It's true what they say - about not knowing what you have until it's gone. I don't think you realise how much you love someone until the first time you go somewhere expecting to see them and they're not there. It's a terrible empty feeling like you're one half of a circle reaching out for its complement. No matter how hard you try, it just isn't there. Time drags by and all you want is to go back to bed and dream it all away, to be free from that terrible feeling for just one moment.
It struck me again this afternoon. I had been waiting for her at the park with its beautiful dead trees and red leaves, restless with excitement at the thought of seeing her again even though I see her all the time. I'd even brought my little digital camera with me to get a photo of us together. I waited and waited, but she never came. I sat down on a bench and waited until it got dark, then went home.
I'm trying my best to alleviate that lonely pain. I have plenty of pictures of her, after all. Some are of her, some are of us together. I even have some drawings I did of her. People have said I have a real talent for pencil drawing, but I feel like I cheated by learning it all from a book. Although I don't like admitting it to myself, I really only learned so I could draw her face. I draw other things too, of course, but hers are the only ones I keep. It's frustrating in a way; no matter how much I draw her, no grey pencil can capture her colours and movement. Long hair like spun gold. Bright blue eyes. The way she laughs, the way she just looks at people.
All this is nervousness. I always worry about you. I hope you're okay.
I'm looking through some photos of her right now. I keep them in envelopes, labelled and sealed away, printed on the finest quality paper. In some of them she's walking, in others she's standing, in others she's just sitting or playing with the kids. I can feel myself smiling just looking at her. Her smile is enough to light up anyone's face, even from a photograph. As I leaf carefully through the pictures my smile slowly fades and a subtle but familiar emptiness overtakes me. I stop and sit for a while, the ticking of my grandmother's old clock the only sound accompanying the quiet rustle of an autumn breeze in the dying leaves.
That's it. I know what's wrong with these pictures - none of them have her looking at the camera. I feel that sinking disappointment in the pit of my stomach again. Back in the day we were friends; I probably could have just gone up to her with a camera and she would have struck a pose or smiled at me, but it's too late now. It's been too long. How could she look at the camera if she didn't even know I was there?
Even back then she had no idea how much I loved her. I so badly wanted to tell her, but she was always in a different league. You're still far too good for me.
There I go again. I'm talking to myself, I'm terrible for talking to myself. Well, it's not really to myself. I always talk to her as if she were here by my side. Sometimes I forget and make some remark aloud or ask her a question, and when I turn to see her response she isn't there. She hasn't heard anything I've said to her in the last ten years.
I always write to her though. Slowly, deliberately, I write out whatever I'm feeling for her at the time, always gentle, never going over the top. I never send the letters, of course. I have a pile of them locked away, dating right from when I first loved her up until now. I taught myself calligraphy just so that I could write her name. It didn't take too long to learn, just a few months, and it was worth it to see her name written how it deserves to be written. It's improved my handwriting too. Sometimes I buy her little presents and wrap them, trying to imagine the look on her face if I were to give them to her. I got her a bracelet this morning, which I'm looking over now. It's pure silver, with Latin engraved along the inside. "Te amabo in aeternum" it says. I will love you forever.
Sometimes I wish I could send just one letter, just one gift, but I know that's just the selfish part of me talking. She made her choice. I'm sure she could have done better than him, but I suppose she knows better than me what's good for her. I've seen how happy her two little girls make her, and I always like taking photographs of her playing with them. They're only toddlers but they have her looks. They're the most adorable little kids you ever saw. She's always rowing with her husband though. I'm sure she can't be happy with him. I never wanted to admit it to myself, but I think she married the wrong person.
I don't know. Maybe I'm biased, maybe I want to be with her so badly I'm just making things up. That look on her face though, when she leaves the house after an argument and slowly walks around the block crying. I would never do that to her, I couldn't. I don't think I can bear to watch her go through that one more time. After this afternoon I don't think I could bear to miss her again.
Maybe it's time to test the waters. There must be a way. Think.
