He stood alone.
But that was nothing unusual for him.
In the first few months, he had tried to surround himself with people and noise. He had tried so hard to drown out the loneliness in his head and the aching going on in his heart. But with each month, his weariness of it all increased. He couldn’t tolerate the looks people were giving him.
“Oh, he’s so brave and so strong to carry on after…well. You know, after.”
It became harder and harder to affect a wild, carefree attitude.
Because the truth is he wasn’t brave or strong.
He was weak.
He was a coward.
He was running away from feeling anything other than fake happiness.
He didn’t want to face his grief.
He didn’t want to face his grief, but he grew tired of lying.
He retreated back home and closed his doors.
He stood alone on his balcony overlooking the pine forest below.
The pines were a sea of ever green and ever alive. Something about it reassured him and gave him some sort of reason to get up in the morning. Not that he could put that reason into words. It was one of those things that could not be explained.
It didn’t need to be explained.
Yet, despite it all, he could still feel the grief.
He spread his hand on his chest and tried to pinpoint his grief’s location. Was it in his heart? His stomach? His intestines? Maybe it was somewhere along his sides.
Or maybe it was inside the marrow of his ribs.
If I could find it, maybe I could go to a doctor and tell them to remove that part. Get rid of my grief.
And I would be finally free. I’d be able to sleep well at night. I’d be able to breathe again. I’d be able to exist.
To just be.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember his life before. He tried to remember himself before.
His eyes opened as the scent of warmed vanilla and lavender teased past his nose.
I know that scent.
It’s Lady’s Lace.
It’s her perfume.
He opened his mouth to call out her name. His voice got stuck somewhere behind his tonsils.
He sensed her.
Every bit of him, every inch of him, sensed her presence. The hairs on his arms and on the back of his neck stood on end, as if they were spectators trying to get a better view.
He took a breath.
Her hand touched his shoulder.
He exhaled. “Is it you?”
She didn’t respond, but he felt her cool breath on his skin.
On his neck.
He shivered. “Can you let me go? Can’t I move on without you?”
“Do you have to be without me?” Her voice struck his eardrums just right. “I am not dead, you know.”
He bowed his head.
“We can still be together, if you’ll let me.” Her fingers played along the line of his neck. “Will you let me?”
Everything inside of him, from his brain all the way to his kidneys, shouted “Yes!” But that is not what his mouth said. “What’s the price?”
She kissed the back of his neck, just below his hairline. “You know the price, darling. Will you pay it? Do you want it?” She kissed him again.
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back.
“Do you want me and you?”
“I do. I shouldn’t, but I do. I’ve missed you so much. I’ve been so lonely without you.” He kept his eyes closed. “I’ll pay the price.”
She chuckled. “This won’t hurt too much.” She put her mouth on his neck.
He grabbed the deck railing and held it tight. “Just don’t kill me.”
She said nothing.
She bit his neck.