” A love like that was a serious illness, an illness from which you never entirely recover. “
Tindómiel moved slowly towards the edge of the tower, the highest place of the entire estate and peered over the edge, casting his eyes over the expansive grounds which she could see perfectly well from where she was standing from a safer distance. It was cold, almost freezing outside, which made for the most beautiful of nights usually, the sky clear, the stars scattered bright and as far as the eye could see, and that night was no different, only the ground below was covered in a thick fog so that she could not even see where the fog ended and the earth below began. And she watched him, his every facial expression, his every move, almost afraid to blink, for if she did, she might find him gone again as quickly as he had come.
This isn’t real, Ana.
She shook her head, and stared at his profile, taking in every detail of him as if she were seeing it for the first time all over again. The bumpy, veined texture of his cheek, his nose, the way his white hair fell in such a way over his shoulder, and that one stray lock that always fell over his forehead that she had always constantly reached to brush away. And then he turned to look at her, giving her a small smile and an apologetic shrug.
“Seems as though I’ve lost track of time, once again. Sorry about that.”
And then his eyes were on her, as he tilted his head to the side, licked his lips in the way that he’d always done and peered at her curiously after looking her form up and down.
“You look like hell, Veya. What precisely has been going on?”
“Where have you been?”
“During my time away, I’ve felt a lack. I feel powerless. Almost like a walking cliché searching for this untapped power I’m yet to find. I need to return to my roots, to separate myself from the others.”
He didn’t answer, but simply turned away from her slightly then, his attention on the grounds once more and he clapped his hands together, peering off into the distance. He wouldn’t give her a straight answer. He never had, and whether his presence here was imagined or not, she knew that at least this one thing would remain unchanged.
“This place is so wonderfully horrid, is it not? It’s like… “and he paused for just a moment, shaking his head. “… death. Death is beautiful, right? Or it can be.”
“You’re afraid of death. That’s why you gave me this ring…”she reached inside her robe to pull out the chain on which her wedding ring and his soulstone now hung instead of in place on her finger. “You told me that the night before our wedding, remember?”
“Guldan did something that changed history. Slavery probably isn’t the right word, eternal servitude perhaps? He created servants by binding souls to inanimate objects and those were the driving force of those servants. You are marrying a very paranoid man, and so what follows is protection and solitary housing. I want to lock myself away from everyone, because I’m afraid of this place and what it stands for. Death. That’s why you wear that ring and that’s why I’m going to do everything I can to protect myself.”
Again he had no response, and so Ana asked him the question again.
“Where have you been, Tindómiel?”
“I’ve found myself. All this chaos may finally come to an end,” he replied simply and then he held out his hand to her, and she didn’t even hesitate but a moment before closing any gap that was between them, and she squeezed his hand with hers a little too tightly, afraid that if she held him any less then he would just disappear before her eyes. And he would, it was just a matter of when, not if. She clutched at his robes, stretched on her tiptoes and buried her face into his neck, beginning to tremble and to cry.
This isn’t real, Ana.
If this isn’t real then why does he feel the same, why does he smell the same?
Because you’re crazy.
I don’t care.
He stroked her hair as she cried, and spoke softly words that were reminiscent of those she had heard once before, ones that had he not spoken them again right now she would never in all of her days forget, regardless.
“I am yours, solely, and worlds will have to be broken before that will change, but love, in my eyes, is to sacrifice everything for the people you love, which is why I tried to sacrifice everything for you, even if it was just to protect you.”
“I need to return to my roots, to separate myself from the others.”
Ana shook her head emphatically no, and uttered the word over and over.
“No, Domi. No, no… don’t leave. Don’t protect me anymore.”
He held her tighter and carried on, nodding his head, chuckling.
“I am far too selfish a man for that. And there, I have broken my vow haven’t I?”
This isn’t real, Ana.
I don’t care.
And her husband, or the ghost of her husband, or the manifestation of Tindómiel Singsorrow, or whatever it was that she saw before her created by perhaps nothing but her own mind, stepped up onto the ledge of the tower, separating himself from her only long enough to situate himself, before holding his hand out to her again.
“Take my hand, Veya, it’s going to be okay.”
Without question, she slipped her hand into his, stepped up to the ledge where he was, held onto him tightly, pressed her face against his chest and closed her eyes.
“I want you with me, every day of forever.”
“Everything I am, and everything I have is yours, long before and long after this.”
“Even in my chaotic fury, my unending torment, and my despicable means I have you, Veya.”
“I am yours.”
“Or perhaps it is that time doesn’t heal wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones – the angle of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile – has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.”
— The Space Between Us
A letter from a friend.
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Ana startled awake, her eyes flying open, heart thudding in her chest. She stretched her arms and cringed a little as her back cracked. She’d actually done it this time, fallen asleep in the chair at her desk; of all of the nights she’d sat in that same place for weeks on end unable to sleep, she’d still managed to get up out of the seat and at least make it to her bed, where she would lie and stare at the ceiling in the dark, maybe drifting off for short periods at a time. But not this night.
She look toward the door and saw it creak open just wide enough to allow somebody entrance to the room, but as she watched, nobody came and she rubbed at her eyes, blinking after as if to clear her vision. Finally she stood and moved across the room to take a closer look. It had to be far too late for her sister to be awake, or Maiija, and either way, neither of them would have bothered her in her bed chambers until morning unless there had been some kind of emergency. And then she heard it, or at least she thought she did. The voice, calling her name.
