Oh, goodness, thank you all so, so much for your positive response to Her!! Everything you said was so encouraging, inspirational, and just so overwhelmingly nice! *group hugs* Have a cupcake, and a bag of chocolate chips. (find Part One here.)
Her [part two]
Crouching on the ground, your eyes closed, even then it’s blinding.
Your head spins.
Teleportation three times in half an hour will do that to a person.
The first time you are too much in shock to take the child’s mother with you.
You remember the child.
So you went back for the stick woman with the sky-eyes.
Finding her dead was another shock.
It makes sense (you think now). Without her child, what reason was there to live?
Finding her limp body, the strong spirit fled like a falling star…
You open your eyes.
The sight of freshly piled dirt floods your vision.
Taking lives and burying those already gone.
Will you never be done with death?
A soft sound filters into your awareness and you look up.
The child shifts in her bundle of blankets. She watches you curiously with her blue eyes. Blue eyes that are too bright.
You look away and stand up straight.
With a flick of your hand, the child floats up to shoulder-level. She lets out an excited squeal and tries to squirm around so she can see you.
You ignore her and look down at the grave at your feet. A cool breeze wafts past, smelling of pine and cold water and mountain air.
How do you say goodbye to someone you hurt? To someone who should have lived?
You never learned how.
In the end, you say nothing.
Words are empty.
So you turn and walk away from the mound of already drying earth.
Away from the woman with the eyes of sky and fire.
Her child floats along behind you. You resist the urge to turn your head when she squeaks, and walk steadily on, moving aside branches without bothering to touch them.
And so you make your way across the pine-clad slopes without the child receiving a scratch.
Meadows are good for hiding in. You don’t need to hide, but it makes you feel safer.
You never feel safe really.
A twitch of your fingers and the child drifts down to rest in a jumbled heap among the long, tangled grass.
She is asleep.
You move a few feet from her and sit cross-legged. The grasses stand taller than you. Sound is muted here. The whole world shut out and far away.
You look down at your gloved hands.
One heartbeat and your mind pours out a nightmare. Fractured images. Color. Sound.
A moving picture of every person you destroyed.
Automatically you begin to count backwards from a hundred.
Anything to keep away the memories.
You’ve rescued people since.
You look away from your hands.
The hands that killed.
Faces of Men in Red flash before you.
That still kill.
In the end, do the lives saved even matter?
You can’t breathe.
“Take care of her.”
For the first time you look at the child (the baby). Really look at her.
She is tiny. Tiny and helpless.
You can’t remember what it’s like to be so innocent.
“Take care of her.”
It shouldn’t be you.
Not you who lost all innocence years ago when a victim’s blood spilled on the dirt.
Not you who broke the bones of a woman with eyes like the sky.
The bones of her mother.
Not you who are broken yourself.
(you want to be fixed.)
I can’t do it, you think.
Protecting a child? Being a father?
You can’t do it.
You want to.
Getting attached to people only hurts.
You want the pain.
Losing her could break you.
You are broken already.
You don’t know how to be caring.
You want to remember.
Please, you want to remember.
Fists clutched, fragmented words tumbling through your brain — you almost don’t hear the faint, mewling cry.
You stiffen and lift your head.
The child (baby) looks at you — eyes like the sky — and yawns.
The walls built around your soul crack.
You take a deep breath.
Carefully, you tug off your black gloves, one finger at a time. Your veins show blue through your pale skin.
Without the gloves you feel vulnerable somehow.
The baby blinks at you sleepily.
You lift your hands. They tremble.
How long has it been since you touched another human?
You lean forward and gently, slowly, you scoop the baby up.
She is tiny. Light as a cloud and warm with life.
You hold her close, shifting her into the crook of your arm, and it feels natural and unfamiliar all at once.
For the first time in years your heart stumbles from something other than fear or anger.
Your eyes burn and you taste salt water on your lips.
The baby looks up at you and yawns again.
“Hey, there,” you whisper.