by Anria Lalumin


I loved him.

Such a simple, clichéd thing to say. But I did. I loved him. And here's another cliché; I loved him body, heart, mind and soul.

It's easy to say such things and not comprehend their true meaning. It's harder to say them and know that they don't even come close to how you feel.

It's even harder to say them when the one you felt that way about is dead.

No, he didn't die during the war. That would have been too simple. I could probably have dealt with it more easily if he had died during the war. Or if he had died after the war, killed by someone whose family he had killed. Or if it had been anything connected to the war. Or even the goddamn Preventers!

Not a car accident.

Now comes the point where I add in another cliché, and modify what I said above: I still love him. I will never stop loving him.

We had started a new life. Away from the looming, overly-dominant scientists. We'd bought a house, our own house, with the funds we had filtered out of OZ's path. We had a normal life. Hell, we even made friends with the neighbors, even though they knew damn well who we were. How could they not? The Gundam pilots were plastered all over the news. We got jobs. We worked hard.

We lived happily.

Damn it, how many clichés is this thing gonna be filled with? I hate clichés.

But here's another one for you: we were planning to adopt.

Ha, I hear you say. Any of the Gundam pilots adopting? No way. It wouldn't work. A combination of things would keep all of them away, whether it was being too busy, too lazy, or just too homicidal.

But we were. We had been given permission to adopt. The little munchkin was arriving in four days. We'd seen the photos. Not a baby, although it would have been a privilege to raise a child from birth, but a toddler. A beautiful little girl.

But then he died.

He just . . . walked out of the house, yelling to me he was going to the store, he'd be back in a sec. I saw he'd forgotten his wallet and tossed it out of the top floor window to him. He caught it (of course—we didn't have all that training for nothing), got in the car and drove off.

I watched him go, watched him drive down the road, a stupid smile on my face. You know, that smile that yells out to the whole world that you're in love, and that the person you love loves you back. The smile that takes over your whole face until you're beaming like a hundred-watt bulb and people are breaking out the sunglasses.

I was still wearing that smile when a kid with a brand new sports car and an even newer license rammed at full speed into the driver's side of the car.

I was out the house so fast there were dust tracks in my wake.

I don't remember much about what happened next. I think I kind of went into panic. I remember running down the road as fast as I could. I don't think I've ever run that hard in my life. All I could hear was my panting breathing, all I could see was the wreckage on the driver's side . . . and blood. . . .

I was screaming his name at the top of my lungs, I know I was, but it seemed like I couldn't hear it. There was blood, lots of blood. . . .

I think I blacked out. Huh. Me blacking out. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital.

The doctors told me he was DOA. Took me a while to compute that. Huh. Dead On Arrival. Nope, can't happen. Not to him. Not to us.

I insisted on seeing the body. Bad move, I know. But I . . . I just had to know for sure. To know if he really was gone, or whether this was all some horrible dream.

They took me to the morgue. I . . . there wasn't . . . he was. . . . I recognized him, although I sure as hell didn't want to.

I threw up. I'll leave it at that.

One of my neighbors came and drove me home. I was kinda catatonic; couldn't really feel anything. I thanked her woodenly, unlocked the front door—although I don't remember locking it. Strange—and walked inside. I wouldn't let her come in with me.

I didn't cry. I didn't break down. Instead I walked into the kitchen and started cooking dinner.

He had wanted steak for dinner. I cooked steak.

It wasn't until I got out two plates and started dishing out the food that I suddenly stared at his plate, and it all sank in. I sank to my knees, leaning against the cupboard, and started crying.

Not all-out sobbing, although I kinda half-expected myself to do that. Just little trickling tears that almost seemed forced out. I was holding the spatula in my hand still, it's end covered in the steak's juices. I stared at it like it was my whole world, then past it to the plastic tiles on the floor.

I don't know how long I stayed like that, small hot tears trickling down my face, leaving a salty taste where a few met my lips. I memorized that plastic tile; even now I can picture it. But then, it wasn't that long ago, was it?

I was eighteen when he died. We both were.

It felt like I was responsible for his death. If only I hadn't tossed the wallet out of the window, if only I had made him wait for a few moments while I brought it too him, then kissed him goodbye. He would have been later—the car wouldn't have been hit by the kid, the kid would have swung out in front of him, he'd still be alive. . . .

Eventually, I got up from the floor. My legs were trembling, and I felt like I was going to collapse at any moment. I dropped the spatula, not caring where it landed, ignored the food, and made my way up to our bedroom.

I walked along the corridor and got to within two steps from the door and froze.

I couldn't go in there. That bedroom held some of the happiest memories in my life, and they all had him in them. I started backing away before I snapped totally.

I lay down on the bed in the guest bedroom. It was cold. It stayed cold long after my body heat should have warmed it up. It was damp, too.

I lay down fully clothed. I pulled the covers over me and stared at the wall that separated this room from our room. It had recently been plastered; there was no wallpaper on it.

