“The central fact of our lives,” I said, “is that I love you and you love me.”
“Yes, Ian, I love you. I ran away from you because I loved you. I came back to you because I loved you, not out of guilt or duty. Eric was just someone to run away with.”
“I knew that in Paris.”
“How? How did you know?”
“Because compared to you he was an empty vessel. He could never be enough for you.”
After a moment, she said, “That’s why I chose him.”
Tears streaked her face. I touched her arm. She shook her head and could not speak. I pulled her out of the chair into my arms. She was trembling. She raised her wet face to mine; thrust her straining body against mine. Her pain and need were strong; it was no time for words. I carried her to the bedroom.
* * *
“Why did you follow me all over Europe?”
The afternoon had gone cloudy. A rectangle of cold, lifeless light hugged the far wall of the bedroom, inching its way minute by minute out of the room. In the long, sleepy silence after love making, Raven had wrapped the sheet around her as the room cooled.
“Because I loved you. But that wasn’t all. I wouldn’t have followed you if you hadn’t been in danger. If you had just left because of Eric or because you didn’t want to be with me, I would have let you go. I almost stopped looking, anyway.”
“Where you made love to Susyn?”
Mad violet eyes. Raven felt the tremor that shook me and stroked my arm.
Susyn had lived four days with spine and skull shattered.
Raven shook my arm and said, “Let go!”
“You don’t wake up screaming her name any more,” Raven said. “Do you still dream about her?”
“Probably. I still wake up in the night, sweating and exhausted. But now the dreams fade before I can remember them.”
“Because of her, you were ready to give up the search?”
“No. I made love to her when I had already decided to give up the search. There is a difference.”
Raven’s fingers touched the scars on my side. She sighed. She said, “Susyn meant a great deal to you, didn’t she?”
“I cared about the person I thought she was. I cared about an illusion.”
“And you made love to her.”
“Yes. That matters. It isn’t something I do lightly.”
“You loved her – or loved what you thought she was?”
“And you still do – somewhat.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Whatever I felt, I felt for a person that never really existed. Whatever I felt, ended when she shot at you. When she shot me.”
Mad violet eyes. The sound of her scream. The spine-shattering, skull-shattering sound of her landing.
“No,” Raven said, drawing closer, “that isn’t so. You don’t fool me. I hope you aren’t trying to fool yourself.”
The light had fled the room. I got up and dressed. Raven reached for the blanket and wrapped it around her. I was aware of waves crashing on the beach below. A storm was brewing somewhere out in the Mediterranean. Soon our retreat would become a cold, gray place.
“She mattered,” I said. “The person I thought she was mattered to me. That’s really all we have anyway – our perceptions. We don’t fall in love with people; we fall in love with what we think they are.”
“Ian, you see things in people that aren’t there. You saw goodness in Susyn. You look at me and see someone you could live the rest of your life with. I am not that person.” final post Monday