A Moment's HesitationMature

The sun struck his eyes, dragging him from his rest. His head pounded like the worst of hangovers and he touched the patch of raw skin, his breath hissing through his teeth as the skin throbbed with pain. He sat up with the careful movements of someone expecting pain and was pleasantly surprised by a lack of it. There was a cup on the table next to him, yet he had no memory of putting it there. There was about an inch of water in the bottom, tiny bubbles clinging to the colourless plastic, showing that the glass had stood there for several hours. He shifted and the light struck the water, illuminating the glass. The bubbles blazed white. He puzzled at the imitation glass cup, thrown by its presence where it should have been absent.

It was her smell that gave him the clue he needed. Hypersensetive to any link to her, an achingly familiar, sweet-spicy smell clung to his hair. He inhaled, resisting the urge to take it all in at once. She had been here, she had helped him. She had shown her infinite capacity for kindness, even to those that had wronged her and she had helped him-the person least worthy of her help, much less her kindness. He moved again, catching that faint trace of her smell, almost a memory, when he heard the sound again. He had been so caught up in his sense of smell and the knowlege it provoked, he had registered the crackle of crumpled paper only sub-conciously. He reached into his pocket to recover the paper and felt a painful jolt in his chest as he recognised the neat, fluid script of her writing. It was a handful of figures, her name and a simple message, but it was enough for him.

Call if you ever need me x

He remembered, with painful clarity, the expression of conflict on her face as she had left the night before. He also remembered the way he had barely been concious to care as she had walked out of the door, wearing almost the exact same expression of careful blankness she always did when she was hurt. He saw again, seared into his mind, the way she had turned her face slightly from him the entire time she had been with him, looking directly at him only once.

"I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon. Bye."

Those storm blue eyes had looked right at him then, conveying messages he had not been able to recieve until now. Instead of falling comatose, she had wanted him to tell her to stay. She had wanted him to make a move that she would never make. It was not a matter of pride, though she had a certain amount of that in her bearing these days. It was all in her words. She was leaving. It was the end of their final year here, they were moving on into the world. He knew that, as did she. She had wanted to stay but he had let her go. And he wanted her back.

He glanced at his watch and felt a lead weight drop through his stomach. It was noon already. He could almost see her, perched on the edge of the bed in a room identical to hundreds of others in the building, watching the clock, going to the window occasionally, restlessly checking her phone. Waiting for him. As each hour passed, she would slowly convince herself that this was the best thing, for both of them. Their relationship had been stormy, the ending messy at best. This would be the best thing, for them to go their separate paths, to untwine the threads of their lives for good, becoming parrallel lines, never to cross paths again.

The thought turned his blood to ice. He knew now what he hadn't when he had taken pleasure in their arguments. He understood that the bond they had forged, despite the times he had tried to bury it, the bond was too precious, too vital to ignore. However fragile this chance, he could not let it become ashes on the wind, when there was precious little to salvage here. He could not let her storm blue eyes, that blazed fire and ice and calm, that were windows to her soul, where the poet lay, that had enchanted him more than he would ever admit, he would not let those beautifully ordinary eyes become nothing more than a memory to him. He saw now, in them, the love that had never died for him, the feirce need to protect and care for him, reflected in his own desire to have her here now.

He got to his feet, his protesting body ignored to the greater protests of his iron will. He would not fail her again. He would be the man she deserved and the man he knew she still loved. He left the apartment at a run, going to the place he knew she would wait until the last moment, offering prayers to anyone that would listen that she would be there. He prayed that fate would not conspire against him now, that his penance was done for the mistake that had cost so much. He had been so blind to her before. She had been just another girl, yes, one he had been with longer than the others but still another girl. He had been blind to the fragile temptress he had given his heart to for her storm blue eyes, without even realising it. And he had failed her once, greviously.

He paused before turning the corner, to snatch a breath that would allow him to talk. His hands clenched the rough denim of his jeans as he fought a wave of pain as his head throbbed. It was as though even his body knew the importance of what was about to happen. A corner, and he would see her. A street length and he would be by her side. He straightened up. He was ready.

He turned the corner and began to sprint as though his life depended on it. The acrid smoke from the exhaust of the bus caught in the back of his throat, making his eyes stream scalding tears. A silent scream was building up in his mind as he drew close enough to hear the pneumatic hiss of the door as it sealed. It pulled away as he arrived, collapsing onto the pole, sporting a sign that proudly proclaimed the bus company to always be on time and he cursed their efficiency. Watching the back window, he saw a head turn. Her storm blue eyes peirced him once before the bus turned a corner and she was lost to him.

He let out no bellow of pain, no tortured scream. He did not fall to his knees or even shed any tears of pain. He was beyond the realms of any physical action, no matter how dramatic. He had penetrated a realm of pain that he had never imagined existed, made all the more acute for the cruel conspiracy of events that had worked against him. If he had not been hit so hard the night before, if the sun had risen a moment earlier, if he had heard the paper, as opposed to catching her scent first. If he had run a little faster, if she had caught the next bus. If he had not paused for breath, if she'd had one more heavy bag. Fragmented moments that would haunt him always. Tiny details had re-written the future irrevocably and her storm blue eyes were permitted only to be a memory to him, the number now redundant as he saw that she had forgotten one item. A small black mobile phone lay in the gutter, screen cracked and lifeless. Instinctively, as he picked it up, he knew that he was holding his last severed lifeline to her.

The End

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