Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Thirty-three

I didn't have to open my eyes to know that she was there. Rose and vanilla and amber, a breath of dragon's blood resin, feminine and flowers, bitter dust and earth, the sweetness of something good enough to taste but aloof and whimsical enough to deny any comers. I never knew what it was called but she always wore it.

Opening my eyes, I was unsurprised to see we stood at the edge of the lake. The last place I'd seen her...alive, as it were. "Jean," I acknowledged, and her hair was short and fluffed up, and when she turned from the water's edge her smile was bright and joyous, her eyes bottomless and swirling with a galaxy's worth of stars.

"Do you understand, now?" she asked me, reaching out as though to touch but her fingers falling well short of grazing my cheek. "What I did?" Her eyes sharpened, coalesced into something more recognizable, the dark and determined gaze I knew well.

I opened my mouth and cocked my head to the side, mesmerized in the play of fire that had sprung up like a corona, crackling around her short auburn hair like a halo. Did she even know she was doing that?

"Why I had to do what I did?" she pressed.

"You gave me a second chance," I replied, reaching out my hand in turn but though she stood beside me, the gulf between us might as well have been the length of the lake and back. I let it drop back to my side and her eyes flickered, incandescence churning in their depths. "And I love you," I continued, secure - even confident - in saying so. "But..."

"I know," she replied gently. Her smile was the expanding beauty of a supernova. "That's life. Now, go live it - really live it, no holding back."

There was no chance for a response. Only a flare of light, and she was gone. The lake was still there, its glassy waters calm. Not even a ripple remained.