Cold of the Dark
1 / 23 / 3120 Celes Era

               She stood before him, clenching a paper in her hand like a knife, her face crumpled with restrained anger and grief.

               “Phoebe!” he said, dropping his pen.

               “Writing another letter, are you?”  She grimaced, closed the door behind her with a slap.  “Breaking it off with another girl?”

               Lynas turned around in his chair, grabbed its back with his hands.  Seeing her, pale oval face and dark brown eyes, glistening, waist-length black hair tracing a form-fitting scarlet dress, he felt the familiar urge to hold her, even as she scowled at him; but he was afraid of himself now, afraid to get close to her again.  His mind had decided to let her go; but his heart and body could not.

               “I’m sorry,” he pleaded, as she brandished the paper at him.  “This is all my fault, and I’ve hurt you—“

               “You’re sorry?  You’re sorry?  After seven months of dating, the words and feelings we exchanged, you cut it short, cut it clean and dead with a letter, a sniveling, scared mouse of a letter.”

               “I…I wanted to do it in person…I just…couldn’t bear the thought of it…of seeing you hurt…”

               Phoebe marched to him and slammed the letter down on his desk.  “So you wrote this instead?  Our affair was ill-conceived and irresponsible.  Is that really the treatment I deserve?  Is that really what I meant to you?”

               “You’re taking that out of context—I meant only that it was my fault for pursuing you without approval—“

               “You told me that you would make it work!  That you’d find a way.”  Both hands on the desk, her fingers contracted like dying worms as tears finally appeared in her eyes.  “You told me that we’d be together, no matter what…but at the first sign of trouble, you called it off.  And all my dreams, all my images of happiness…just like that, in an instant, they vanished.  And I’m left here holding only your broken words in my hand.”

               “Phoebe…”  Unable to stop himself, Lynas reached out and put his hand over hers.  Her skin was cold, and damp—it was raining outside, but she carried no umbrella.  “I feel the same as you.  I didn’t want this to happen.  I wanted…I wanted to be with you.  But if Father, if the kingdom doesn’t approve…as prince, there’s nothing I can do.”

               She had calmed, but now fire lit in her eyes and she snatched her hands from his, shaking them off as if they were dirty.  “You could have told me in person!  You could have been a man and at least shown me that much respect!  How am I supposed to feel, how would you feel if I had done that to you?”

               Lynas bowed his head.  “It was my love for you...that caused me to avoid you.  I didn’t want to get close to you again, knowing how hard it would be to pull away.  I didn’t want to see you cry, to see you angry at me, and hurt.  It...was a weakness I now regret, seeing how much pain it has caused you.  Please.  Forgive me.”

               She said nothing.  Her mouth pulled tight, her head turned to the wall.  The dancing brightness of his candle touched her face but only served to cast more of it into shadow.

               He continued.  “As for what you should do…what you should feel…I want you to keep me in your heart.  Remember me when you feel lonely.  But I want you to be happy without me, as you must be.  I too will have to face the desolation that will come, of…of a life without you.  But we must survive this, and carry on.”

               “Tell me,” she whispered, to the wall.  “Tell me now, that I am here.”

               Lynas swallowed.  Looked at the soft black curve of the back of her head, the distinct line it created between her and the white wall of his room.  She wouldn’t accept no, she wouldn’t accept a bland apology or an excuse.  He realized now that what she wanted—what they both needed—was an ending, a real ending.

               “…Phoebe Laetel.  The time we had together was…special…and sweet.  Like the summer.  But winter has come, and change. We can no longer be together.”

               Phoebe’s mouth squirmed as she turned around.  He watched her walk to the door, candle flame shimmering in her flowing hair.  “But I will always remember you.  And I will always love you.”

               Phoebe stopped.  Stood there, in the silence, her back to him.

               She whispered something he could neither read nor hear.  Then she opened the door and stepped through, leaving him in the cold of the dark.

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