It had been a Thursday, when the seams of the world came undone.
He had slipped into her room that night, had pressed a feather light kiss against her cheek and quietly slipped his heart into her hands.
He had disappeared just as soon as he’d come.
And it had stung, being left behind. Being left alone, abandoned, when a war was just beginning.
He’d loved her, back then.
She doesn’t know just when that came to an end.
‘’I’m glad you came,’’ he says, voice something tall and solid and impenetrable as he stands beside her in the corner of the room.
Its the first words he’s said to her in over a year.
‘’I didn’t think that you would.’’
She feels her mouth twist into something snarling and rueful. ‘’Maybe I shouldn’t have.’’
He’s silent for a beat. Two. Long enough for the orchestra to sweep into another song thick with bows and strings and regret.
‘’I wanted to see you again,’’ he murmurs, fingers ghosting over the pulse point in her wrist. ‘’To explain.’’
‘’I did,’’ he replies. And its earnest, fingers curling around her wrist and mouth edging into a hesitant, heartbeat smile. ‘’I wanted to apologise. To tell you that everything I did – leaving and not telling you -‘’ his voice cracks. A fault line that she feels in the marrow of her bones.
‘’And what about marrying her?’’ she asks, too angry and too sharp.
His face contorts in the low light. He’s let go of her wrist; fingers mottled with third degree burn. ‘’I didn’t want to hurt you,’’ he tells her.
And she knows precisely why he’d done what he’d done. Understands him intricately enough to grasp the fact that he’d done it for his parents, had done it for his name, had done it for himself, maybe.
She also understands that he might’ve thought he wouldn’t be able to get her back.
‘’I am sorry. So, so sorry.’’
Bites the inside of her cheek.
She doesn’t expect the next letter that arrives – a cordial invitation to brunch the next week – or the next letter – a carnation yellow card brimming with summons for a charity gala – or the next – a butterfly soft offer to attend a garden party.
She doesn’t expect them, or really comprehend them; because this has never been her particular crowd. Not when her blood isn’t blue enough and her bank account isn’t full enough and her family’s manor isn’t large enough –
She attends anyway.
Dons elbow brushing gloves and pretty, wilting smiles. Drinks bubbling champagne and speaks in low tones about the weather, the news, who is marrying her.
Suspects – after one encounter, two, three – that he is behind the invitations.
Because their interactions are sweeping, quiet affairs. Filled with stifled laughter and meaningful looks and heart twitching ‘’I’m sorry’s’’. Fingers at her chin, her wrist, her neck. Pulses leaping faster and keeping out of sight and an uncomfortable, unbidden breed of longing that doesn’t manage to go away once they’ve parted ways.
He tells her about his year in the dusty, dark library, tucks a lock of hair behind her ear.
Explains the chore of loving his fiancee in the very place he’d proposed to her, plucks a rose from one of the bushes and it doesn’t feel like an omen when it finally dies.
Because this –
This is wrong and this is thrilling and this is holding hands beneath a silk tablecloth while his fiancee sits on his other side. Its harried letters with running, escaping ink as he tells her he’s sorry, he loves her, he’s never stopped loving her. Its kisses that linger at the hand, the throat, but never the mouth.
Its the first time he sneaks in through her windowsill as if they were twelve years old. Fingers knotted and hips rolling and –
‘’I can’t do it,’’ he says the next morning. Presses his fingers against the wedding invitation lying unopened on her desk. ‘’I can’t marry her.’’
‘’I know,’’ she says.
Its what she’s been waiting for all along.
The world ends on a Tuesday.
But she’s not really sure that it does.