Bekah showed up at my dorm room the next morning. When she knocked, Guardian was still asleep. He had barely slept all night. He was soaking wet and Shadow slipped out of his clothes and into something dry. He stepped out into the hallway and stared at her not even letting her in the room.
“Hey.” He looked up and down the hall as if looking for something more important. “How’s it going?”
She was caught up and he knew it. She just stared at him. He had long hair back then and it swung like a mane from his shoulders. He was thin and muscled and he wore a flannel with the bottom buttons closed and the top three open. The chest hair she loved so much was exposed, and he looked at her, knowing he was killing her. She looked up at him and smiled her cautious, hopeful smile.
“I changed my mind,” she said. “I’m so sorry I lost my temper and I came to ask for the ring back. I never should have taken it off. It hasn’t left my finger since you gave it to me and—”
He was looking at her as if bored, but he wasn’t. He was enjoying it, watching her twist. He was just so mad all the time back then.
They had something real. He had been in love. Had his girl, and he had fought for her. Until Bekah, nothing mattered to Shadow as much as Rose. But the instant Bekah came into his life, he recognized it for what it was. Way before she knew, way before Guardian, Shadow had known this was his soulmate. But she had fucked it up so bad. Had destroyed everything and cut him so deeply and he hated her for it.
He was beginning to feel that hate directed toward everybody. Was beginning to know that he hated himself as well. He longed for pain and he had it with her. But he wanted more. He was falling. Into despair. Into depression. Into the hole that ran right through him.
He was the Hollow Man. We all were. We had a vast emptiness within us and there was nothing that could fix it. When we had been with Bekah, it had been less noticeable and now, he felt it all the time. He hated her for that.
“I’m not giving it back. It was a mistake. All of it was a mistake.”
“It was not. Don’t say that. You are my soulmate. You are the one. The only one there has ever been.”
He shouted. He lost his temper. Lost everything about himself in that moment. All the rage, all the darkness. He was not Billy’s boy anymore. He had never known X. All he had was gone, and he just yelled at her.
“You sat there and did nothing! They set me on fire, and you watched!” He longed to hit them. Smack Vigil in the mouth. His eking tears and his out-of-control wife. He wanted to break everything. Grab a bat and crush everything around him. He wanted to burn the world to the ground, but more than anything he wanted it all to go back.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” She sobbed. She grabbed him and he pulled away. “They are just, they would not have understood. I was scared and weak and I’m sorry.”
“This conversation is over.” He turned to go. He felt the need to rip open his own throat and glug out blood in every direction. He decided that he didn’t want to survive any of this. He wanted death. He wanted to bleed all over her and make her watch him die. Because he had had it all. It had all been his. And she had thrown it away.
“Give me back the ring. It can go back. I can fix this.”
“I am not getting married to you in June,” he said.
“Okay.” She looked frantic. She looked like she wanted to hold anything, any tiny shred of hope in her hand. “Can I have the ring back if I don’t wear it? I won’t wear it, I’ll just keep it, and you can tell me when I can put it back on.”
“I gotta go.” He turned to go.
“Can I come in?”
He spun on her. “No, you can’t, I have to sleep. Do you think I got any last night? Do you think I will be able to sleep soundly for a while?”
“We can sleep next to each other.” She was crying now and trying to hold it together. Trying to find any slice of hope. Anything at all to keep her going.
“I’ll see you at dinner.” He turned to go.
“Okay, dinner. I’ll see you then.”
He was in his room and shutting the door.
“Do you want to meet there, or do you want me to come get you?” she said.
He slammed the door and spun. He wanted to hit something. Wanted to scream. He wanted to hurt his body and he wanted to bleed. But most of all he wanted to hate her. Hate her again instead of feeling this. He brought up the image of her mother, summoned up the sight of Hymnal pointing her finger at him.
“You will not corrupt my daughter. She is a good Christian girl and you cannot trick her into having sex with you.”
He brought that hate up again and he seethed in it. He wept and he hugged his hate tight and forced himself to get into bed.
When he did Guardian came out and cried. He listened to music all day and cried. He tried to figure out how to make it go back.
See we all just wanted it to go back. Every one of us wanted the world back again. We had it all for a few months, now we had nothing. Nothing at all.
One day when we closed the door to our room there was a knock almost instantly. Whoever this was had to have been following us. Shadow opened the door and she stood there.
Her bag was a floppy artistic mess. Her hair wind-blown and devastating. She wore a dress that looked about to break off into wisps of smoke and she stared at Shadow with lust and boredom.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asked.
“Let me in and kiss me,” she said.
It was Draconic. She had seen us on campus and followed us from the other side of campus into the dorm and all the way up the seven flights of steps. She had walked right behind us and she claimed that the entire time she had tried to convince herself to break off, to walk away. She told herself I was the last thing she needed in her life.
Because she was engaged to be married. She had a man. He was an assistant professor that she loved and lived with. She spoke of her desperate love for him and how he was the only thing she wanted.
“Then what are you doing here?” Shadow asked.
“The only thing I know how to do around you,” she said, “die.”