"It wasn't your fault."
She looked up, her hair coming out of it's messy braid, falling about her face in light wisps. "Where are we going?" She asked, her voice cracking. Her hand lifted to her mouth as she coughed, her eyes squeezing shut as her thin frame—had she gotten thinner?-shook.
"Out." He looked away, knowing she'd look at him and see the truth. He didn't think he could stand it if she said no. Not again. He felt as though—as though he'd shatter.
Her wide blue eyes gazed up at him, the sketch book laying momentarily forgotten in her lap, her bony hands still wrapped around her pencil. "I'd rather not." He huffed, his cheeks growing bright red. She smiled because he looked just like a work of art, as he paced around, his hands pulling at his light blonde hair, gnashing his teeth and cussing.
"You're dying, Annie!"
"Why do you blame yourself, Max?"
"Because. I didn't try hard enough."
The bowl flew across the room, the soup splashing the wall with a brilliant red, staining like blood.
"Get it away from me!" She screamed, her body writhing under his as he frantically tried to hold her down. "I don't want it! I don't want it!"
He could feel her trembling, could feel the fear, the revulsion, the anger—as it tore through her, and his own heart broke.
"Annie.. Annie, please." She tossed her head this way and that, her blonde hair flying out of her braid, slapping his face and her own. Her face colorless, slick with sweat as she fought him with all the strength her weak limbs contained. "Please.."
"I don't believe that."
"I don't really care what you believe."
"Do I look pretty, Max?"
He glanced up, his eyes sore from tears. He never used to cry, before he met her, he dimly realized. But then, he never used to smile much either.
She spun, around and around—and he almost laughed, it had to be the most awful dress he'd ever seen.
"I can respect that."
"Then can I go?"
She was wearing that awful dress again, it hung off her frame and bunched around her bony elbows as she dragged her pencil over a clean white paper, her face screwed up in concentration. "Stop moving." She snapped, and he had to fight back the smile that wanted to take over his face.
"Yes ma'am." She glanced up, her blue eyes swimming with mirth. He lived for days like this—days when her skin almost glowed, health coming back to her in little waves. He thought she was the most beautiful thing, even if that dress she insisted on wearing was the most hideous thing on earth.
"Don't you think it'll help, to talk about Annie?"
"Don't say that name."
"Why're you staring at me, Max?" She asked, her lips curled into a teasing smile, her long hair tumbling about her shoulders. Her fingers danced over his shoulders as he leaned over her, his eyes drinking her in.
"Because you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." He whispered, leaning down to brush his lips over hers—once, twice, and then, because he just couldn't stop himself—he crushed his lips to hers, kissing her, drinking her in as though she'd turn to dust and fly away if he didn't.
"Stay with me." He gasped, her hands tangling in his hair, pulling his lips to hers as the fire raged through them both.
"You can't dwell on it forever."
He approached slowly, watching her, holding his breath, keeping quiet—as though she was an easily frightened animal. Her legs hung over the edge of the cliff, the wind blowing her long hair over her shoulder, hiding her face from him. She swung her booted feet back and forth, back and forth, back and forth—her hands knotted in her lap.
"I know you're there, Max."
Letting out a huge breath, he flopped down beside her. "I guess I never was very good at sneaking around."
She shook her head, tucking her hair back behind her ear. He winced when her hand came up, so near him. Her fingers looked like a skeleton's hands, so thin, so... breakable.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?" She asked, her voice barely a whisper. It was, he knew the valley below them was lush and green, silver streams threading down through the land, the flowers carpeting the sides of the mountains. He understood why she loved it here, her artists mind flying over the valley floor, drifting with the current of the nature all around her.
"It is." He whispered back, his eyes still locked on her, and the way her feet swung back and forth, her hair flying about her skeletal shoulders. God, but she was just so beautiful. He felt like she would grow wings and fly out into that valley and disappear from him forever.
"Stop looking at me when you say that, like you're talking about me."
"I am talking about you."
She smiled a tired sort of smile. "I know."
"I don't think she'd want you to blame yourself."
"Like I said, It doesn't matter what you think."
The hospital room is so white, it hurts his eyes as he walks in. It's all white sheets, white tiles, white curtains, white cups, white plates, white chairs and beds, white, white, white. She hates white, he knows. She hates it, everything about it—except when it snows. She always said that when it snowed, it was pure innocence falling from heaven.
She looks almost dead, when he finally brings his eyes to her, her hair long and lank sticking to her clammy skin. Her blue eyes, still so radiant and beautiful are the only color in the whole room. They glow against her pale face, her blonde hair looking silver and white against the white pillow.
Her arms are bones, when she lifts them and reaches out to him. "Please.." She whispers, her lips dry and cracked. He shakes his head, afraid. Afraid he'd break her, afraid she'd crumble away to dust. "Please Max.." Her voice tore at his control, and he inched toward the bed. She struggled, pushing herself up, reaching out for him, her face filled with a desperation he couldn't resist.
He sat on the edge of the bed and gathered her into his arms, holding her tenderly as a babe. "My Annie.. my Annie.." He pressed his face into her hair, breathing in the scent of her skin, trying to pull her through him, trying to hold her in the safety of his ribcage. Her name passed through his lips again and again, until his voice cracked and scraped through the air. She laid her head against his throat, her face hidden from him, but he could feel the hot tears that leaked from her eyes and trailed over his skin. "Annie.."
"I'm dying, Max, I can't stay with you forever."
"You loved her, didn't you?"
"I still do."
They buried her in that awful dress.
Even then, she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.