"So, what's the Czech for, do you still love him?"
Dagmar could see it clearly took Séarlas a large amount of courage and vulnerability to ask this. It was about her marriage, after all, something Séarlas should have no involvement in by the very principle of Western marriage; and yet now he was standing in-between Dagmar and her husband.
Nonetheless, it was Séarlas who had asked, and Dagmar wanted to be honest with him. And truth be told— she didn't, really. Not anymore. She and Josef had been married for two years now and hadn't had a child; neither had found steady jobs here in Dublin; almost every conversation they had nowadays turned into arguments about money and Josef's drinking problems and how selfish Dagmar apparently was for wanting to bring her mother to Ireland. No, she would not call that love.
But she still hadn't responded to his question. Hurriedly, she said, "Uh, in Czech, it's 'Ty ho este miluješ'."
"So..." Séarlas took a slight breath, and looked at her with a naked, exposed expression in his light eyes. "Ty ho este miluješ?"
Dagmar gnawed on her lower lip for a moment, ferociously, trying to gather her nerve— and hid, by responding in Czech: "Miluji tebe."
His eyebrows drew together. "What does that mean?"
He was looking at her with a mixture of confusion and love and concern and she couldn't tell him what it really meant, she wasn't brave enough. "It means... that it looks like —rain."
She moved to get up from where they were sitting together on the isolated hilltop, to walk away, to stare at the view of the city and compose herself, to do anything than stay by Séarlas' comforting side. Because comfort was foreign, because she was the one who comforted, not the one who received comfort, and if she stayed any longer she might start crying.
But Séarlas grabbed her hand before she could get up, stopping her. "Dagmar. Please, wait."
She couldn't look at him. "What?"
"First of all, it doesn't look rain, the sky's completely clear. It's actually a really nice night, you and I both know that."
He knew. He knew that she lied— oh God, he knew.
She was so scared.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Séarlas," she said as lightly as she could, trying to brush it off, gnawing at her lower lip again. She tried to toy with the hem of her skirt to distract herself, but the fabric kept slipping from her shaking fingers.
"Dagmar..." —God, he sounded so gentle— "are you... frightened of me?"
"No! No, I'm not frightened of you, Séarlas, I never could be frightened of you, you know that, I just... I..."
"Then what's the matter? I'm not understanding very well—"
"Please. This is— this is important to me, and I think it's important for you to get it out."
She sighed and bit her lip, but refrained from gnawing on it. "All right. Because it's important to you."
"And because it's important for you too," he added pointedly. She looked away. "So what does Muli— Mijlu—"
"Miluji tebe, what does Miluji tebe really mean?"
They were saying they loved each other and he didn't know it.
"It means—" If she told him, then it would change everything, and she didn't know if she could handle that. "Well, it means..." To her horror, she started crying, very slightly. "I'm so sorry, I—"
"Dagmar...." He reached out and gently wiped away one tear, which caused a floor of tears to follow. "Whatever it is you're trying to say— it's all right, you know?"
She smiled shakily. "Really?" Loving a man who wasn't her husband was all right?
But Séarlas smiled back in a way that warmed her heart. "Really."
Perhaps love of any kind was better than no love at all. Perhaps she could be brave enough to tell him.
"Miluji tebe, it means —I love you."
There. She said it. It was out in the open, for Séarlas to take whatever way he wanted.
The way Séarlas smiled seemed to light him from the inside out. "Well that's good, because I love you, very much."
"Have I given you any reason to think differently?"
She laughed, feeling a little embarrassed, and answered, "Well, no."
"Does it feel satisfying, to you, to get it out? That we love each other? It does for me."
"Yes. Yes, I think it does." If anything, Dagmar felt content, being here with Séarlas and knowing their love was felt on both sides, not just one.
Séarlas's eyes turned more and more hesitant, which confused Dagmar. "Séarlas, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, I just, well, I just want to ask—" His voice became very soft. "May I... kiss you?"
She felt her heart drop. Was it in fear? (God, did she not know herself well enough to figure that out?) No, it wasn't in fear, it was in some involuntary panic reaction that she didn't understand. But hadn't she wondered what it would be like, to kiss Séarlas?
She found herself nodding, and found she didn't mind when he kissed her. She didn't mind at all.
It took Dagmar a few moments to figure out why it was so bright and cold simultaneously, why there were only coats covering her instead of a proper blanket, and most importantly, why she was nearly lying on top of a warm, comforting body when she normally woke alone.
When she finally opened her eyes and sat up (she never was much of a morning person) everything made sense. The early morning sunlight was bright, but it wasn't strong enough to melt the frost covering the grass hilltop. As for the coats, they were the only means of warmth other than body heat for Séarlas and herself; or rather, now just for Séarlas, who was still asleep.
Séarlas and herself. It had a nice ring to it.
And speaking of that. She looked at the back of her skirt... right. Stains of a greenish color, and they probably covered her shirt as well. Wouldn't Réza be proud— you finally lived for once, she would most likely say; but Dagmar hushed the Réza in her head. Dagmar's body was also pleasantly sore; and as soon as she found herself thinking about it, she started to blush. Best to know that it happened, and to put it behind her.
