He woke with a start, ripping his frozen forehead from the frosted window. Wincing, Liam rubbed his chilly brow with the back of his hand and slipped down from the windowsill. After a few moments of allowing himself to resurface into consciousness, Liam gathered himself back out of the windowsill. He sighed and plunged his fists deep into the pockets of his black quilted parka. There he found the disk jacket from the CD that she had given him not too long ago. It outlined the entirety of her music collection haphazardly compiled onto one disc. Liam didn't actually listen to half of it, but it was from her. That was enough to make it a treasure. He carried it everywhere, and he had a scanned image of it saved on his ancient laptop back at his studio.
There were select lyrics from her favorite songs written on the dust jacket. These words were not randomly plucked from her favorite guitar lick. These words were carefully selected, extracted, and written in her flowing script for him to read and know they were meant for him. To know when he heard them sung that they were singing to him, and to drive him crazy. The symbolism behind the chosen few phrases were more ambiguous than one can imagine. One piece wished to run away somewhere 'sweet and mild'. And then after, things could get 'rough and wild.' All that sounded wonderful to Liam. However, the roots of doubt dipped into the concrete text, poisoned the lyrics, and transformed them into ambiguous polygons with more sides and meanings than he cared to count. 'Surface value' was impossible to decipher and accept.
He held that envelope in his hands and tried to separate the swirl of emotion from the text, but the black ink jumped from the paper into his arms and wrapped him in an ethereal embrace that was similar to the love he had been tossing into the abyss for nearly a year. It was a weak return on a huge investment. Liam folded it, and put it away, having memorized most of the lyrics anyway. The existence of the thing was simply more important than what it said. The feeling it gave him when he remembered that particular key change of that particular track and the way it made him feel like he should be on the midnight train to Georgia...or Pompeii, or wherever the hell it was that she had gone and was hiding. Solitude settled back into his soul then, and he wept silently.
A few moments passed, and Liam's ears perked to the sound of footsteps up the hollow staircase. Liam wiped his eyes with his long sleeve, gathering himself quickly. He remembered the daisies on the window-sill and gathered them in a rush. A few had been crushed by their mates and Liam dropped those crippled flowers to the floor, and hurried them to one side with his shoe. He glanced back to the window and saw the outline of his face. A ghost in the window. She made him feel like that.
Liam paid the check with cash, as he always did. He left a modest tip, and smiled sheepishly in the direction of the waitress who wasn't looking even remotely near him. He always felt rather guilty about his inability to tip generously when the service was good. This was probably why he was so critical of services rendered in the first place. When he was with Fae, however, this cynicism faded. In particular, Liam recalled an incident with an overcooked hamburger, missing and un-requested condiments, and a glass full of ice. He was too absorbed with Fae to really care if his water was refilled quickly. He might make a sidelong comment about it but this was only because it was something to say later, in the dark. She had paid for dinner
“You're just a shy little boy under that grown-up costume,” Fae accused, “Aren't you?”
“That's it. You've got me figured out.” Liam grinned as he took Fae's hand, walking out of the café before the small crowd had a chance. The band had stopped playing some time ago. They were playing some mix created by a waitress or bartender who fancied herself a disc jockey. Liam had to restrain himself from outright laughter at the transition of the tracks playing. “I'm actually a toddler in disguise, and I'm sleeping with you to drink your milk and eat your cookies during your post-coital napping.”
“Don't lay your sarcasm on me,” she pouted. “I'm tired; I don't need your teasing.” Liam paused in his stride in the middle of a small side street. Blinking at him, Fae turned down the alley, and then to Liam to see what he was looking at.
He was looking at her, and held her hand.
“I'd rather lay something else on you, anyway.” Liam teased, cupping her cheek in his other hand and leaning in slowly, anticipating the taste of her lips. His eyes were half closed, could feel her breath, and smell the wine. His every cell reached towards her.
Fae pulled back and slapped him in the face.
Nearly yelping in surprise, he recoiled, pressing his hand against his cheek where he could feel the sting of the beginnings of a bruise. “What the hell was that for?”
He should have seen this mood shift coming. It was in the pout of her lips and in the inflammatory way she formed her last two statements. It was in the way she ignored his lighthearted jesting and flirtations. It was the burn of her words. It was the slumping gait she took when she stalked away from him, down the alley, rather than how he remembered her floating on clouds when she smiled. It looked as if she might snap one of those spikes clean off the heels that she was wearing. When Fae turned, she didn't walk. She slowly stampeded, with a caution and an attention to detail that was both reckless and precise. This contradiction was far more frightening to Liam than its frenzied African Elephant roots. Fae was sure to crush every ant in her path, without any regard to his fate. But her hypocrisy was delicious.
Liam watched her turn the corner and, after rubbing his cheek a second longer, buried his hands deep into his pockets. He half expected her to turn back around with an impish grin. “Kidding!” she'd say. “Jay-Kay!” Just kidding.
Read Chapter Four