She ran through the rain, the cold water dripping down the sides of her face and into the flowery dress that now clung scandalously to her body. The sun hovered lazily at the edge of the horizon, darkness only moments away. It was not far now. The Tower. She could already see it in the distance, rising up to the faintly star-studded sky, perfectly camouflaged against its surroundings. Hidden away from everybody else. It was sanctuary, her refuge. And as she made her way through the dense jungle, eyes focused only on her destination, she nearly stumbled and fell into a deep puddle of disturbed water. A stab of pain in her right ankle accompanied her regaining her balance. This was no time to fall.
Not much further now..
He was waiting at the foot of the tower when she got there. ‘You’re all drenched,’ he said, smiling. She wanted to throw herself into his arms like the long lost friends that they were. Instead, she insipidly nodded, looking around to see what had changed since the last time she had visited him here. The garden had grown wild, and there were flowers everywhere, yet she could see that he thought they bloomed to spite him, and she did her best not to speak of them or even think of them.
The flowers rustled quietly in the wind, as if begging to be touched.
Instead, she reached out and touched him, once, gently, the skin above his collar warm against her icy fingers. (Though perhaps that was the rain’s fault) She would have kissed him then, too, but they were supposed to be adults, and she was supposed to be a certain way that existed between two narrow lines of acceptable behavior. She satisfied herself by studying his profile instead, and as he spoke to her of troubles and amusements, she ached to run her fingers through his midnight hair. He smiled at her indulgently as she concentrated on the pieces of him that she could still see, that were still open to her, and then he turned away, leaving her to make her own way up the tower. It would take him a while to put away his weapons, lead the horses back to their stables and then join her. So she climbed the endless spiraling staircase herself, fingers curled around the cold railing in the dark, ankle still throbbing with a dull pain that she tried her best to ignore, water still dripping down her body in tiny rivulets and large drops.
It was a long way down.
Standing at the top, she felt a rush of giddy feeling sweeping over her. Perhaps things were finally changing for the better. Perhaps, the war was finally done with them. Perhaps, tonight, they could begin rebuilding everything that the fire had destroyed. Perhaps he would even remember what he had once sworn to her, a long long time ago, before the first war had started. But, somewhere within, she already knew what he always had; that the damage was done.
There was no going back.
Still, she thought wistfully, as she heard the wooden door rattle, and rushed to the door to let him in, beaming from ear to ear even as he breathed deeply, in an attempt to catch his breath after the steep climb. His hair was disheveled and wild as he stripped away his sweat soaked shirt and changed into the torn colorless gray garb that he seemed to favor. His eyes were always tired, even before the war, but lately it felt like even his own smiles stopped before they could reach his eyes. Still, he was beautiful to her.
And she smiled as she touched him again.
War or no war, every single ounce of pain was worth being able to stand here, so close to him, worth being able to touch him, even if he distractedly moved her hand away, or quickly sat down to pour over his books and maps before she had even finished saying what she was saying. It wasn’t important, surely. Not as vital as this memory of a present yet to be transformed into the past. His eyes glowed tirelessly as he sat at his desk late into the night, and she watched him sitting there for hours, until sleep tugged at her eye-lids and dragged her to its realm. Even then, she only truly breathed easy when she felt him climb into bed with her, his presence all the reassurance that she had ever needed.
The nights were the hardest part of her exile.
But in the present, (or maybe it was already the past, she thought sadly), her hand sought his as the World continued its indiscriminate and cruelly pre-meditated murdering and looting by bombs and missiles and soldiers all around their fortified turret. And even though he drew away from her subconscious need to feel his skin against her own, they both sighed peacefully and leaned into one another.
Like the last two trees in a parched desert.