A/N: I know, I know, I've got a lot of updating to do around here. A million apologies, but please, if you review, review for this fic.
The Caribbean was nice. There were white sandy beaches, and cerulean blue skies that you only see on postcards and tourist pamphlets, and when you think of that, you remember always looking at those pictures with lingering eyes. You remember asking yourself: were they really that blue? Or was there just some 18-year-old computer geek sitting at some desk in some office somewhere splashing a bit more blue on, making the sand a little more smooth and bright, and whitening the teeth of that smiling couple you see on the third page.
Your mother and father look tan -- rejuvenated, refreshed. Their eyes sparkle a little more than usual and they can't stop smiling, pointing out little details in the glossy pictures they hand you, crooning over the weather, the nice people, the good food. And your eyes still linger on the white sandy beaches and the impossibly blue sky. You'd never seen that kind of blue before, you think to yourself. Only on postcards and pamphlets. As she talks about some nice Irish couple they happened to meet on the plane, the padding of your thumb swipes against the palm trees in the distance. There are only two, completely isolated; yet isolated together.
When you leave they both hug you tight, energized from their little vacation in the sun. It's odd but as they hold you close you think they smell exactly like how white sandy beaches and a cerulean blue sky would smell, as if it was the kind of thing that would soak you, from head to toe. Your mother's new parrot earrings, they dangle near her neck, and as she swings her head from side to side your father looks at her with adoration. They're ugly things, just painted pieces of flimsy wood, you think to yourself, but your father is looking at her as if she is the most beautiful thing in the world.
The drive home seems quieter than usual. Muted. You look around, and you realize that maybe it's because your windows are rolled tightly shut. So you roll them down a little, all four, and the wind passes through. It's a crisp night. Tuesday, so the streets are empty. Everybody's in their houses except you. You're in your car, with your windows rolled down only slightly -- to keep you from suffocating. You keep looking out into the dark night, the horizon just completely overshadowed, and you somehow expect to see a blue sky ahead. Just like those postcards. Just like those pamphlets.
When you come home, you step into your apartment and don't bother to turn on the light. You can walk around this place just fine without it. You wouldn't bump into a single thing. And you realize, as you do just that, pouring yourself a cold glass of water -- maybe you need to move. Maybe too much familiarity is a bad thing. Maybe you needed to bump into a few things every now and then, especially in the dark.
"I get it. Light's overrated. Are you trying to save on that electricity bill now?"
There's a voice, and you freeze. You're careful not to let your fingers loosen on the smooth glass. You might be good at dodging things in the dark, but avoiding shattered glass is a bit too much, even for you. You turn around, your eyes searching blindly through the darkness, and you actually seem to forget what goes where. All you're looking for is a presence, something that shouldn't be there, something that you aren't used to.
Just then, you hear a click. A dim light comes on. It's from your lamp to your right, a few feet away, and you see it. The thing that shouldn't be there, sitting in your armchair, as if he owned the place and actually had a say. "I could help you, if things have gotten that bad."
He looks eerie, inhuman. Darkness surrounds him but the light beside him reflects off of the impeccable sheen of his hair, and makes his skin looks ghostly. You don't need to come any closer to see the purple bags under his eyes, or the way his skin looks sallow compared to the last time you'd seen him.
You put your glass down – a safety measure. You thought that if something happened, if he said the wrong thing – which he always did – you would throw it at him. That was the last thing you needed.
"Breaking and entering, huh? Is that what gets you your thrill these days?" Your voice doesn't wobble. It stays smooth, like water running over pebbles in a stream, and you're relieved. You'd been waiting for this day. Your patience had been long-suffering, and that had stirred up delusions and scenarios that would play in your head. In your head, your voice would stay sharp, and concise. Calm.
He laughs, and his low chuckle sounds like a soft murmur from where you're standing. He doesn't answer your question. You're not surprised. He never does.
"I'm curious as to when you started walking around in complete darkness, that's all, Granger. You have night vision now, is that it? Or – if it's a little financial help you need—"
"I don't need your money." Your voice is sharp this time, and for a split second he looks surprised, but he hides it quickly. He was always good at that. Pulling away when things got a little too vulnerable.
"Of course you don't," he says coolly. "I got the papers. How thorough you are, putting little colored stickies indicating where my insignia should go. If I didn't know better, I would've thought you'd done this before."
"It's simple enough." You look ahead at him, and you're almost so determined not to show any emotion. Surprise visits don't mean a thing anymore. Not this late. "Did you sign them?"
"No." He says the word so nonchalantly, so naturally, and you feel a sudden rush of anger, like a warm breeze. "No. I didn't. Bet that was the last thing you wanted to hear, wasn't it?"
You try to contain your anger. Don't let him see you mad. Be detached, emotionless. Play his game. After all, he never played yours.
"Why the fuck not?" you ask.
"Because. Getting divorced, for the most part, needs mutual consent. You consent, but I don't. It's simple enough."
"What's simple enough is that I don't want to be married to you anymore." And then it happens – that gush of emotion, of fire, of pent-up resentment and bitterness. It happens so fast and so naturally that you can't blame yourself, not one bit. "I sent you the papers. I want a divorce. How many other reasons do you need?"
"More than the one you checked on those papers, that's for sure," he says. "Irreconcilable differences, Granger? You and I perfectly well know you could have come up with something better than that. Something with a little more oomph, maybe something with a little more glitz. Witch Weekly would love that."
"Yes, I know I could have come up with something better," you say through your teeth. "I wanted to keep this as tame as possible, thank you."
"Tame as possible? Then you're divorcing the wrong person, Granger."
