the softness of relearning her

Day 2


She woke.

The world had not shifted, the rain didn’t stop. The bustle outside had not slowed and the voices had not hushed.

But she woke, and with her my world had changed, and it was through clearer eyes that it brightened. I was no longer concerned with the bustle, and the whines faded until it was just her breath.

In

Out

In

Out

And finally, I felt like I could exhale. Her eyelashes stayed impossibly still, hiding what I wanted to see most, what I needed most. Her chapped lips were still closed. It was like time had slowed to allow me a moment to memorize her up close. Memorize her in a way I had been unable to for years. At least not without fear and hiding, waiting for him to pull me from her like he swore he would, like I had seen him do to so many others. My brothers now lost and alone only served as reminder for the power he had. He could never find her, I wouldn’t let him,  and because of that I could never have her.

In

Maybe the universe did know what would happen, that I would need this moment to look back to, a reprieve from the torment and longing I thought would be over. It was in that moment, the long space of slowed time, where it shifted. The softness of relearning her, counting freckles and knowing how her wayward hair curled into her ears and the sweet space between the side of her face and her neck, turned slowly, unexpectedly,

Out

into panic.

Would she know that it was me all along. The shadow she spoke to, the safety of darkness she sought. Would she be glad to know I was the void she shouted at and begged, that I was the quiet she whispered her secrets to. She said she knew I was real, even when her parents threatened, even when her friends laughed. She talked to me like she knew, showed me her world like she saw me. I wanted her to know, I needed her to. It was my salvations as much as I was hers.

In

She was eight when she stopped being afraid of the shadow, and she was ten when she embraced it. My life restarted back then, when she was newly ten and full of youthful bravery. It all changed the day she said hello to me, while laid in the grass with her hair fanned, surrounded by unseen clouds, and fresh tears staining her sun burnt skin.

Out

I had waited a lifetime, hers and mine, for that moment. And now it seems like another.

In

During the seconds between us I wondered. Was our time together, dancing shadows or fighting phantoms. Was that time, her and I, hope or was that truth. Would she remember what I had made her forget. Would she know me?

Out

And then her eyes opened.

In

Her head turned to find mine, and that when I saw it. The green I had spent an age staring into, getting lost in, were no longer bright and expecting, no longer enraged and passionate. There was no depth just a shallow pool of unrecognizable apathy. There was no longer a sparkle of life, just resigned exhaustion.

Out

The realization sunk into my chest like the pain of regret. She did know and she hated me for it. Before I could open my mouth to speak, plead, explain, say anything, everything, just something to change the way she was looking at me, she blinked.

In

And then she screamed.

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