That was when I saw her.
Her dirty blonde hair moved very softly in the cool breeze, swaying just above the small of her back. She faced away from me, sitting on the edge of the crater. The rock beneath her shimmered a dark black-blue. Tiny spots of light raced across the surface like ripples exploding in a still pool of water. Her feet dangled over the jagged edge of the cliff just above the lazy dark water. The flat surface of the rock and the gentle swaying ocean shone dully under an invisible light. The sun didn't hang above us nor did the moon, only small winking stars and a cold endless abyss.
I approached her carefully, hoping that she was not one of the many mirages I'd been seeing since she had disappeared.
I lowered myself next to her, watching her closely. She didn't disappear like she had so many times before. My feet dangled just above the water next to hers, its cold spray burned my shins as it licked the jagged edge of the crater.
Her image didn't waver as I had expected it to. The girl had blunt cut bangs and her thick hair was tucked behind her ears allowing me to see the iridescent light reflecting in her navy eyes as she gazed into the black water. The girl's gaze was pensive and sad.
The water somehow reached the height of the cliff just below where our feet dangled but the steep slick path leading up to the cliff was untouched by it. In fact, other than the glittering hill that had led me to her, there was nothing, only ocean and stars. So many beautiful stars. I looked up at them and felt overwhelmed by the nothingness that surrounded us.
Still looking at the ceiling of abyss I spoke, "So this is where you've been." There was no question in my voice. Stargirl was her favourite novel. I should've known that she had been hiding here and yet until I had arrived, I would have never thought of it.
Her freckled nose was still downturned as she looked into the beautiful black water, glistening with otherworldly beauty. She responded with that familiar voice of hers and pulled her gray-blue eyes towards me. Copper rings wrapped delicately around her pupils amidst the blue in her irises. "Yes."
My eyes mirrored her exactly.
Sadness overwhelmed me as I realized exactly how much I had longed to see her round cheeks and wide eyes. She blinked and I traced her features, reveling in the familiarity and nostalgia of this face. Small brown freckles were spattered across her nose like flecks of paint and her dreamy expression suited the strange dark atmosphere. She was beautiful. She was innocent.
With a small hand she reached out and took my hand in hers, examining the thick ruined skin that covered every inch of my body. She ran her fingertips across the burns and scars lacing my hand and I restrained myself from flinching back in pain. Her touch was cold and painful but as her hand moved, the pain melted into the feeling of relief. It was like she was pressing a cold towel onto a sunburn. We were no strangers to sunburns; maybe that's why there was no sun here. When she touched me, it was as if there had never been any damage there.
She pulled her hands away from mine and looked back into the dark endless water. As soon as her hand left my skin the feeling of relief faded, leaving behind only pain and scars.
This time she spoke to the water, "Why did you send me away?"
I stared at her, shocked. "Send you away? I've spent the last few years searching for you, seeing glimpses of you in the corner of my eye only to find that if you had been there, you had gone again. I didn't send you away, you left." My voice broke on the last word as tears began to cloud my eyes.
She looked at me again with my own eyes, they seemed to be the only similarity between us anymore. The girl spoke with tenderness in her voice, "You didn't even realize I was gone until I let you find me, you didn't notice until I brought you here."
It was true.
I spoke her name. It hung in the cold atmosphere that surrounded us.
"You sent me away. Why did you do that?" she asked. There was a pleading in her voice that tore at me like sandpaper against a fresh wound.
"I don't know."
We remained silent, looking out at the black rippling looking glass, reflecting the cold starlight above.
Finally, I found my voice. "I miss you."
"Come back," I spoke quietly. "I need you."
She brought her face to mine and a bead of water streaked down her cheek. "I'm sorry."
My heart jumped into my throat as she slid off of the edge of the cliff into the wetness below us. Her body made no splash or ripple as it descended into the darkness, as if she was not really there at all.
"No!" I screamed as her body vanished.
I frantically leaned over the edge, looking into the bottomless lake and grasping the edge of the crater with white scarred knuckles. My heart hammered painfully against my ribcage like a rattling tin can and it thudded in my ears like a snare drum.
The lake quietly reached up, attempting to lick my toes as if it had never been disturbed.
A strangled panic gripped my body. I saw nothing.
I jumped into the darkness after her.
I did not drift down weightlessly into the nothingness like she did. My body was a useless solid thing attached to the panic and unrest in my mind. The water was biting cold, cutting down my ruined skin like broken glass.
I sucked in a short breath, restricted by the cold bracing my chest. I ducked my head under the water, ignoring the pain that the shock of the sudden cold on my scarred cheeks gave me and I opened my eyes. I saw only inky blackness. I tried to call out but only bubbles escaped my desperate lips.
When the breath I had taken began to bite and struggle to escape my lungs, I turned back upward to reach for a breath.
The surface of the water had disappeared.
I flailed around in the coldness, feeling the sharp darkness enter my lungs and burn me up from the inside. I tried to scream, but no noise would leave my mouth as the ice water filled my throat and chest. I flailed wildly, struggling with a mad desperation to find the surface.
The last of the air in my chest leapt free from my mouth in small silver bubbles until nothing more came out. The cold bit into my skin and limbs grew stiff. I stopped struggling, letting the coldness hold me in its rough arms without any more protest.
Before the darkness consumed me completely, I could have sworn I saw a flicker of stars dangling above.
I sank like a rock.