“The accident is a lie.”
“What do you mean? You keep saying that.”
The face staring back at her was the same one she remembered from all those years ago. Kind, caring, patient. But older now. The playful smile the boy had once worn had vanished behind a mask she couldn’t seem to penetrate now that he was a man. She hadn’t seen him for years, but this was how she’d always imagined he’d look all grown up: the soft brown eyes, the pale complexion just brushed by a touch of sunshine, the auburn hair unkempt and uncut, cascading down across his left eye. She’d always stared at that; it distracted her. And he’d always noticed, brushing it back the moment she became aware of it.
His brow lowered slightly, as if to say, “You’re staring.” But he said nothing. Even the words he did speak seemed silent to her somehow, as if she were in a dream …
She moaned in her sleep and tried to turn her body, but the vice grip held her, the paralysis that had been with her since the accident.
In her dream, concern flitted across his face, apparent even in the dim glow of the candle that burned beside her bed. Its light had always comforted her, and at times, she’d stared into the flame as it flickered for moments on end, imagining she was a part of it. The thought of that soothed her, one of the few things in this world that did.
“Stay with me,” he said, his tone resolute.
“I can’t move,” she protested.
“Yes, you can. All you have to do is remember how you felt before all this. Before the accident and the lies it’s telling you.”
“You’re the liar,” she whispered, her voice whispered venom.
He looked hurt now, and pulled away from her, that resolve appearing to evaporate at the sound of her voice. In the same moment, he seemed farther away, the reflected candlelight that had danced in his eyes a few moments earlier now a fading glow that illumined little more than his forehead and the tip of his nose.
“I’m telling you the truth,” he said, but she could barely hear him. A part of her wanted to believe what he was saying. Not a part – all of her. But in the instant she acknowledged that desire, she was aware it could not be.
She tried to turn her body again.
Her jaw clenched tight, and she began to tremble with the effort.
“Not that way,” he said.
“Then … how!” Her voice was louder than she intended, and he pulled away further into the shadows.
“Wait,” she said, softening her tone. “Don’t go. You have to tell me … about the accident.”
“It’s not important now,” he said, moving forward slightly again, into the candlelight.
“Not important? Then how do you explain this?” She nearly spat the words at him, and he averted his eyes.
“See?” she said. “You can’t even bear to look at me. If the accident didn’t happen, how did I get like this?
He sat up straighter and held her gaze again, his eyes locking on hers so that, this time, it was she who wished to glance away. But he held her there by force of will. “Min, you’re beautiful.”
No one ever called her that but him.