Three words. Three simple words was all it took, to bring the reality of my situation crashing in down around my ears. Those words, coupled with the genuine look of puzzlement in those lively brown eyes. The blankly polite disinterest of a stranger.
That, on its own, was all the shock needed to drive me to my knees, but I somehow remained standing, stock still even as someone I used to call friend brushed past me without a second thought, as if I did not matter and never did.
So stunned was I that I barely heard the whispered farewell of another who, in her own way, had been dear to me. But I had been a friend to all, always living according to my own principles in my own attempt to be more grown up, to prepare myself for adulthood...an adulthood that had been postponed indefinitely via the whims of that person. All I had ever wanted was to live the right way, the natural way. To do the right thing...was that not enough? Was that too much to ask?
Everything was crumbling. My shellshocked gaze drifted to the ethereal figure of Snow, standing just out of reach from me. She seemed no more than a pale shadow, a ghost even, light as the wind and almost as unreachable. Her face was turned from me, but by the tilt of her head and the angle of her shoulders, I knew, just knew, that she was hiding her tears.
How to describe this feeling? It was like waking from a dream, vague impressions wafting in like smoke on a breeze. I could not give voice to the myriad of emotion that seized me, as if I were not entirely myself, hints and whispers of a life, no, lives unremembered. Forgotten, washed away, buried under lies and manipulation.
She would not meet my eyes, and I could not tear mine from her. I yearned towards her, the only solid thing in the fog of un-memory. It had been so earlier, when I had heard her, in my heart, calling out to me. I had responded then, without thinking. Snow is calling! And I had to go to her. I did not know why, except that I had to.
I had not seen her cry before, yet I had. Instinctively I knew when she was sad, when she was scared, when she was upset, when she needed to be alone, and when she needed me. I knew her, and yet I did not remember how or why. All these came in a rush, like a gasp stuck within my throat, choking all response away as I stared mutely at the familiar stranger in my sight.
Just what had I lost?
And then I knew. Those same three words. The shock I had felt. The pain...
Were you important to me, Snow? You must have been. I know you too well to have it be any other way. I don't know how, but I just do. I knew the way you bit your lip when you read, the way you would nibble on a thumb before turning a page at the important parts. I knew that you kept a night light on in your room because you hated total darkness. It reminded you too much of death, you said, as if one could disappear into the darkness.
In a rush, as if riding that first wave, I recalled your smile and your laugh, the way you would frown at me over the edge of your book when I was saying something outrageous, even as the covers hid the curl of your indulgent smile. I remember you were terrified of snakes and after Nasturtium had brought one into the dorms that one time, you wouldn't stop crying and stayed over in my room for the whole week. I remember the warmth of your breath against my neck, the sense of safety burrowed in your arms. It felt safe, as though you were protecting me, even though it was the other way round really.
I remembered too much and too little, and overwhelming surge of detail and emotion with little context, disjointed images and swirling impressions. But there was that overwhelming sense of connection, of love and loss and everything in between. It was too much to process, too much to understand. But I watched you grieve in my presence, averting your eyes, and I grieved with you, empathy building on empathy, pain resonating in shared loss.
How much had I lost, and how much have you had to endure, Snow?
I don't know. I don't remember. Do I really want to know, to remember?
But I had to. We've come too far for anything else. Now was the time for answers, no matter how painful. There has to be an end to all things. I had to see an end to everything. Even if it was the last thing I would ever do...
I will do the right thing, no matter what.
Hey Lily, do you remember? We were best friends, 800 years ago.
Please...don't forget me.
Don't worry Snow, I'm coming. I won't let you be alone. I promised, remember?
It all ends here.
So...just wait for me?