Limbo

Part 1: Silence

I posted this some time ago on my livejournal. Thanks for all the feedback.

Tomoe is silent when she greets him at the door, inclining her head as she gently pulls his car coat from his shoulders. She is silent when she passes him a bowl of food at the dinner table, watching his deft fingers manipulate his chopsticks. She does not speak as they rise simultaneously from the table, she gathering the dishes quietly and he padding into the living room to read the paper. Into the long hours of the evening, the only sounds to be heard are the gentle clinking of the plates as she washes, dries and puts them away and the occasional sound of rustling paper as he turns the page. When they retire to their bedroom, she does not make a sound as he pulls her into his arms and they both pretend they are happy. And afterward, when the moonlight streams through the blinds in bright bars, she wonders when their voices disappeared. There are no longer any words between them.

She had never been the vocal type, speaking only when necessary in a voice soft and tender. When she had first met him, they had been bound by the blood he'd shed. Naturally, he had appreciated her solemn nature and she always knew why. There had been a wild, desperate look in his eyes then, as if he were teetering on the brink of madness. And with her smooth, milk-white hands and her deep, soulful eyes, she had held him fast to sanity. She had been the calm in the centre of his storm. No words had even been necessary.

But the times had changed. He had changed. The look in his eyes had grown mellow and the tense muscles of his neck had eventually relaxed. They had moved away from the dangerous streets of the inner city to the quiet streets of the suburbs. He had gone to teach at college and she had stayed home to be a wife. But without the blood, without his inner rage, Tomoe had discovered that he no longer needed her.

So, she continues to wait at home in the silence of her perfectly built cage, while he pursues his dreams and his career. She sits quietly as the years pass, her hands neatly folded in her lap. As soon as she hears his car pull up into the driveway, she rises to open the door and greet him, her pale face expressionless. She can smell her on him, but does not say anything. When she takes his coat, she discreetly pulls the black strands of hair from his collar, hair that is much, much longer than her own. When they sit down to eat, she ignores the small hickeys just below his shirt collar. When he reaches to take the bowl of rice from her hand, she tries to not imagine what those manipulative fingers have done to someone else.

Tomoe knows who she is. She accompanied him to a faculty function once. Once and never again since. His graduate students were all there, laughing and drinking their cocktails. Their semi-apologetic glances and overly-polite conversation told her that they all knew about that it was going to happen. And Tomoe knew who she was as soon as her husband introduced her, his fingers at her elbow.

"Kaoru," he had said, his eyes elsewhere, "This is my wife, Tomoe."

At the time, the young, cheerfully optimistic child probably hadn't even realized she would become her rival. She had smiled and shook her hand with enthusiasm. But Tomoe had watched the way her husband's lips had turned up at the sight of her joyous smile and the way his violet eyes had followed her as she bounced off. And at that moment, Tomoe had known.

And so, a month later, when Kenshin had come home smelling slightly of sweat, Tomoe had stopped speaking all together.

When they enter their bedroom late at night, there are no more words. They do not bother recounting their days or discussing the news. They simply enter each other's arms, pretending. She knows he cannot leave her. His sense of duty will not allow him to cast her aside, she who saved him from the abyss of their bloodied past. But he cannot give up the girl's laugh, her innocent joy or her youthful passion. She knows he is trying to live in both worlds. So, even though she knows he is not yet asleep, she covers her face with the long fingers of one hand and lets the tears fall.

There is nothing left to say; but her tears continue to scream, unheard.