Minerva stopped still when she saw him unexpectedly in front of her on the pavement. Her heart refused to beat. He had that look in his eyes that he'd had last Wednesday when he'd confronted her with her lie. Hollow. Empty. Shattered. She had turned and run that time, unable to face him. Unable to face what she had done. What must he think of her? She had been sure he would never want to see her again and now he was so close she could reach out and touch him. Except, of course, that it would be impossible to reach through the barricade that was between them. The lie was a tangible thing holding them apart.
She stared at him and felt the blue of his eyes slip over her and then fix upon her face. She was reminded of a desolate shore, and cold waves caught in the ebb and flow of an unchanging tide. He made no move to pass by, but said nothing. He just waited, and she knew it was her move if they were ever to speak to each other again.
"I shouldn't have run away . . . I just . . . I panicked. I know you must hate me - I was so afraid of what you would think of me if you knew. I was too afraid I'd lose you - but I've lost you anyway. I'm sorry I'm not the person you thought I was. Not the person you deserved. Not the person I wanted to be." The cold was seeping deeper and deeper in, encasing her heart, entombing her soul. Wind whipped her loose hair across her face, stinging her cheeks. She did nothing to prevent it, just stood and did not lose contact with his eyes. They barely registered that he had heard her, but there was a flicker, like spume on a cresting wave, deep within.
"Do you know what hurt the most?" His voice was hard and tight, it cut through to her bone. "That you could not trust our love."
Minerva felt all sensation drain from her body. She could no longer feel the wind, the cold. She was oblivious to the pedestrians jostling to get by the two of them as they stood firm in the middle of the pavement. Instead there was such an overpowering numbness she wondered how she could possibly remain standing. "I . . . I . . . was trying to protect myself - protect both of us from the pain of my stupidity." It sounded pitiful, selfish, thoughtless.
"I never expected you to be perfect, Minerva; heaven only knows I am far from perfect, but we have to be open and honest with each other - lying only destroys."
And there it was. The lie. The thing that she had thought would fix everything. It was worse than any foolish act of hers. All because she was too frightened - too weak to open herself up to him. To really believe everything he had ever meant when he had said, I love you.
She looked up at him, wondering what she could possibly say to remove the unrelieved sadness from his face. She had no excuses, no explanations, nothing to offer. She raised a hand as if testing the solidity of the thing between them, thinking she would appear to passers-by as a mime feeling an invisible wall, but it slipped through and she touched his arm, grabbed hold of it. Felt the reality of his solid warmth beneath her fingers. It burned but she could not let go.
"I was wrong." She looked up into his face hoping only for forgiveness. She could not ask for more. The desolation in his eyes was replaced by an intensity that was almost unbearable and Minerva was filled with a sudden revelation. The past and the future were nothing compared to what they shared - the love within. That was what would take them over any obstacle; what had dissolved the barrier between them. "I'm sorry." Her voice broke and a tear escaped down one cheek.
He groaned softly and pulled Minerva close to him. He kissed her, gently at first and then matched her as she tried to tell him with her lips more than words possibly could. When they stopped to finally breathe she felt as if she'd been flown to the moon and back.
"You are everything I could ever want. You. Just the way you are," he said in a voice deep and rich and resonant with love.
"I thought - I thought I would never hold you like this again. Never hear your voice or feel your lips. You are so unbelievable - I love you so very, very much."
"You are so soft, so warm, so beautiful," he said, tenderly, caressingly, and he sprinkled her hair with kisses. Minerva knew she wasn't beautiful, but his love made her feel beautiful, inside and out. His arms surrounded her. "You fit perfectly."
Minerva nestled into his embrace. She felt truly whole again. A display in the window opposite caught her eyes momentarily. It was all reds and pinks and flowers. Emblazoned across this backdrop were words formed from iridescent pink hearts. Love makes the world go round. Minerva snuggled even closer, her head against his chest. His heartbeat was loud in her ear, matching hers. If love really did make the world go around, it would be a much different place. Sadly there was too much else involved, but she knew that with their love united, they could face whatever the world threw at them. And enjoy the ride.
She looked up at him and caressed his cheek as a glint of mischief came into her eyes. "Would this be a good time to tell you I lost your favourite socks?" He answered with a kiss that was so powerful that she forgot the store window, the crowded pavement, even her name.
He lifted his head and looked deep within her eyes. "Who cares about socks?" he whispered.
She reached up into his hair and pulled his head back down to meet hers. Who indeed?