I can't make any promises, I realize that now, as I'm shamefully fighting back the tears. I'd been feeling better lately, with Jim telling me more about his plans, always including me in them. It seemed like there was a future for the two of us, but I can't see it now, it's out of reach, separated from me by a familiar dark veil.
"Please leave me alone," I say, my voice belying the attempt of calmness.
It's not the only lie.
"No way," Jim says, and his gentleness keeps weighing on my composure, threatening to break it altogether.
Can't he see that it's all in vain? That whatever I'd try, it would fail?
I wish him all the success with this security thing, but hell, I can't be the partner that he deserves, needs, actually. I'd just mess things up again, and I don't want that anymore, I just want peace, from the world in general and my own failures.
"What do you say, we clean up a bit and then call for dinner? My treat. Hell, Chief, I haven't seen you for so long."
I want to sit down right here on the floor and start rocking myself until oblivion. It'd be the next best thing.
It would be so easy, to say yes, to the shared business, to every other dinner paid by Jim, but that only enhances the notion that I can't do it for myself, and every day I'm becoming more of the nightmare image of a housewife. I've had so many other things planned for my life. I didn't study half of my life for fun - I wanted freedom. From the near poverty I've seen happen to peers who never cared much about school; from the dependency on any other person, let alone social welfare.
"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but I--"
That's just like Jim, putting things in order must have some healing effect on a Sentinel; it sure does not for me - I can just read his thoughts as he takes a look around the apartment. A little sloppy, not yet to the point of really messy. "Hey. I guess the cleaning up can wait, but you need to get outside. And I know just the place to go."
"I'd rather stay here."
How can I possibly refuse that tone? "Give me a few minutes?"
In the bathroom, I lean against the door, pressing my hand against my mouth. Jim is trying so very hard, but at times like this, he's literally the last thread to life left for me, showing up at the right moment.
It's *his* fear, and *his* pain that makes me step back, not my own desire for life. The realization brings fresh tears, it's all just such a muddle, and he'll expect me back in a moment, Sentinel senses scanning for evidence of another depressive episode.
Slowly, I take a step forward, turn the faucet and wash my face.
As I look up, I'm startled by the view - didn't I just turn twenty-six yesterday, out of my mind with the excitement of having found a real-live Sentinel? History. The man in the mirror doesn't look like he could get excited about anything much.
With a shrug, I turn back around to open the door.
March 18, 2006