It Is Enough
Some days it's like he never left. Never left her.
It's easiest to feel him when she first wakes. The warmth of his body, his breath on her bare neck as she first awakes, sleep clouding her mind as a sense of utter contentment washes over her, holding her tight like a pair of arms. Gemma always clings to her dreams, fighting the day, the light, closing her eyes in some facsimile of denial, but her heart isn't really in it. It's not so much a sadness that accompanies the waking world, but more of a sense of resignment. But if Kartik ever taught her anything, it was to trust her dreams.
It is enough for now.
Gemma finds herself writing letters.
Kartik, America is so beautiful. You should see it. It is not India, of course, and I know that you would think the food a bit bland. But there is something so untamed about this place, the people. A newness. It feels as though you are writing history, instead of repeating what has been done before… I think you would enjoy the city.
Kartik, I saw a boy with curly hair today. He was begging, and I gave him five dollars. He said he was going to buy some new shoes for the winter.
Kartik, they don't play cricket here. Instead they play something else called baseball. The rules are a bit simpler, and in some aspects it is the same, but I really don't see the appeal. It seems like a lot of the strategy is taken out of it. I bet you could talk some sense into them.
Kartik, your tree is so beautiful. You are so beautiful.
She is careful to never use the past tense. It's not as if he is gone. He's waiting, this she knows. They just can't see one another at the moment.
She doesn't quite know what to with them. Some Gemma places in bottles, although it feels childish, and leaves them to float in the river, the Gorgon looking on with an indeterminable expression. The others she leaves at the foot of the Tree of All Souls. Sometimes the wind pulls them up into the branches, until they blend with the emerald leafs.
It is almost like her first year at Spence all over again. Of course she can't run out in the forest for a midnight meeting, and it will be a bit longer before they see one another again, but he is watching her all the same. She can feel it- the way his gaze heated the back of her neck. The way a room felt, she felt, as he walked into it. His presence, so like her own. She feels the same comfort, knowing that she is protected, that someone is watching over her, that she is loved. And so she steps into this new world confidently.
In that respect, things do not change.
Some days it feels as though a part of her is missing, pulling at her constantly, an unyielding distraction. But for the most part those times are rare, and she knows that they will only get rarer, just as her impulse to look for a pair of white, white teeth in a dark face and eyes framed by long lashes will also fade. Gemma stops scanning the faces in the street, watching the men in dark alleys, searching for the flash of a black cloak.
Gemma can't see Kartik. Not right now. But she knows that he is here, he is watching her, and that eventually they will be together again. The only choice she has is to accept it, and she has wasted far too much of her life already making herself unnecessarily unhappy.
And for now, it is enough.
Very, very rarely she allows herself one luxury. Hidden in her suitcase is an old shirt, ragged and patched with large clumsy stitches in some places (his handiwork) and smaller clumsy stitches in others (her own). It is stained, it is torn, it is unwashed, and she can still smell him on it. She restrains herself, because the thought of his spicy scent fading is too much, and sometimes delayed gratification can be a good for a person.
But for the most part, it does not hurt.
This world is intoxicating, and Gemma knows that he would be angry upon their reunion if she did not enjoy it for the both of them. It is so uncorrupted, the sky an austere shade of blue, the snow a crisp unpolluted white, the people cheery and relaxed. She travels, trekking across this strange open land, meeting Southern aristocrats, diplomats, settlers, soldiers, farmers, upper class city-dwellers, priests and other wanderers like herself. And learning. Always learning.
Gemma discovers she has a great passion for astronomy. It is so easy to see the stars in the empty nights here, and the complexity of their movements never ceases to amaze her.
Kartik, Kartik, I wish you could see them. Can you? The Milky Way spills across the heavens like a veil, punctured with pinpricks of light. The stars are never the same from moment to the next…
Last week she had been walking the streets of Lexington, taking in the stately plantations and manor houses. She had been planning to go to a thoroughbred farm later in the day, to see how they were reared. But at that moment she was simply taking in the architecture, so different and yet eerily similar to her own England. Tiring, she had taken a respite on an elegant wrought-iron bench, watching the neighborhood go on about its business. A few chords of classical music (Debussy? She had thought. French.) floated on the wind. She had snorted in quite an unladylike fashion, wondering if Lord Hoitytoity would have approved of it.
Gemma had sworn that the far away laughter was his own.
There is little sadness anymore. After all, this is only temporary. Gemma does not know if she will die today, or tomorrow, or thirty years from now, but in the meantime she intends to gather up enough stories to keep him entertained for an eternity when she finally crosses over. To do anything less would be an insult to his sacrifice for her, and she must do something with the life he gave her at his own expense.
Why should she be bitter? She has been given a second chance. To reinvent herself, to do all the things were formerly denied to her, and to simply enjoy a life without fear or pressure. And when her time is up she will happily move on to a life where he awaits, where her family is finally happy, where there are no stations or complications to prevent her happiness. Where she can wake up beside Kartik every morning until the end of time, for real.
Tomorrow she is going to go watch the Kentucky Derby, and drink a mint julep (although she has heard that they taste awful). She will smile and laugh and live in the moment. Tonight she has a good book to read, and a warm bed. She will go forward, and make the future hers.
For now she rests against a tree, fingering the red handkerchief in her pocket, feeling his heart beat against her back, a steady rhythm. It's his voice, chanting the only oath he ever cared to honor, murmuring the words he never managed to say before. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Gemma smiles, sinking against the soft bark, as branches caress her cheek. "I know."
And for now, it is enough.
A/N: If Kartik must die, then there must be a reason for it. Therefore, Gemma cannot simply commit suicide when it gets too hard and she gets too lonely. It's unlike her, and it provides no meaning for his death. If you really love Kartik, then respect his wishes. And to quote Forrest Gump in his infinite wisdom, "That's all I have to say about that."
Well, maybe not. I personally believe that Gemma would not remarry, but she would certainly make sure to get some sort of a life.
I needed closure too. I wrote this half way through the book before I could brave the ending. XD