“I’m coming back, Anna,” he said. “Didn’t I say that last time? Didn’t I keep my promise, when the fight was over?” But she did not answer. There were too many tears on her cheeks to speak without her voice breaking.
“I don’t want you to go,” she said at last, looking at him in a way that no one ever had before. Matt looked at her, too, and wondered what he had done to deserve her. She had no right to love him like that, not when he had such a past.
“I’m coming back,” he said again, holding Anna close. Spook opened the kitchen door behind them. Seeing them locked in an embrace, she stepped back.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, blushing bright red, but Matt had released Anna and turned to look at her.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ve got to go now, anyway.”
"I don't want you to go," said Anna, tears starting to fall again. She had only just managed to get her control back, but the thought that this goodbye had been cut short made the tears return.
"I've got to," he said, and hugged her again. Spook still waited by the doorway, looking extremely uncomfortable. Did she realise that Anna felt that she had made Matt leave more quickly?
"When will you be back?" Anna whispered, so quietly that Matt had to bend to hear her.
"I don't know," he admitted. "But I will be back, I promise. It might take a week and it might take a month, but I'll be back. Just keep believing."
"Where are you even going?" said Anna, realising that she didn't know. "Why can't you just stay here?"
"There are a few visits I have to pay," he told her. "A few people I have to see, that sort of thing." She nodded, but it still didn't seem like a good excuse.
“I don't want you to leave!" she said. It felt pathetic, to be crying like this over a guy who wasn't technically her boyfriend, but she couldn't help it.
"The shuttle comes in soon, Matt," Spook interjected, her voice much shyer than normal. "You'd better go."
"I know," he replied. "I'm sorry, Anna, I truly am. And I will come back!" He kissed her once, briefly, on the lips. She wanted to hold him, to never let him go. Anna wanted, more than anything, for him to kiss her properly, but it was too late for regrets like that. He had to go. Before she had regained her senses - while she still stood there like a puppet whose strings had been cut - he walked across the room, giving Spook a brief hug, and leaving the house. His rucksack had been by the front door for several days now, his laptop packed up and all the wires retrieved from the bizarre locations that they inhabited around the house.
"Goodbye," she whispered, but he had gone. The front door slammed, with a slight clatter as the chain hit the wall again. "Don't forget me."
It was too late for these regrets, she knew. She just had to let him go.
"Matt would never leave me without a good reason," she said aloud. Spook looked up, silent sympathy in her eyes. "He must have known what it would do to me. And if he did know, and he still did it, then there must have been a good reason."
"He'll come back," said Spook. "He keeps his promises, Anna."
"I know. But it's hard, to keep believing. Who knows how long he'll be gone?" she said mournfully, looking down at her hands which she was twisting around the coloured fabric of her t-shirt.
Matt closed the door. Anna pictured him hesitating just slightly on the doorstep, then setting off. She could see him, in the eye of her mind, hoisting his worn black back pack onto his shoulder, looking back just once.
No, she thought. He wouldn't look back. He'd just go. Matt's like that.
She didn't know, of course, that he had looked back. She didn't know the heartbreak that this parting was causing him, too. How could she have known the pain that he felt, when he was a creature so different from her own race?
"I don't want to say goodbye," she whispered. But there was no one there to hear. Matt was gone, and Spook had left the room. Anna was alone with her sorrow and her loneliness. "I don't want to be the only one."
And Matt looked down at the writing on his hand. Anna loves Matt. She had written it there just the day before, with a blue biro that had chips in its plastic surface. She had searched for half an hour to find one that would work on skin. All previous specimens had been a dud, drawing no line on the smooth surface of his hand.
Anna loves Matt. Was it so hard to believe? He didn't deserve her - Matt knew this. He had been a monster. In his own way, maybe he still was. But Anna wasn't normal - she needed someone like him, who would love her for who and what she was, not laughing at her abilities or being scared by her inhuman gifts.
"Anna?" Spook had said, returning to the room, and she had looked up. There were tears on her face, and her eyes were bright amber. "What has happened to your eyes?!?!" Silently, with no emotion in her body, Anna got up and went to the mirror. Her eyes were so bright compared to their usual brown, and they scared her for a moment.
"It's my tears," she explained. "They're imbued with the fairy fire of my soul - they make my eyes go funny." But when she blinked they remained bright and orange. "It should fade at some point," she added, uncertainly. "I think."
As she stepped away from the mirror, Anna wondered at her changed appearance. What could it have been that had made her so pale?
"Is this love?" she asked Spook, but her voice was off, flat. "Something that tears and rips?"
"I don't know," Spook replied, with complete honesty. "I wouldn't know - I've never fallen into that particular trap."
Of course, on that day, neither of them knew how long it would be until they saw Matt again. Perhaps they wouldn't know that until those years had passed. Perhaps Anna would see it, in one of her dreams.
Or perhaps, just maybe, Matt would tell them himself, with means of communication that no human could use.