She has held onto his picture forever. Long before the silence, before the choices, before the fire which burned everything to ashes. And even as change was forced upon her, she clutched his image to her chest.
She held his hand even when he pulled it away, when he left her alone amid the debris, to mend the pieces which together, they’d set to flame. He left the ghost of imagined kisses on her bruised and burnt finger tips: delusions of a love she maintained despite the way her voice echoed around his absence.
She kept him in her heart even after she had left his, and faded into whispered regret.
And in the years which tugged her on, he could be found in every touch and taste. He was every man’s hands and lips, every dark alley and secret encounter. He was the hand which bound, the voice which called her name, the stinging lash and the cool bite of leather against her skin. It was he she sought in their adoring eyes, and him she longed for when finally, reluctantly they faded into the shapes of indistinction, lost even to the sharpness of her memory.
He become a shadow which molded itself to her, which would change and grow. A mirror of herself, he grew into a fantastical version of the him she once knew, a version who would sway her and calm her and ease her loneliness, as his living heart continued to beat in the chest of the man who turned away.
But her love was given him, forced upon him, without hesitation, without permission, without even, the promise of its return. So how could she fault him, his doubts, his decisions, or the sharp edges each exhaled breath carried the moment he gave that love away.
And in that painful fantasy she built, how could she question the truth of his love when finally, the silence was broken, and he was found standing upon her doorstep, apologies on his lips and her shape still engraved in the folds of his embrace?
She found the love she gifted him so long ago in those arms.
But there was another woman with her now, a woman of strength and confidence and suddenly his embrace couldn’t contain them both. She has grown bitter in his silence and weary of this new game he has devised. And with this new woman came a voice more persistent than it was last, more thoughtful and aware of the subtleties of his ebb and flow against her.
It’s she who questions his intentions, his motivations, she who looks for meaning between the words he writes, the language he imbibes to find his truth, and she has found it desperately wanting. For his heart belongs to yet another, and it was her who set him free, and, like any lost and lonely soul, he has sought the companionship of one he knows is connected, as they have become, in heartache.
So free he shall be again. Turned from her doorstep and her embrace to wonder the streets alone, as she has done. And knowing all that he will learn, his absence will hold no regretful sharp edges, and she might finally find the peace she always wanted, but now it will come with a promise of one day finding a love deserving of all she has become.