Do you know that on a bare, plastered wall, there are tiny perforations? Little air holes along the surface. I didn't. I do now. The same as with the tile downstairs, I memorized it. No, correction. I counted the air holes. Often I would lose track of where I was and have to start again. I didn't care. Anything to keep my mind off what my last sight of him had been, and what I could have done to stop him dying. I finally fell asleep counting, only to wake up a few hours later.

I stayed like that for days, just repeating the same sequence over and over. Sleep. Wake up. Count air holes. Sleep. Wake up. Count air holes.

My neighbors called on me every day. They rang the bell, they knocked, they threw stones at the upstairs windows in case I was asleep.

I never moved.

Eventually, of course, they had to come. All I heard was the door breaking in downstairs, and three sets of footsteps roaming over the house, three familiar voices calling my name.

I didn't respond.

They found me eventually. Of course they did. I knew they would.

I didn't speak to them. I didn't look at them. I didn't listen to what they said.

They moved in. All three of them. They force fed me, for God's sake! Whose god I don't know. Maybe I never knew.

It took months for me to leave that room. Months. It took days before I would look at them and weeks before eat something of my own free will. It took even more weeks before I would get out of that bed.

But it took months for me to leave that room.

Yet that was the turning point. I walked out of the room, and said the first thing I had since I'd come back here.

I said, “This house has got to go.”

I sold it. Well, actually, I had it bulldozed to the ground. I left most of the furniture and other things inside—too painful. The only thing I actually kept that reminded me of him was a picture of us, together, on vacation in Florida. On a white sand beach, arms around each other, tongues down each other's throats, both of us looking truly happy.

It still hurts to look at that picture, but I knew I would want to keep something.

Come to think of it, that was the only thing I kept. I quit my job. I went into an entirely new line of work. I started studying for a degree, never mind I had no past qualifications. When I got 98% on the entry exam, they let me in like a shot.

I bought new clothes. Ones that before I would never have worn. I burned the ones I had worn when he was still alive. I moved into a rented apartment with two people I had never met before. I refused contact with the others, and with anyone who had known me and him together.

I regret that now. I really do. I regret bulldozing the house, I regret destroying all our things, I regret burning the clothes he had loved for me to wear—and to take off. All I really have left of him is the photo and my memories. I don't even have people to talk to who knew him.

And the kid? She got sent back to the orphanage. Poor little thing probably didn't understand.

Damn it, this is hard to write. I never though it would be, but it is. Let it out, they said. You'll feel better, they said. It'll get easier as you go along, they said.

Bullshit. I'm writing this now only because I feel like I owe something to him. To my memory of him. To the love I still hold for him.

I'll never stop loving him. Ha, another cliché. I think I put this in somewhere else, as well.

But the thing with most clichés is that they become clichéd because they strike you as being profoundly true, and so you use them again and again until they can't help but become a cliché. I never knew what truth there was in “loving someone body, heart, mind and soul” until it happened. And similarly, I never really knew what loss was until it was taken away.

It's been a year. I've completely disassociated myself with my former life. I made it very clear, the first time the other pilots tracked me down, that I didn't want to see them. They only went away when I told them if anything happened to me they would be the ones contacted as next-of-kin. They worried about me. I think they still do.

So I'm sitting here, a year after he died to the day, writing this damn thing. Nobody who knows me now has any idea about it. All they know is that I don't talk to anyone, beyond the barest of civilities. I guess his death really put me back to basics.

I'm getting off track. I'd better stop before this turns into a rant against animal rights or something equally stupid. What I really want to say right now is that I thought a lot after he died. I thought so much I can actually think of it now without wanting to throw up or curl into a fetal ball. I know I loved him more than my soul. I know I would have done anything for him, I know I would give everything I have for it to have been me in that car, not him. He should have been the one to stay in this world. He was the one who always had goodness shining out of him. I could have died happy, knowing he was safe.

But then, it could be reversed. I don't know what his last thoughts were; I don't know if he felt the same that I do, that he would have preferred that it was him who died, not me. Knowing him as well as I do, I would say he did think that.

I might fall in love with someone else some day. You never know. But what I do know is that I will never stop loving him. I could find the most wonderful person ever, I could fall so hard it made this love seem like child's play, but I will never, ever stop loving him. Never.

Love is one small word that seems to have many meanings. You can love your parents, you can love your siblings, you can love your dog. But when it comes to loving one person, the whole meaning changes. The love you apply to other things pales into mere liking at most, compared to this.

I can't explain it. Writers the world over have tried to explain it throughout the ages, and all have failed miserably. Here's another profoundly true cliché: there are some things words cannot describe.

And it is true. They can't. I could sit here and write a hundred pages, and you could read it all, and you would not have the slightest inkling of what I was going on about if you had never been in love, and if you had been in love you would know what I had written was inadequate.

For some, maybe love is happiness. Well I'm not happy, but I am in love. For some, maybe love is spending the rest of your life devoted to someone. I'm nineteen. Gimme a break. I know he would never expect me to go through life without any more sex.

Despite that, I know I might go through the rest of my life without loving someone else.

I loved him. I love him.

And damn if it doesn't still hurt.


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