Séarlas made a small sound, and Dagmar looked to see him stretching and raising himself into a sitting position. He smiled at her fondly, as if this was how they awoke every day. "Morning."
"Morning." She moved closer to him, and he put his arm around her shoulder. Tender and caring touches were probably normal occurrences to him, but she tried not to jump at the contract. "How are you feeling?"
"Hmm, how I feel..." He considered her for a moment. "Like I never want to leave your side?"
Dagmar blushed. "Séarlas, don't say things like that."
He looked genuinely confused. "Why not?" She couldn't respond, and looked at her hands instead. "Dagmar, is a compliment that big of a deal?"
"I'm just... not used to them, okay? I'm don't know what to do with them."
Something softened in his eyes, and he drew her closer towards him. "Well, maybe in your... your past," he said carefully, "you weren't used to getting compliments, I guess? But with me, you're going to be them, but it's okay to take your time in dealing with them. Does that make sense?"
She smiled. "Yes. Thank you, Séarlas. I mean, you don't have to do that or anything, and..."
"Well, one, it's the right thing to do anyway, person to person, and two, since I love you, it's really the right thing to do."
A car drove by, and although she and Séarlas were hidden from sight by the motorcycle, Dagmar was so startled she felt she was going to jump out of her own skin. They had stayed out all night. Jan was going to notice. She had to wash her clothes before anyone said anything. She hadn't contacted the woman whose house she was supposed to clean today.
Jan was going to notice.
"We need to leave." She scrambled to her feet and grabbed her coat. "We need to leave, right now. Where are the helmets?" Struggling to shove her arm into her coat, and looking for the helmets at the same time, she did not see a divot in the ground and tripped, catching herself awkwardly on the motorcycle. "Shit! Séarlas, do you know where the— the helmets—"
"Dagmar, wait." Séarlas helped her to her feet. "Calm down. First thing, are you hurt?"
"No, we just need to—"
"Need to leave, yes. The helmets are right where we left them. There's no reason to panic."
"Yes there is reason to panic, because... because..." She could barely say it.
"Because— all right, you know I love you, and I don't regret what we did, but— you are not my husband, Séarlas!"
Séarlas dragged a hand over his face as Dagmar, unable to look at him, turned away and busied herself with viciously buttoning her coat. "Explain this to me, then," said Séarlas. "You have every right be furious at me for... not being your husband, with what we did. But if that's the case, then why did you say you don't regret? That's what I don't understand."
"Because I love you. And because you made me feel safe and content and I haven't felt that way in over two years."
Dagmar shoved her hands in her pockets. "Since I married Josef. We really need to leave."
"I—" He sighed. "All right. Let's go." He shrugged on his coat— the same way he had with Andrej's suit jacket, with half the collar sticking up— and handed her a helmet. Before either put the helmets on, Dagmar stepped closer and kissed him, and prayed she wouldn't cry again. When they broke apart, they both slightly breathless. "Although I'm not complaining," Séarlas murmured, "what was that for?"
Dagmar lightly rested a hand on his chest, then fixed his collar; anything to avoid his eyes. "I wasn't sure when I could do that again," she said in a throaty voice.
"Oh, Dagmar, love..." He sighed and drew her into a hug before she had time to respond. But after a moment, she wrapped her arms around him just as he had her, and tried her hardest to press this moment into her moment.
When they pulled into her neighborhood, drawing closer and closer to her street and eventually to her apartment building, her courage fled, and she tapped Séarlas on the shoulder. "Pull over here!" she shouted. He nodded to show he heard, and after a minute or so, they were parked by the sidewalk nowhere near her street. Markéta got off as soon as it was somewhat safe— it hurt terribly, since she'd worn a skirt— and took off her helmet, Séarlas following suit.
"Why do you want to park here? This isn't your street."
"I didn't want anyone to, you know. See us."
"Oh." He fiddled with the straps of his helmet. "Right." Then something changed in his eyes, and he almost slammed his helmet on the motorcycle. "Actually, no, I don't see how this is right. Dagmar— I want to go talk with your husband. Explain things to him, apologize."
"No, Séarlas! I will not let you—"
"We can't keep lying about this!"
"And why not?"
The last thing she expected him to be was confused and indignant. "Why not? Why not? Dagmar—!" A passerby gave them a questioning look, and he lowered his voice. "Dagmar, I love you, but... what we did, what we're doing, it's an affair! It doesn't even matter if we end it right here, it'll still have been an affair!"
Why had it not occurred to her?
It shocked her, really, how quickly the tears came. Though the intensity didn't. She had been raised to be a good, proper, respectable young woman by her mother, who despite some of her more interesting notions, leaned more towards keeping the ways of the old-country traditions. And having an affair, straying from one's marriage, had no place in that life.
Dagmar wept so severely she couldn't stand, and Séarlas had to help her to the motorcycle so she wouldn't crumple to the sidewalk. They presented a strange image to passersby: Dagmar sitting on a motorcycle and weeping into Séarlas' shoulder, Glen holding her and stroking her hair to try to comfort her. Although, really, there wasn't much comfort he could offer.