Somehow you got through another day of overtime at the office. Seeing the project stabilising at an acceptable level for release, your "merciful" slave driver decided the team could go back to their normal schedules so long as there wouldn't be any other complications.
These past two weeks were a nightmare, short on time you had to rush to work every day where the lead developer (lead slacker more like) would shout at you to be more productive. And all to meet the unrealistic expectations he set up to the higher-ups. After that you had to stay late, inject yourself with caffeine and make sure the rookies don't screw up under all this pressure.
You were a walking corpse. By the time you were finally back home Kronii would most likely have already fallen asleep, though she would always leave you your supper on the table with a sticky note, a doodle of her mimicking a French chef and describing the plate. What a dork she was
Well, this ordeal was finally over. Even though you were equally as tired today the thought of the empty weekend ahead filled you with energy
You stepped out of your office building, still evening but the November sky was grey with ominous clouds and the chill of the wind drilled into your thinly clothed body.
"Sunny morning baited me and I left my heavy coat at home."
You made a beeline for your car. The sooner you got home the less chances there were you'd be caught in the rain.
As you walked down the pedestrian area with your collar raised to shield you from the cold, your eye caught a glimpse of a lit storefront.
Something possessed you to enter the clothing store. Once you made your way inside the overwhelming yet familiar slew of perfumes and air freshener high-end retailers use assaulted your senses.
Under normal circumstances you simply wouldn't be here, not of your own volition anyways. But the firm concentration on what you wanted allowed you to power through.
Once you made your purchase and wrapped the coveted item in colourful paper you immediately rushed to your vehicle, as the sound of thunder heralded the approaching storm.
Unluckily for you, that short detour at the store had doomed you to be soaked in the unrelenting rain between your parking lot and the canopy to your house's front door.
Looking at the droplets falling down with ever increasing intensity you braced yourself, shoved the box under your shirt and ran out, always hunched over so as to shield it from the pouring water.
You reached your porch and turned your key at the door trembling in anticipation of the familiar warmth of your love-nest.
Thousands of miles away, one more thunder echoed, this time tearing the sky with its intensity.
As you entered hurriedly with the instincts of an animal looking for shelter you noticed the cold and stagnant atmosphere.
You closed the door behind you and walked to the thermostat. "That worrywart..."
"I mean okay, oil prices are going up but I'm not gonna let you freeze because of it"
You set the meter from 11° to 25°. The old radiators jumpstart and begin making that characteristic rattling noise you have after so long gotten used to.
"Where is she anyways?"
The kitchen lights were on and though it looked like someone had attempted to prepare a meal, the burnt omelet could make one surmise that it didn't go particularly well.
In the relatively quiet but for the rain house, a soft sound could be heard from beyond your bedroom.
"She's having a bath, is she?"
You leave your bag beside the bed and hide her present under it before undressing. How can you resist joining her for a steamy shower after so much time when you barely interacted?
You think it would be a good idea to announce yourself coming in, lest you two end up reenacting Psycho.
You knock once and call out to her as you enter "Don't worry dear, it's me".
She is standing there in the shower with her hair let down on her back, facing away from you as she musters a response.
"I didn't expect you this early. Silly me, I must have missed your texts. Don't worry, I'll have your dish ready in no time, just let me rinse."
"It's no biggie" you start saying "They finally let us off and I didn't think to let you know, we'll cook later. Now I want to take shower with my lovely wife."
Without ever turning around she tries to object, "Please there is no need", her voice cracking and dissipating on her throat like she was choking up, "Please don't come closer...don't look at me..."
The last very obvious sob has you alarmed, she's falling apart, you need to hold her, to find out what is wrong.
Ignoring her plead you open the glass door and step under the jets of water.
That exact instant you are jolted by a nerve-tearing sensation as Kronii starts weeping uncontrollably.
"It's cold...". No, not simply cold, it was freezing, the liquid coming out of the showerhead was on par with the waters of a frozen lake near dawn.
"I DON'T UNDERSTAND. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" with panic creeping even more onto you, you shout and try to turn her towards you, having your hand sprayed and giving it a burning sensation.
She resists your pull and whilst trembling falls to the floor, clawing desperately at the wall for some support.
You finally close the water and try to stabilise her. Her skin feels firm and exceedingly cold. Inside you pray she wasn't in here long enough to cause hypothermia. On the other hand, if you washed her over with hot water now there was a risk she would go into shock.
