I CHOKE… CHOKED… am choking… caught inside a fisted clutch of light, an egg-shaped pocket that holds me unflinchingly in place.
Inside that heated glow, I birth.
Stars swim past me in a pale swath, sky broken by sharp eyes and lightning flashes, snaking charges of gold and orange and crimson, the late side of the setting sun.
I am with him again.
I have never left him.
Now we lie together on a bed, wrapped into and around one another, alone in a single room in a building full of seers. I know I am supposed to be like them. I know I’m supposed to be the same as those women I met when we came in off the street––yet he is the only one here who feels at all like me. His breath warms my skin, his fingers wrap around me, stroking my face and neck and hair, stroking my arms and fingers and lips.
The pain between us worsens, a spike that arcs, starting as a gentle pull before it keens steeply up, inexorable, becoming gradually more unbearable, until I am sure my insides will be ripped out, torn into so many pieces there is nothing left.
Beyond where I lay, a golden ocean beckons. It is familiar.
Even more familiar than the mountains we share, the grief over our pasts.
He is there, too.
I’m sorry, he says. I did this. I did this to you. I’m sorry––
Shhh. My voice is steady, somehow apart from the lights clashing, the ghosts winging over both of our heads. Revik, it’s all right.
Don’t leave me, Allie. Don’t leave me alone with this.
I feel confusion on him, confusion in his own words, what he means by them. The feeling intensifies though; his hands tighten on my skin.
The pain worsens, too, making it hard to see.
Still, my own words come easily, without thought or regret.
I won’t, I tell him. I never will.
There is a question in this. The question shocks his heart.
I am asking him for something. My light is, anyway. I can’t say it’s a conscious question, not fully, but the intensity behind it is real, and it feels entirely like me.
I am asking him for something.
I want a promise from him. A vow.
I want him to give himself to me.
It is nonsense, what I am asking of him, but I don’t withdraw the question, nor try to qualify it in any way with words. I only wait, seeing what he will say. Before I’ve fully understood either the question or the possible answers he might give, he’s agreed.
A surrender lives in that agreement.
I feel shame there, too, like he knows he should say no, but he cannot––will not. He clasps my fingers, and I see tears in his eyes. They bewilder me, touch me sharply through the pain and he pulls me closer until…
He kisses me. It is a brief kiss. Clumsy. Awkward. Yet it is tender, too. Meaning lives there, more meaning than I can comprehend. I feel him agree again, and it feels final that time. It is absolute. He is certain now.
The vow is set. It is more than a promise.
It feels like an ending and a beginning, all at once.
Even as I think it, the night sky disappears. Above us, light weaves into complicated patterns, in and out like a shuttlecock between silk threads. I have a fleeting impression of time removed. The weaving of the threads grows more and more complicated, more subtle, more beautiful and intimate and more connected to my heart.
I watch a painting form in that vastness of sky, a painting of fiery, diamond light, in a pattern too breathtaking for words. My struggle stops, even as the pain I felt before melts into warm breath, a feeling of ending, of beginning.
I know, somehow. This is familiar to me.
I feel it in him, too, that surge of familiar.
The feeling is so heart-wrenching, so intense, I cannot see anything else.
He belongs to me. He belonged to me before I asked the question.
We know one another here, and a timelessness lives in that knowing, something that lives so far from my conscious mind it feels almost alien. That deep sense of familiar is something I can’t explain to myself, something I understand without words, without really understanding it at all.
Something is… different.
I don’t know it yet, but it will never be the same again.