She’s restless. Her eyes focus on something behind, something I can’t see. Her voice trails off mid-sentence, and she stays perfectly still, as though she is frozen in time. I try to reach her. I try to make her notice me but she doesn’t see me any more.
I want to understand her, but I can’t. And the moment I stopped believing in her, she stopped believing in me. The touch of her fingers caressing my skin became lighter, until I couldn’t feel her touch at all any more. We were strangers then. I just didn’t want to close my eyes and kept her around me. I didn’t want her to disappear. No matter the distance between us, I just couldn’t let her go.
If she loved another man, I would understand. I would have said my goodbyes and let her chase the love I could not give her. But it is not another man she desires.
I look behind me and I see what she’s looking at. The horizon. Its red hues reflect in her eyes and there is a hunger I have never seen before. Not even back when we were in love. Not even when we were still living in a dream together. I don’t blame her. She’s made her choice.
“Can I hold you for the last time?” I ask her.
Her gaze focuses on me for a brief moment. She seems to recognise me, her brows furrowed as she was contemplating what to say next.
She looks away from me again and it frustrates me. I don’t tell her. I don’t want her to think that I am here to stop her. She sighs and licks her lips. I know she hates that I am in her way now. That I am stalling her. But I have to. I have to take in every single second she’s still with me.
“Sometimes I used to wake up and feel like I was on top of the world,” she says, her voice barely a whisper.
I look at her expectantly but she shakes her head. “But recently I’ve found out that most of my memories are memories I want to forget. But I can’t afford to forget them without looking back and I have to look ahead now.”
I fall on my knees as I listen to her words. They cut me like sharp knives and I try my best to fight the tears. “There are other ways,” I plead.
But she is unrelenting in her beliefs. She looks down at me and her face softens. She follows my example and sits down next to me, her hand touching my face. It sends shivers down my spine. For a single moment, I believe that we can mend this. That this is not the end of the road.
“Look at me,” I beg.
Her eyes swiftly move over my face before she looks away again. Before I realise what I am doing, I grab her face in my hands and force her to look me in the eye. She simply shuts her eyes in an attempt to shut me out.
“You don’t have to give up. Don’t give up on me,” I say in a last attempt to fix all of this.
“I’m not giving up on you,” she whispers, “I’m here, I’m by your side. I’m holding on to you by letting go.”
She stands again, straightening her back. She looks so fragile as the setting sun shines upon her. She’s a porcelain doll that I have to protect, but the cracks are already showing.
“My nights with you were happiness but every morning I wake up feeling lonely. My heart is beating but I barely feel alive. I want to feel again. I want to know that it was all worth something,” she says.
I can’t stop the tears any longer. They run down my cheeks like waterfalls. I reach out to her, but she turns her back on me. I had lost her.
“I wonder,” she says, her voice faltering before she managed to find the words again, “if falling is like flying?”
She stands at the edge of the cliff, a cool breeze making her hair dance. She turns her back to me and spreads her arms.
And she falls.
I edge closer to the cliff to watch her. I don’t want to see it, but I have to.
She falls so gracefully, her body spinning. I can see a smile on her face. I would recognise that smile from miles away.
I try to call her name but the words won’t leave my lips.
A loud splash and the sea consumes her. A pool of red confirms she has hit the rocks hidden underneath the water. I don’t see her any more. I don’t see anything.
And I scream.
I want to be close to her. I wonder if I should follow her. Maybe if I tumble down I can still save her. Somehow. There has to be a way.
I stand up and spread my arms like she had done. I take a deep breath. Was this going to be the last time I felt the air inside my lungs?
I am about to let myself fall.
And then I open my eyes.
There are butterflies in the sky around me. I think there must be hundreds. I have no idea where they came from, but they dance and I smile. I take a few steps back when one of the butterflies lands on my hand. Its beautiful. Its red wings have the pattern of eyes. It sits patiently, and it feels as though it is watching me.
I remember something she had once said to me. “Sometimes I wish I was a butterfly in Summer. Living every day as if it were my last.”
I see now what I did not see then. She’s a butterfly who had to spread her brand new wings. While the pain and guilt still kills me on the inside, I smiled. I understand it now.
“I will forgive you one day,” I whisper to the butterfly.
The butterfly lingers for a moment before it flutters its wings again and disappears into the summer sky.
All my life I thought I could save her, but I could not save somebody who had already made her mind. Her mind was on what lied beyond the wall of red horizon. And all I could do was love her.
All I can do is keep her memory alive.