She sits across from me, a slight grin washing across her impish features. Sparkling eyes and the sunlight turning her hair an even deeper red than youíll ever find in a Technicolor dream complete the picture. I hold her hand across the table in a friendly gesture, our hands warmed by a ray of sunlight that reminds me of last nightís passion. I can see in her eyes that she feels the same way I do.
Or at least the way I should feel.
The coffee in the student union is especially bitter today, much like the growing ache in my soul. It started out with such promise, like last night, a touch of half-and-half and three packets of sugar. Stirred with a little passion and enthusiasm and its perfect.
It should be perfect like she is, but it isnít.
I canít stand real crŤme in my coffee. I always taste the slight curdling from the acid of the bean. All the sugar in the world canít hide that skunky bit of flavor lurking just underneath the rich sweetness. I always have to go half-and-half. Never able to enjoy the full effect because I can taste something wrong no matter what I strive to mask it with.
I can taste it welling up in me. Her crŤme soured and decaying in the acidic darkness of my soul.
Sheís glowing and happily talking about anything but what really happened. She slows and stops her one-sided conversation as she notices my somber expression. I sip my coffee as she asks whatís wrong. She just doesnít know it canít work, it wonít work, its doomed to fail from the start. My eyes say this but sheís not getting it.
Perhaps the message got diluted like the crŤme in the coffee as we added our passion and stirred. It was sweet even as I took a sip and the taste lingered on my tongue. I could taste the mistake even as we supped deeper from the mug that wasnít mine. I didnít worry then, caught up in the moment. She should have cared but the taste was too strong for her, for both of us. We should have stopped before we fell completely into the wonderfully dark abyss of flavors swirling and merging inside our hearts.
She suddenly understands the unsaid within my expression and begins to protest. Her eyes drop and vanish under eyelids like granules of sugar, vanishing within the dark depth of a sudden bitter misery even as she slows her argument.
She withdraws her hand from mine and places it in her lap.
I cup my hand, now empty like me, around my coffee. With any luck I can steal a little warmth and stave off the coldness thatís radiating from my soul and snuffing out the fire in my heart.
Sheís silent. Her eyes rise from the table, gleaming with tears as I start to speak of things Iíve never told another. Not of demonic pretenses, or of others lying claim to the stone within my chest, but of the Minotaur that lies waiting within the labyrinth of my soul. My heart, lost within, crying for release but finding none. No hero come to its rescue, no string to guide, no magic sword to slay the beasties Iíve nurtured within. Lost and alone within the swirling bitter drink that is my birthright.
She starts to speak but I stop what I know is coming: a vow to guide me, to rescue me, to be the string that pulls my reluctant heart from the maze, to burn the darkness within. I stall her protest of affection with a name, a name she whispered even as we shared our glorious embrace.
A tear slides down her nose, perched for a moment at the perfect tip, dropping unnoticed into her coffee. A moment of perfection, again tearing me even as I tear her heart out. Joined by more, the tears slide freely from her eyes and into my heart. They dilute the bitter coffee, but only enough to show me what I had to do, what I have done, is the only thing I can do. The darkness can only be diluted for so long before it asserts its full flavor again, snuffing any sweetness.
I whisper a last excuse as I leave my coffee on the table and move to embrace her. Her hand meets my chest in refusal. I look into her clouded eyes and nod. She does understand. She quietly asks me to go.
I walk from the table in the Student Union with my head up, always wary, as I must be. I can hear her sobs, to soft to be heard by those a table away, even as I can still smell her scent clinging to me. I silently curse my heart, cursed by the damnation in my soul, as I walk away from my best friend and what could have been. What should have been.
I didnít deserve her. My bitter truth is, I wasnít meant to touch the light of Heaven, much less dwell in its arms for even a night. My darkness is denied the light even as I haunt the night, killing those that need killing, protecting the Heaven I am denied.
The only satisfaction I am allowed is a dull bitter satisfaction, marred by that clingy smoky aftertaste that reminds of how good it initially tasted. My hell is a deep cup of java that I drink deeply from. Itís the only taste I know. Itís the only taste a Slayer is allowed.