What she saw could never be unseen, and what had been done could never be undone. She despised herself for her foolish ignorance, and she knew ignorance was an invalid, useless excuse. Her blindness added to the horror, and she fought hating herself. The images of torture in Khaos tormented her and captivated every part of her mind every second of every day. Her reality had become a blur. She saw no one. She saw no thing. She heard no one. She heard no thing. She hadn’t looked Johnathon in the eyes for weeks. She hadn’t touched him, and she was deadened to his touch. No touch no matter how intimate and sincere could console her. Her fierce devotion and adoration for him was buried deep beneath her misery.
Sharp breaths of agonizing pain would wake her from her sleep every night. The grief was so deep in her soul her entire body felt its stinging ache. Some nights she would pull her knees to her chest and wrap her arms around them in failing attempts to shield the gaping hole inside from more plundering blows. Other nights she would grab hold of the mattress or the side of the headboard and exert every ounce of energy she had to try and exhaust herself of the strengthening agony. Her body convulsed, and her erratic breathing would turn quickly to uncontrollable sobs. She did not work to restrain herself. She had no pride and no strength to conceal the wound. Her heart beat like it would rupture, full with emptiness. There were moments she thought she would succumb to the torment and die. On those nights, her crying turned to groans and whimpers of utter despair. Johnathon would try to hold her, but she could not feel his touch. Her senses were numb with sorrow. Distracted with hopelessness, she would push his every effort away. He would sit up in the bed next to her and hide his face in his hands as he listened to her turmoil. When she would finally calm and fall back into a feverish sleep, he would lie as close to her as he could and place his hand in hers. He knew it would only be a matter of time before she awoke, pushed him away and suffered again.
One night, incapacitated with exhaustion, Elizabeth shuddered in and out of sleep continuously throughout the night with shortness of breath. She was fighting for consciousness, but her body would not allow it. Her shirt was wet with sweat, and her chest moved up and down in a violent rhythm. Johnathon had not attempted to lie down or close his eyes. He wrestled with her trying to grab her hand and hold her, but even in her unconsciousness she pulled away and withdrew into herself. When she finally awoke to the anguish, an awful lamenting began. This one was the worst, and he could not bear it. He moved quickly and put his arm around her. She pushed hard against his chest moving him away from her. He fought the urge stirring in his gut to weep with her.
She didn’t hear him. All she could hear was the mourning of those locked in Khaos. She was too troubled to recognize that her wailing began to match theirs. He couldn’t sit helpless any longer watching her suffer. He wrapped his arm firmly across her stomach and pulled her to him. Her back met his chest, and she was too faint to fight him. He detained her gently, refusing to release his hold. She let go of her desperate grasp on the mattress and both of her arms wrapped around his, and she clung to him with all the strength left in her. He moved carefully with her every movement as she shook, and he kept his breathing steady. Using up the last of her physical strength, she rolled over in his arms and buried her face in his chest. Her arms and hands fell limp against him, and her sobs collapsed relentlessly into him. His hands remained on her back as her heaving turned to quiet cries, and her quiet cries turned to silent deep breaths. With her forehead pressed against his chest, the trembling faded. He knew she had to be cold as she lay uncovered, but he would not risk moving his arms from her. He didn’t realize that Elizabeth felt the warmth of his body and of his affection. For the first time in a long time, she was aware of him and awake to his love. She paid close attention to his breathing, and she remembered his unwavering strength. Overwhelmed, she moved to sit up. He shifted his weight quickly to fix whatever was wrong.
“No, it’s ok,” she said through a whisper as she turned to face him.
He was sitting up leaning back on his hands at attention, and his eyes carefully studied her. For the first time in weeks, her eyes met his and she looked at him. She saw him. In an instant, the mental fog surrounding her love for him vanished. She watched him as they sat in silence. She saw her pain reflected in his countenance. She realized that as she was drowning, she held him under the water with her. He was careful not to move and break her gaze. He let each breath move very softly and cautiously through his lips. He kept his eyes on hers and refused to blink, afraid that if he did, her eyes would no longer be on him when they reopened. She had forgotten the power behind the sincerity in his eyes. She was speechless by her ability to fall blind to his irrevocable loyalty. She shook her head in disbelief at herself as she stared at him. She placed her hand gently over his heart. He fell into her touch besieged by how much he missed her affection. Her eyes were broken but steady. Her voice was frail but sure.
“I love you.”
Although he had told her countless times over the past few weeks and received no response, there was no hesitation in his reply.
“I love you.”