Word Without Meaning

She crouched in the shadows like a tightly pressed coil. The bruises on her face and arms were pale compared to the ones darkening her heart. Fury filled her eyes and her nerves were raw with the need to spring.

Love and hate wore the same face as they bled from her red-rimmed eyes. The sound of footsteps stopped her breath as she listened. The steps became a shadow drawing nearer, until it touched her. She flinched at the contact then held still.

As the shadow melted into light, it gained a body, then a face. He knelt down before her, sorrow and caution in his eyes. Tender hands laid on her aching shoulders. She allowed herself to be held, yet did not yield under the touch. A moment later, he stood, extending a hand to help her up. With trembling fingers she took it and arose. As soon as she regained her feet, her hand dropped his and hung clenched at her side. The daggers of her eyes she kept stabbed in the floor.

He watched her a moment in thought, choosing his actions carefully the way one might approach an injured dog. In a hesitant motion he embraced her, one hand around her back, the other wound in her hair. As he pressed a kiss near her ear he whispered, "I'm so sorry."

As if those words were a torch to gasoline, she exploded. Raising her head and ripping herself from his arms, her eyes flamed at him. Wretched laughter poured from her swollen lips until he thought she would fall.

"Sorry? Sorry!" She chuckled. "He's sorry." Eyes suddenly clear, mirth gone, she pinned him with a piercing gaze. "I'm sorry too."

The flash of moving steel was like the hurricane of emotions inside her. The extremity of love became hate; sorrow bred rage. Indignity and suffering poured out as violent strength. Up and down her arms moved, like the confusion of twisted feelings. Screams of vengeance tore her throat as the knife tore his flesh. As the light went out of his surprised eyes, she knelt before him. With a tender kiss to his bloody lips, she whispered, "I'm sorry."

Sonja Torres 1998

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