There's a rose bush planted just outside the kitchen window, a few feet away from the wall and in clear view when I stand at the sink. There are three trees in a row, all in bloom with flowers and blossoms. Some tiger-lilies are scattered around the yard, and a lovely morning glory vine is creeping up the mailbox post. Cloud keeps a beautiful garden for me, even now.

The sun is bright today, rays of hot light racing through the window to make patterns on my floor. Birds are singing, and the grass is so green. This place is a paradise, a heaven for anyone who appreciates beauty in all its forms. That's why Cloud and I decided to settle down here, to start our lives together in this place. Nothing could go wrong in a place like this, right?

But it's dark in my kitchen, and the further you get from the window, the more shadows you will find. On long summer days when the sky is clear and bright outside, it's easy to get lost in the hallways and bedrooms where the sunshine doesn't reach. No matter how bright a light is, it can only reach so far before a darkness will overcome it. And then there is only cold shade left behind.

Cloud walks through the kitchen to get to the living room, and I can see the reflection of his face in the window. It's not the face I knew or loved, but the face of someone else. "The morning glories are blooming," he says, his voice mechanical and hollow.

I don't turn around. I don't need to. "I know."

And he is gone, retreated into the back of the house where the drapes carefully block out the sun. He hasn't said my name in two years and has only looked me in the eyes twice. Our marriage has crumbled around us, reduced to heaps of garbage that we're living in and afraid to throw away. He knows this too.

Sometimes at night I catch him in the spare bedroom digging through boxes. He pulls out old photographs and my heart stings to see Tifa Lockheart's image in them. Sometimes his face looks so full of sorrow that my instincts beg me to go to him and hold him. He is unhappy, and so am I. But I can't comfort him now, I can't smooth over his regret and pain. I embody every mistake he made in this world, because I'm the one he married.

Some said it wouldn't work out because I was too young, or because he was too cold. They didn't know then, and still don't know now, that those things didn't even factor into our problems. Cloud's love for me wasn't deep enough to last, and I wasn't strong and patient enough to build that love into something better. We both failed each other, and now we are trapped in this house together as two people who barely get along and so we avoid contact to prevent war.

We sometimes pass each other in the dark corners of the house, wordless and expressionless, only to move on and each dig our personal graves. We cannot even bring ourselves to look at each other. The love we had is dead, and a slow, painful disgust is breeding beneath the surface. And we have no escape.

To leave and start over would be to admit defeat. Everyone would be offering their two cents about why it didn't work and how things could've turned out if only we had listened to them. How can we face everyone we knew, knowing that "I told you so" would be written all over their faces? How could we start over when so much of our lives had been given to each other? We were both empty now, with nothing else left to give another love, or even to ourselves.

So we wait, and we stagnate, and we allow ourselves to unravel into the darkness and loose the threads that tied us to the light. It is a slow process and yet we can't stop it long enough to turn back. Sometimes I wonder if I'm already lost in the darkness, and the window I stare out everyday is an illusion. The shadows creep up to me along the walls and hallways, and I can feel myself being pulled into them. And Cloud is already there.

It is too late for us. We are the rats who were too stupid or too frightened to abandon the sinking ship. I think the idea of leaving, of simply running away from the nightmare our lives have become, never even crossed Cloud's mind. He sits silently in the living room for the most part, reading or staring into nothing. And I remain here, at the kitchen sink, watching the paradise we locked ourselves into. It's still pretty out there, but a beautiful scenery only makes the ugliness inside more intolerable.

So here we are. Trapped and afraid and stupid and loosing our grip on reality, if we had ever been able to grasp it in the first place. It's dark in here, in our house and in our hearts, but outside the sun is shining. And all the pretty flowers are in bloom.