"there was some element of loneliness involved—so easy to be loved—so hard to love."
(f. scott fitzgerald, tender is the night)
A finger traces the rim of her champagne glass as she watches the darkness of the lounge in front of her. It's warm outside tonight; summer brushes past her shoulders and the nape of her neck, her thin frame lightly sticking to the fabric of her dress.
Her eyes drift over to the couple not far from her, swaying to the quiet sounds of a saxophone, a woman's voice gently breathing out through the room. With one leg crossed over, her eyes lower to a dark spot on the floor in front of her.
"Care for a dance?" a deep voice breaks her from being swallowed by her own thoughts. The man extends his hand, smiling down at her. For a moment, she watches him, before slowly sliding herself from her chair, thin fingers reaching for his hand.
He leads her to the dance floor; one hand rests on her lower back, her hand slides to the dip between his shoulder and neck. For a moment, they sway to the music; she closes her eyes, feeling her lashes on the tips of her cheeks, feeling his eyes watching her. The music surrounds them and she's reminded of a distant memory—paper lanterns, waves crashing against the shore, laughter—calling to her like an echo, before it disappears as quick as it arrives.
"She doesn't remember who you are," the words so easily spoken as she opens her eyes again to look at him. He's silent, contemplating; the rhythm of his dance does not falter, it keeps it's slow pace, as remains the hand on her back. If she did not know better, she would have thought that he is not effected by this news, that it rolls off his shoulders.
A soft laugh escapes from the bottom of his throat, to what she believes is a defense mechanism, his warm breath finding it's way to the skin of her cheek, "I guess I should have expected that."
Eyes searching, she wonders; wonders how it was for the two of them. An apartment on the East side of Manhattan, unbearable summer days with bitter winter nights, the two of them—in love? She wonders—together, living a life, before they were torn apart like a page from a magazine.
Her body shifts a bit, her head tilting a little more to look at him. The corners of Gabrielle's lips curve into the slightest of a smile (Untouchable is the first word that passes through his mind). "There's a way to fix it."
She feels every fiber of his being trying to resist the urge to stop the dance right there, to gather everything he can, any information she has, just to bring her back. To make her remember. She feels it through the fingers pressed against her back; she can hear his blood running, the look in his eyes letting her know that the both of them were willing to do something dangerous, something that could kill them, if it was to bring her back to him.
With one quick breath, he asks, "How?"
The music stops—trumpets, violin, the sultry voice of the woman whose lyrics will haunt Gabrielle forever—and she slides away, her fingertips gently ghosting over the fabric of his suit, feeling his hand drop from her lower back.
She steps back, the slightest movement of her chin tilting upwards, "Buy me a drink."
It's nearly three in the morning when they sit in the back of the cab as she watches the lights of the city paint her vision. There is a slight buzz in the back of her mind, but nothing more to make her think she is close to tipsiness.
Kyle sits on the other side, with his hands on his knees, watching the street ahead of him. His thoughts swimming with words and ideas—otherworldliness, it is not uncommon to him. Time travel, a system (machine?) that he cannot quite wrap his mind around, grotesque creations. Gabrielle had explained it all so clearly, but even from her it left him feeling confused.
Her thin fingers played with the fabric of her dress that met at the knee. She pretends to be lost in her own world, but she knows. She knows he's thinking about it, he's considering, and she knows he's going to agree, because he loves her.
She is not untouchable.
The taxi stops, Gabrielle lifts her head up to see the familiar apartment complex. Something so mundane, concrete that she looks at every day, looked so out of place to her. It's silent for a moment, before she hears Kyle shifting in the seat beside her. She turns her head to look at him as she reaches into the pocket of his coat, handing the cash to the driver.
"Keep the change," he says (it sounds disconnected, but it's New York and the driver does not seem to mind—he just nods) before stepping out of the taxi.
"Good night," Gabrielle gives a curt smile, before stepping out from her own side of the taxi.
Kyle watches her as she steps out with such poise. Her heels gently clacking when they touch the pavement, the way she moves her legs before she stands up, how she looks as if she is not average like him, but something royal. Elegant.
When she walks over to him, they can only stare at each other, letting the silence build up between them. He can't help but fully notice the features of her face as they stand near the fluorescent streetlight in front of the building. The part of her hair, the shape of her face, how her lips seem to be so pressed together, the slight pink on her cheeks from the champagne earlier.
He reminds himself to stop.
"Thank you again," he says. It's genuine, but there's a pain in his heart when he realizes how much she looks like her. "I'll be by next week to plan everything out."
Her lips curl into another smile, just like before when she stepped away from him, "It's the least we can do."
The silence fills the air once more, growing like a balloon between them, until he breaks the barrier. He takes a step, his hand caressing the side of her face, his lips against hers. It takes her a moment to realize this, to realize what's going on—to feel the thumb against her cheek. In Gabrielle's mind, she knows that he's mistaking her for someone else, for someone he loves, and despite her hands finding their way to rest on his chest as she gives into the kiss, she realizes this is wrong.
Her movement is not harsh or hostile, it's not shameful or angry, but when she pulls away, she can't help but think that if this were any other time or situation, she would have pushed it even further.
But it's not.
"I'm not her," she says, something empty and longing in her voice. The woman does not wish to be her, but it's a complete understanding of the loneliness that haunts the both of them at night. Him wishing to have her back and her wishing she had someone like that to care about in the first place.
"I'm not her," her arms drape to her sides, eyes gazing into his. "I never will be."
He swallows hard, a dry chuckle escaping from his mouth. Kyle shakes his head, looking more ashamed at the thought that he would even think to replace her with someone else. "I'm sorry," he says, dipping his head.
The sound of cars passing and people laughing fill the air. "We'll bring her back," she says, not sure if the words coming from her mouth are either truth or lies. "I promise."
He can only chuckle and she wonders if she should have broken the kiss in the first place.
"You're right," he lifts his head to look at her, the slightest hint of a grin on his face. She watches him, trying to figure out if he is uncertain as she is, if he's as scared as she is, but she finds nothing (she thinks he is just like her—wears a mask to keep the fear and worry hidden from the rest of the world).
"I guess I'll be seeing you later," his hands go into the pockets of his jacket. He turns away to walk down the nearly empty streets.
Gabrielle stands there and watches him until he disappears from her line of sight. Then turns on her heel, letting the blinding, fluorescent light of the building take over her.