Carbon – Avalon
by Steppen Sawicki
On the fifth night he didn’t come to her door, Avalon knew he was gone.
He had told her he would have to leave one day, possibly without notice, possibly without a goodbye.
“I won’t wait for you,” she had said. It was only a fact, not meant to hurt him, just a matter of reality.
But though she couldn’t see his face she knew he was disappointed. He had rolled away from her and his voice was low and strained. “I know. I shouldn’t expect you to.”
And how could he? He had been a client too, even if she one night began to refuse payment. Even if he gave as much as – or more than – he took. Even if she gloried in his taking, relishing every gasp and moan and sharp exhale of warm breath against her neck. Even if she felt herself aching for him in a way she wouldn’t ache for anyone else that came to her.
Just as she ached for him now, remembering him with every part of her. Her heart most of all, which was ridiculous. It was a job. He was a customer. And now he had moved on.
It would have been pointless anyway. She had seen his death, on the third and last time he took the veil from her eyes and made her look at him. Again she had seen his future, and that time it had been his end she had seen. She hadn’t told him. Instead she lied to him, hid how much it had hurt her to see what she had really seen. It didn’t matter what she said; the future wouldn’t be changed.
She sat before the mirror, a purely decorative one that she couldn’t really use. She hadn’t used a mirror since she was very young and had seen her own future in it, her skin leathery and folded into wrinkles, and she had been so horrified she had never used one again. Now, old enough to still be beautiful but no longer fear growing older, she kept her eyes veiled before the mirror out of habit.
She picked up the powder, dusting it over her cheeks and nose and under her veil. Getting ready. But not for him. Never again for him. She reached for the lipstick and pressed it to her lips, and began to cry.
She dropped the lipstick, and it clattered on the floor and rolled away. A sensible part of her thought Oh great now I have to find it but that was only her mind trying to get away from the thought of him, touching her lips and cheeks, resting his head on her breast and falling asleep, waking to tell her he loved her madly. She had laughed at him, and again he had been dejected. But surely he knew better.
She rose her chin to face the mirror, and she could almost feel it there like a presence, could almost hear small sounds rebounding off its surface. She raised her fingers to the veil over her eyes and lifted it, but kept her eyes closed. And she willed, as she sometimes did, her eyes to see what she wanted to see, a certain moment in the future that her sight could provide her. It almost never worked, close to never worked. But she tried, and she opened her eyes, and sat looking at the mirror as the tears ran down her cheeks.
She replaced the veil, and stood.
She would have to pack. She would have to convince Teriba to come with her. She would have to find a ride at the station. She would have to go to space. She didn’t even know his real name, but she knew his father’s. It was a place to start.
Because she wouldn’t wait for him.
She would go after him.