The first thing she says to you after thirty years is, "I was worried about you."

Which is the story of your life but you don't tell her this. It is like watching her be born as she untangles herself from her own hair, doing a balancing act on the balls of her feet. A toothy smile later, she exclaims as if you were just in the middle of a conversation,

"Hey, I'm hungry." And you could cry.

Instead, you opt for the cavalier attitude you've been perfecting for the last thirty years in hopes that you could do it a little differently this time, and perhaps --

thirty years? The first time you hear how long she will be gone you think this is impossible and I will die without her. Being the charitable person she is, she saves you the trouble by killing you beforehand.

maybe things will end happily,

for once.

Three times over has taught you a few things; patience, patience, and more patience. If you could wait thirty years surely a few more days of do I know you? and what happened to your hand? won't be so bad.

Sure she knows your face, your voice, the sensation of your fingers pressed into the small of her back, a reassurance, but she doesn't know you.

Eight nights later, you catch her outside, reaching for some intangible star with her long, slender arms. Embarrassed, she stops when she sees you and says as if you have questioned her,

"There's someone I'm missing, and I just wish --"

Her words falter and she looks at you peculiarly as if the universal truth that she learns and relearns is seeping in through her eyes, nose, mouth, heart.

"I love you," she says and her hands fly to her face to hide the fact that she's crying (because she hates crying in front of people, she told you, once). "He said that to me and I don't even know his name."

Somewhere, in the darkest part of your mind you wish you had enough courage to take up her unspoken offer and tell her --

patience.

You turn, giving her an illusionary sense of privacy when the truth is that you know her better than your marrowless bones.

twenty more years to go and you've already been around the world twice. It is on your third trip to Paris that you are surrounded and you think,

this is fine, because you need something soothing, and killing has always had a sort of rhythm to it.

"Do you know where he went," she asks Kai, who is trying to fasten the buckles on one of the little girl's feet. "He hasn't been gone for very long but I still feel kind of uneasy."

"Aha," Kai declares victory and sends the little girl (she looks more like Diva every day but no one mentions it) on her way. "Oh, hey," he looks at Saya pointedly. "Were you saying something?"

"Um," Saya considers it. "Never mind, I'm going out for a while, okay?"

"Okay," Kai is already busy with the other little girl who looks a little kinder, like Saya. "But be back before dinner, I'm making your favorite."

She smiles but this is not a real smile. She has no idea what Kai is talking about but she's willing to make him happy even if she doesn't remember why she bothers in the first place.

"You're my sister."

"Okay," Saya nods her head and then turns to Lewis "And who are you?"

Saya gets as far as three blocks before five guys, dressed in stereotypical biker attire, corner her. Naively, Saya tries to walk past them as if their coordinated ambush is nothing but a misunderstanding and they'll move right out of her way if she asks nicely. She doesn't even think her life might be in danger when one of them takes out a knife. Doesn't flinch when another readies a gun.

You are patient, but not this patient. Before Saya blinks you are already in front of her, bandages loose.

The men make a hasty retreat and Saya turns around and smiles at you and you think,

this is her real smile.

"Hey," she says conversationally. "I've been looking for you for ..." She pauses, unsure. "A while, I guess."

Try thirty years.

"I didn't see you hanging around like you always do," she continues in a rush. She looks like a true fifteen year old girl who is lost and ashamed and you realize you cannot even remember being fifteen. "So I came looking for you."

You don't know what to say. She latches her arm through yours and says with those ridiculously bright eyes of hers, "Lets go get some ice cream, okay? You seem kind of sad and ice cream always cheers me up. At least," her mask falls a little. "That's what Kai keeps telling me."

Forty-eight nights since her rebirth and she still cannot place you. Surprisingly, this hurts you in a profoundly physical way. The loneliness beats in the back of your head like a tumor and you fall into fear artlessly.

Thirty years, five months and twenty nine days. You cannot even look her in the eye anymore. She takes it to heart and says with all the sincerity of someone who doesn't know what she's talking about,

"If we were friends before," a hopeful smile. "I'd like to be friends again." When it looks as if you will not answer, will not consider her request she adds, "Please."

"Saya," and this is the first time you have spoken since you slid your fingers through her hair and pressed her to your chest (because you knew God had turned his back for a moment to let you have her, if just for a moment). "We were not friends."

What you were is not exact or precise, it is as intangible as the stars she reaches for, as the sadness that slips in through the cracks of your heart, the ache that gravitates you to her.

"Oh," disappointed for only a second, she regains her equilibrium quickly enough. "That's alright! We can be friends now."

"We cannot be friends," the words tumble out of your lips unasked, slow and dull.

Saya smiles brighter than ever, because no one can deny her for too long. "You don't like me," she teases. "Is that it?"

You aren't even breathing, much less thinking.

"I do not like you," your voice sounds muffled with feeling. "I love you."

An odd moment because you can almost see her pupils dilate so, so, irises gaining a new dimension. Red and raw, she shakes a little before throwing herself into your arms. Her smaller frame is crumpled against your own and you'd almost forgotten how well you fit together.

"Hagi," she sobs and if you had been human her arms would have already broken your neck. "Oh, Hagi, I'm sorry."

Which is the story of her life but you don't tell her this.

She unwinds her arms and searches your face. You can only guess she's found what she was looking for because she crushes her lips againts yours in that savage, inconsiderate way she so often employs when she is impatient.

The first kiss was for necessity, the one before that you don't consider, and the last was a goodbye. A bit jagged is the concept of kissing her for the mere pleasure of it. It makes you feel human again.

Two days later you overhear her telling Julia,

"It was like deja vu," Saya's voice is excited. "Hearing his voice say those exact words, I don't know, but it just came back to me. I guess it jolted my memory."

Julia's reply is muffled against the wall and all you can think is that if you had said it sooner if you had been braver, perhaps --

But this does not matter. The war is over. Diva is over. Sleeping is over. Forgetting is over.

And her and you, she and he, us and I,

are just beginning.


Edited 07 10 09