He dropped her hand, lifting his to his brow. Scanning the horizon, he motioned silently for her to follow him down a sloping path to the beach.

Beams of sunlight crept up and over the curve of the Earth, painting the ocean a silky pastel pink. It was an unusually flat morning. Not even a sea breeze rippled over the Pacific. To disturb the ocean’s surface on a morning like this would be to ruin the illusion of perfection.

That’s why he could rarely look her in the eyes. In his mind, she was perfect — beyond beautiful, her sun-bleached and wavy hair cascading over her shoulders. Her eyes as freckled as her face, her skin a golden tan. Looking at her too deeply would reveal the world inside, a world he knew contained broken pieces. He accepted these pieces and accepted that as hard as he tried, none of his tape and glue would put her back together.

And so he allowed her to be, at least in his eyes, as perfectly whole as the unmarred ocean before them.

He touched her arm only to guide her down the path, letting her go when their toes met sand. They walked south hip to hip, letting the shoreline and the hours slip by in silence.

When the sun reached its apex, they sat on a sea-shaped piece of driftwood, watching seagulls dip to the sea and scoop up fish. They were lulled by the in and out and in and out and in of the waves. They noticed where the tide had been, where it was, and where it would soon go. The cycles of the Earth kept them sane.

When night eventually fell, they found a cove, holding each other close as the world spun them into darkness. It was a balmy, breathless night, one that begged for nothing beyond the clothes they wore.

She fell asleep with her head on his chest, the sound of his heart the only thing that could drown out the hum of the waves.

This continued for three days, until finally, they reached the border. Beyond them, another country. The border was invisible, of course. Humans create maps and borders and lines and laws, but the Earth accepts all and divides itself for none.

Humans, though, were the decision makers. The Earth had no say in these matters. He could not continue — while she would move forward, he could only move backwards. And so they stood awhile, watching the waves move in and out again, feeling the electricity and pain in each others’ skin.

For the last time, he allowed himself to look her in the eyes, to soak in everything she was. To grip her hand more tightly than ever before. And then he let her go.