She froze where she stood, her fingers curling into her palms, balling her fists, and shook her head. No, she was just hearing things. But she heard it again, and this time her eyes widened not in fear, but in disbelief and her shock was so much that her fingernails actually cut into her own palms then.
“Veya? Where are you?”
And then she had noticed something. From behind and coming through underneath the door, she saw something that made little sense. Was there light coming from under it? There couldn’t be, for it there was it would only be dull, as dead in the middle of the night as it was, but nevertheless her feet moved in that direction anyway, closer. Yes, there was light coming from underneath the door, was it .. no it couldn’t be sunlight…
“What in the world?” She whispered to herself, as her hand curled around the door knob, not turning to look back at her bedroom as the door swung open, and her eyes widened, the question forgotten as quickly as it had formed because what was in front of her was so shocking that the only rational explanation for any of this was that she was still asleep. She was still asleep in that uncomfortable chair at her desk, and she would wake soon, and vow to at least try and regulate her sleep patterns or rather lack of them, because this, what she was seeing was so far from right or normal that she was a little afraid, afraid of her own mind and what it was capable of conjuring.
I’m just dreaming. It’s just a dream…
She took a step forward onto the grass at her feet, looking around in awe almost. It wasn’t that behind the door she’d discovered the meadow from her childhood,
“Come on Ana, we’re going to go for a little run!”
But it was the sun in the sky beaming down on her face, making the grass and the spring flowers in the meadow just ahead of her sway that held her attention. She could even smell the flowers. She took another step forwards and the door whipped backwards slamming shut and she spun to open it again, but it just simply wasn’t there, and then it occurred to her that maybe she was going insane. Is this what madness felt like? The door was gone and all that was in it’s place was more grass, more flowers, and suddenly the smell of even those sweet blooms was gone, and in it’s place was that long forgotten stench of sweat, of smoke and of blood. And she was barely aware of the grass tickling her legs and the sun seemed to all but disappear, being replaced by the overwhelming darkness, and the smell and she began to run, she didn’t know where she was running, and she couldn’t see, but maybe if she ran far enough or fast enough that she would collapse, exhausted and finally wake up.
“Veya! Where ARE you?”
And she turned towards where the voice was coming from, his voice and ran faster, all but blind, running on instinct and desperation alone.
“TINDOMIEL!” She screamed out his name with whatever breath she had left in her lungs and then she heard him again, back from where she’d come from and she turned and started running back that way, towards her bedroom, or were her bedroom had been. She started to laugh then as she ran, an out of control hysterical laugh and at the same time tears ran down her face. I’m fucking crazy, I’ve lost my mind. Lost the plot. Nuts. The words ran over in her mind and she didn’t doubt them, but only started laughing harder, tears flowing more freely, because this was insanity. This meadow didn’t exist, not in this place or at this time, just like Tindómiel didn’t exist here. He wasn’t here calling her, it was just her mind playing tricks on her, and cruel, vicious tricks they were, but still, she kept running.
“Anaveeeeeya, where ARE you?!”
And finally she collided with something, and it knocked the breath almost completely from her lungs. She slid to the ground and found herself on the stone tiles in front of her bedroom door once more, and she began to sob then, tears that came from a place where she’d kept them tightly locked up all of this time, for weeks, months even, fearing that if she let them come forth that it would hurt, it would hurt more than anything that had ever come before it, and that is what happened then. She slumped to the floor, and wailed, at one point her face pressed into the stone tiles, her arms wrapped around her middle in an attempt to stop the pain, but all she could do was just feel the agonizing hole that had been left by his absence.
“Veya.” And his voice was soft this time, and right beside her, and she squeezed her eyes closed, willing it to all go away. The voices, the hallucinations, all of it. And then a hand touched her shoulder and she looked up at him. He was there. He was right there, in front of her, his head tilted to the side, looking at her with such a sadness that she almost believed for the most fleeting moment that he was real. He reached a hand out for her to hold and she shakily reached up to place her hand in his, and it was cold. The veins in the top of his hand prominent as they had been when they’d first met all of those months ago, when he was sick, corrupted. Was he sick again? Was that why he had left her?
This isn’t real, Ana. You’re crazy, delusional.
“I don’t care.” She whispered, at the voice in her head, and he smiled at her curiously, and she simply shook her head, smiled back, blinking up at him, taking in every inch of his perfect face, just as it had looked that first day, pushed her hair back from her face and stood to face him. His hand tightened around hers firmly but gently and he pulled her towards the winding staircase that would lead them to the highest part of the estate.
“Come with me, Veya. Everything is going to be okay.”
I hope this letter finds you well, or at least as well as can be expected. I know that you, like myself, have been through, and are no doubt going through some trying times, and I feel like it is time to extend the means for some type of communication. No, this does not mean that I am ready to leave the estate, nor does it mean that I am ready to have that conversation that you alluded to that night in the inn when Cath and Tyr were present.
To be honest, I may never be ready for that, but at the very least, I can offer this. A friendship, one which you have tried to hold on to and one which I have actively kept at an arms length. Realize this, it is not personal, at least not entirely, and wasn’t intended to be.
These past few months have been more than trying, and in finding the things I didn’t know I had been looking for and having them as swiftly ripped away from me, I’m not doing well. That is the honest truth. I push away my friends, even my own sister, and it is through fear, nothing else. For the more people you allow close, the more you stand to lose. I know that you can understand that.
Perhaps, some time in the coming days, or weeks, it might be advantageous to meet, even if for a short time.