Hanging from the end of her rope, she dropped off onto the rooftop. Reaching up, she grabbed her swing-line and with a flick of the wrist, unhooked it and spun it back into a tight loop. Of all the rooftops in Garrison City, this was the one to which she thought she would never return. She brushed the red hair that she wore out of her face, tucking it behind a black ear-tip, and walked over to the edge.
Silently, she looked over the edge of the building and remembered. She had been six stories down when she caught him. Carrying him back up, clutching her onto for dear life, had not been easy. Of course, what happened afterwards had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done. She had let him become her world, he’d even changed her in many ways, and it had all come crashing down.
“Oh Eddy…” she said with a despondent accent, the voice more appropriate to her natural blonde than the red with which she disguised it. She worked hard on perfecting her work voice, but up here on this rooftop, alone in the world, she saw no reason for that pretense. Seeing him again, however briefly, had brought back so many thoughts she’d long-since buried.
She nearly fell from the edge when she heard his answer. “Yes?” Her entire body tensed, a reaction she’d long since gotten over around him. In fact, there was a time when the sound of his voice was all she needed to relax. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t know if she could look at him again without falling apart, and she swore long ago to never let that happen again.
“What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.”
There was nothing soothing about his voice. Not now. It was all just a reminder of that night, on this very rooftop. The night she’d left Garrison City, never to return. A promise, it seemed, she’d been unable to keep. “I don’t want to talk to you,” she answered, trying to sound convincing.
There was a short pause before she heard his voice again… though it was another voice. “How about me, then?” Her heart rolled over in her chest. So, Eddy hadn’t been totally forgotten after all. But she couldn’t break… couldn’t let this consume her again. She was free… as free as she ever was. At least, that was the lie she told herself.
“You’re dead. You told me as much yourself.” She felt her eyes burning, the tips fighting against her will to moisten. She fought against it with all her being, forcing herself to stand opposed to the tide of emotion he evoked within her. She was free.
“I’ve been dead before,” he said, and she could see in her mind’s eye that endearing… no… annoying smirk playing across his lips. “I’ve found it rarely sticks in our profession.”
“What made you think I would come here?” she asked, changing the subject.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “What made you come?”
There was a long silence. She didn’t know how to answer that question. So many answers: regret, closure, memories of a better time; they all would have made her appear weak. They would have locked her and bound her, and she would lose everything she’d gained since that terrible night.
“Yeah,” he said, replying to her silence. “Same here.”
“You look well,” she said, trying once more to change the subject… or rather, avoid a subject that had never really come up. “But you’ve lost weight.”
There was another moment’s pause. “Food had a hard time finding me where I’d gone. Hell… I had a hard time finding me.” There was another pause. She didn’t know what to say… was that an apology? “Fortunately, I didn’t have to try… an annoying little twerp in a tuxedo hit me with a roadmap.”
Suddenly, without any rhyme or reason, she went from sorrow to anger, something rising within her. She retorted his statement, not understanding herself why she did so. “Glad to see someone else could succeed where I could not.”
“You can’t succeed without trying,” he answered, and she could almost smell the ozone as the fire danced across his eyes. She’d struck a nerve that she hadn’t even known was there. “Two men fell that night. You only caught one… you let the other hit the pavement.”
“You told me to go,” she said, heat rising in her cheeks.
“Doesn’t mean it was what I wanted.”
They both stopped talking. The silence that followed seemed to swallow both of them, giving them the choice of being consumed by their own fires, or allowing them to cool. The same silence had hung over this roof months ago… only this time, they both chose the latter road. The sadness returned, and she finally broke the stillness of the night. “So where does that leave… us?”
“There is no ‘us,'” he replied, flatly, after barely a beat. “There was once. And it was amazing beyond belief… but a lot has happened since that night.”
She felt the wetness once again trying to fight its way free, but she choked it back] So focused was she on the battle, that she didn’t notice the crack in her own voice as she spoke. “You’re not the same man I knew.”
He paused for a moment before answering. “I never was.” The silence returned, but he broke it before it could gain a foothold. “That man was a misassembled puzzle with pieces missing. It all fell apart when you left… then some folks helped me put it back in order. Funny thing was,” he continued. “The final picture was different than what I expected.”
“And this new picture… this new you?” The tears had finally come, but they were both curse and blessing. She could see where this was going, and it tore her up inside, but at the same time, she was happy… because she knew he’d finally found his way back up from the pit she’d left him in.
He took a step towards her, but they didn’t touch. No, she knew that they were both afraid of the disaster touching could cause. This had to play out, and if they touched, even for a moment, it could all crumble.
“This man loves you. He loves you as deeply as he ever did, and he will never stop loving you.” There was a pause as she waited for what was to come. It didn’t come fast enough, however, and she knew he was fighting it, knew he was struggling to accept his own words. They were words he was reconsidering, and for both their sakes, he couldn’t be allowed to hesitate.
“But?” she said, giving him the word.
“But his path is a long one… and he hasn’t reached the end of it… I haven’t reached the end.”
“And I’m a step backwards,” she said. It wasn’t meant to be derogatory, and they both knew that. It wasn’t meant to be a question, and they both knew that as well. It was simple, hard fact. They were the past. Their futures would carry them in their own directions.
“I couldn’t be who I am today if you hadn’t been a part of my life,” he said, punctuating her thought with a finality she couldn’t fully explain.
“Yeah,” she replied, mimicking his words from a few moments earlier. “Same here.” She waited by the edge of the rooftop for a long time. At first, she waited for his reply. After a while, she realized there was none coming. He had left. She heard sirens in the distance, and could only guess that they came from the direction in which he’d gone. She looked once more off of the roof, into the darkness of the alley.
Six stories down, she’d caught a criminal before he could fall to his death. A criminal, she remembered, who’d been thrown deliberately from the rooftop. She hadn’t realized then that the man she’d loved was still falling, hadn’t yet hit bottom. If she had, maybe things would’ve been different.
No, she thought to herself. They’d have simply been delayed. She turned and looked to the spot he’d been standing that night so very long ago. The place she’d left him, looking up at her as she swung off. She could picture him, standing there, wanting to say so much, but consumed with anger. Then, in her mind’s eye, his face softened, and she saw Eddy standing there, talking to her tonight. There were tears in his eyes, even as her own traced bright lines down her face in the moonlight.
“I love you, too,” she whispered, knowing that the answer would find him, wherever he had gone. Without a word, she walked over to the same spot she’d leapt from so many months ago, the place she’d escaped him, only to be imprisoned in that memory. She threw her swing-line to the same nearby rooftop she’d used that night, and she escaped again into the darkness.
Only this time, she was truly free. They both were. And in the end, that almost seemed to make it all worthwhile.