Burning Desire

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“Things are bad…” I murmured.
Her tense eyes flashed to me and away as her confidence began to waver. I could see the way she was hesitating now, wondering if she should continue. I hastily re-arranged my expression into a blank monotone, and looked her in the eyes. She was doubtful, hesitant about her decision. I knew what was right, and what was wrong, and would easily have told her, had she just asked. But now she was dependent on herself, and it was hurting her. I flinched, and my mask slipped.
“You know what’s going on, don’t you?” her voice was sharper, more brisk, and I knew she had seen the momentary lapse in my pretense. “You’re lying to me, right? You know everything!”
I didn’t deny it. I continued to stare her in the eye, and her face began to grow red. Her cheeks burned, and she bit her lip. I could see that she was close to breaking, and I couldn’t let that happen. Not to Eliza.
I stepped forward and placed my hand on her cheek. She responded slightly to my touch, not the way I had expected, and then looked at me angrily.
“Please, stop, and explain.”
I sighed. Should I…?
She was now watching my face, and she could tell that I was giving in to her. A triumphant smile spread across her face, masking the desperate agony in her face for a short while. And that was all it took; I was breaking and I knew I would give in to her request. But I just couldn't let her suffer.
“All right. I’ll explain. But please don’t be mad.”
“I won’t.”
“Okay. Where should I start?”
"Wherever it makes sense."
Her eyes probed my face, and I could feel the rush of heat that flooded into me as she stared me down, willing me to give her the truth.
"I'm not sure what you mean by that."
Her cheeks flamed, and she took a step away from me. My hand, which had been caressing her neck, fell limply to my side.
"Fine, if you're going to do that again, I'll just…" Her mouth pursed up in the way that I loved, and her feeble attempt at determination made me feel even weaker. Why was I being such a monster to her? She deserved the truth.
"Eliza. You're my best friend. No, you're so much more than that. You're the only one I trust, and you're the greatest person I've ever known. And… I just can't hurt you anymore. I'm so sorry."
I watched, unconditionally curious, as her expression slowly changed. Her eyes widened just a fraction, but I didn't miss it. I had her attention.
"Go on." she urged, and when she did, I realized that there was another note in her voice that I hadn't registered- fear. She was scared of me. My heart seemed to fail, and it was as though I was groping desperately for the bottom of the ocean when all I could do was sink further. I closed my eyes, and let more painful memories flash through my mind. I sighed, and opened my eyes, only to see the girl I loved. It was clear again.
"You see…" My voice trembled. The sides of her mouth perked up.
Run away, Eliza, I thought, Run away before I hurt you any more. I don't belong with you.
I realized that it had been a few seconds only when Eliza made an impatient sound. I had forgotten that she was waiting for an explanation.
"You might not believe me," I continued. "But I beg you to just open your mind for a few minutes."
She nodded.
"There are so many things that I could tell you. That I should tell you. And frankly, I'm not sure how I'm ever going to be able to explain it in a way that sounds all right. So I apologize for what you are about to hear."
I paused.
"I shouldn't be here. But you- you don't know how- how, extraordinary you are! You don't know how vulnerable you make me. I honestly couldn't help myself one bit. I guess I sort of lost control every time I was around you, no matter how much I told myself that I wouldn't. You don't know how many times I said that today I would explain, and then leave, but when I saw your face I just forgot all of that. I was hooked. I should've left the first time I saw you, because I knew I was just walking towards my doom with my arms wide open. But I couldn't stop myself. It was never my choice. Its always been me."
"Everything?"
"Everything."
"So…"
"You suspected me. You were right."
"But you're here."
"Not really."
"And the rest?"
"All my fault. Everything was me."
"But… how?"
"I'm nothing but a figment of your imagination, Eliza."
"You're not real?"
I bowed my head. "No."
Her eyes widened, and as understanding dawned upon her face, I grimaced. But I watched, mesmerized, as her expressions fell from one to the another in rapid succession. She finally fell still.
I smiled.
She blinked, and her face flushed again. "You're a ghost." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
I nodded. She trembled.
"You.. You're dead."
"Yes. And I shouldn't have come back."

A low gasp escaped from her lips, and she clasped her hand over her mouth in shock. I stepped closer to her, and wrapped my arms around her thin, fragile back. She subsided, and then began to cry. I let her weep, and then spoke.

“I’m sorry. But I have to go.”

She looked up at me, her eyes a frenzied blur. She grasped at me, and then murmured in a harassed voice, “Don’t go. Please don’t go, I’m begging you. Stay.”

My arms tightened against her back and I pressed her body against mine.

“I can’t stay any longer. I’ve broken the promise. I’m not supposed to say a word to anyone. I can't stay.”

“You won't stay here. Can't I come with you?”

“What?” Shock mingled in my voice.

"Its possible, isn't it?"

"Well, yes! But you'd have to dead, Eliza. Are you insane?"

“No, I don’t mind. I’ll die for you. Kill me, now.”

She looked up at me with longing in her miserable eyes. She reached up and put her head above mine. I could feel her sharp, shallow breath against my face, and then she leaned down and kissed my forehead. I melted at her touch.

But I was aghast, completely against her decision. I couldn’t let her die. The whole point was for her to be happy. I shook my head, and saw the desolation in her eyes. And then, as suddenly as a bolt of lighting, it hit me that the girl I loved would only be happy if she was with me. It was, of course, the same way I felt about her. Without her, I was lost. This was what she wanted.

She sank back down, and placed her hand on the side of my face, bending forwards so that she was leaning against my chest.

I took a deep breath, letting all the confusion in the air sink in and rest. Now it was clear enough for me to proceed.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

She closed her eyes.

I focused myself and took action. It was over in seconds.

And we both drifted away in bliss, to harmony far away.





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