She sat by the window, gazing out as was her wont to do. Her gaze languidly searched the sky for patterns amidst the myriad hues that the clouds seemed to take on with the setting sun. The quiet chill of twilight brought about a strange stillness to her being, afraid even to breathe.
Lost in a reverie she was, yet alert enough to discern another presence in the room. Her gaze did not shift; she remained where she was.
Quiet, breathing. The hand barely touched her shoulder before it was taken away. She didn’t look up, only murmuring a ‘yes’ to convey that she was listening.
She couldn’t miss the oddly half-sheepish, half –rakish smile in his voice as he asked, “So, what are you up to?”
And she smiled, despite herself. “Waiting for you, sir, so that I may be graced with your honourable presence.”
“Stop playing the princess.”
“Says the one who acts all high and mighty himself.”
“Oh, as if! I’m a person of humble means, you see…”
The mindless banter went on back and forth, while the twilight continued to fade, vestige by vestige.
There was this and there were other moments. Of unspoken understandings, shared insights and common inspirations. Her vehemence would cross paths with his anguish – the only time they would. Those few moments of togetherness, revelling in the way they were so alike beneath the veneers.
Those few moments were all that she could allow herself, after all.
But they had more than those few moments, didn’t they?
Long talks, hands held, kisses stolen in the dark. The rare occasions where they willingly allowed inebriation to break their walls. Only to revert to their otherwise impenetrable fortresses, nursing old wounds, on the lookout for yet another battle which would, hopefully, not be their doing this time.
They were both fighting the same enemy, and yet unwilling to come together, preferring to be distant allies, keeping their endeavours as less intertwined as possible.
He dreamt of the one person he couldn’t be with; she grappled with her fear of never finding anyone else again. And as hopeless as these quests seemed, they were all they had to fight on for. Quests that brought them dangerously close to a single path, but it takes more than shared interests to keep one bound to the other, doesn’t it?
And that, the crucial element, was dearly missing.
For she reached out to him against both their wills, and his response, while comforting, was nonetheless marred by the bitter realisation that even that couldn’t be to her claim, let alone his heart.
It was another question - a question she refused to acknowledge – whether she truly wanted to claim him in any respect to begin with.
She leaned by the parapet, her gaze resting on the gently rippling waters of the lake, her body heaving with the measured breaths she forced herself to take. It had been a long, excruciating walk and climbing low hills worryingly proved a challenge to her decreased stamina. Her somewhat fragile health was on a long list of things she didn’t find to be all right. And as always, it was bound to give away to more pressing matters.
Matters which existed in her head. Anxieties and fears none too real, but acutely felt within the realm of her dreams.
It did not help that the only way she had known to fight them off, all these years, was through an anchor. An idea, a motive…but mostly, a person.
Something she had failed to find well over a year now, the last attempt succeeding no better than the others.
Her eyelids fluttered to a close, her senses focused on taking in the sunlight that warmed her skin against the light breeze. She stilled herself to take in the moment as much as she could, knowing that moments like these were substitutes for the lack of a veritable safe haven, however poor.
What she didn’t anticipate was to feel a hand brush against her shoulder, starkly reminiscent of the previous times and unwillingly she looked up to see him standing there, the same slight smile gracing his countenance.
She thought she was dreaming.
"I’d say, what a pleasant surprise, but I’ll forego the pleasantries – the startled look on your face is a little humiliating, to be honest-“
“What are you doing here?” she cut in, having little patience for his ramblings.
“I could ask you the same, princess.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake! Can’t a person have a little peace and quiet some times?”
“Eh, no one’s denying you that,” he remarked, not failing to take note of her impassive expression which was only betrayed by impatience flashing through her eyes. Impatience crossed with anguish. “I know that look very well, you know.”
“I know you do.” And much as I may have wanted it to be, it’s none of your business.
“So tell me. Why are you here?”
By this time, she was already on her feet, almost shaking with antipathy. “How does it matter?”
He shot her a narrowed look, but said nothing. To which she almost smiled. Of course, not your place to say it matters, right?
The forced mirth was replaced by quiet seriousness as he asked again, “Tell me.”
But he remained where he was, and she was only too aware of the distance. Mutual understanding be damned; I refuse to partake affection and concern from afar.
She crossed the gap and walked past him, but not before stopping to lay her hand on his shoulder. ”It’s nothing. You may go.” Time you did.