It was 3 o’clock in the morning and Sarah was sitting alone in her apartment drinking tea. The lights were turned down, so that only a faintly ruddy cast existed to vie with the dull purpling grey dappled through the rain-pearled windows. She sat her high-backed chair with dignity, positioned before the French doors that lead out to the balcony so that her profile blued in silhouette. The raindrops trickled with a steady rhythm, and she juxtaposed the sound with the flow of her blood.
About her the floor was clear for a good two meters, a great enough perimeter to allow for movement around her long-legged table and two mismatched chairs. The area beyond that, however, was populated by a great and inequitable collection of bottles, jars, boxes, bags, and any other conceivable container of estimable volume. They jutted and teetered, stacked in a haphazard fashion that set the colors and angles to battle against one another. Vertical or diagonal, translucent blue and green glinting upon solid brown, orange, red; the incompatibility of the objects reflected the disparity of their contents.
Sarah’s gaze focused on some point invisible beyond the water-sheen on the French doors, pointedly ignoring the looming pile on the other side of the room. Absent mindedly, she passed her hands over her mug, feeling the warmth of the steam seep into her numbing fingertips. A few fast-trickled droplets added a peculiar spice to her tea.
A faint purple shadow fluttered across her vision, a crackling profile upon the glass. Recognizing it, she staggered to her feet and forward, opening the door with a deliberate tug. Glaring, she stumbled out onto the rain-slicked balcony, slipping and catching herself on the hooked doorknob. She hung there for several moments, her arms throbbing and shaking weakly, before slithering slowly to the ground with a wet plop. She began to cry.
Her visitor stooped and picked her up, cradling her with a peculiar tenderness incongruous with his gruff appearance. Carrying her several feet, he deposited her upon a damp slatted deck chair, then positioning himself upon an adjacent seat. Sarah continued to sob hollowly into her hands, mingled bodily fluids flowing with the rain through her clenched fingers and down to her elbows. Her companion watched in silence for a time, shifting uncomfortably. Finally he spoke up, his voice catching in an attempt to veil his emotions.
“Why haven’t you spoken to me?” He studied her from beneath brows lowered in consternation. She sniffed heartily, pulling her hands slowly from her face and wiping them on the sodden white ruffles of her dress. The look she directed towards him from red-rimmed eyes spoke little of camaraderie.
“You left me.” Her voice was perfectly calm, despite her outward demeanor. He stared at her blankly for several seconds before processing what she had said.
“You left me.” Her voice quivered now, the façade breaking into rage and suppressed tears. “I worked and hurt and despaired, but you never came to me. You, you abandoned me to them.” She nearly spit the last, turning her head away and slumping in her chair, sorrow and blood loss weakening her. He reached forward to squeeze her shoulder but she batted him away ineffectually. He tried dredging up a convincing response.
“I…I thought you were strong enough. You’re more akin to them than most of ours…” His ending was lame. He realized his mistake. She was too young, too emotional and too inexperienced to bear up the job they had charged her with alone. But their resources were short, and cut ends had deposited her in a city she was barely old enough to live in solitary, much less with the burden she shouldered. A hand over his mouth stifled a coughing sigh. Wiping the rain from his brow, he stared limply at tangled fingers in his lap. His voice was almost inaudible.
“I’m sorry,” his breath juddered with regret. “I’m so, so sorry…” Green eyes watched her through ragged strings of hair, brimming with regret. She turned her head slowly, staring over one shoulder through partly shuttered eyes, her cheek resting against the chair back in exhaustion. After several minutes, she smiled wanly.
“You’re too late, aren’t you?” Barely a whisper, a tinny rasp. His hands separated and clenched into fists, but he could not draw his eyes from hers.
“No, not quite…”
“I know how it is for us,” She interrupted him. “I know nothing’s permanent. But I still have a choice, and that doesn’t have to be what you want either.” She looked down at her wrist, trying feebly to lift it and failed, still smiling. He breathed deeply, exhaling through flared nostrils, barely controlled.
“You don’t understand the situation, Sarah. You’re too young to comprehend absolute termination.” She shrugged.
“Maybe. But I’ve decided anyway, now haven’t I?” Her eyes trembled closed, and even as he reached to clasp her hand the breath ghosted faintly from her lips and lay still.
He stroked her tiny pale hand, massaging her unfeeling fingers, so cold. There was nothing else he could do. Simple as that, he had missed any available opportunity, and her death was as much his fault as her own and every failed dream and shallow soul she had ever encountered. And now she was determined to throw away not only her life but everything else she had inherited by merit of her existence and occupation. There was only one thing for it.
He stroked her cheek one last time and, standing, strode off of the balcony and into the night.