There's nothing scarier than waking up alone when I fell asleep with his arms wrapped around me.
I sit up, holding the white sheets tight around me as I stumble out of bed, trying to pretend I can still feel his touch. Where is he? He promised he'd be here.
"Nathan?" Silence. The room is empty. "Nathan!"
'Go to sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up. I promise.'
I shake his voice out of my head. He promised. I can still see his shape in the pillow. I reach for it, knowing even before I touch it that no matter how much I want it to, it won't smell like him.
'I love you. Never forget that.'
Suddenly I know why he was acting so strange last night. I know why he was quiet, why he wouldn't talk to me when I saw him the day before. And I know where he is.
There's no time to even get dressed. I might be too late already.
My hand grasps the doorknob. It's warm. This time I can't hold back the tears. I can imagine him looking back at me hesitantly, wondering if I might be something he could stay for.
I guess I'm not.
Somehow this hurts more than I thought it would. I always knew there was part of him I couldn't reach. I always wished I knew what he was thinking when he grew quiet. I always wondered why everyone said those things about him; "You shouldn't be around that Nathan guy," They'd warn me. "He's not right. He's messed up."
Who the hell were they to judge him? They didn't even know him. They didn't know he hated mushrooms because it he thought they tasted bland, or that his favorite band was Arcade Fire. They didn't know he liked to dance in the rain, or that he sometimes hid behind the rumors because they were better, easier, than the truth.
They didn't know that even his girlfriend wasn't enough to make him stay.
I guess I can't blame him – I'm selfish. I'm selfish, for wanting him to stay, to endure the pain that cages him, for me, but I can't help it. I can't let him go. I never want to let him go.
I love him.
My grip on the doorknob tightens, and I pull open the door in what feels like slow motion. Running, running down the hall, running fast as I can without stopping, still holding the sheets around me. No one else is home. There's no one to stop him this time.
Opening the door. Down to the lake where I learned how to fish, where we played as kids. To the wooden planks that pass for docks, the ropes that hold the boats.
And I see him, his back turned to me, his hair ruffled and wild, his arms by his sides.
I'm not too late. There's still time.
Or is there? Because he's staring, trance-like, down into the depths of the water – no one knows how far down it goes, and this is just the shore – and I know then that he's a second away from jumping.
I throw myself at his back, my arms wrapped around him, pulling him away from the water. "Don't leave me." I sob into his shirt. "Please, you can't leave me."
"Anna." He says softly, sadly, and my heart breaks. "Let go."
"No!" I can't let go. I won't. He'll jump. I can't let go.
"You can't leave me! You promised you'd always be there!" I'm shaking now.
"Anna." He says again, and pulls me into his arms.
"You promised!" I'm losing it. I can't speak. I can't face him. My voice is quiet and hoarse when I finally choke out a last, "You can't go."
"I love you."
I look up at him, tears blurring my vision. "Then how can you just go, without even saying goodbye?"
"Anna." He whispers, and, like so many other times, I wish I knew what he was thinking.
"Stop saying my name!" I say desperately, and then the dam breaks and everything spills out. "Answer the question! How can you just leave me? All those times you told me you were okay, were you really? Or were you just lying to me? Just like you lied last night? You promised you'd be there when I woke up!"
"Listen to me."
I won't listen. I can't. I don't want to hear another time how it'll be better when he's gone, how I'll be happier. Because I know I won't be. And I know he'll never see that.
He's selfish too.
"Anna, I'm not going to jump."
"I'm not going to jump."
"Why?" As soon as I ask, I wish I hadn't. What if he changes his mind again?
But he just smiles softly and runs his fingers through my hair. "I've decided you're worth the pain of living."
I can't hold back the tears again. It's all too much. But I'm glad he's staying. I don't want him to leave me, ever.
"Promise you'll never leave me. Really promise this time." I have to make sure he won't run off again.
He closes his eyes and for the longest time just holds me without saying anything. Then he whispers, so softly I almost miss it, "I promise."