The concrete sidewalk was cold beneath my bare feet.
I stared up at the endless sky; it should have been clouded but instead it was perfect. Splattered with golden stars like the angels themselves had been finger painting. A little sigh fell from my lips. My tears had long since dried, and now I was left standing in the shadows of that damned building.
I knew I had nowhere to go, but I also knew that if I didnt start walking I was going to lose it. I could still hear the ringing of the gunshot in my ears. I could still feel the linger of Everette's fingers upon my skin, from a hundred thousand kisses and stolen nights of passion.
I tried to tell myself this was all a dream. That in a few fleeting moments I would wake in my bed, Everette's arms wrapped around my naked body. Then I would whisper that I loved him, and we would roll around in the sheets for hours. I would cry and he would laugh, and we would stare out into forever, like we'd always planned.
My fault. This was all my fault.
I thought I might cry again, but before the tears had a chance to break free, there came a quiet sound from somewhere down the street.
"Calla." I whirled around in place, towards the sound of the voice. There, a few feet away, stood Demrin. In one hand he held my stilettos, like this was all some fucked up version of Cinderella.
"What do you want?" I tried to make the words as spiteful as possible, as poisonous and venomous and acidic. But all I could muster was a gray shade of mournful. A shiver ran through me at the way he was looking at me, his green eyes raking my body. But not in a threatening way, or even a lustful one. Mostly he looked like he was trying to memorize every part of me.
In but a moment he stood before me, less than a foot away. I could have touched him if I so desired. For once I didnt. "It wasnt your fault, Calla," he told me softly, reaching out to brush a stray piece of hair.
I flinched away from him, stumbling back to put some more distance between us. "Yes it was," I spat, narrowing my eyes at him. Turning all my anguish and pain into anger, because rage couldnt hurt me. "He's gone, Demrin. Because he wanted me to be free."
Demrin looked away, looked back a few seconds later. I knew he was wracking his brain for the words to say. But sometimes there was nothing to say. Sometimes words werent enough to erase all the suffering held inside.
"Calla, look-" Demrin began, but I cut him off.
"I loved him, you know," I said lowly. Maybe more to myself than to the man in front of me. "Do you know what it's like? To realize I'll never feel his touch again? I'll never see him smile or hear his laugh. I'll never hold him against me, feel him in me. No, he's dead. And that is my fault."
Demrin let out a long breath, stroked his chin absently. "So what are you going to do now?" He asked me, if only to try and change the subject. It was a failed attempt at distracting me; it only made me realize how very alone I was. I'd always counted on Everette to take care of me, to give me a home and shower me with more affection than I even fathom. I'd forgotten how to be on my own.
"I dont know," I admitted, hating how shattered I sounded.
Demrin held my gaze steadily, making me shift nervously from one bare foot to the other. "Come with me," he whispered in a voice meant only for me to hear.
I could only frown at him. After all, he was the reason I was in this situation to begin with. He was the one I'd so desired, whose touch I'd yearned for in the dark of the night. He was the one who had tantalized me, who had drawn me away from my true lover. And yet I couldnt bring myself to hate him. I simply couldnt.
"Come with me," he repeated. "I'm not asking you to be with me, Calla. I'm not asking you to let me comfort you. And I certainly dont want to take Everette's place. But right now you're alone, and I'll be damned if I'm going to leave you here to face the world on your own."
I didnt realize I was crying until a single diamond tear hit the flesh of my hand. It was trembling again, fingers shaking as I raised it slowly. Brought it to frame the side of Demrin's face, to push back his hair behind his ear.
"Okay," I whispered. Because there was nothing else to say. Demrin smiled at me, as bright as he could muster. Then he held out his hand, and I laced my fingers with his. We stepped out into the street, my bare feet splashing in a puddle from a rainfall I hadnt noticed.
I didnt think it possible, but a tiny smile graced my lips. We were moving through the streets of Venice like ghosts, untouched by the rest of the world. Soon dawn would break the horizon, the first rays of light warming my face. And I would be ready to greet them, and whisper good morning to my angel, as he watched over me.