brought her a chocolate mint pie, once. Her favorite; she'd always
had a sweet tooth. Looking back, he wasn't sure why he'd thought it
would help... in those days he'd clung to any hope he could find, and
the idea that such an offering might somehow coax her back to him
hadn't seemed beyond possibility. It had certainly seemed more
fitting than the endless procession of paper birds that had roosted
on windowsills and tabletops and never flown.
worked, of course. The pie had gone untouched until he could no
longer bear to look at it, until he'd given it away just to get it
out of his sight. It had gone to the cadre of quiet women who came
and went throughout the day and looked at him with pitying eyes; one
of them had pressed a piece of it towards him on a paper plate, but
he hadn't been able to eat it. He'd just looked at it until the
nauseated lump in his throat had grown unbearable and he'd had to
throw it away.
The smell of chocolate mint brought that sick
feeling back even now.
It just didn't seem right, somehow. How
could he take any pleasure in something she loved when she couldn't
herself? He'd never been any kind of artist - had never had the
imagination for it - but he'd always had a keen eye for balance, and
it went against the rightness of things that he should be able to
smile when she couldn't. So he'd simply stopped smiling.
that was how he'd ended up where he was - not just for vengeance,
although there was that, too, but for justice. A different kind of
justice, a self-imposed penance for every cup of tea drunk in the
mornings, every flower smelled, every sunrise and sunset that he saw
while she lay imprisoned in antiseptic white. There was so little he
could do for her, and the need ached inside until the only way to
fill it was to punish himself for having what she didn't.
wound was endured as fair payment. His soul he sold for money, for
the promises of treatment and protection, but every drop of blood he
shed was another paper bird. He would buy back her pain with his own,
a bit at a time, until there was none left. He'd make his revenge on
earth with his own two hands, and when that was done a thousand paper
birds would carry his prayer to heaven - a request not for a miracle,
but for a fair trade.
He would give her the only thing he had
left to give - the life that should have been hers to begin with. He
would die, the scales would be balanced, and she would live and smile
and eat chocolate mint pie again.
He hoped that for her, it
would still taste sweet.