“You followed me?” she stammered.
His answer was devoid of emotion.
“That’s correct, I did follow you.”
“You can’t be serious. This must be a joke.”
“If I was acting a prankster, and my admission of tailing you when you left the house but a simple, roguish trick, this entire scene would be far more bearable. Unfortunately, as my statement is entirely truthful, the repercussions of my actions, and yours, have revealed a decidedly more serious reality.”
Her hands were centered at her waist, palms facing upwards, with the fingers of both of her hands interlaced. Her thumbs tapped against each other rapidly and rhythmically. She slowly shifted her weight back and forth, at her hips. She nervously bit her bottom lip, then quickly released it, her eyes widening as she became acutely aware of the motion.
“You’re speaking the truth?” she queried breathlessly.
“How far did you follow?”
“Far enough to answer all of my questions.”
She brushed several strands of raven hair from where they had fallen in front of her eyes, again clasping her hands at the waist. Tristan saw a tear forming at corner of one eye.
“Why did you follow me?”
“I’m guessing that you already have the answer to this question?”
“Just say it.”
“The key that I entrusted to you, means more to me than you could know. I presented it to you, so that you might be its caretaker, its protection, and its guardian. I allowed you to wear it, because I trusted you entirely. Through the head of the key, I strung a leather strand, so that when it hung from your neck, the key would be close to your heart. I willed it to you, because in the entire world, I believed that only you would be cautious with my weakness. I gave it to you, because I love you.”
The lone tear at the corner of her eye rolled down her cheek, and was soon chased, by another. At the corner of her opposite eye, a tear formed, for a nanosecond defied gravity, then slid down her cheek.
She liberated her fingers from their entwinement, made fists of her hands, brought them to her eyes, and rubbed the forming tears away.
“I never intended to forget it.”
“If you had intended to do so, that would be even more problematic.” Tristan spat.
“I mean, what I meant was, I shouldn’t have let it leave my neck.”
“You’re acting as if you had no choice in the matter.”
“That’s not what I am saying. I apologize, I shouldn’t have been so careless, I should have had the key with me at all times.”
Tristan stared at her, jaw clenched, and eyes burning. The blood in his veins seemed to heat up, and he felt a pulse of violent energy surge through him. He could hear an intense thrumming sound, but it didn’t seem to be coming from in the room, but from inside of him, near his chest.
He closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. The humming, gradually, diminished in intensity. Slowly, he felt a quelling of the rage inside of him.
When both subsided, he spoke.
“You let it out of your sight. You say that you know its importance, but you left it in the presence of a stranger. How am I to believe you wanted to keep the key safe, when you let it leave your presence? How am I to know that this hasn’t happened before, that you hadn’t left that place, then halfway home realized your mistake, and returned to retrieve it?
“I swear to you, this was the first time that I left it there.”
“Was it the first time it left your neck?
“What do you mean?” she puzzled.
His answer start in his throat as a growl, traveled up his throat, and exited through tightly clenched teeth.
“Don’t play these games.”
“What is it that you want me to say?”
“I want the truth.”
She tilted her head down slightly, and closed her eyes. Her chest raised gradually, as she drew in a deep breath through her nostrils. She exhaled, opened her eyelids, and looked into his eyes.
“Ask what you wish.”
“This wasn’t the first time, was it?”
“No, it was not.”
“Was this the first time the key was not in your presence?”
“Truthfully? Yes this was the first time.”
Tristan breathed evenly, and carefully scrutinized her expression, searching for traces of falsehood. After many long moments, he decided there were none.
She spoke in a barely audible whisper.
“What of him?”
“You know the way. See for yourself if you wish.”
Her reaction to his response was a quick gasp, before she regained her composure. She sighed, and waited silently for his next question.
“Why?” he asked.
“Why, what?” she said.
“Why did you do it?” Tristan asked.
In a tone that pleaded with him to accept her sincerity, she said, “I love you, truly, I do.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“The answer isn’t so simple.”
“Do your best to explain, and will make all efforts to understand the complexities. ”
“Very well. My time with you has been nothing short of amazing. Every day that we spent together, every hour we were close, every minute of stimulating proximity, each passion-soaked second, has been blissful. You are everything that I have desired. All of the wonderful experiences that we have had together, they will always be a part of me. Our life together, will forever coarse vigorously through my heart, mind, and soul.”
“I assured you that I would do my best to understand. But I am considerably puzzled. None of what you are saying sounds close to reasonable grounds for what you have done.”
“I told you that it was difficult to explain.”
“And also to understand.”
“It was not my wish to discuss it with you this way.”
“How did you imagine, we would be having this conversation?” Tristan asked angrily.
“I don’t know. I suppose I hadn’t considered how this dialogue would occur.”
“The same way you didn’t consider the repercussions of forgetting the key?”
She declined her head guiltily. Paused for several seconds, then once again looked him in the eye, an intense sadness present in her eyes.
“There is minimal chance that what you say will have a profound effect at this point, but you may continue with your explanation.”
“Are you sure, it doesn’t seem likely that anything I say will generate positive results?”
“I’m no longer concerned with effect of your words. What I desire, is understanding. I must know why.”
“I don’t expect you to understand. But if you insist, I will try.”
Again, she sighed, then shook her head side to side, her silky, raven hair swaying with the motion of her head. Then, she was still.
“As you wish,” she murmured.
“I love you Tristan. I hope that you believe me. I mean it with the utmost sincerity.”
“Our time together was amazing. I couldn’t have dreamed of being with a more perfect man. The experiences we had, the way that we felt about each other, the life we enjoyed, the love that we shared, the passion between us, these things and so many more, I cherished.
“But deep in my heart, I always knew that it was finite. Something began nagging at my soul, not long after we connected, that would not go away. The insistence grew stronger, the longer we were together. This persistence, ignored the the intensity of passion that I felt for you. I couldn’t shake it, I couldn’t rid myself of it. Despite the strength of my will to discard it, the feeling remained.
“I couldn’t shed the thought that no matter how much I loved you, you were not meant for me. At my core, was the knowledge that inevitably, you would leave.
“I couldn’t bear this thought. Each passing day, the weight on my soul grew stronger.
“I did not wish for these thoughts, but I could not make them go away. I loved you so much, but I the inevitability was torture to me.
“I knew it would take something drastic, to overcome the connection that we have. I knew I had to go to great degrees to conquer the passion between us. I had to stoke intense fires, to melt the bonds of love between us.
“The simplest way I can answer your question, is that I did what I did, to push you away.”