my take, based off an assignment for a literature class.

unmarked doors lead to a dimly lit room. the high ceilings and carved etchings hold memories of a place once loved, but dust coats the floor and a vague scent of mould drifts around. various objects sit on musty pedestals with browning placards:

a dried red rose, noosed, dangling upside down.
observing her obsession, he turned the lyrics to a favourite song into an anniversary gift and gave her a silver necklace in the shape of a flower that would never fade and a bouquet of flowers that would. she promptly lost the necklace, but kept the flower preserved perfectly, pressed between pages of a beloved book.

a packet of guitar picks in blue, gold and green swirls, stolen.
he held her hand as he dragged her around his city, showing her moments of his childhood and sharing the memories that had shaped him, and including sporadic stops to swing the guitar off his back and to sing. at the beachside souvenir shop he asked if she wanted a postcard; instead he emerged with a packet of picks.

a hangman’s noose, knotted.
they walked together late at night to stare at stars, words filling the silence between their hands and understanding closing the aching feeling in her chest. she noticed, after they finally looped back to his room, after he fell asleep, by the silver light coming through the gap under the door, a sliver of twine looped around the pipe on the ceiling.

a heart shaped necklace, tarnished where it fell against her skin.
knowing she’d never appreciate fancy jewellery, he found this one for two quarters at a garage sale, a charm the size of his thumbnail on a skinny silver chain. he was surprised when she didn’t remove it until a fumbled excursion in the forest left them breathless and the clasp of the necklace broken, not to be noticed until she reached for it as though for a talisman and found it irreparably missing.

a ticket stub, for a movie that never mattered.
by a series of coincidences, they ended up sitting adjacent in tension through the previews, through the rising action and the fighting, and finally, exhaustedly, through the credits; simply a week earlier, they would have held hands and exchanged salacious glances. as their friends laughed merrily nearby, he and she each wished for the comfort a slight touch would offer, for a way to communicate and solve their unsolvable grievances.

a book telling the history of their shared favourite band.
just in time for his birthday, a week after she left on a jet plane, she ordered this off the internet, had it delivered it anonymously in an apology for loving him too much to let him go and for not loving him enough to hold on.

a grey sweater, soft, professional.
once worn incessantly, this was left carelessly piled across her desk chair where he said he’d grab it next time, and said he’d grab it tomorrow, until tomorrow never came and there wasn’t a next time. she wasn’t sure whether or not to return it, but the decision was made when he moved out of her life without advance notice. she wondered if he thought of her when buying its replacement, depicted in various photos posted publicly with the other replacement as though specifically to prove that yes, he could live happily.

two paperclips, twisted together.
it wasn’t a one night stand as much as a one night test of compatibility. they started out with careful tests—a hand on her knee, a tale of a first love—and progressed to the rest—tales of hurts that made her feel as though she were crumbling, arms around each other as though they would never part. though they passed with flying colours during the half-drunk on sleep deprivation sunrise, the real world woke them up not a day later.

a forgotten glove, the colour unimportant.
also considered to be the first time she took him seriously: she snapped a photo of a small black glove lying listlessly in the snow, and he asked her what motivated her. she explained her inspiration, and he humoured her; he came up with stories of worlds once known and enchanted her into building their own.

a bottle of sand, coarse yet made comfortable.
their second meeting, lubricated by alcohol and the freedom of lacking commitments, led to swimming under foreign moonlight, led to shivering stargazing, led to burrowing deep into snow and huddling for warmth. she hadn’t known it was possible to feel, simultaneously, ethereal with cold and finally solid once more surrounded by his arms.

two hotel key cards, stored behind a driver’s license.
the first: used to sneak out of the room at 7am, to explore a snow sown city with icy breaths; later used to steal in at 4am like mischievous children, running on exhilaration and enthrallment; finally used to slip out, holding hands, with baggage. the second: used to follow him, to give him excuses to break promises, to try and hold onto what had only destroyed her.

a letter,
written from him to her before he decided to leave this world, after he decided he no longer belonged to her, undelivered, sealed.

she had, indeed, loved, and loved less.