The water in the canal was murky, leaves scattered along the dirty brown surface from the trees that hung above, yet there was something peaceful about the way the water swirled, twirling the tiny, orange leaves lazily: it made the view almost beautiful.
It was painful to walk on the grey stones that stabbed through my shoe on the thin pathway, so I couldn’t understand how Ellen managed in just thin sandals without wincing or hobbling along as I did behind her. Instead, she walked with as much grace as she usually did on ground that wasn’t jagged; she almost walked as if she were balancing ona tightrope with ease, her steps careful and arms held up by her sides slightly, almost waiting to catch the air under her wings.
She turned and gave me a smile, snapping me out of my gazing – her hair coiled on the back of her head was particularly distracting – then looked back up the path. “A tunnel.”
I looked ahead and my mind registered the gaping opening of the tunnel, with only a small light at the very end that could barely reach the rest of the black space inside. The water and path both seemed to disappear and become enveloped in the unlit space. I looked back to Ellen, who’s eyes seemed to glitter at the void ahead, then she took my hand, warmth spreading over my skin and creeping to my chest.
“I’ll keep you safe,” she said mockingly, though she wove her fingers in mine, tugging me along with insistance – her excitement was infectious and I increased my pace to keep up with her rush to the tunnel.
My eyes blinked rapidly in the gloom as we walked deeper into the tunnel until we stopped at the very middle, the blackness stretching either of us. I couldn’t see her face, but when she stood in front of the light at the end, I could see from the outline of her face was smiling. I gripped her hand tighter, my lungs working harder to fight against the illusion of no air in the pitch black, and she squeezed back – a gentle comfort.
“It’s so cool in here,” she said, laughing as her words bounced off the walls, and I laughed back, our chuckles mingling.
“I guess,” I replied uneasily, forcing my laughter out more than necessary, not prepared to admit that I wasn’t a fan of feeling consumed by the darkness. Ellen caught my tone immediately and I could sense her turning to face me.
“Hey.” The small, quiet word echoed softly, her voice surrounding me. I felt her body warmth against me as she leaned close, and I was impressed that, despite the lack of vision, her lips found mine.