This is chapter 4/4 of this short story. You can check the previous chapter here.
“And now what?”
Time stopped. He leaned forward, and their lips touched. His heart skipped a beat. He felt lightning going through his body. Her lips parted, and a wave of warmth invaded his senses.
Reality ceased to exist for them. He embraced her, while she hugged his body. She dissolved in his arms, masks gone, naked. He could feel her soul; he could see all that loneliness, that hurt, that fire, all blending, finally touching her core. She trembled in James’ arms.
Suddenly, time restarted. She gently pushed herself away from him. Mere centimeters, resting her forehead on his chest. He could feel her warmth; he could taste her on his lips.
“We can’t do this” she managed to plea. Her voice barely a whisper.
“Yes we can.” he whispered back.
“No. I can’t. I shouldn’t. This isn’t good for you.”
James was jerked back to reality. Seriously? Was she protecting him from herself? It suited her so much.
“Yes, I know it’s not good for me, but still…”
“So if you know it’s not good, why are you doing it?” she asked in hushed tones.
“I don’t know. I needed to do it. But if you want me to stop, I’ll stop.”
“I want you to stop.”
He pushed her back and stared into her eyes. Those eyes. Seas of hurt, and love and molten lava. He could see her soul splitting apart. One side of her wanted to hug him, to stay close, to feel his body, to sink into his warmth. Another part wanted to run. Lady duty was knocking, she wanted to scream, to run and hide. Her righteous side wanted to punish her for letting this happen. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Guilt. He could see the guilt seeping behind her beautiful eyes, like poison, tainting everything.
“Are you sure?” he asked in pained tones.
“Yes. Go to sleep.”
She kissed him once more and walked away.
Sleep just didn’t come. Getting her off his mind was hard. What had just happened? How could he fly so close to that star and let it go? Nothing made sense, and perhaps that was how it should be. After all, he was trying to understand something that wasn’t meant to be understood. Sometimes you just take the ride, hang in there and make sure you don’t get crushed in the process. He could still sense her body, her perfume, her touch. He slowly slid into his sleep.
He woke up the next day feeling like a new man. It was the first day that he had actually slept well. He couldn’t avoid smiling. The world was suddenly a beautiful place.
That day they had planned a trip to visit some of their people on the ground. They had a couple of meetings and hopefully some time off to enjoy the seaside.
Waiting for their transport to come, he saw her coming to the lobby.
“Good morning sunshine!” he said
“Good morning. Is that’s our transportation?”
“Ok, well I guess I’ll see you later” she replied.
She walked past him, pure ice. No warmth left in her eyes, just a void. He was rattled. He didn’t expect any especial treatment from her. Nothing had really happened, but everything had happened.
While some people measured their involvement with someone in terms of having sex or not, this wasn’t the case with James. For him, it was about touching and connecting at an existential level. And for one instant they had stepped out of reality and touched each other’s core, no need for sex, no need for words. The tenderness of her touch, the warmth of her lips spoke much louder than words, than any other physical pleasure.
And while he didn’t expect her to be ecstatic, he did expect some complicity, some warmth. There was nothing.
The next hours were hell, a sense of betrayal started to overwhelm him. He knew he had no right to feel like that, but still, he felt deeply betrayed. James replayed last night’s scene over and over. Had he done something wrong? Did he make the right decision by letting her go?
She was running away from him. Deep down he could find a certain sense of irony. She wasn’t meant to be owned, and he knew that he wanted to own her. The universe was having a fun day at his expense.
Things didn’t improve when they got back to the city. She skipped dinner with the embassy people and she ignored any attempt to talk. She was responding, but it was like talking to a stranger. Click, we had been teleported to another dimension, one in which they hadn’t met or had no affinity.
It was agonizing. James felt empty inside. He couldn’t function. He engaged in conversation, but his soul was just not there. It had been stolen, shredded into tiny specks of dust and then blown away like ash.
Night came, and the wolves came out. The moon gleamed across the city like a magic lantern. Like every evening, the crowd mutated. Frustrations were vented, alcohol started running, and everything and anything was allowed. He still harbored a small sense of hope. Maybe, just maybe he could talk with her tonight. Maybe clear up any misunderstanding.
She finally made an appearance. Hell froze over. He couldn’t bring himself to talk to her. He felt she was miles away from him. James’ despair grew with each passing minute.
Just when he thought he was gathering enough valor to get to her, she made her move. She took the hand of one of the guys in the room and walked out.
His heart shattered into a million shards. He knew. He knew what that meant. He knew what would happen. His sense of betrayal took over his senses. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t respond.
At a rational level, he knew it was all his fault. He made the decision to engage with fire, and he got burnt. The problem was, rational didn’t cut it right now.
He crawled into a cab and disappeared into the city night. He said his farewells and allowed the blackness to take him.
“Dear passengers, we just initiated our descent to the airport…”
His eyes snapped open. Finally there. Why did he felt so depressed? He checked the window to see his home town’s skyline sparkling in the night.
Had it all been a dream? Was he alive? Was he dead? He walked home in a daze, his mind still swimming in a dense haze.
He took the keys of his apartment and a piece of paper fell out of his coat. It glided to the floor like a small butterfly. He picked it up and examined it with curiosity. Where did it come from? He couldn’t remember having it before. It seemed to have something written on the inside. A note? He slowly and carefully unfolded the paper.
He stared at its inside for a long time. Stunned, the paper fell from his fingers, twirling like a dandy lion in the wind. It touched the stone and was blown away by the winter breeze. The paper took off in the air and disappeared behind the gate.
There, trapped between the barren branches of a snowy tree, the paper rested. The moon bathed the message with its pearly light for all to read those three words.
“I am sorry.”