I've got it. I'll send her the bracelet. She must know I still love her. She must have known back when we were friends. I never let on, but she must have felt it. I'll send her the bracelet, and if she wears it, that'll be a sign. She'll know it's from me, so if she wears it that means she wants me to come back.
It can't go wrong, and nobody gets hurt either way. It's perfect. Look at me, I'm shaking with excitement! I'm never going to sleep tonight. I think I'll wrap the bracelet.
They had another row this morning. I could hear her crying as he left for work. I hope it's the last time. I left the parcel in their porch, with a tag attached which just had her name written in flowing calligraphy. It took me ages to get it just right. She eventually came out with the kids, and when she saw it she picked it up and went back inside. I watched through the window and saw her open it - I have a good view of the house from my special little spot across the road. My heart pounded as I waited and waited, and when she came back out she was smiling, flashing her wrist at the children, showing off her bright new accessory. I had never felt so relieved or happy since we used to be friends and I got to be with her all the time.
That was this morning. It's getting dark now, and I'm shivering in the cold evening, my breath making little clouds. This is the moment I've been waiting for - her husband's car is pulling up. As he gets out I see he has flowers to make up for this morning. He goes into the house, and I can see everything through their window - he apologises, she kisses him, all smiles, holding up the bracelet. He frowns and says something, her smile disappears. Yes. She now knows it wasn't from him. Excellent. She's looking out the window - right at me. A bolt of fear shoots through me and I sit perfectly still. Can she see me? Does she know? I hold my breath but she soon looks back at her husband and reluctantly takes the bracelet off.
The first hurdle is behind me. I suddenly feel exhausted from so much excitement - I can tell big things are going to happen. Everything feels so right, everything is taking shape. I want to just look at her but I have to close my eyes. I'm so tired. I'll need to rest before phase two tomorrow.
It's okay, I'm coming back for you.
I woke up feeling hungry this morning. Hungry and cold. Thankfully my camera still works after a night in the damp outdoors. I switched it on and cycled through the pictures already on there while I waited. There aren't many; most of them are of the birds that I leave food out for in my garden, and the rest are of the young girls who pass my front window each day on their way to and from school. When I see them walking past it reminds me of her when she was younger. She used to go to the same school in the same uniform. She was always far more beautiful than any of the girls who walk past my house, but that feeling is so strong. I'd do anything to go back and change it all. Anyway, I must keep my mind on the task in hand. The husband has left for work, so now I'm just waiting to see her.
Here she comes, out the door with her adorable children. She's so beautiful, in every way. Anyone can see that she's incredible to look at, but they always seem to miss the amazing person she is. She's just so perfect, even looking at her I can feel tears welling up in my eyes. I must focus - I have to see her wrist. She reaches up to lock the front door and - yes. Her sleeve falls back just enough to reveal the bracelet. She must know it's from me. Her husband obviously wouldn't like her wearing it, but there it is. She must want me back. I quickly take photographs of her wearing it, trying not to shake as adrenaline surges through me.
I've been writing a letter while the photos were printing. I selected the best pictures, and they're done now. I put them on my bedroom wall with the others. My room used to be decorated in sky-blue wallpaper, but that only shines out in little gaps between photographs now. I'm just finishing the letter off. I haven't put my name on it, I don't want to cause any trouble if her husband finds them. It. Finds it. There's only one at the moment. She must know it's from me though. In this one I'm telling her how much I've always loved her and that she deserves better than the treatment she gets. I haven't said she should be with me or anything, I'll let her make that decision. I don't want to pester her too soon, so I wrote this at the beginning:
I know you realise who I am by now. All I ask is that you please read this letter all the way through, and I trust that if you don't feel the same way I do that you will not hesitate to let me know. The last thing I want is to upset you in any way.
That way, if she replies saying she is not interested I'll leave her alone, and try my best to forget her. Otherwise I'll know that she is waiting for me, and I can start planning for us to get together like I should have done at the very beginning when I had the chance.
