Four years changed and I felt the brunt of none of it. By then my dreams had become plainer as imagination turned its hand to more grown-up matters. Nevertheless my steps towards the twenty year milestone were still as timid as they'd ever been. Not without Constance. She'd been there before, she had to be there again. And then, in the shade of dusk, she stood before me once more. Once more.
She turned away. She'd changed her hair again: dyed it blonde, let it grow out. I sighed and touched her shoulder. Her cotton jumper felt damp. I moved around her, searching for a smile. Her lips twitched and quivered. Before I could catch her gaze, she hurried forward. I could not fathom where she was going: we were surrounded by a ring of fog.
I reached for her hand but it flinched away. I tried a smile of my own but it didn't last. There they were: tears on her cheek.
I shrank down, pleaded with her, followed her aimless walk but she refused to even turn to me. I asked her in so many ways what was wrong and what I had done but she would not talk. Silent as ever, but never before had it stung my ears so. Words streamed out of me to fill the moment, to save it, but...nothing.
My hands shook as I moved after her, fumbled as they gripped the sides of her face. I stared at her, eyes mad and wide; searched for doubt, for the smallest hesitation. Her eyes did their best to avoid mine but I caught them. Redness swarmed about the silver, dulling their glimmer down to a spark.
At lasts she pulled apart my hands and threw them back to my sides. I stood there and watched as she opened her hand and struck me. I took it: stumbled backwards, forwards, landed hard on my knees. With crooked fingers I touched my cheek, felt the sting again. I did not rise up; I let her step into the haze, cursing everything I could. I knew to stay back. It was her choice. Constance didn't want to stay.
And why would she? She had good reason not to. It was my mind: I could have stayed a while longer. I had it in me to prolong the dream. But I didn't. I had abandoned all chances. I had abandoned her.
As if responding to my wordless apology, she glanced back. It was brief, but she definitely stopped. She let something go: the slightest twitch of an aching smile. I returned the favour as best I could. I hoped that she knew I loved our time here, whatever it may have meant.
And then she turned back, now standing before a corner. It was the best I could do. I couldn't lose her to the fog, after all. Not completely. She moved around it till she was out of sight. In a moment I was on my feet again, sprinting for the blank wall. I can't lose her, I can't lose her...
There it was. At the very end, there it was again. Nothing.
I slumped back down to my knees, yielding to the damn thing. Tears fell and disappeared, dissolving as quickly as the corner, the surrounding fog. It was coming and I did not fight it. I never once looked down.
I felt the tears, the real ones, and they brought me out. I sat up, let them roll away, let others follow. When the morning at last arrived I felt no better. I couldn't understand why I wept for a figment, a fading woman; but I did and that made it all the more worse. The warmth had well and truly left now; I was alone with a cold day climbing up my shoulders. But I carried on. I dressed, stepped out and carried on.
After all, a dream is a dream, isn't it? What hurts you by night, can't possibly hurt you by morning. Day is something else, too big to be held back by such odd little concepts. I went a whole lifetime thinking this way.
Now I know how foolish such a thought is. Dreams are worse than reality; they can linger just as long. Eyes open or shut, they never really leave you. And she most certainly does not. Constance was and, in many ways, still is. Though I know I'll probably never see her again, she is welcome to my nights like the ghost of glory past. Like an angel never truly met.