given her. “What we have is priceless. The things you’re stowing away can never compensate for the memories in our hearts.”
Then, he would take her into his arms. “Come sleep with me,” he’d say, taking her mind off the task she was doing. He would stress the present moments as he pounded into her body. Her screams of delight and his groans of pleasure, as he released his semen, had him falling on top of her after their climax, whispering words between breaths, as he pecked her ears, her neck, and her cheeks, planting tiny kisses in the aftermath. “This is significant, Katy-bear,” he’d say. “Nothing is more important than this. My lips on your lips. The warmth of our mouths as we explore each other, me pressing you close to my body letting you feel the heat you’ve generated in me. Only that counts, Katy-bear."
Kathleen sat holding his jacket in her arms. Three years had passed, but his aroma was still present like yesterday.
Tears covered her face as she unpacked. She was on the last box before the Salvation Army came to pick up his clothing. She gave them a call after he appeared to her in a dream. He’d admonished her for dishonouring their love by not remembering the sweet golden moments.
The smiles when they were both thinking about the same things, the hugs when she accidentally asked a question that pointed out an error in the planning of his next mission, or the late-night walks where she gathered stones and put them in her pockets, and he would remind her those stones were like him. Each time that he returned she collected the broken pieces of his soul and put them back together again. In the evenings, he would take her in his arms and hug her tightly, and say, "Let's go upstairs, I need you." And upstairs, they went and made passionate love with the full realisation each time could be their very last.
It happened. They both knew the time had come. Yet, Giovanni’s death came too soon. He was too young.
What do I do now? Even though I was older, you understood me. What do I do now, Giovanni?
"I hate you, Giovanni!” Kathleen cried out. “You and your honour for your country. Why did you have to go on that particular mission? Why couldn’t you let someone else volunteer? No one misses you as much as I do," she screamed.
Her tears flowed heavily; mucus ran out her nose, and her hands trembled as she pulled the things out of the last box and threw them on the mountain before her.
She picked up the jacket she mistakenly threw back into the box.
I'll keep this jacket. It smells of you.
She put her left arm into the left sleeve. Something solid in the left pocket of the jacket touched her hip bone. Reaching into the pocket, she pulled out a flat, jagged key.
NaNu, what do you open?
With the key in her hand, her gaze went to the box, and that’s when she saw the dark mahogany chest. She lifted the chest out of the box sat down on the floor; her back to the mountain of clothing.
Where did you come from? Why would Giovanni buy a chest?
Her hands trembled; the key shook as she put it into the lock.
She hoped the key wouldn’t fit. All her beautiful bubbles of their seven-year relationship could suddenly burst into thin air.
Laughter filled the loft.
Giovanni, are you here?
“Don't be afraid Katy-bear. Turn the key!”
Her heart beats became irregular; her chest ached.
People will think I’m insane if I tell them I heard Giovanni’s voice.
Her eyes grew large when she raised the chest top. Within were seven mid-size diaries, and she took out the first one.
Leaning against her mountain, she opened the journal and began to read the first page. She burst out in laughter. “You sneak!” She yelled out joyfully for the first time in three years. Her tears forgotten, she began to read aloud.
“Words for you, Katy-bear. Invisible conversations I’ve had with you on each mission. Each diary records my present moments when you weren’t there. I love you, Katy-bear. Always have, always will. Love is eternal.”
The anguished and inner turmoil she’d suffered, eased. The pain in her chest disappeared.
Yes, love is eternal.
Sitting by the box in her loft, her back against the mountain of Giovanni’s clothes, Kathleen read as she slipped over into eternity to be with her Giovanni.