Despite only having a few hours of sleep, he knew she slept less and so rose just before the birds, having a brief shower and making a standard breakfast to the backdrop of birdsong and a handful of early risers in the apartments. He ran a hand through his hair, noting it was getting overly long now. He would need to trim it. But not too short-she loved it long.
He glanced at his wrist, where a simple thread bracelet, strung with a couple of wooden beads-a generic item from any holiday destination-was securely tied. It brought a twist of bittersweet emotion. It was a gift from her, a surprise. She had given it to him after a holiday not long after they had met. He could still remember the way she had blushed, shyly tying it around his wrist while attempting to hide a more feminine version tied on her own. He noticed she still had not removed hers, despite the chasm now between them.
Shaking the memories aside the best he could, he left the apartments almost silently, the satchel containing his books slung over one shoulder. He walked to the spot that he had left her last night, concealed, and began another day of watching over her. He wondered if he crossed her mind at all today. Today was special to them. It was this day, three years ago, they had first spoken. It also marked exactly 365 days since a word had last passed between them. Today, more than ever, her eyes would haunt him. He tried to remember them as they had been in the beginning-bright, filled with love and laughter. Today, her tears haunted him, almost crippling him, as they had done on that day, exactly a year ago. Tears that were his fault. Her storm blue eyes, darker with the pain of the words he could never take back. Then, that blankness. The iron blockade that was firmly in place whenever they faced each other now. The feigned lack of recognition was almost too much to bear. But still, he took his punishment. He treasured the shattered memories of their relationship, destroyed by careless words and one too many fights. He took his punishment and watched over her.
Exactly on cue, her light flicked on. He could almost see her silhouette as he pictured her moving around the room. Her curves revealed as she pulled the t-shirt she wore to bed over her head, stretching to her full height, letting her hair fall. She would be bare underneath. He would come up behind her, to kiss her bare shoulder and tease the skin around her jaw and neck. Invariably, she would hum with pleasure, sighing when she was reminded of her commitments. Now, she would be stepping in the shower, lathering her subtly scented gel over her body. Washing the shampoo from her hair so it hung, impossibly soft, like a curtain down her back. His lips involuntarily lifted at the memory of stepping into that shower with her. Of the time they had shared.
She liked to linger under the water. He could almost hear her voice saying to him how it helped her relax and think clearer. At the time, he had been dismissive. Since, he had also come to appreciate the pounding massage of a powerful shower. The sting of scalding water that both electrified and relaxed the mind, allowing for thought. Yet another way he had dismissed her that he now regretted.
She would be stepping out now, the water steaming from her skin as she wraps two towels around her. First, around her hair, bending at the waist, providing a divine view for any lucky enough to see. She would flip the towel back with a practiced motion, creating a dull slap against her back. Her skin would be slightly flushed from the heat of the water as she wrapped the larger towel around her body, to protect her modesty as she searched for clothes. Dark skinny jeans and a t-shirt, as always. Studded belt. Boots usually. A necklace, several bracelets, the twin of his usually hidden. And those storm blue eyes, ringed with black khol, creating an almost ethereal effect. He could lose himself in those eyes, ringed with smoky black.
He wondered if she would wear the red shirt today. He had loved the way it would hug her curves and show just enough of her breasts to be attractive, yet not in a way that made her look cheap. She had known how much he had loved that shirt on her. She had worn it on many occasions. It had lain discarded on one of their floors on the majority of these, along with their other clothes.
She would be eating, toast and fruit juice. Her usual when she was watching her weight. Though, frequently, she would succumb to the temptation of a sausage sandwich. On these occasions, she would not leave her room, instead, fixing her hair so that it fell, showing the gorgeous layers in her hair. She would pack her bag, putting in the minimal amount of books needed, so that it didn't pull her shoulders. It was a Friday, she would also lay out her Tae Kwon Do uniform, with the black belt she was so proud of. He never told her that he was proud of it too. Proud to have found someone so strong and capable, yet still so gentle.
She would be leaving the flat now, closing the doors as quietly as possible, mindful of the others still sleeping. When she had left the apartment before him, she had always left a little note and five minutes after he woke, his phone would buzz, invariably, a message from her. She was thoughtful like that. His bed was cold without her. His apartment seemed echoing. He still looked for those notes on his table, reflexively, though he knew that they would never be there again.
The front door to the building opened. He smiled at the image of her. She was particularly beautiful today. Her hair, straightened, was tucked behind one ear, showing her multiple piercings. Her eyes were as mesmerizing as always, the red shirt as beautiful on her as ever. Her dark grey satchel looked heavy, she pulled at the strap a little as she strode out, towards him, the small heels on her boots clicking loudly in the early morning quiet. He could see the wires that lead to the earbuds in her ears. The music would be loud, of that he could be sure.
She strode right past him without seeing him. She was preoccupied today, a small frown between her eyebrows. It was going to be a beautiful summers day. He followed discreetly as she made her way to her habitual coffee shop. She orders a sausage sandwich, an apple juice and a double espresso, as he knew she would. An unusual extravagance for a student but he figured she had most likely just received her allowance from her parents. Either that, or she too remembered the significance of today.
She settled in the window of the store, looking out onto the street as the whisper of her music carried across the empty store. He ordered in a low voice, sitting on the opposite side, hidden, yet still observing. Normally, she would draw a novel from her satchel, an escape before lectures. He remembered with a small smile the well-thumbed copy of Stephen King's Cell she had loved. He now owned a similarly devoured book. Too late, he was trying to understand more about the girl with the storm blue eyes. Full of contradictions. Full of fire and kindness. Full of love for him. Until he had shattered it in a moment.
She watched the street today, her eyes distant. From here, he could tell she was lost in thought as early morning commuters ordered their usual 'to go'. She savoured the meal in front of her, wrapping her hands around the coffee as though drawing warmth from the small cup. Seeing her in such a familiar position, yet from afar, was strangely disorientating. He was used to seeing her thus in front of him. Usually, following a fight, where she would not meet his eyes to save him seeing the hurt there. She didn't know that he saw anyway.
Eventually, she finished, tidying her things away in consideration for those that worked there. She left the store, meeting a modest group of friends outside the lecture theatre. Instantly, there was a smile on her face. She lit up, laughing and teasing light-heartedly. Though, he knew better. He saw the shadow of pain that she hid behind a smile. Though, to hear her laugh was precious enough. To know that she could, after what he had done, was enough for now. These people did not know him, or what he had done. Those that had, had drifted away from her. They had been unable to bear what she suffered, saving themselves. Like a coward, he too had stayed away.
He hung back, alone and apart from the group, though still watching her. Suddenly, she looked up. Her eyes found his and she froze. His breath caught, transfixed as he was by the raw agony he found in their perfect storm blue. Gone was the wall today, he saw right through to the wound that still festered. The moment stretched for an eternity.
Then, even in the crowded hall, he heard someone say her name. A hand on her shoulder broke the spell.
"Do you know him?" Some girl, one of her new friends, asked her. This friend looked mildly concerned. She blinked, the spell was broken and she turned away, a slight tension now in her shoulders.
"No." She smiled now, a little forced. "No, I just zoned out for a minute, sorry."
They laughed. "Fool."
The light-hearted teasing continued. Yet he was still frozen in place. She had not forgotten. Underneath the t-shirt he knew she loved, his heart beat a little faster. She had not forgotten.