You don't remember me but I remember you
I lie awake and try so hard not to think of you
But who can decide what they dream?
And dream I do...
From the song Taking Over Me (the Fallen album), by Evanescence
As soon as Mai and Yuuichi disappeared, I collapsed into the nearest chair with a sigh.
"Champagne, miss?" A waiter hovered in front of me with a tray. I didn't drink. But then again, I didn't dance either. I took one flute and drained it. Then I took another and stood up.
I scanned the room - and found my gaze colliding directly with a pair of crimson eyes. She was standing in the middle of a circle of admirers. Despite the denseness of the crowd, she had known exactly where to find me. I stared back. For the first time, it occurred to me that she looked unbearably lonely. Without thinking about it at all, I started to move towards her. I had to rescue her somehow.
Only a blonde figure in a white tuxedo suddenly leaned towards her and whispered something in her ear. I could feel her reluctance when she broke away from our gaze. As my steps slowed, I heard the opening bars of a tango.
I saw Solomon lead her to the middle of the dance floor. And for the next five minutes, he proceeded to possess her with a thoroughness that I thought could only happen in a bedroom.
The entire room watched spellbound as he held Shizuru in a close embrace, their cheeks and foreheads nearly touching. I watched with a sickened fascination as his arm curved possessively around her waist, his hand bracing itself against her lower back, her hand resting on his shoulder. It startled all of us to see Shizuru - languid, elegant, graceful Shizuru - capable of such an intensely violent and impassioned display. Yet she moved effortlessly and perfectly - submitting completely to Solomon's mastery of the dance.
It was absolute torment. Every single time his hand caressed her hips or her thighs, I felt violated in the very depths of my being. I suddenly, desperately wanted to see her eyes. Throughout the dance, he had looked at her fiercely with his emerald-green gaze. I wanted to see what her eyes held, what lay in those blood-red depths I'd stared into so often and so long. But she kept her eyes closed the entire time.
When the dance ended, he dipped her low to the ground, and drew his face close to hers. The entire room had fallen into a hush, and even the sound of the violins had stilled. At the moment when I thought their lips would touch, the silence was suddenly interrupted by the sharp crack of breaking glass. I looked around to locate the source of the sound, before I realized that everyone was staring at me. More specifically, they were looking at the remains of the champagne flute that lay crushed in my bleeding hand.
"Natsuki!" I heard Mai's horrified cry. I looked with detached surprise at the mess that was my hand and gently set the shards down on the nearest table. I could feel the pain in my palm in some distant part of my mind, but the nearer part of it was preoccupied with the more keening pain in my heart.
"Let me see that." I looked up to find Shizuru's concerned eyes staring into mine, the ruby orbs matching the color of the liquid that ran down my arm. I mutely held out my hand to her. As she took it, she calmly addressed the guests, "Do carry on. I'll make sure Natsuki-san's hand gets attended to."
Relieved that the situation was under control, the small crowd that had gathered began to disperse. Still holding my hand, Shizuru led me towards one of the room's exits where we were intercepted by a concerned-looking Mai.
"It's fine, Tokiha-san," Shizuru reassured my worried friend. "It's not serious and I can easily handle it." Sensing that Mai was about to object, Shizuru pressed on kindly but firmly. "I think it would be more helpful if you could be the one to tell Natsuki's other friends that she's all right." Mai nodded reluctantly at this and left.
After retrieving a first aid kit from one of the residence's guards, Shizuru sat me down in a nearby room and examined my hand. As she cleaned and bandaged the cuts, I spoke mechanically.
"I'm sorry, Shizuru. You shouldn't have to be attending to this - to me - on this night, of all nights."
She didn't respond to the apology, but merely asked: "And how did Natsuki happen to break that glass?"
I laughed hollowly. "You know me. I tend to underestimate the fragility of things."
We looked at each other then. In the seconds that dragged, in the eons that flew, volumes passed between our eyes - but none passed between our lips. Everyone who has loved, and loved long and well, knows this: that there are times when words seem utterly futile but are at the same time desperately necessary. I gave in to that feeling of futility - and sacrificed the last opportunity I ever had for telling her how much I loved and desired her.
She sensed that moment of farewell better than I did, because she suddenly held my bandaged hand to her cheek, and with violent tenderness, covered it with kisses. I heard her strangled moan. "Natsuki..."
But before I could interpret what that anguished cry could mean, the whole world exploded in red and black and green.