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Four years since she walked out the door and seemingly never looked back. But, here she was, looking into his eyes as the rain pattered against the window and he sat there, slack jawed. She couldn’t say she blamed him. Loss had torn them apart, it was bound to be what brought them back together.
He shifted to where she could no longer see the shadows of raindrops dripping down the glass on his face. She reached out, trying to grab his hand, but he yanked it away, for somewhere in the back of his mind, he registered that she wasn’t casting a shadow. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and began to tremble, “Ames, please say something. Anything.”
Ames shook his head, “I can’t, Evie.”
“Just don’t be late to the funeral today. My parents need to see you there.”
“Thank you,” he whispered to her, contemplating asking her to stay just for old times sake.
She stood and watched him some more. He was still wearing the ring on his finger. What did that say about her? She had taken hers off as she’d walked out the front door. She’d tossed it at his feet because she knew it would hurt him. What did that say about her and Ames, that they had never even gotten the papers at all? She just went her separate way, pretending the marriage had never happened.
He got to his feet. He was only a few inches taller than her, but the shadows playing across his face and the darkness in his eyes made her feel like he was towering over her as he advanced. She held her breath as he stalked toward her.
“Evie,” his voice was low, “Why did you come back?”
“Because my sister died in that accident and I needed to be here.”
Her voice was weak, “I knew you loved her very much, Ames.”
She saw the anger in his face the moments the words left her mouth. If she didn’t know him better, she would have run at the glint of rage. He took a step away from her, “Is that why you left me?”
Evie shook her head, “No. I left because she was in love with you.”
He reached forward but dropped his hand just before it touched her cheek, “That never mattered. I was only ever in love with you, Evie.”
“Don’t lie,” she spat at him, baring her teeth. A door slammed somewhere in the house.
Her voice echoed. Chills ran down his spine, “I’m not.”
“I was dying, okay? That’s why I left.”
His eyes widened as he looked down at her. A slightly crazed half-smile crossed his face as tears glistened in his eyes, “Man, you sure know how to pile on the s*** news.”
She nodded, her eyes finding the chain around his neck. She followed the links and found her ring hanging down off of it. She swallowed, “Why have you hung on to me?”
Their eyes met. His voice washed over her, “Because I never stopped being in love with you.”
“I wish you would have. I stopped loving you.”
“No you didn’t. Stop lying,” he sneered.
She wanted to tell him she wasn’t lying, but that would be yet another lie. She had been driving herself insane thinking about him over the last few years. How was he? What was he doing? Did he ever love anyone else? How many others had he been with? Had he sacrificed their love as quickly and as easily as she had?
And now she was here and he had said that and she could not find the courage to utter a word of it. He could read her answer on her thin face.
He had spent the last four years waiting and hoping and praying that she was alright, that she’d come back. Now, the one person who had been there for him in his childhood was gone and the one person he’d loved was dying.
It hit him hard. He hunched over a little, clutching at his stomach. The room became cooler, cold enough now for him to see his own breath. The clutching turned into a way for him to conserve his heat. The temperature kept dropping until the rain on the outside of the windows crystallized and turned into frost. He lifted his head slowly, neck aching with every movement.
Her eyes were round as they met his. She longed to brush her fingers against his arm, to hold him close, but couldn’t as she wondered what was going through his head. Surely it could only be one thing. The one thing she didn’t want to hear coming from his lips: what a waste the last four years had been, seeing as they’d been spent pining over a dead girl.
They tried to speak at the same time. With an awkward chuckle, he motioned for her to go ahead. Her throat was dry and her voice was oddly hoarse, “I’m sorry I waited so long to come back.”
“Don’t, okay? How long have you known that you’re… ya know.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, wringing her hands. She took a deep breath, sat down in the chair, and breathed out, “Five years.”
His eyes held more betrayal than the day she’d left him, “How could you not tell me?”
A small laugh, some tears, and tapping a heel against the floor over and over again, in no particular rhythm. That’s all she could manage as he stared at her. Then, out of nowhere, his voice seemed to ring out
“It was because you found out when we lost the baby, wasn’t it?”
She sniffled. He looked at her, eyes aglow with something other than the light from the window filling the room. She had waited to see that look again for so long. “You know this isn’t a reunion, right?” she blurted, her voice icy.
Lightning flashed, illuminating his face with a nasty shade of blue, “What?”
“This isn’t me getting on my knees and begging you to take me back.”
“It feels like it, Evie.”
“But it isn’t. We can’t be.”
“Because when we lost our son, we lost us,” she sighed, “As much as we both wish it could work, it can’t.”
“That’s a lie,” he snapped, but something about her eyes made him pause. The whites were yellowing, the blue of her irises had seemed to darken to black in a matter of minutes. He hesitated, speaking slowly, “What did you mean when you said ‘was dying’?” it felt like the saliva in his mouth was slush as he spoke, the cold still biting at him.
“I had cancer,” she brought her hand to her lips, chewing on her nails.
Ames gave her a small smile. It always had been a nervous habit of hers. He’d often found her curled into a ball on the couch, deep in thought, biting her nails until the beds bled. When he looked at her fingers, his smile turned into a concerned frown. He could see that there was little to no nail left, yet there was no blood. “Had cancer?”
She locked eyes with him and his body froze, “I was in the car with my sister, Ames.”
“What do you mean?” he leaned over, yanking at his hair as sweat froze and shook out.
“I died. With my sister. A week ago.”
“No,” he mumbled, hanging his head, “No. No,” his voice got louder, near to screaming as he hit his head against his knees, “No you didn’t,” his whole body was shaking, “How could that be?” his voice broke, “You’re here. With me.”
“I’m not. You just wish I was, Ames.”
“No. You wanted a goodbye, but I already gave you one years ago.”
“You aren’t dead,” he yelled, flinching at the echo.
Then, it clicked. It all made sense to him. The pale waxiness of the skin stretched tight across the bones of her face. The sudden frailness of her body. The chill in her voice and in the air. The lack of contact. Things he refused to see when he looked upon her for the first time in four years. Things he could deny no further.
He looked up and Evie was gone. A single tear fell down his cheek, froze, and fell to the ground where it shattered. He pulled on his jacket, grabbed his umbrella, and walked out into the pouring rain, on his way to the graveyard.