The air smelt of lavender. Burnt lavender. The sweetness of the floral scent being slowly and pervasively eradicated by the faint but lingering electrical scent that accompanied travel with John.
He sat next to her closely, but not touching - never touching. He was cognisant enough, it seemed, to recognise the mistake that would be. But far from the relative comfort his distance should bring, it instead reminded her of the early days of their courtship - now twisted and tortured. Where he now carefully measured the distance between them to prevent recoil or attack, the same considerations had once been made in regard to balancing propriety and their burgeoning affection - a young man's unit of measurement. It took everything she had not to reach out and cross that divide, rest a palm on his knee as she, ever the bold one, had once done.
But things were different now. He was different now. His hands were forever stained by unseen blood and there was nothing either of them could say or do to change that. After all, she was not entirely innocent, she had changed also, she knew, the years and the harsh truth of his betrayal having worn away at her edges. She had been shorn, molded into a harder version of herself - she was no longer the young woman who itched to eradicate the endless centimeters between them just to feel the illicit thrill of his trousered thighs brushing against the fabrics of her dress.
She still loved him, that she knew. And she felt, or rather dared to believe, that a part of him still loved her. But history - their history, the world's history, the history of their shared pain - was hard to ignore, and its impact had forever changed them. She had looked upon him with love, and she had looked upon him in fear - and she had seen both reflected back at her in a face so expressive. Now there were times she dared not look upon his face at all. Scared not of him, but the guilt and pain she may find hovered around his face.
She still loved him. She would always love him. But the universe had not allowed for that love. His condition, her work, their indelible ache lying in the six centre divide that lay forever between them. And so Helen did all she could do. She sat, next to him, in the most beautiful meadow she had ever seen, waiting for the acrid scent of lightning to stop smothering the lavender.