He said, 'You're not alone': of course I read it as, 'You'll never be alone again.' A very small justification, I know. But what else was going to happen? You might as well take a small sodden stray kitten in out of the rain, feed and house it for a while, then politely eject it when it ceases to amuse.
I'd never expected to have affection again from a living being. My mother stolen, and rejection from Magda, and my child gone: three times and you take the hint. I thought I was fine, that I functioned admirably without it: until it was demonstrated to me that it wasn't so.
Really, when people make these choices, and then put all the blame on you... If anyone could have foreseen the consequences, my responses, it should surely have been him. On the beach the choice was his too. Our paths split, and that wasn't by my will. And now when one of the kids crosses my path, there's always some nasty comment about abandonment, about blood and bullets and ungrateful bastards who leave other people to die, people who saved their fucking lives and took them in and cared for them... When it devolves into ranting and they get a little red in the face, is when I make my excuses and leave. There's only so much I feel socially obliged to overlook.
Of course, sometimes they cross my path while we're trying to kill each other, or at least grab each other's target, so there isn't quite time for all that. I almost miss these little social niceties we've established.
People ask me – they will ask me, and they should know better if they don't like the responses – if I'd have got out of there so fast if I'd known he'd never walk again. Probably not, and more fool me, soft and vulnerable in parts I'd thought adequately armoured. They got medical attention quick enough, it would have made no difference. I thought we'd be lucky. I wasn't so young, not even then, but you can tell how young I still was, that I expected to be lucky.
I was. He wasn't.
I was old enough to have absorbed the lesson he taught me, though. That maybe you can make it alone, but the alone makes it hardly worth making. So I took the semi-sister he gifted me. (What a bastard, eh?) She was as much mine as she ever was his: a borrowed sibling bought with cupboard love, and he'd forgotten that long since. If anger fed into it, and there was some satisfaction in purloining something he cherished, well, toughen up princess. If I was angry enough to leave, leave him in the first place, I was angry enough to take her.
People don't like being rejected: they can have quite unpleasant reactions, there are consequences. After decades of uninvited peeking into people's thoughts, this was news to him?
She's not quite Charles: and we're not quite happy, and probably never will be again.
But we're not alone, and in spite of everything that's lost, nor is he.