She stood tense and poised with her hands clutching and releasing the cushions on the couch. Her face, hardened and set, was turned slightly downwards to let her eyes follow the tapestry pattern along the pillows. She stared defiantly, cursing wildly inside, daring the pain to come again.

And then it took her dare.

She sucked in her breath violently as the steel fist socked her hard in the stomach. She bit painfully at the inside of her lip and gasped back breath. Her body trembled with the anticipation of tears. The tears she was fighting so arduously against.

Not again! She screamed inside.

Her fingernails dug deep into the cushions, and she pressed her weight against the couch. She could feel the tiny beads of perspiration cling to her forehead as she tried to force back the sickening tears. Her body quavered and shook gently, and a small groan escaped her lips.

The lone tear slid plaintively down her cheek.

And as that salty crystal hung suspended in time at her chin the rest followed. Slow at first until it became an incessant stream of frustration and hate.

She felt her weight go, and she slid down the couch until she landed on the creamy carpet in a trembling, moist heap. She lay there panting and sobbing.

Like a foolish dog! She shouted to herself.

As time ran away from her so did her thoughts until nothing was left but silence.

Suddenly she jerked herself upwards. The still had been so deafening she had hardly heard the doorbell. She sat staring, wide-eyed with disbelief, at the blank door as if it would tell her who had arrived.

Again the bell.

She fumbled up to her feet and smeared the remaining dew from her cheeks. Slowly and precisely she moved to the glowing white of the door. Her fingers automatically clutched the golden orb as her others pulled back the lock. The door swung open slowly, nearly suspending the time in nothingness, leaving suspense thick in the chilled air.

And there he stood.

Her brow furrowed softly, and she stepped back with surprise. Her lips parted and she grasped the wall at her side.

"Hello," he said thickly.

The corners of her mouth twitched gently into a weak smile. "Hi," her voice quivered and she swallowed hard. "Do—what are you doing here?"

He shuffled his feet uneasily and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I just wanted to see how you were. Your phone is off the line."

She glanced down to the tiling underneath her sneakers. The phone. She had forgotten she had left it lying on the kitchen counter. She let her lips smooth together as she swallowed her pain down. She had to allow the anger to linger, dull and throbbing, in the back of her throat. "I know."

Her eyes trailed up too look at him. Glancing at him felt almost taboo, practically a crime committed. His handsome face was troubled, the deep green eyes focused completely on her. Her heart burned for him. The desire to grasp his body close to hers and never let go welled up dangerously within. She looked away, frightened that he could see her thoughts within her reddened eyes.

He gazed at her solemnly then nodded awkwardly and looked down. "I…just wanted to say—" his voice broke off. He furrowed his brow and kicked at the Welcome rug on the porch. "My condolences to you." He finally managed to say. His voice was strained and tired. "If you ever need anything…"

"Yeah, thanks." Her voice thrust into his severely.

She looked up quickly to see the flash of shocked hurt in his wide eyes. The weight of her blow fell heavily on her heart. She sucked at the inside of her lip. The tears were coming back.

"Thank you—for coming by." She managed to gasp. "I have to go." She offered a wounded smile and shut the door quickly before his hurt could stop her.

The click resounded in the hollow doorway. She shoved her back against the white lacquered door. The wood no longer glowed.

She bit at her lips and the hot tears spilled over her lashes. Two grievances instead of one. Her body would rip at the seams soon. She slid down the door and let a cry escape her throat. The world had shattered into a million pieces and was whirling around her skull. She pulled herself blindly along the tiles until her palms grasped carpet. There she collapsed. Everything was falling away from her reach. The realization rang loud in her ears. She was falling, she was falling, she was…

Safe.

His arms were around her, lifting her trembling form into his embrace. His body was warm and strong against her. His arms, pulling her deeper and deeper into him, were comforting. She opened her swollen eyes and through the blur could see his face bent over her. His lips caressed her forehead, her mashed hair.

"Don't leave me." She whispered.

He smiled, the liquid green pools reflecting his comfort onto her salt stained cheeks. "Not any time soon."