Non-AU. 1, 191 words.
Even from far away, your round face is half its size
And my heart crumbled up at your disappointed face
Baby, lift up your head, I missed you a lot
Was this day that bad to you?
|He pretends he doesn’t see but he does (and he cares).
It’s difficult not to notice, he reasons, when she spends minutes too long admiring herself in the mirror. Mirrors. First, in the mirror in the bathroom. Two steps out the door and she’s checking her distant reflection. Then, she walks into the room in her towel and surveys herself closely in the full-length mirror.
The first three times it happened, he had to sneak peeks. She would never forgive his curiosity if she found out (but he suspected she knew anyway) and after the fourth, the routine played in his head seamlessly. He could practically count the number of steps she took, and he was never the type to scrutinize details.
There was nothing actually wrong with her, nothing that his naked eye could determine. If there was food in the house, she would be the one munching for hours end. Between the two of them, he ate less. And if they were lounging on the couch, she rarely moved once she found a comfortable spot. He got up more often for smoke breaks.
So believing that something -- anything -- was wrong took time.
The first strike started with her hair. He found neither clumps clogged in the drain nor stray strands littering the floor. No, she was constantly changing its color. He chalked it up to impulse (she was and always had been an impulsive person) and barely having time to see her for more than a night (when he had any to spare).
The second strike was the distance. This, he had expected. Between their respective groups’ tours as well as his filming schedule, their time together grew scarce. The mounting tension in the relationship he either ignored or changed the topic immediately. However, when they could find time to spend with each other, he caught her eating a lot more than she typically would.
He could have heeded the warning. Should have.
But he didn’t. He didn’t think twice when she was smiling more than she used to. He didn’t pull her close when she began maintaining a distance.
Didn’t keep his eyes open a millisecond longer before they kissed or he would have seen the dark circles under her eyes that make-up couldn’t quite hide.
Didn’t feel the tense muscles in her lower back while he caressed her intimately, hand cupping the spot between her thighs. Didn’t see the tightness in her ankles. Didn’t stare into her eyes or he would have caught the strange brightness in them.
So many things he didn’t pick up on that when the third strike occurred, he was hardly prepared. Or perhaps that was the reason.
Studio sessions never fail to leave him weary, energy depleted from recording and goofing around. They also leave him dozing off in the van on the way home, and by the time the elevator doors slide open, he’s thinking of the bed and if she minds him collapsing on it without changing.
But his luck never lasts. His senses are already aroused when he enters the apartment, beginning with the lights and the way the dogs greet him. Rarely are they this rambunctious, seeking his attention more than usual. He removes his shoes and searches for her, peeking into their empty bedroom.
If he had not heard the sound of running water from the bathroom, he would have moved on. But he does, and it’s the reason for him to rap his knuckles on the thick wood and call out for her. A faint splash betrays any kind of silence inside. He has to press his ear against the door to listen.
Don’t. Go away.
Three words capable of sending him into a panic.
It takes him several minutes to compose himself, and after a glass of wine, he’s stable enough to scroll through his contacts list for her manager. But he doesn’t call yet. Instead, he retrieves the key and unlocks the bathroom door. Any relief or triumph he feels is instantly robbed from him the moment he lays eyes on her.
Pitiful doesn’t even begin to describe the state she is in. From the looks of the scene, she appears to have been in the tub for hours. Water is steadily overflowing, its source the showerhead raining above her. Tepid water seeps into his skin through his socks and there’s little he can do to stop himself from dropping to his knees, barely sensing the moisture this time as it laps at his pants.
“N… What. Why…?” there’s no blood, no cuts on her wrists or any parts of her body. Fortunately. Only wrinkled skin on her fingertips, signifying the amount of time she’s spent. His questions go unheard, drowned out by the water. He inches closer until his chest presses against the rim of the tub, shirt absorbing the water dripping onto the floor, desperate. Why won’t she look? His arm extends to turn off the showerhead. Still, she keeps her head down.
It takes nothing less than his fingers under her chin, tilting her head upwards, for her to look. Red-rimmed eyes from crying – before that, he spied her hands clenching into fists on her lap. So much tension.
“Baby,” without the running water, the word echo around the tiles and the way she flinches crushes him, realizing how haunting it must sound.
“Talk to me, please.”
She shudders. Her eyes open and shut. But she doesn’t move, and he considers it a small victory -- if there is even anything to be triumphant over. There’s no hatred or anger, just sadness and hurt. Except he doesn’t know which is worse.
“Where were you?” three words capable of confusing him, strung together in a sentence. He’s here, always has been.
“I’ve been here--”
“And I’ve been lonely. For weeks and months. You weren’t here even when you were. You talked without conversing and smiled without meaning. I was so lonely and scared. Where were you when I needed you the most?”
And she continues to talk, practically bursting with emotion by the time she’s done. Her eyes burn at the end of it all, and he’s rendered speechless.
At the end of it all, all he can manage is, “I’m sorry,” and kisses her forehead. Pulls the plug between her feet and fetches a towel while the water swirls down into the pipes below. Shrugs off his jacket and rolls up his shirt sleeves. The gestures that don’t make a difference to the wet spots on his clothes.
He drapes the large towel over her, tucking in corners, and hoists her out. A fragile human-sized bundle in his arms. Neither of them say anything and even though her arms remain limply by her sides, he gently places her on their bed, and toes off his socks. Slips under the covers and pulls them over her. Then tugs her close, arm tight around her waist.
Murmurs “I’m sorry”s into her shoulder in between kisses until sunlight peeks around the blinds and he gives in to sleep.
Tomorrow, he’ll stop pretending he didn’t see.
Tomorrow, he’ll start caring even more.