There, all sealed with her name written in my trademark calligraphy. She can't fail to know it's from me. I'll drop it into the porch tomorrow. I can't wait to see you again.
I've waited seven days. A whole week and still no reply to call it off. Things are looking good. I've been watching her every day, too, just to see if she is still wearing the bracelet. I didn't go about following her everywhere she went or anything, I just wanted to see if she still wants me to come back, so I waited outside her house and in the park where she takes the kids. Sometimes she started looking around, as if she was trying to find the admirer who wrote the letter, but I was always too well hidden.
She's still wearing the bracelet.
That's why I'm writing another letter. I'm assuring her that I'll "take care" of her husband, that he'll soon be out of the picture. I know that sounds ominous, but I'm not going to kill him or do anything violent, I just have a plan to remove him from our lives. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like killing him for the way he treats her, but that's just the impetuous part of me, and I have to control myself. No, I have a plan to do it peacefully, and I'm letting her know so she won't be too upset.
Sometimes I feel like I'm going out on a limb with this letter, with all its talk of doing away with her husband, but whenever I get nervous about it I just remember the bracelet. She must know it's me by now, and she must be tired of the abuse. She wants me to whisk her away from it all, to give her children a proper peaceful upbringing.
Well, if she doesn't like it she can always let me know and end it all. I put that in my letter too, just to remind her that she can back out anytime she wants. I'm sure she's only too happy to be rid of him by now though. This is the delicate part of the process, the important part which can't go wrong. I've actually had the plan since I found out she was going to marry him, but I knew it would be wrong, even if I knew that her marrying him would be wrong. I kept it in the back of my mind, waiting in case things didn't turn out, waiting for the day I'd have her permission to carry it out.
That day has finally come.
I only waited four days this time. I know she must be desperate. She's stopped wearing the bracelet now. I suppose it's safer that way, so her husband doesn't find out, plus it's done its job. I started the plan last night. It was so easy.
My eyes have become accustomed to the night over the last few years, so I had no trouble finding the spare key to their front door. It's always under about a half-inch of soil in the plant pot outside. They're going to have to re-pot that little evergreen soon. My fingers located the hard metal in the cold earth, and I pulled it out and wiped it clean on my jacket. It fit beautifully in the front door lock. The door swung open silently into the blackness of their hallway, and I crept in, closing the door behind me.
I took off my backpack and put it down, pulling out the small packets of dried green leaves which nestled around the one large bag. It had cost a small fortune, forcing me to dig a little into my savings, but it would be worth it to buy her happiness. It had taken me few days and a little bribery to find a supplier at such short notice - everyone seemed to think I was some sort of detective or policeman - but in no time I had an admirable stash. I spent a good half hour sneaking around the house looking for suitable hiding places which weren't too hidden, but thankfully I had got a good idea of the layout over the years. I placed six small packets in various places around the house, taped to the underside of drawers and stuffed behind pipes.
For my pièce de résistance I sneaked very slowly and quietly into the bedroom, but I was stopped dead by the sight before me. She lay so peacefully asleep, her hair spread over the pillow, breathing softly. I crept around and watched her for a while. I began to feel bad over what I was doing, but I had to remember I was doing it for her. For us. Oh God, just look at her. I love you so much I want to cry. I went over to the dressing table and took the scissors, then kneeled down by her. Just a few strands of your hair. Three or four. I cut them from the root so it wouldn't be noticeable, then stood back up, wrapping them around my fingers as I put the scissors back.
I went over to his side of the bed and opened his bedside drawer, securing the small bag underneath before carefully closing it. I looked at her one last time, tears in my eyes. This was the closest I had been to her for years. I so badly wanted to kiss her, but I knew that it would have to wait. I wanted our first kiss to be special. I tucked her hair into my top pocket and crept back out.
His car keys were predictably on the window sill in the hallway, and it didn't take me long to put the large packet in his boot, along with a bunch of empty bags. I carefully hid them under the debris that was already in there, then locked it all back up. Minutes later, I was out without a trace.
