“Ian, you see things in people that aren’t there. You look at me and see someone you could live the rest of your life with, but I am not that person.”
She paused, watching me. Then she said, “Would you follow me again, if I left now?”
It had finally come, and all I felt was anger. Grendel was waking, reaching out from his mossy bed, with sleepy eyes, ready to slash, ready to rend. I tried to send him back to his cave, but he wouldn’t go.
Raven sat up straighter and pulled the covers tighter around her.
“No,” I said, “I would not follow you again. Chasing you was humiliating.”
“Ian, I love you.”
“Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”
“Plenty hard already.” I pulled up a chair and straddled it. Set my chin on my forearms. Waited. A stone would have felt more than I felt, at that moment. Than I dared to feel. To feel was . . . No!
Not now. Not now. Not now. Not now.
Raven waited. She had seen this face before. Finally the red haze receded, breathing slowed, and I said, “Go ahead.”
“What did they do to you?”
“You know part of it. You won’t be here long enough to hear the rest.”
“Ian, I love you.”
“I know. I knew it before you did.”
She smiled. “Yes, I think you did. Ian, I don’t want to leave you. But I have to.”
I nodded. Nothing I could say would change what was going to happen.
“You are a complete person, in ways even I don’t fully understand. You had to become complete, or die. When I see you like you just were, it scares me. You have so much rage. But it is part of what makes you complete; part of what makes you strong.”
Raven tucked her feet under her, pulled the blanket tighter around her neck. She seemed to become smaller.
“I am not complete, Ian,” she said. “And I want to be. More than anything else, I want to be complete.
“Ian, your father was the central fact of your life. The way he raised you, then abandoned you, made you what you are.”
I shook my head. “He started me toward what I became. But this isn’t about me.”
“It is about you. It’s about both of us,” Raven said, “because my father is also the central fact of my life.”
“That’s ridiculous; Daniel Cabral is one of the most complete men I have ever met . . .”
It got very silent in the room while I choked on the obvious. Raven nodded slowly while I absorbed what she had known since Paris. Finally, she said, “I don’t want to marry Daniel Cabral. I want to become Daniel Cabral. And I can only do that by myself.”
* * *
An hour later, the rain started. The electric heater groaned and rattled, but it was no match for the cold that seeped in. I sat in a chair, dressed in sweats with a jacket around my shoulders, staring out past the streaked window to the heaving sea beyond. Raven stayed in the bedroom. The apartment was filled with a sad and gentle silence. The anger had washed away with the rain.
Finally Raven came out to stand beside me, and I pulled her into my lap. She nuzzled her head against my neck and said, “The rains have started. It’s time to leave.”
She ran her finger down my cheek. I said, “I still love you.”
“And I still love you.”
“But I won’t wait for you.”
“I have to live. I want to live. But when you are ready . . .”
“You can’t promise that. Neither one of us can.”
A shift in the wind rattled the windows.
“What’s left for us?”
“Now,” Raven said. “Tonight. And who knows, maybe someday – maybe forever?”
So it ends, for now at least.