What hurt the most was that I didn't remember; some part of me had blocked the memory, so when a part came back, this was after some time, it felt like a knife driving into my chest, demanding me to focus on its presence. All I knew was that it was fire.
Fire was growing and creating smoke that filled the room.
It was a sentence--well, a fraction of it. The fragment came so suddenly, completely out of the blue, and I couldn't conjure the whole memory. I sat for the longest time, pondering the words, the missing puzzle pieces that seemed so important. I thought of his face, for somehow the fire and the smoke were related to him. Maybe it was something lovely, some beautiful sentence I thought of when he was holding me with the soothing sound of thunder and rain just outside the window. Maybe it had something to do with his eyes.
But I still couldn't remember.
And then it hit me. It hit me like a train. The memory crashed into me, sending me reeling and knocking the air out of my lungs.
It had all begun with two rings.
And the recollection of it was not sweet nor enticing, but rather painful, very, very painful.
They lie in front of me clear as day, in plain sight, as if to act as some sort of warning.
They aren't his rings.
My fingers dig into the blanket on his bed and I feel myself begin to shake. They belong to a woman.
The weight of the bed shifts, and I whip around fast, directing my attention away from the rings immediately, embarrassed by them. He grins, his smile bright and intoxicating, even in the dark. His fingers press gently on my lower back, travel along the curve of my waist, and settle on my neck, his thumb caressing my collarbone. He kisses me gingerly on the lips before lying down next to me, covering himself with the blanket. I lay next to him as he wraps his arms around me and drifts to sleep; he has no idea that two rings lie just inches from my head.
One ring has three diamond studs, the image of them still fresh in my mind, while the other has a golden circle with small diamonds filling its space. I would bet my life on them belonging to Cecelia.
Air catches in my lungs as the fact settles in my skin.
He pulls me in closer to him, entwining our legs.
I don't know how I've gone so long dismissing the very really possibility--I suppose it's fact now--that they've been together just as we have. I didn't want to believe that she's ever been in his bed.
Time passes and I feel him slowly wake, but I have not slept. The truth burns me like fire and the more the idea consumes my thoughts, the more it devours my being until smoke finally fills the room and practically chokes me.
"What's wrong?" His voice deep and smooth as silk, pulling me to him.
How can I say anything to him? And though it kills me, tears me apart, I know that we are only friends. Our emotions don't matter in a place like this, in the dark, in secret; there's no place for feelings, no room for how we really feel.
I smile, slowly and sweetly, and kiss him with passion as if to tell him there's nothing to worry about.
The fact won't leave me, the fact that this woman, the owner of the two rings, has lied in this bed just as I have--just as I am--probably in this exact spot and has kissed this man just as I have--just as I am.
As I pull him into me and move with him as he shifts to lie on top of me and kiss me, I wonder if he knows that he's slowly killing me.