You know what is the deepest tragedy of all? The lost time. The time I could have had with her. The time I could have spent talking with her, sitting next to her, memorizing her habits, touching her, comforting her, holding her close to my heart.
It hurts more, thinking about all that empty time, than thinking about losing her.
What about the moments when I saw her, sitting alone, and thought, "I should talk to her," or "I should sit down with her for awhile," or "I should ask her what she's reading"? What stopped me?
There was this huge lump of fear in my throat. I don't know why.
If I'd known this feeling, I would never let that fear stop me.
What about later, after I did talk to her, when I'd look up and she'd be smiling that soft smile and I'd just look away, wondering what I should do? What about that time she fell in the snow and I pulled her up and she didn't pull her hand away until I let go on purpose?
I didn't want to look stupid, didn't want to make her think I was crazy.
I was, though—crazy for her.
Why did what I looked like really matter?
What about those times when I would walk into the room, see her eyes light up, meet her smile, see the empty seat next to her, and walk across the room to a different chair? Why did I do that to her . . . to me?
It was too hard to sit next to her, watch her shoulders rise and fall with her breath, feel her joy radiating from her body, see her smiles sweep across her face, study the way she chewed her pen caps, catch the scent of her skin and the soap she used.
It broke my heart . . . but nothing like this.
Nothing ever prepared me for this.
He stared down at her still pale face, wondering why he felt he never knew the girl that lay in front of him. The features and hands and hair were right, but without her spirit, the body made no sense, left no feeling in his heavy heart. Stooping, he brushed one hand over her cheek, shuddering at the cold stiffness that greeted his fingertips. He stood straight and glanced around the room. People were staring at him with gazes full of pity, sadness, confusion . . . he didn't know what all. He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to think at all.
She was gone. And he had no more time left.
So many empty years where I never knew her . . .
and all that stretches ahead of me . . . is even more empty . . .
With a sigh, he took one last look at the body. His eyes caught on the slim gold ring on her left hand, and he felt tears squeezing his throat closed. Turning, quickly, he strode away from the box that held the body. It wasn't his beloved lying there; it was just a body. The body was dead, and because of that, her spirit had left.
And that—that was more than he could bear.