I suppose I didn't have a single regret regarding Airian until early that spring.
“Why will you not let me see my friends?”
Airian stomped her foot. “Dammit, London you hardly pay as much attention to me as you do your friends!”
“What are you talking about?! I’m balls deep in love with you, there's no contest about that!” I yelled. “It's not like dividing my attention means you'll get any less from me!”
“Whatever. You get around Seth and you ignore me!”
“That's not true!”
“It IS and you KNOW it!”
“Airian, what's this supposed to be about? Do you want me even more up your metaphorical ass?”
“Fuck you, London!” she cried, grabbing her jacket and making her way to the door.
“Please don't do this,” I pleaded.
She walked out.
“Leave me alone!” She stormed out into the crosswalk.
“AIRIAN!!” I called in alarm.
I don't know if the driver of the car was drunk or what, but it slammed into her at about thirty miles an hour, sending her up and over the vehicle. I heard her bones crack. I saw the blood spray. I saw the last look in her intense eyes … fear.
I was told she died instantly, but I don't think she did. I sat in the emergency room for an hour before they told me. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. All I could do was go home and grieve, and grieve hard. My stomach felt like it had dropped right out from under me. I couldn't take another conscious breath with her gone. How could I continue without her love? It was like I didn't know what I was missing until it was ripped away, goring my heart open and bleeding tears of despair.
I didn't go anywhere or do anything for three days. Good thing no one needed to be escorted, or they would have been left hanging. Fuck them. Nothing meant anything without Airian. They sky was duller, the food was blander and my life was carved right out of my chest in an instant.
It was like a splash of cold water, waking me from my darkened afternoon slumber. I knew that feeling. A sense of dread washed over me as I looked out my window and down to the graveyard. A hurse.
And Airian's mother.
I was paralyzed for a solid minute. How? How could I take her to her end? She was my wounded heart, and my duty was the salt. It stung like hell; I bit back more tears. I didn't know what to do.
With a sigh, I pulled on my coat and mask, then made my way down to the burial site.
It was brutal, the churning of my chest. There she was, sitting on her own gravestone as they lowered the casket into the earth. She looked up at me and seemed mortified. I stood next to her for a long time without a word. We waited in silence for everyone to leave – an agonizing hour. I didn't want to talk to her while she was watching her family mourn her.
Hell, I didn't want to even be there at all.
“So it's true,” she said softly once we were alone.
“Yeah,” was all I could say.
She looked over to the thick fog that only we could see. “I never thought that this would be the way it ended.”
“Nobody does.” Silence. “... … Were you in pain?”
Airian shook her head. “Only briefly.”
“What's it like?”
Airian thought for a moment. “My whole body went numb and swept up to shut down my brain. It's the only way I can describe it. That numbness ejected me out of my vassal … and here I am.”
“Does time mean anything to you?”
“Not now.” She kicked her feet a little. “This is a blessing you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“Who gets to say goodbye to the love of their life before they die?” she whispered, tears welling up in her eyes. “I can tell you that I’m not mad at you. It was a stupid fight. I would’ve … should've … I don't know.”
“You don't have to do anything now but rest in peace,” I told her. The mask shielded my expressions, and I was grateful. I didn't want her to think I was suffering to the extent I was. One less thing for her to worry about on her trip beyond.
I held out my hand. She took it and we walked slowly towards the fog, the last time together we would ever have. I tried to hold on to the moment, but every second slipped by no matter how I tried to lengthen it. It wasn't long before the sound of waves breaking on the surf could be heard. I had grown to dislike the sound, but now it was unbearable. We stopped right before the water, where the rickety old boat awaited.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. But it's time to go.”
“Just a little longer?” I asked quietly, more to the forces that controlled the dead than to her.
She shook her head. “No, it's time for me to go.” She smiled hollowly, something she did when nervous. “I won't lie to you, death scares the piss out of me.”
“You said you thought the unknown was exciting.”
We sort of giggled anxiously.
“You know,” Airan said sadly. “My mother used to tell me a story when I was little and my puppy died. The waterbug goes up to the surface to see why when one went up, they never came back down. As soon as he reached the surface he began to change and was a beautiful dragon fly before he knew it. He tried to go back down to tell the others that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he couldn't. He just had to trust that one day those he cared about would join him.”
“I've never heard that story.”
“Maybe you can pass it on to the next corpse that comes your way.”
More nervous laughing, even though I was ready to collapse from emotional exhaustion.
Airian boarded the boat. “Goodbye, London.”
All I could do was nod and wave as she rowed off, never to be seen again. My heart broke a thousand fold, so I sat down in the sand an sobbed like a little girl. I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. My eyes ached, my throat burned, my nose ran. I didn't care.
At last I rose and started to make my way back through the fog. A twisted, gnarled tree stood, alone in the gray dunes. I stopped and leaned on it, then undid my belt. I noosed it around my neck and climbed up, wrapping it around a thin but sturdy branch. I hugged it for a while, debating whether or not I wanted to continue living.
Finally, I allowed myself to fall and the noose took my life.