Do you know what it is like to walk around with a hole where your heart should be? Everything is dulled, pointless. Necessary. If you do not keep moving forwards, you will fall into despair and your heart will never be mended. So you keep moving forwards, but the emptiness doesn't get any better.
For three months, I walked around like that. I was a being all but dead to the world. I did my work and I did it exceptionally and then I went home to the flat that was so close to everything I had lost. Erin would invite me out on occasion, for drinks or dinner. But even she couldn't bring me out of the emptiness. She resorted to bringing me to larger gatherings, hoping that having other people around would hide the fact that I had no emotions left to share.
It wasn't as though I didn't talk. I was perfectly capable of holding an intelligent conversation and feigning polite interest, but it didn't go any further than that. Because deep down, I didn't care. I wouldn't do to be impolite, though.
That is how I found myself standing in the very large wine cellar of a patron of the arts who was greatly fond of Erin. She had done modelling for this man's son and the boy was half in love with her. Which is how she managed to get an invitation to the midwinter party at the very large London house.
The wine cellar was a large room that could hold about seventy-five people. There were racks of expensive and dusty wine along one wall and a few chairs and tables along the other. At one end of the stone room, a group of musicians gathered and played quiet music while the guests talked and drank. I was dressed in a simple black dress with my hair pinned back and had a half-full glass of wine in my hand. One sip had told me it was the same wine Liam had served me that first night. I wanted, in the part of my mind that couldn't seem to speak, to dash the glass away and go home to bury my head in my pillow. But that would be rude and I drank the wine to satisfy my host.
A couple of friends of the young artist were standing across from me, telling a story about a time when they accidentally parked a sailing boat in the middle of a roundabout. The one with dark hair and glasses was trying to catch my eye, drinking his own wine when I politely sipped at mine. Every few words, he would shift his weight and move just an inch closer. When he was close enough to be considered too close, I turned my head away and made as though I were looking about the room.
"If you'll excuse me for a moment," I said, my voice pleasant but bland. "Where is the restroom?"
"Oh, um, up the stairs and to the left," the man in glasses said. I nodded and set my glass down on one of the small tables before turning and walking away. As good a time as any to make my escape, I figured. I had already been there for an hour and a half and Erin was off making vibrant conversation with someone else. I slipped to the end of the room where the stairs were and then froze.
Just then, the music changed, the sound piercing me to the core and making it hard to breathe. It was played at half speed and barely managed to sound above the talking guests, but I heard it. I knew that song. I couldn't tell you its name or who wrote it, but I knew it as surely as if it had been written on my heart. Because it had. It was the same song that had played at the club in the warehouse district when I first went out with Liam. When he had scoffed at my self-proclaimed inability to dance and told me to do one thing. Let him lead.
I had. It had been glorious and opened up so many wonderful sensations, but ultimately, it hadn't worked. Because he hadn't trusted me enough and I hadn't trusted him enough. Love was a dance, after all. There was a give and take to the movements that made them look effortless. They took endless practise, though.
I couldn't move, not while that song played. The walls that had been keeping the pain locked away—along with every other emotion in my body—cracked for just a moment and I felt. I felt more than I had in three months. It hurt.
I closed my eyes against the pain and tried to push it away, close it off again. Then I felt something entirely different, something that had nothing to do with emotion and everything to do with instinct. There was someone behind me. With the tango playing in the air, it wasn't hard to figure out who it was. Why he was there, rubbing elbows with the well-connected, wasn't hard to discern either. The difficult part was trying to understand why he had asked the musicians to play that song and why he was standing behind me instead of ignoring me.
"Adrienne," he breathed in my ear, his hands running over the back of mine as though we were dancing. And then we were, swaying with the music and stepping over the floor. He kept one hand on my stomach and had his chest pressed against my back. Every slight movement of his muscles and I knew what he wanted me to do. I couldn't even think about fighting it. On the downbeat, he turned me around and I found myself looking over the visage of Liam Hansen for the first time since my world shattered.
"I had forgotten how beautiful you are," he breathed, running a hand through the air a hair's breadth away from my face. I closed my eyes to keep from getting lost in the stormy-grey depths of his. Why was he doing this to me? Could he be so cruel as to want to break me further? It would kill me if he did.
"..." I tried to come up with something to say. A demand to know why he was there. An accusation that he left me on the floor. A question to ask why I hadn't seen him for three months though we lived a scant few feet from each other. Anything. All I came up with was nothing. So I stayed quiet and let him speak.
"I'm so sorry, Adrienne," he said, spreading his fingers on my back and pulling me into a slow spin. "When Tate showed up that night… when everything came to light… I didn't know what to do. I hurt, Adrienne. I hurt because of what you said."
What did he want me to do? Apologise like I had a thousand times in my dreams? I had no apologies left. I had told the truth and explained to him everything. I had told him why I had faith in him and he had taken it as betrayal. I turned my head to rest on his shoulder, not in a gesture of comfort but in a need to do anything to stop my emotions from rising to the surface.
"I was wrong, though," he said, still dancing with me, still holding me close. "It wasn't you that hurt me, it was… facing the reality of what I was. How wrong I was for you. A monster."
I straightened at that, my muscles tensing enough that I couldn't feel where he was leading me. In the middle of the wine cellar, I stopped dancing and glared at Liam Hansen with the full force of all the anger I had carried around for months. I slapped him. He stared at me with wide eyes, a look akin to fear on his face. Afraid, as though I would reject him. "You think I cared—think I care—what other people think of you? You think it matters to me that you deal in information rather than money? You were anything but a monster to me. You saved me from my demons and then you left me bleeding on the floor."
"I didn't know what else to do," he pleaded, reaching a thumb out to brush my cheek. I wanted to push his hand away and storm from the room, but instead I captured his hand and held it to my face.
"Then you're a blood idiot," I said.
"Please forgive me," he was close to tears, his voice betraying the fact when his expression didn't. "I was so wrong about you Adrienne. From the moment I met you, I was convinced that I was the superior and that you would be a lovely creature to bring up to my standards. I was looking at everything the wrong way 'round."
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, pulling away as if to leave. Now that he had made his apology, he could go and try and move on. Only, I had been doing that for three months and it didn't work. So I held on to his hand and pulled him close. Social propriety be damned, I thought, and mashed my lips against his in a desperate kiss.
"Damn you, Liam Hansen," I said, my voice catching in my throat. "I love you too much to let you go."
He didn't say anything—probably because there were tears running down his face—but it didn't matter. He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me back, putting everything he couldn't say into that act. It didn't matter that he couldn't speak. I knew. I understood.