I bring her to my apartment. It's not her first time, but is her first time under this context.
I am holding her hand loosely, the wind blowing between our fingers. Every now and then she squeezes them, my fingers between hers. Our hands are cold. Hers feels like plastic in mine, hard and taut, like something that shouldn't be attached to an arm.
The lights from the cars fall so wide and bright tonight, as though they are on extra special alert. I spend most of the walk squinting, thinking to say something to Marianne about this, but then think, how crazy that would sound?
I do not know how fast we're walking until I look at Marianne, mouth open, blowing little white puffs from between her lips. Her pony tail bounces, side to side, cocky like it knows what it's doing.
I stop then, right in the middle of the sidewalk, and she continues to move until my arm stretches but goes no further. She turns, her sneakers scraping on the sand left behind when the ice melted. I pull her to me, wrap my arms around her, feeling the warmth beneath her jacket. I want her to give up now, say she understands, smile and then head back to the train station. She will call later and we'll laugh. I'll drink a beer and listen to the music behind her voice that plays in her dorm room, the commotion in the hallways.
I'll say, "That would have been the worst thing for us."
Then she will say, "No, it wouldn't. Speak for yourself."
It's typical, my imagination starting over with good intentions but never failing to fuck me over in the end.
But Marianne is really talking. She is saying something different than the words she says in my head, and so at first I don't respond. My lips are on her cheek, her ear lobe. Her hands are at my waist, and she is saying, "Julia," and then again, "Julia."
I look at her like I've lost. In my apartment, I will let her do anything. I promise myself this, but then instantly take it back.
She points to the white building peeking over the tops of the bare trees. She says, "You're right there. Let's go."