“You figured it out.” She came to me on the same desert terrain as before. “You know who I am to you now.”

“Yes.” A smooth, shiny gold connection joined my abdomen to hers whenever I allowed myself to see it. “I suspected, I wondered, and then I doubted, but—”

“You’re the only one whose eyes I can see through,” I confessed. “Just like my own.”

“Oh?” she asked quizzically. “Mightn’t that be you are evolving?”

Like a serial killer.

“Maybe,” I admitted. “But seeing and feeling someone else’s perspective is unusual.”

“Especially without invitation.”

“So you’re snooping,” she teased, pretending to sound accusing. “Invading my privacy.”

“Trust me, if I’ve seen anything personal, it’s embarrassed me just as much as you.”

“Oh I’m not embarrassed,” she said assuredly. “But I want to know.”

“You mean…?”

“Yes.” She nodded enticingly. “Show me my past.”

“If I do this, you’ll be drawn to the material. No one can resist the pull of their own dormant memories.”

“I’m counting on it.”

“There’s no going back,” I told her. “Once you open that door—”

She grabbed my shirt and I saw raw emotion in her eyes. “I stand on the precipice,” she said. “Waiting and wondering, knocking on a door that will never open.”

“You see through me, and all I see of you is shadow.”

You are the figure in my dreams.

“I know almost nothing about you—you’ve made sure of that.”

“That’s not entirely—”

“I know you keep things from me,” she insisted. “I can feel you holding back bits of the truth; you dance around telling me what I desire.”

“It’s for your own good—I’m letting you walk away.”

“I don’t—” she tried to say, but I interrupted her with a rush of my own words:

“If you never want to speak to me again, I understand; if you want to be friends, I can do that, too; and if you want something else, I will learn to meet you where that road begins.”

“I wasn’t finished,” she said sharply. “How can you force me to make this choice without all the information? How can you deny me a fair trial?”

“Haven’t you already made your choice?”

“I—” Her voice broke. “I spend hours thinking about you. I’ve looked for every available scrap of information—and believe me, there isn’t much—and it doesn’t answer my question.”

“Which is?”

“I find a stranger irresistible, and I have no idea why.

“What is it about you—you’ve turned my life upside down. Will you at least tell me what this is?”

“Because I think you know. You turn me in circles when I ask you; you force me to guess answers to riddles I will never solve.”

“Even when you answer, I know you’re giving me the PR version—not the real one you keep in your heart.”

“Truth is a dangerous thing,” I warned her. “A little learning…”

“You know these things for a reason. How can you deny me that?”

“Would you rather I be irresponsible?” I shot back. “Show you bits and pieces of things you can’t understand. That I myself don’t fully grasp?”

“You’re afraid of being wrong,” she observed quietly. “That’s what this really is—you’re protecting your precious reputation.”

“You’re asking me to take a risk that may never come to fruition.”

“Nothing less than the chance I took for you every lifetime. You came first, before everything.”

“I didn’t ask—”

“Me to love you? Me to remember you?”

“We don’t control the heart,” I said gently.

“Mine has always belonged to you.” She grabbed a fistful of my shirt in just the right place, twisted and squeezed until all the blood ran out of her fingers.

“Let go.”

“I know it looks like I—I’ve gone away.” She took in broken, shallow breaths. “But I—the more I care about something, the more it tears me apart.”

Who are you?

I was silent.

“Please,” she begged. “Be honest with me. Don’t change things.”

“Not even—”

“Don’t fudge”—her fingers shook—”don’t hedge. Most of all?”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not—”

“I need to see everything. I would rather you guess and be wrong than leave something out.”

“Bring me to where you are, and then let me choose.”

I sighed. “You will be the death of me, woman.”

Ruin always followed close on your heels.

“I don’t care.”

You were always brave.


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