It was another miserable day. Long hours at a no longer fulfilling job, followed by a long wait in line at the grocery store, to walking out in the pouring rain with an armful of things, her car a clear 5 minute walk away. Mariana Waters trudged sullenly, not caring that she was slowly getting soaked.

“Are you walking? Do you need help?”

She paused in mid-step and turned her head slightly to the left, to see who was speaking. “Oh…” She blinked in surprise. “I didn’t see you there.”

A flicker of a smile, vanishing almost before she had a chance to catch it. “Well?” He waited for her to answer his initial query.

“Oh… uh…” As always, he made her second-guess herself; she had to stop and think about it. Keeping composure was always a challenge around him. Even now, like this. “I hadn’t planned on…that is…” she shrugged at the parcels in her arms. Five steps ahead, her car was awaiting. Rain pelted them as they stared at each other for a moment.

“Here, allow me.” Without giving her time to protest, he scooped up her parcels and carried them quickly to her car, taking long strides. She had to run a little to keep up. He stood patiently by the trunk and waited.

She opened the trunk. Grabbed things and tossed them in. “Thank you. You didn’t have –“

“Darling, when are you going to stop running?”

She nearly dropped the last of her bags. While fumbling to set it right and put it in the trunk, she kept her eyes downcast. She raised an eyebrow and attempted to sound demure. “I’m no athlete. I’d rather drive any day.” She pushed her dark, wet hair away from her face and behind her ear.

He lowered the door of the trunk and clicked it quietly shut. His hands lifted her head to face him. “You know that is not what I meant.” Silently, reverently, he placed a kiss on her brow and enveloped her in the warmth of a hug that spoke much louder than it should. The rain continued, oblivious.

He slipped away, his eyes so very dark, saying all the things she needed, but couldn’t have. Saying all the things he knew better than to put to words. He waved a little as he backed away. “Please take care. I miss you.” He turned about and resumed the business of finding his own car.

Mariana closed her eyes. Inhaled deeply. Exhaled slowly, lower lip trembling. She willed herself not to watch him go.

WhateverIdodon’tcryjustbreathe.

Just. Breathe.

Turning toward her car, she slowly opened her eyes. The world showed up through a watery filter. Blindly she performed the typical functions. Open car door. Get in. Buckle seatbelt. Put key in ignition. Turn the radio up loud.

Weep.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” On and on, like a mantra. She started the car. “I’m sorry, I’m so…” Sobs drowned words. Rain tapped silently on the windows.

She sat up with a start. A different dream this time, but still the same meaning. He is gone. You are lost. Rain mocked her, tapping on her bedroom window. She looked over at the clock, and noted that she would have to get up soon. It would be yet another miserable day. She sighed and wearily sank back down into her bed. Pulled the comforter up to her neck, in spite of the time. Closed her eyes dismally. Prayed for sleep to pull her back in. Prayed that when it did, he would return, and this time, she wouldn’t let him leave.

Thoughts started to crowd in. Who do you think you are? You don’t deserve his return. You know very well why he keeps haunting you like this. It’s your fault. Yours. You are not even worthy of sharing the same dream space. Silent tears staining cheeks, bringing no comfort. Shouting on the inside, Stop it! Stop it! I don’t care! I don’t care! If she couldn’t have him otherwise, she thought, at least she could have him in dreams. It was a small consolation. She pulled the comforter over her head. Eyes open, stared at the myriad patterns of light seeping through the comforter, matching the pattern on it. Stillness enveloping her as the blanket did.

He isn’t coming back, you know.

She knew that.

You really should get up. You have to work.

She knew that, too.

Let’s get on with this, then.

Mariana willed herself to get up and out of bed. Stretched in a feline manner. Shook the remnants of sleepiness off. Clicking her tongue on the roof of her mouth, she walked over to her closet and mulled over the possibilities. Pulled out a crimson v-neck sweater and black skirt. Hmm... it looked a little too short to pass office protocol. Fuck protocol. She needed to feel good today.

She tossed the clothes onto the messy bed and strode to the bathroom, humming a little to herself. The dream was already slipping away. Good. Stay away, she thought.

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