After she left, he couldn’t abide their bed alone. He was disoriented, floundering within the silk and velvet, could not find his way from headboard to footboard. The pitched black room claustrophobic when once it had been a labyrinth with her at its heart.
He moved out of the windowless basement boudoir they had shared through the dying autumn and long descending wintertyde, and upstairs into the turreted guest room on the second floor. He had forgotten what it was to wake to sunlight, but more, he remembered that he had moved into the earth to avoid the moon whispering his name.
She began again. In earnest. The first night waxing, reaching for him, trying to pull him into the crescent of her sharp embrace. She shaped his name with craters, a cajoling, a plea, a seduction. He stood inside the curving windows of the turret bay and looked up, through the budding crowns of the dying Dutch Elm, and forbade her to come to him.
I love another now, he told her.
And she nodded, weeping stars, I know I know I know.
But her cold hands on his face soothed him. Her palms on his skin cooled the heated grief of the other one’s departure. Her constancy quelled the bottled rage he felt at the ways in which the Fates toyed with him, played with them all. Anger at those witchy women got one nowhere, their ears as though stoppered, their eyes shuttered closed, their hearts fathomless as caves. But still, he broke things, destroyed things, threw his fists at the walls and shouted out their three names like curses. Bring her back to me.
She saw this and despaired. I'm here, I'm still here. No one can love you as I love you. Let me, she moaned through the open window. The spring air smelled of death to him, the elms drooping in their disease, but he rose and shut them all to dampen her silver-plated pleas.
He would not be disloyal. Not to his love. He had already betrayed the moon for her. He and she had forsaken all those who loved them for one another. He turned his back on the lady who had stood beside him since the beginnings of time. His love ran from her mother, who threatened to extinguish the sun himself if he didn’t tell her where her daughter had gone.
That was the way of love, he mused. Loss. He was not well versed like others in the mechanics of ardor. For him, love was grief, the two intertwined and non-negotiable. He was broken-hearted without her, but he relished the agony of the experience. It tied him to her and her to him and soon soon he would begin pulling on that rope of blood and bone and sinew and drag her back down into his arms.
He began to sleep during the daylight hours, awake through the night. The nights were growing shorter as the world spun in her obsessive orbit around the star she longed to touch, to be immolated by. He could feel her beneath his bare feet each time he stood out in the ruined garden. He could feel the earth straining with the effort it took to stay within the sun’s presence. He recognized how easy it would be for her to give up, let go and disappear into the frozen black edges of the unknown.
He would arch his back, bend his head, spread his arms wide and look up at the moon. There was a lingering ease with which he could give over, tell her take me take me take me.
The days dragged by; he slept the sleep of the dead in the guest bed. He had become a visitor in his own life. He fell asleep with all the long syllables of her name knocking on the backs of his teeth and woke with it spilling out broken from between his lips. He warned Morpheus away and threatened to let loose his nightmares if he wasn’t left alone.
The nights grew warmer with the season and brighter with moonlight. He spent hours at his desk writing letters to his true love and tying them to the legs of flittermice and foxes, begging them to take pity on him and deliver his missives.
He set a trap for a bat that had smirked at his request and watched the creature perish for two days after he caught it. It could not escape the sunlight, it could not unfold its wings and fly away. It mewled miserably, and he felt a kinship with its pain. The moon soon had enough of his cruelty and as the sun set on the third night, she opened the cage, cupped the poor thing in her hands and set it free.
He watched this and felt a twinge of shame.
She forgave him. She loved his impenetrable darkness, the secret of his being, the essence of his graveyard fragrance. Let me take this pain from you.
He shook his head. Something in the wafting of the summer breeze had made him a promise. It smelled of meadow grass and jasmine and the sunwarm flesh of his beloved. He went back into the house and pulled the curtains closed.
The next night she rapped on the window. Come outside. I have a gift for you.
In the moonlit garden, she stood waiting. He approached her, cautious, but they had once been inseparable friends, she would whisper the secrets of all the things she saw at night to him, and he would share with her all the stories of the souls who passed through his kingdom.
Her hands hidden behind her back, she brought out the silvered dipper, the ladle filled with stars and satellites, moondust and comets. Hold out both your hands.
She poured them into his palms, the North Star glistening brightest, reflecting his lifeline. He was overcome with gratitude and kissed her chastely on the mouth. He turned and ran into the house, leaping three stairs at a time down into the basement, unlocking the bedroom door with a key on a ribbon around his neck. Inside, breathless, he tossed them all up onto the ceiling.
He was so very tired. He was lonely, and had never ever felt so lost. He crawled into the bed, and in the darkness he knew so well, the vault above his head unfolded like a map. He fell into sleep.
Waiting for her.