Extend, Emily Kennedy
One of those days. Not a pleasant one. She is bored of the nothingness after the completion of her (so far) magnum opus. Take a break, a breath, a holiday, they told her. Rest a little. Yes, she would like to do that, but one could not simply stop right here, right now, not after all those months. No, the words are still in her mind, turning and turning. Only one more week of this banality.
Trudging along toward the store, she wonders why she is like this, why nothing that normal people do is interesting. The only solution she can think of is of the seven percent variety. Hardly helpful.
Her eyes scan the crowd out of habit. Perhaps–
Eyes meet hers. Impossible to miss. Him. Yes, it is him. Here. Here! Of all the places that he should be and she should be at once, here is not one of them. This is not a place where he belongs.
It all stops.
She stares and he stares (recognition clear) and then the spell is broken.
Lightning has struck. She does all she can; runs.
The man before her does not move fast enough. Lumbering along, his limbs hurting, she buzzing close behind, staring at his shoulders, willing him to move, move, move. Poor timing, that’s all. Another moment and she should have missed him, would never have caught his eye, would have been safely behind or ahead or–
But why run? She only asks this once she is through the door, back straight and eyes forward. She knew she would look back, but not yet, please not yet. Too soon. Perhaps he has not recognized her, but there is too much for her vanity to suffer if he has not. She would rather suffer the mortification if he has.
Mortification. So much in that word. Death and everything else. Completeness.
She knew she would see him today. One of those feelings, a little prick in the back of her mind that warned her to be watchful, to be on guard. In this place she had let that guard down, and because of that, she could not approach him. She always has to mentally prepare herself before speaking to him, even just to say hello, how are you, fine thanks. Terror, that is what she always feels. Terror and something else. Something like–
Breath sharply taken in. Her own. Stopping herself, wanting herself to go on. Must go on. Must not look back.
Coward. Can’t even face him. Have to run, to hide, to escape–
Moment of weakness. She stops, the crowd moving along, all knowing where they are going and what they want and why they want it, leaving her with only questions. The answers were too slippery, themselves cowards.
She turns right, a dead corner ahead; it is a place where few others are going. Does she want him to see her?
Does she want him to follow?
Toward the light. Follow her out of this darkness, this gyre that turns and turns and refuses to end. No end, no centre, no way of knowing the truth. The answers scuttle away, but she catches their whispered taunts, grasps at their dangled hints. She should know by now what it is, what it all means. It’s not that she doesn’t have the answers, but that she has pretended not to see them, not to see that she– No. And he– No. Hush, quaking heart. Speak it aloud and it will be real.
There is a gap in the crowd. His presence pulls at her, the puppeteer tugging at the strings. Turn. Turn. Look just once.
Her footsteps slow.
What would it mean to look? She is safe, surely. He has passed by, already forgetting the flash of familiar eyes in the crowd (but it could not have been her, he might say to himself) and going to get whatever he had come for. The moment would be hers alone.
Yes, just one look. He must be gone by now.
She stops, her head turning, followed by the rest.
The first thing she sees is him. Watching her with perplexed confusion and even something else, something like pain? No. Rejection? The answer slips away.
That one mistake. Orpheus stares into the darkness to meet the eyes of Eurydice. They see one another, but it is the wrong time, the wrong moment, and all is lost. When he blinks, she has faded. And when she blinks, he is gone.