Delia edges into the kitchen with her cane held out in front of her. The counter is coming up to her right…right…about now. Yep, there it is. She switches the cane into her left hand and slides her hand along the edge of the cool marble until it turns the corner.
The floor creaks behind her. She whirls around, brandishing her cane like a weapon. Her heart races. Another creak, and the scent of cinnamon and autumn relaxes her. It’s just Ren. His fingertips brush against her arms. She steps away so the backs of her thighs hit the counter.
“Don’t touch me!” Not wanting him to think she’s still angry from before, she softens her tone to say, “I need to learn this for myself.”
Turning back around, Delia searches the air with her hands and feels his hands close over hers from behind. Ren's stomach presses warmly against her back. The cane clatters out of her hand and to her feet—so loudly that she cringes.
“Muscle memory,” he says softly. His breath rustles her hair right at the roots. “I’m just showing you where it is so your body can remember it.”
He guides her hand to the rough wood and helps her pull the cabinet open. He wraps her fingers around a cold glass. Taking her other hand, Ren has her lift the pitcher of water and pour it into the glass. She feels the glass shift slightly in her hand and tightens her grip so it won’t fall.
And as she does that, he lets go of her and moves away so quickly that it feels like he’s just dissolved away from her. It leaves her suddenly cold, and she hates that she wants him to come back.
Asking him to come back means admitting why she’s so afraid. It isn’t just the desire to be strong and self-sufficient, no matter what senses she still holds on to, but it’s the broken memories of him. Delia knows the color of his eyes and his hair, the shape of his nose, the curve of his lips.
What she can no longer do is weave them together into a cohesive whole. Her mental picture of him has become a Picasso painting, and it’s suffocating because she doesn’t know if she will ever be able to resolve that in her mind and see him.
Delia aches to touch his face and let her fingers do the seeing. Maybe then she’ll be able to piece together his features and remember him as he is. But she doesn’t want him to see how afraid she is. She especially doesn’t want to know if Ren's afraid, too.
Every morning she tries to open her eyes and then realize they’re already open. She starts to feel claustrophobic and claws for the light switch or the door, but there isn’t either. She’s stuck inside an unending darkness and no matter how suffocated or claustrophobic she feels or how many panic attacks she has, there’s no cure.
Now when she turns her face to the sun, she feels its warmth on her face, but she can no longer see the red glow of the sunlight through her eyelids.
And the only thing that really helps to ease the panic welling in her chest is his touch. It is the only way she can feel better, and she hates it because she doesn’t want to rely on anyone—least of all a man. She’s been raised to be a strong, independent woman, and here she is wavering at a man’s touch.
“Are you okay?” Ren puts his hand on her shoulder.
She jumps, the back of her hand swatting against her glass. She flinches, anticipating the shatter. Instead, she only feels the water splatter against her arm and her leg. He brushes her arm as he reaches around her and the glass clinks against the marble as he sets it down. He’s always had quick reflexes.
Crouching to pick up her cane, Delia feels her way around him and leaves the kitchen, walking as stiffly and confidently as she can.
In the end, he's never been the one she's angry with.ns 220.127.116.11da2