Writers (in order): Joyce Lee, Andrew Hwang, Basil Lera, Diya Agrawal, Alyssa Tang, Sadie Hicks, Trishla Ratnam Dedhia, Alyssa Wong, and Doctor. Editor: Irene Tsen.
“Three years in this field and I haven’t broken down until now.” She took a deep, shaky breath, resting her chin on her fists. “I thought I could handle it.”
“No one can, really.”
She looked up, her watery brown eyes meeting his ethereal silver ones. “How did you last so long? How are you still… well, surviving?”
He let out a soft chuckle. “I don’t sleep before three.”
“I’m lucky, I suppose.” He took a sip of the strong-smelling drink in front of him. “The nightmares don’t come for me after then.” He met her eyes again. “That’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it? The nightmares.”
She bit her lower lip, barely noticing the pain. “Every night. I’ll meet him again tonight in my dreams, I suppose.” She let out a bitter laugh. “I don’t know whether my heart is pounding in anticipation or dread.”
“Of course, it’s hard to live with the knowledge that you’ve practically killed someone to protect others.” He tilted his head. “Especially when that someone is your husband, hm?”
“Why—What—” She fumbled a bit more with her words before eventually giving up.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a small shrug, “it was the right thing to do.”
Out of all places, why did he have to say that here? Weren’t the visions enough of a reminder? The field was supposed to be her place of calm, a time to rest, before she was inevitably thrust back into the nightmares again.
He reached across the small oak table she sat across, and cupped her hands in his palms. Two lone hands crossing the gulf of wood paneling. She found it strangely unsettling, although the gesture was anything but. The brown of her coffee placed delicately next to the coarseness of her ring finger (ringless, now), the brown of the table, the brown of his hair, and the brown of her eyes about to spill over. They all seemed to swirl into the same dizzying, muddy hue as she glanced quickly, cautiously, from the palms of their hands and the joints of their interlocked fingers to meet the abyss of his gaze.
But no, they couldn’t do this. It wasn’t right. There was Task 110, Training, and both of them were already on thin ice with the Director in their own ways. Anything more than a friendship would complicate everything exponentially, and he knew this. So why had he made such a foolish and unsolicited first move? She broke his gaze and looked down at the table, a red flush walking its way up her neck and face. Peeling her sweaty fingers away from his, she moved her hands to rest restlessly in her lap. As embarrassed as she was to be the one who made such a passionate moment into something awkward, he didn’t seem to realize his mistake.
A sudden pang hit her in the chest. She couldn’t bear to look up at him again, to inevitably be caught up in the simple grace of his features once more. His eyes were the wrong shade of gray—overly bright and startling, his nose too narrow with no crookedness from that accident when they were seventeen, lips pressed in a smirk more often than not. It was as if she had blindly reached for a spoon to stir her coffee and came up with a pointed dagger instead.
He didn’t say anything for a long while after that, though she glanced up and saw his hand still resting there, neither demanding nor diffident, fingers curled up on themselves.
“Would you like to talk about him?” His voice barely reached her ears, suddenly dim like the lights of a train fading into the distance.
She barked out a laugh and met his eyes, despite herself, cutting through the hazy atmosphere of the afternoon and their mournful reminiscing. “Are you trying to play therapist?”
He tipped his head inquisitively with a slight smile on his face. “It makes the nightmares a little more tolerable, you know. We help each other carry our ghosts.”