Author: NightWhisper25 PM
Yes, it was the end. She could taste it, feel it. She knew this would be the day he'd say "goodbye." She wasn't ready. She didn't want this to be the end. Oneshot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Words: 1,900 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Published: 01-04-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2617369
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She could sense the end. It was the bitter sting in the soft autumn wind that breezed about them. It was the annoying taste of silver that she couldn't get off the tip of her tongue. It was as definite as sunrise, and yet as cold as the winter that was creeping upon them. It was the worst part of the beginning that she still couldn't get past.
They were sitting in the middle of the park, at a small table under the spreading branches of the oak tree. They were across from each other, rather than next to each other. This was how she knew. It was one of the little signs that he gave her to let her know it was over. There were tons of them; things she had tallied up over the weeks and had filed away in her brain. Oh, they were small things, to be sure, but they hurt her deeply nonetheless. She noticed his increasing distance from her: the way he would stand apart from her if ever they were walking side by side, his careful manner whenever he was around her --never touching her or holding her. Not anymore, at least.
They were fighting now, too. Nothing life-altering, of course. They had tiny spats about trivial things like work and time; but just as the constant wearing away of the earth caused erosion and ultimately a landslide, the arguments tore at their relationship. Bit by tiny bit the love she had felt they shared seemed to be disappearing. Slipping between her fingers like sand in an hourglass, with no way to hold tight to what was left.
She had been watching her hands for a minute or so, trying hard to avoid him and his steady gaze that she could feel on her forhead. This probably wasn't right. If she had a problem --if they had a problem-- one of them should address it. It should be her.
Yes, it should have been, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything.
With a deep breath she looked up to see his face. She met his eyes: deep pools of blue that always seemed to catch her off guard, no matter how long or how often she looked into them. She watched him, sitting across from her. She watched him watching her and wondered what he was thinking. He would run now, wouldn't he? Yes. It seemed inevitable. With her eyes she traced his face, trying desperately to memorize every detail there before he said goodbye, so that when nights were lonely she could recall him just so: serene and perfect; so that she could pretend that he was still there and still loved her the same way that she would always love him.
Thinking back she realized how nonsensical it all seemed --the way they had met, the way they had fallen so hard, the way they had folded more and more into one another without so much as a question or quarrel. She couldn't get over the fact, though, how odd it had been. How odd it still was. Before him, no man had ever taken an interest in her. No man had ever given her a second thought. She had thought for a long time that she would end up spending her life alone. She had grown into the idea. Accepted it. And then, like a rainstorm in the desert, he arrived here --for her it seemed-- saturating her, filling her to the brim. He brought her to life.
For her, it was a lot like being in a cold room for a long period of time: you never really knew or understood how much you had been freezing until you finally stepped out into the sunlight.
That's what he was: sun, light, warm.
The sound of his voice --softer than the breeze-- interrupted her reverie.
"Catherine," he said her name. She looked up at him again, his face was somber. This was it.
No. She thought. I don't want to say goodbye. "Yes?" She fought to keep her voice steady. She didn't want this last meeting to be in tears. She tried to find the strength to save that for later.
Something flashed across his face for a second. Indecision? No. Something else. . .determination. "We need to talk."
Of course, the inevitable words. There were no good conversations that followed those words. Silently, she steeled herself; put up shutters against the windows of her heart --preparing for the emotional storm she was about to feel-- and nodded. "I know."
He seemed to hesitate for a fraction of time. "These past months have been hard on both of us," he said. "I haven't. . ." he hesitated, trying to find the right words to tear her to bits. "I never meant to hurt you, Catherine. I want you to know that." He took a deep breath and met her eyes. The blue of them stung with the cold of ice and remorselessness. "It's my fault for letting it go this far."
So he was admitting it, then. He never really loved her --not in the way she loved him, that is. It was his fault, he said, for letting this happen. She felt the pressure building slow and steady behind her eyes as he spoke; with every breath she took she fought back tears. Please don't make this harder than it has to be. She prayed. Just do what you need to do.
As much as she was struggling to keep her head above water, she could feel the level rising. Her voice shook when she opened her mouth to speak.
