Matches

By Emma Woodhead

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It was cold out. The wind was harsh against their skin, but the couple didn’t mind. The fire in their hearts kept them distracted. They didn’t speak. They couldn’t find any peaceful words to express, so they remained silent.


Communication was never Lucian’s forte, and now it snuck up behind him for revenge. He glanced at Alice, who was leaning against the wall next to him. Lucian stood up straight, not wanting to lean on it anymore, being it was hard and cold against his back, but also because he didn’t want to be in the same position as Alice. A petty move on his part, but he did it anyway.


Lucian glanced up to see that it was starting to snow. Driving home will be even worse now. He glanced over at the car that was suffering from a dead battery. The two of them couldn’t catch a break. He rolled his shoulders, feeling the stress knots in his shoulder constrict. He’s had them for about a week now, and no matter how many hoops he jumped through, they wouldn’t go away.


The wind started to blow again, and he pulled his scarf up to cover his neck and cheeks the best he could. Alice had gotten him the scarf when they visited Russia together last year. It was the warmest thing he had. Lucian never handled the cold weather gracefully, unlike Alice, who always was unaffected by the weather.


He found himself reaching into his pocket and pulling out a pack of cigarettes, already opened, and six were missing from it. He took one out swiftly and placed it to his lips before putting it back in his pocket only for his hand to come out with a pack of matches. Alice watched without saying anything or moving from her position. Lucian opened the matches to find only one left, just his luck. He had lost his lighter earlier that day and stole the box of matches from the hostess’s podium at the restaurant they were visiting. He tried his best to strike the game, but due to the wind, it didn’t work.


Alice then moved for the first time, pulling a lighter out of her jacket pocket and ignited the flame. The smoker stared at it for a moment before bending over to it, the cigarette still on his lip. Before he got there, Alice stopped the flame.


”I didn’t know you picked up smoking.”


Lucian sighed and stood back up, taking the cigarette from his mouth. ”There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.”


”It will kill you.”


“We are all dying. Might as well speed up the process.”


There is a silence between the two of them. It is long, too long, making them both uncomfortable with their silence.


”When I get stressed, sometimes I like to have a smoke. It’s not a crime,” Lucian stated, his voice indifferent to the confession he just made.


”Is that why you’ve been so angry recently?”


He shrugged his shoulders. That wasn’t the response Alice was hoping for, but it was the best she could get at the moment.


”You have to take care of yourself.”


”I am.”


”You’re not.”


Alice was right, there was no denying it, and Lucian knew, so he surrendered again to the silence. He had stress knots on his shoulders, back, and neck that wouldn’t go away. He smoked six cigarettes in the past twenty-four hours, which didn’t seem like a lot, but when you had never smoked before, it was. He’s been up all hours of the night in his office, and he started to form a habit of skipping meals to meet deadlines and living on a diet of anti-migraine pills to help him focus.


”Work has been busy,” Lucian confessed, twiddling the cigarette in his fingers. “I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed.”


”That is why you have me.”


He nodded, at a loss of words for a moment. He’s still getting used to having someone care about him the way Alice did.


”Start talking to me more,” Alice said. “You don’t have to take this all on by yourself.”


“I’m still not used to being able to talk to people. It’s hard.”


”Like everything, it takes practice.”


Alice held the lighter out again to the smaller man and started the flame. Lucian places the cigarette back on his lips and leans forward again but is met with the same fate of the flame going out. Alice then held her hand out, causing Lucian to sigh and take the cigarette pack out of his pocket. Be placed the box in her hand, and once she had a secure hold on them, she starts the flame again for the man to enjoy his last cigarette.


Lucian took a long inhale of the cigarette, holding the smoke in his lungs before exhaling it, feeling the burn in his throat as he closes his eyes and leans back against the wall.


A smile started to grow on his face. His lighter was in his pocket when they arrived at the restaurant and was gone when they were leaving.


He had a feeling he knew who took them.


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