He searched relentlessly, as subtly as possible, for any sign that she would return to her usual habits. However, she eluded him, an angelic presence in his mind that would not let him rest. The longer he went without seeing her, the more he felt he had to. He isolated himself, devoting all of the time he could spare into finding her. He went to her accommodation, only to find that she had been absent, staying elsewhere. It was like a sore in his mind. He could not stop worrying at the issue, causing himself more pain and drawing more attention to it in the process. Her absence slowly consumed him, the deadline of the end of semester drawing agonisingly close. After the deadline, to his mind, he would never see her again. He had to see her before then to prevent it. He was never the superstitious type before now.
The last day. Externally, he was his usual, albeit grumpy, self. Internally, he was frantic. Her memory was fading, like a photograph taken out too many times, becoming bleached by the sun. He barely paid attention to anything save his search. Nothing else mattered. The multitude of faces passed by him in a blur. They were not her, they were not relevant. Crowds thinned and swelled depending on his location. He searched everywhere, a growing panic and nausea spreading throughout his body. No sign of her. It was like he'd imagined her.
It was dusk before he began to make his way home. Gone was the panic, he felt hollowed out, numb. The sense of loss pervaded every step, the weight of memories battering his frayed sensebilities. He felt that at any second, a breath of wind would have him shattering like thin ice dropped on frozen earth. The mere action of breathing felt like a Herculean task, the fact that his feet still carried him home astounded him. His body appeared to be running on auto-pilot while his mind slowly imploded. She was gone...
He barely registered the figure, hooded, the perfect image of modern aggression. The figure made himself known just before he reached the safety of his building. A challenge, a demand in rough, threatening terms. Silence. The demand was repeated, louder. Silence and a blank stare. He didn't care. The aggressor, unnerved but too proud to lose face, threw him against the wall, where he connected with a crack. Stars burst across his vision and the aggressor was gone. He heard a shout, but was already moving again, continuing his path, encased in the past.
If anything, it was worse inside his flat. His possessions were all packed, leaving echoing spaces. This allowed more room for his memories to swell and fill the rooms, threatening to smother him completely. The boxes, stacked against the wall, brought back images of her. She had helped him move in here, moving gracefully around the apartment, small bundles of his possessions in her hands. His clothes had carried a faint trace of her scent, as did his appartment, until the smells of living had smothered it.
He let his knees buckle, dumping him unceremoniously onto the sofa. He had neglected to put on any lights, the shadows stealing greedy fingers around his body, as though to drown him. The memories, however, had already seen to that. A stream of images, sound bites, memories assailed him mercilessly, all concerning her storm blue eyes. They would not leave him, even now, when his conciousness threatened to crumble under their gossamer touch.
Her scent, even now, he could smell it. Stronger than a memory even. The touch of her hand, the tiny nub of raised skin where a scar lay on her palm, the skin always soft, a gentle weight on his shoulder, his cheek. Her touch burned him, the memory painfully vivd. Her voice, a trace of an accent from the South, her words carefully chosen, her speech rarely hurried save for when her emotions were high. Her voice, ordinary to most, was the most precious memory he had. The sound of her voice, calling his name, a prayer to his wounded soul, a salve to the shame of his actions. The memory now was undeniable.
"Please, you're scaring me."
His eyes flickered open. A lamp had been switched on while he had slumped sideways on the sofa. Then he registered who had been talking, the sight delivering a jolt to his system. He sat up quickly. The hand left his shoulder but remained on his cheek. Her scent embraced him and those storm blue eyes, concerned but slowly showing relief, those storm blue eyes were fixed on him, both wounding in their regard and healing him. A female sigh. Then, her arms were around him, pulling him upright again. Her beautiful voice cursed as her hand found his injured head.
"Just-stay like that." Her voice shook a little, now the room span. "I'll patch you up."
Thats right. She was clever like that, trained. She knew what to do. She would make it okay. She always did.
Some part of him recognised that his thoughts were ragged, coming uncoupled. He felt a sting, the burn of antiseptic against raw skin. Then, her voice, soothing, apologising for the pain, telling him to take the painkillers she had placed next to him, with the water, asking if he had eaten. He mutely did as he was told, nodding or shaking his head gingerly in answer to her questions.
"Don't move your head around, you'll make it worse." She spoke with the quiet assurance of knowledge, not commanding, merely stating in the understanding she would be heeded.
For the fisrt time, he listened and obeyed.
They ended up curled together, his head cushioned against her chest as he listened to her. She had come to say goodbye, found him unconcious on the sofa. She explained that she had not forgiven him, but that she had wanted to close the book on the issue.
"I have to go." She said softly, moving away from him gently. She handed him a scrap of paper. "My number, call if you need to."
She looked confused for a moment, pained. He took the paper, thanked her. He tried to convey some kind of message that he wanted her to stay but words failed him and the effort made him dizzy.
"I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon." She said finally. "Bye."
She left slowly, as though reluctant. He managed to say good bye before she left. Slowly, he subsided into sleep.