"I understand." She had decided to herself that she wouldn't say much. She was not one to try and keep him here with her. If he wanted to go, she would let him. Maybe one day, he would do her the same favor, and release his hold on her heart. There were only a few words left in this conversation, and he would be the one to deliver them. She would take the blows quietly, and watch him leave afterwards. Maybe that would help her move on quicker --a clean break of sorts. She closed her eyes, and prepared for the end.
But the "goodbye" she had been expecting never came. He was quiet for a long moment that stretched with each breath she took. Had he gotten up and left her here? Was that his silent goodbye to her? Did she dare open her eyes and find out? Her heart gave a single heavy and painful thud.
No, she thought. I didn't want to say goodbye.
If he wasn't there, she said to herself, then she would let herself cry. If things were really better dealt with sooner rather than later, then it would only be helpful in the long run. If time could heal all wounds, then maybe she could beat the clock by letting herself mourn early on instead of fighting the tears and pain for months.
She was deciding all these things in her mind when she heard his soft voice again.
"Catherine," His voice was closer than it had been before, and not from the direction she was expecting. His tone when he spoke was endearing, soothing, a balm to her aching heart. "Open your eyes."
When she did, she had to look up to see him properly. Somehow he had silently moved from his seat across from her and was standing next to her. His broad frame casting a shadow over her, covering her in himself.
But slowly, she realized, he was coming closer. She watched his face move toward hers, their eyes locking. Her heart gave a jolt --electricity running through her veins. She wondered if he was sinking, if he was standing on quicksand and was now being taken under; somewhere in the back of her mind, though, she realized that this wasn't the case. He stopped moving when their eyes leveled with each other.
He was down on one knee.
What are you doing? she wanted to say. She tried to form the words. She could hear herself saying them in her head, but her mouth wouldn't move.
He spoke instead. "Catherine," he said. She watched, stunned, as his hand moved inside the deep pocket of his overcoat and produced a small diamond solitaire. "I think it's time we moved on."
Her eyes couldn't leave the sparkling stone. She watched the way the sunlight caught it and sent rainbows dancing inside of it. She could understand the words --knew what they meant-- but in their current context they didn't make sense. Move on? What did that mean?
She broke her gaze away from the diamond and searched his face. His eyes were liquid now. She felt as if she could see straight into them --into him. "Tell me what you want from me." she heard herself whisper.
He pursed his lips for a moment. His eyes grew wide, and she searched them for answers. "I love you, Catherine." he said. She could hear the pure conviction in his voice --as if he were saying a prayer. He looked away then, gathering his thoughts it seemed. "These past weeks. . . they haven't been good. I haven't been good to you. I've been. . ." he shook his head before he met her eyes again, the fierce determination in them sent a thrill up her spine. Her stomach did a little somersault. "I've been wrong. Completely wrong, and I'm sorry for all of that, Catherine. I would understand it completely if you didn't want me anymore because of it. . . if you never forgave me." He took her left hand from where it had been resting on her lap, held it in his own big hand. "But if you'd let me. . .I'm willing to spend the rest of my life making it up to you."
A lump had grown in her throat and the tears threatened to slip past her eyelids. She held on for as long as she possibly could. He squeezed her fingers gently, and placed a kiss on them before he spoke again.
He slipped the ring onto her finger.
She threw her arms around his neck and let the tears fall onto his collar --a beautiful release. The tightness she had felt in her stomach had disappeared, the ache in her chest was gone. She listened to him as he whispered a soft "I love you" in her ear, thrilled at the way he wrapped his arms around her waist as if he would never let go.
He pressed his lips just below her ear and softly laughed. "Does this mean yes?"
It was rhetorical, of course. He knew, and he smoothed his hands along her back. She imagined the rest of her life lived this way --close to him always-- and realized that there was nothing that she wanted more than this. Nothing that she had hoped for more than this.
It wasn't the end she had been expecting, but an end nonetheless. It was the end of the beginning --the end of hopings and longings and "what ifs." But it was also the beginning of something new and wonderful: forever.