I paced back and forth. I had a mild headache from how severely tight I had braided my hair but the pain took some of the edge off of the anxiety. I tried to find comfort in the chill of the room because it refocused my attention to something other than the turmoil inside. I was so caught up in my racing thoughts that I didn't hear the door open and shut. With my gaze focused at the floor, I hadn't seen it either. I heard footsteps but I didn't pay it any mind. This was a place where very few could enter, those the could I knew would do me no harm.
"Stop," he said in a tone of command that made me freeze and look over at him. He was dressed in a coal black suit with a black dress shirt, black tie, and black handkerchief in the blazer's breast pocket. I just looked at him, not fully comprehending what I saw before me. And then the anxiety returned. I dropped my gaze and hugged my arms around myself, gripping my biceps hard. As he approached me, I couldn't help the urge to pace. As I turned and began to start moving again, his hand landed at the center of my chest. At my attempted step forward, he didn't move and I found myself unable to proceed with out stepping around his outstretched arm. Apathy, however, prevented that.
Instead, I turned on my heel to walk in the opposite direction. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me roughly against him. I stumbled into him. I looked down and tried to push aside the complicated feelings that rose up. Pinning me against himself with one arm, he reached up with his free hand and turned my face up so that he could look in my eyes. My gaze briefly met his before it slid away to the side. Deep within me, some pain I couldn't identify throbbed. In the moment that I was able to see his expression, I saw caution and concern.
"Look at me," he quietly said. I closed my eyes and swallowed past a lump that rose up in my throat. The urge to weep hit me like a physical blow and I bit my lips together from the inside. His thumb ran lightly over them. I turned my face away, trying to breathe through yet another urge to sob. Gently but with irresistible pressure, he turned my face back so that I was facing him directly again. Tears that I hated managed to find their way out from beneath my eyelids and rolled down my cheeks. "You're in pain," he said. There was no question, no uncertainty. It was just a declaration of fact, as though he had said that objects fell at the rate of 32 feet per second per second.
"I can't make it stop," I said after an uncomfortably long moment of silence, unable to keep the tremor out of my voice. I wanted to lay my head against his chest and weep. At the same time, I felt like I couldn't show such weakness. His hands moved so that one was upon either side of my face. The gentleness of his touch was as though he was holding a precious artifact made of spun glass and feared of shattering it if he closed his hands too tight. The gentleness only made my anguish worse. A part of me said that pain would clear out this chaos and give me something to focus on to regain my mental balance.
I couldn't help the small noise of pain that came from me. He lowered his head and placed his lips on my right cheek and then on my left. With a feather light touch, he kissed my eyelids before guiding my head to rest against his chest. He ran a hand over my hair. "Hurting yourself is not going to help," he said with the sound of one who had experienced this kind of pain before. He began to unbraid my hair. My hand found its way to lie on his chest as a sob escaped me. With tender care, he ran his fingers through my hair, smoothing out the small tangles from the braid. I gave another sob.
I pushed against him and tried to force myself out of his arms. He, however, held me tighter against himself. "You don't need to fight any more," he murmured in my ear, "You are safe here." I shuddered as I covered my mouth with my hand in a vain attempt to keep the noises of pained misery in. "Stop," he said, "Stop fighting it."
"No," I gasped, "I can't. I can't be like this. I can't be weak." He pulled my hand away from my mouth and turned my face up again towards his own. When he kissed me, I found myself giving another sob. He, however, did not stop or turn away from me. Instead, he kissed my right cheek and cradled my head with his right hand as his left was hard at my back and held me fast against him.
"You are one of the strongest women I know," he said firmly, "Don't tear yourself apart over this. They're not worth it." I blindly struck him on the chest with my right hand balled into a fist. It was a weak blow and he gave no sign of having noticed it. "Let it go," he commanded me quietly, "If you need to cry, then cry. Stop torturing yourself. If nothing else, that's my job." His attempt at humor fell flat as the pain overwhelmed my will and I started crying despite all my attempts not to.
Once the tears started, I couldn't stop them. I began to cry louder as they gained momentum. I clung to him, shuddering with the force of my sobs. Still, he held me and murmured soothingly in my ear how I was safe and that he would protect me. After a time, the storm within me began to abate. Feeling weak from all my weeping, I hiccoughed and looked at him through teary eyes. I expected something stern and dispassionate in his face. Some sort of judgment for my breakdown, perhaps. When he looked at me with an awful expression of understanding and sympathy, I felt my eyes sting with tears. I began to look away again when he turned my fact towards him.
"You are beautiful, even when you cry," he said with all the conviction he could, "You are a strong, powerful woman. Most wouldn't have the courage to fight me, yet you do. Sometimes over the dumbest things, but you do. I wouldn't have you any other way." I dropped my eyes and his voice took on a stern tone. "Look at me, I'm not done yet," he commanded. I raised my eyes, feeling painfully self conscious over how I looked and how my weeping had made his shirt and jacket damp. "You are going to stop this," he said, "You are not going to bottle it all up like this. It is not healthy. If you must cry, then you are going to cry. Divorcing yourself from your emotions is what weakens you. Cutting your heart out of yourself to spite the past will only lengthen your torment."
He brushed a lock of hair out of my face. "I will not allow it," he said, his tone softening, "I will not see you live through the same torment I have. Your serpent can be killed. And that is what we're going to do." I closed my eyes against the great wave of despair that rolled over me at his words. He caught my face between his hands and I looked up at him. "If I must, I will kill it myself," he said, "Either way, this is going to stop. Here and now. She's right, you need to let the tears flow."
"I look ugly when I cry," I said miserably, "I sound ugly when I cry. And I cry over stuff that I should just be able to manage." He set a single finger over my lips.
"You could never be ugly. And you can not just 'manage' soul deep injuries until they don't hurt anymore," he corrected me. He straightened and looked over my shoulder. His hands settled on my shoulders and he turned me. Firmly, he guided me forward into the shadows of the room. Soon, we came to where a large bed stood. He reached past me and threw back the covers. Stooping slightly, he bent over and picked me up. With great care, he set me upon the bed and tucked the wine red covers around me.
He sat by my side and fanned my hair across the pillow. With light touches, he ran his hand over my hair. "Sleep, sweetling," he said, "Sleep will make everything look better in the light."
"Nothing will make everything look better," I said morosely.
"You still need sleep," he countered, "Worry about it all when daybreak comes. I'll be here, watching over you." I turned on my side and threw my arm across his legs as I pressed my face against the outside of his left thigh.