"I married the wrong person, that's the problem," you snap at him. Your hand twitches and you know what it wants. What you want. It wants something solid, something that will shatter, something with an impact, something that'll hurt. You're afraid you'll hurt him, but at the same time, the fear lies dead. An eye for an eye. You'd never believed in it before, but you do now.
He gets up. He crosses toward you and you stiffen, not sure whether you want him near you anymore after months of wishing he would be. You can barely see him, just like you can barely see yourself, but you feel him. He's breathing shallowly, and you feel its cool puffs graze your face. It overwhelms you. You know it does. You catch his scent and it makes you dizzy, and you try your hardest to keep your head – you won't be swayed. You sent the papers. And he needs to sign them.
You close your eyes tightly, as if almost wanting to disappear into the darkness. You think about those blue, pristine skies. The white sandy beaches. You realize you could be there. You could be there in a week. All you knew was, nobody could go there with chains still clasped on their feet.
"Why did you come back?" you ask him. There was another word you wanted to ask. Now. Why did you come back now?
You'd thought about this for months. You'd written it down, you'd called the attorneys; you'd talked to Harry and Ron. You could've backed out at any of those times. You could've backed out when you were signing the papers, you could've backed out when Ginny had tried talking to you. You were so set on doing what you had said you were going to do, what you had told everyone you were going to do.
On your way home you had picked up some travel brochures. Blue skies, white sandy beaches – just a reality that you had never fathomed could be yours. Happiness. Carefree. Bliss. You imagined digging your toes into the sand. The feel of the sun kissing your face. Going to sleep underneath those blue skies. Wading into the ocean – and this time, it would not throttle you. It would not pull you under and rob you of your breath. This time, it would be sweet, welcoming, and you wouldn't lose a thing. Not a single thing.
"I'm trying to remind you," he says lowly, "why you married me."
"I don't think you can," you say, laughing bitterly.
"If I can't remind you, then I can at least convince you."
"Those are extremely high hopes for someone like you, Malfoy. The easiest thing would be to just sign the papers. A flick of your wrist, that's all. Simple. Isn't that what you've always strived for? Something easy, and simple?"
You don't know how near he is, but you want to push him away. He's too close now after being so far, almost nonexistent altogether, for so long.
"Wrong. Try again."
"If you're trying to get me to assess your character, then you're too late. I've already ended our marriage."
"It isn't over until I sign."
"Wrong." You swallow hard. "It was over a long time ago."
Just then you feel something – pressure, pressing down on your shoulder. He holds you firmly and closely. You want to shake him off, but he's too strong.
"Whatever explanation you've been rehearsing this past week in front of your mirror, forget it," you say coldly. "You left me, Malfoy. You left. You selfishly left something in ruins to figure yourself out, well, newsflash, Malfoy – if only you could have realized then what I realize now: you're just a fuckhole living for yourself, and no one else. You're a leech. You cling on to perfectly able, healthy people, and you suck out all of their life. And now you expect for me to forgive you? That you can just come back whenever you feel like it and I would just be glad to have you back?"
"I was afraid," he tells you, and for the first time, you think he might actually think that you might believe him. "You needed me, and I got scared. And I didn't know why. I just was. One day, I was just passing by a travel agency, and the next thing I know it, I've bought a ticket and I'm leaving the country."
"That's the sorriest story I've ever heard." It guts you inside out.
"We lost her."
"Don't talk about that." You yell it at him, but it's garbled from the sudden sob that rises from your throat. You feel it again. As if the sea had grabbed you and pulled you underneath. You were moving your arms and legs as vigorously as you possibly could but it's no use, it brings you further down. You can't breathe. Your lungs are shrinking to the point of pain. You need air, and you need someone to pull you out – but there's no one there to do it.
Suddenly you find yourself repeating the phrase – "don't talk about that" – but it's masked by tears and big, heaving sobs. The darkness, it smears underneath your eyelids. You wish you could just fall into it. Nobody's arms would have to be open for you to fall; you would just keep falling and never feel the impact of hitting the bottom.
He tries to hold you close but you push him away. You hit him with all your might. "Don't – you – dare – how – could – you – even – bring – her – up – after – what – you've – done –" You call him a heartless bastard, and many other names. And you don't regret it. You mean them all.
You hate it, you remember, when you watch movies and the woman is trying to fight the man off while crying and she eventually succumbs. Now you realize why. You're tired. Suddenly, you're just so exhausted. You're crying, and your knees are weak, and you're certain they're going to give away any second now. He props you up with ease. As if he was meant to do this, meant to be here, with you. Right now.
If only he'd been here when you'd really needed him. When you lost her.
"I didn't know how to deal with it," you hear him say from somewhere near you, above you. "I felt so… ashamed. Guilty. Lost. It happened so fast, and I was still reeling. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He repeats it, those two words. The two words you always prayed to hear every time you went to sleep at night. The two words that could have made you hurt less, and could have made things right. Was it too late? When you had absolutely nothing now, just flimsy brochures in your coat pocket of an escape from your loss and your tragic reality, could it ever be too late?
He holds you close, for the first time in a long time. He's thinner than you remember, but still just as strong. His heart beats against yours, thudding in a sporadic rhythm, just as alive as ever. He tells you he loves you. You remember he says this scarcely, as if he expects you to just know it. You remember he pulls away every time things get a little too vulnerable, and you just wait for it, the moment when there's space between you again. So you wait, and you wait, and you wait. But it never comes.
Your tears dry, soaking his shirt. In the back your mind, there is an impossibly blue sky somewhere, with smooth, untouched beaches. With two palm trees, twisted towards each other, alone but together. Just like you two.