This morning I rang the police from a public phone box and told them I was an anonymous tipster concerned about a co-worker dealing weed to schoolchildren. I gave them his name and address.
I'm not mentioning the details in my latest letter, I'm just telling her that my plan has been carried out. She might even think the weed is really his. I'm going to put the lock of her hair in the envelope, just to show her how much she still means to me. I'll drop it into her porch first thing.
It's turning into winter now. The trees are all bare, the leaves are just a soggy dead brown carpet for the pavements. I love to stare at the black branches. They look as if they're constantly straining toward the sky despite knowing they're too twisted and pained to ever reach it.
He's just been afforded a passing mention on the local news for his arrest. Everything has gone to plan, and seeing it all work out makes me feel so relaxed and at peace. Now's the time to explain it all to her. This time I'll write to her telling her it was me and that I'm coming to be with her. I'll write everything into this letter, pouring out my heart, telling her how I did it. I can't wait to see her, but I'll have to be patient and wait again, just in case she wants to call it off.
Things are changing, I can feel it. Maybe I can finally tell you to your face. Tell you all the things I should have told you all those years ago. It's not too late after all.
I was good. I waited another three days. I couldn't sleep anymore so I had to do something. I knew I'd have to make myself presentable, so I had a good shower and set about making myself neat and tidy.
I found my old razor yesterday, the one I used to use years ago. I had to replace the blade with one of the spares since it was going rusty. I set it up in front of the steamed mirror and smeared on the foam before shaving myself clean for the first time in years. It felt pretty good. When I finished, I wiped the steam away to see how it looked.
I was taken aback by what I saw - peering out that small window of clarity in the middle of the surrounding haze was the face of a little boy. I moved closer to the wet glass. Clean-shaven I looked just like a lost little boy. Maybe I am.
I combed my hair, clipped my nails, polished my shoes, everything. I was done before noon. All I have to do now is wait. All I can hear is my old wooden clock again. Its rhythm is soothing.
I wait until late afternoon, then put on my best coat and go out to the nearby town to buy flowers. I'm no flower expert, but I know a nice bouquet when I see one. She always liked white lilies, so I take one with them in. There are a lot of beautiful dark colours in this one. I'm pleased with my choice. I walk slowly to her house. It's getting dark now, and the air is carrying a chill, but it won't be long before I'm there in the warm and everything changes. It still hasn't sunk in. I'm going to finally be able to give the woman I love the flowers I have waited to give her for so many years.
In a way time seems to be dragging by, but in another way I seem to be at her front door in absolutely no time at all. I glance at my watch - right on time. She'll be expecting me. I can feel butterflies churning in my stomach as I raise my hand, and I screw my eyes shut as I knock.
After an eternity the door opens, and there she stands. I can vaguely hear a commotion behind me, but I don't pay any attention. There she is, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her mouth opens in shock, a hand raised to cover it over. She utters one word. "You," she says. I feel hands grabbing me and yanking me back.
I drop the flowers on the front path as my hands are pulled behind me and cuffed together. "It was you?" she says, a heartbreaking look in her eyes. "Why didn't you just..." but her words are cut off by the sirens, and I finally notice the flash of a blue light reflecting off the house in front of me, reflecting off the windows, reflecting in the tears in her wide blue eyes. I'm being dragged away, and all I can see is her crying, picking up the flowers, framed by the light pouring out from her hallway into the darkness of the night.
I just manage to see the silhouette of her husband taking her back inside before I'm pushed into the back of a police car, and I'm suddenly struck by how stupid and selfish I've been. I suddenly realise what a ridiculous series of mistakes I have made. I was caught in a downward spiral of my own making, and look what it has led me into. What was I thinking? How can she love me now after this?
The worst part was that look on her face, that look of recognition and of horror. The look that suggested that if it weren't for all of this madness, perhaps I might have had a chance all along.