She broke her rules for you.
John tells you once, hours into a very dull stakeout, about a conversation he’d had with her. Three nights, that was her limit. You’d long since lost count of your nights together, but that milestone had been passed months ago.
She’d never mentioned it.
She had rules.
Overnights weren’t her thing, she’d established that right at the beginning. You didn’t mind. It was nice to bask in the reminder of her presence after she left, and you had a tendency to sleep spread-eagle besides. Then came the week in the dead of January where she caught the flu just in time for her apartment building’s heat to cut out. You’d insisted she stay with you, and your bed and blankets had quickly endeared themselves to her.
You took the couch for the first few nights, until she drowsily grumbled from beneath her cocoon of covers It’s your bed.
You’d shared space that night but never touched.
After that, some mornings you woke up to the sound of her snoring.
She doesn’t do relationships, you hear her tell one number after another. You wonder if she knows you’re listening. They often smirk, or pout, and try to persuade her to stay for just the night. She never does. After awhile her answer shifts to Not interested, thanks.
You wonder if she knows you notice. You wonder if she notices herself.
She doesn’t do relationships, but you go to dinner together once. She picks, of course. You’ve all learned to leave the culinary decisions to her.
It's a beautiful restaurant, a nice change of pace from your usual hole-in-wall haunts. She tells you her parents came here on the first date. She doesn’t reach for your hand and you don’t brush your foot against her leg under the table, but you share a bottle of wine. It’s more than enough.
She breaks for you.
She grabs you by the jacket and pulls you to her, and it’s a different kind of kiss. It’s too much, too fast, and later you’ll wonder if it’s possible for a kiss to taste so much like suffocating. It’s I’m sorry and forgive me and goodbye.
The elevator rises—it’s not possible, not with how rapidly gravity is dragging you down, down, plummeting, you’ve never fought so hard to breathe—and the last you see of her is a limp form on the ground. Shattered.
You have no rules to break for her. She was always the better of you; the one with a conscience, the one who knew limits. You only know how to push them.
You have no rules to break for her. You never did.
You turn on your God instead. You risk losing them both, you know, as you close your eyes and brace for the next step. Part of you hopes you get to take it.
You don’t. Maybe you were designed to be the martyr.
The night, nearly a year later, that you let yourself into your apartment and reach for the switch to find that the lights have been cut, you know.
Her name feels fragile on your tongue, as if that alone might ruin you. As if you aren’t already a mosaic, nothing more than a haphazard arrangement of shattered pieces.
She’s slumped on the couch, bony fingers clutching the gun resting on her hip as if it’s the only thing still tethering her here. As if maybe neither of you are entirely sure she’s here at all.
You kneel in front of her, drinking in every detail the darkness will allow you to glimpse of the ghost before you.
You blink, and her face is buried in your shoulder, skeletal fingers clutching weakly at your shirt.
I missed you, she whispers.
There’s nothing left of either of you to break.