The musky scent of fire and wood stirred me from shallow sleep. While I lingered in the narrow gap between consciousness and unconsciousness, I felt Heaven's presence in the circle of my arms and thought I was surely still dreaming. But the slow, steady rhythm of her breath right next to my ear and the warmth of her naked skin pressed against mine reassured me that this was no mere reverie. This reality was endlessly more precious and delicious than any dream, and yet it was at the same time more despondent and terrifying than any nightmare.

My eyelids fluttered open and I stared down at Heaven's sleeping face. So angelic she was, so ethereal. I tightened my embrace, feeling her shift under my slight movements, a hitch in her breath as she buried her face deeper into my shoulder. I sighed remembering the wonderful nights we'd spend together at Farthy, long, long ago when we were both young and naïve. I thought I knew so much about life even though I was only in my early twenties. I thought I was wise beyond my years, and perhaps I was, learning from my feverish dreams, the myriad illnesses that seemed to haunt me, the innate knowledge buried deep in my young mind. But nothing I'd suffered back then could have prepared me for the greatest heartache I was yet to face... loving Heaven, and losing her.

And forever after I was always loving and losing her. Even now as she lay in my arms, her hot cheek against my shoulder, the rise and fall of her chest pressing against mine, I loved her so impossibly much that tears sprang instantly to my eyes when I thought that again I would lose her. If only time froze and cemented the two of us here in this lovely moment... but such was a foolish wish. As always, the small flash of light that had come into my world would be inevitably extinguished, and I would be left in the dark cold emptiness that had become my life.

For long wistful moments I gazed at her, moved by beautiful image of this dozing angel that I etched onto my memory forever. The vision of her would keep me warm through the lonely nights ahead, and yet it would at the same time remind me of my own endless, cureless depression. Heaven was all I wanted, all I needed, she was everything... and cruel fate forbade our love, denied us each other, kept the only woman I ever loved permanently locked away from my starving heart. Mere fleeting moments were we able to steal in which to be together, to let loose our love and let passion take over, and in the blink of an eye those moments were finished and again we were forced apart, forced to continue on separate paths. Where did my path take me besides farther and farther from Heaven? I didn't care if it led straight to the depths of hell... for nothing could be worse than life on earth without her.

Finally, tearfully, reluctantly I shifted Heaven's weight, removed her arms from their comforting place around my waist, and rolled away from her sleeping form. She did not waken, though she did curl up and reach her fingers out to grasp the man who was not there. She slept on as I stood from the floor beside the fireplace and gathered together my clothes. As I slipped them on, I did not take my eyes from her. I would drink her in as much as possible now before I said goodbye yet again, the saddest goodbye of all.

I cringed to think of the heartache Heaven would suffer upon waking to find herself alone. Oh, many tears I knew she would cry to match my own that tumbled silently down my cheeks. I wished to be here to comfort her, to tell her again and again that I loved her more than anything and always would. But I knew deep in my heart that if we were both awake to say goodbye, it would be exponentially more painful, more difficult to let go. No, I and I alone would bear the burden of leaving behind the one person in the world I felt connected to. I would bear the burden of severing that bond no matter how excruciating it was to do so.

Once fully dressed, I stole quietly to her desk and took a seat at her high leather chair. Retrieving a long blank piece of paper, I took a pen in my hand and reflected achingly a moment before writing a note that conjured another ocean of tears and sobs I forced myself to swallow back, lest I wake her with my cries.

My sweet forbidden love,

Each time we part it seems I will not survive the unbearable

heartache. Yet as I leave you tonight, the memory of our

beautiful, wonderful love engraved forever on my heart, I

know I can live on to love you another day. For there is no

sense in living life without finding the deep, consuming love

we have, despite how forbidden it may be. As long as I have

our precious memories locked away in my heart, and know

you too will always remember our passion, I have enough of

you to last me to the day I finally pass out of this purgatory

and into the next world. Perhaps there, you will not be denied

to me. Perhaps there, we will be free to love each other as

much as we would. Until we meet again, wherever it may be,

know that I will forever love you.

I signed this letter with my initials and stared at it for a long minute, my heart cracking and dividing with each passing second. What torture to read these words meant to comfort Heaven and ease the heartache she would suffer. What torment to know that, truly, the memories were not nearly enough.

Folding the ends of the paper in towards each other so it became a rectangle, I rose from the desk and stepped lightly, slowly to where Heaven lay still. How I wished to leave a kiss upon her cheek, or even her lips, but she surely would waken if I dared even the softest touch. So I merely left the letter beside her, a few of my tears falling to stain it.

Making my melancholy way to the door, I gazed achingly at Heaven's radiant face, feeling the great weight of depression settle once again on my shoulders. Never would leaving her grow easier. It would always be the most difficult thing I ever had to do - if I would ever get the chance to do it again. As I lingered in the doorway, I knew I would eagerly suffer through the unbearable agony of leaving Heaven again, if it meant I was able to hold her in my arms again and love her as I did tonight. It was worth it... oh, it was worth it.

But I would have to wait and pray for that chance to someday come again. Right now, our stolen time together had come to an end. Right now, my chance to truly live was over, and I was ready to return to the darkness of my everyday lonesome. I stared at Heaven until tears blurred my vision and she became nothing more than a swirl of colors. Breathing a deep, shattering sigh, I pulled myself out of the room, and shut the door softly behind me.