As she's curled up on the floor you quickly hug her from behind. "We need to warm you up slowly. Please love"
Tearful and broken she struggles to get free but to no avail, as your grip won't loosen.
"Don't do this" she wails, "Please l-let me freeze. Don't expend your warmth for me any more..."
Her sobbing and gasping become louder and more frequent. Beyond her physical state, she is suffering.
"We must get you a blanket" you say and immediately pick her up and carry her out of the bath in your arms
Thankfully the bedroom was already warming up. You lay her down on your double bed, the tears are unending and she refuses to look at you in the eyes.
"It's all my fault" she wails placing her palms on her eyes unable to contain herself in this semi-delirious state.
You momentarily jump to the opposite side of the room and go through the drawer, pulling out a towel and a large blanket
As you begin to wipe the water off of her, she suddenly turns away and shoves her face in the pillow, making her sobbing muffled but no less heartbreaking.
Going through her exposed back you feel the urge to ask her but, in this state, it would surely be futile
Even in the current situation her shape didn’t fail to arouse you. Even if you have seen her naked body a thousand times, the fact that you could take care of her like this, scrubbing her spotless skin all over, it made you question your own worth.
You felt ashamed for thinking like that when she was shivering and crying right next to you. In reality, guilt never really left your side. Maybe…maybe it was the same for her…
“The towel isn’t gonna cut it for the hair” you murmur and slip into the bathroom again to fetch the hairdryer.
You rub her back a bit to get her temperature and proceed to cover her with the blanket up to the shoulders.
Her hair dries up easily and with a little brush of your hands it you can feel its silky soft texture returning.
The tears haven’t stopped. There is now a stain around her face on the pillow, periodic gasps and continuous sobbing.
You gently move her to your, dry, side of the bed and lie next to her
This is too much. It hurts to see her like this
You softly place your palm on the back of her head and stroke it down to the base of her nape.
Moving closer under the covers you feel your chest rubbing to her back. Thank heavens she’s warming up
Warping your arms around her. Making her slender body the little spoon and locking her like that while she keeps trying to turn to the pillow
“You don’t have to look at me” you say “but I need you to focus and tell me if you start feeling dizzy, alright?”
She nods in between her sobbing.
With your face on her nape you place a tender kiss right where the hairline begins
She instinctively jolts but as your arms are holding her in place she doesn’t move
“I really am at a loss. I’m afraid that whatever I may tell you, you will recoil and cry and try to leave. But I don’t plan on letting you torture yourself; I can’t bear to see you like this. Why are your deep blue eyes so sad and fearful? Why are you trying to cover them as if you’re scared they will betray you?”
You gave it your best shot
She curved her spine deeper into fetal position and you followed suit to support her back while also tangling up your legs with hers.
In the midst of her tears she pushed out a trembling voice
“People like me are not meant to be happy. We come to this earth to be fed upon, become the mud you wipe off your shoes. And yet…”
“…I happened to be born under a lucky star. Whereas others learn to live with their pain, accept it, revel in it, I avoided it with impunity.”
“Within this hopeless dream, I happened upon you. The ever graceful, ever-loving man who made me his crowning jewel, irreplaceable and invaluable.”
“And the love you offered me I could never hope to repay as I was, so I tried to make myself worthy of you…heavens know I tried. My mind was always torn, one half eating away at the other. Destroying me from the inside and all the happiness you gave me…”
She stopped and began shaking her head violently, crying out ‘PLEASE STOP, I CAN’T TAKE THIS’.
“Breathe my love, I’m right here. Nothing can ever hurt you in my arms.”
Your reassuring words seemed to calm her down somewhat.
“…one day I woke up and I just couldn’t keep it up anymore. You made my life perfect and yet I couldn’t bring myself to be happy, not even for you.”
“The warm meals, the affectionate hugs, your passionate love, your flesh on top of mine, our times together, our…” a knot on her throat stopped for a split second
“Our plans for the future…”
Now you were beginning to tear up while listening to her ordeal
“You even made me your wife. You gave a vow to make me happy, to stand by me till death do us part and beyond. And for all your efforts, your sacrifices, your sweat and tears…I could not give you a sincere smile any more. This miserable creature became hellbent on wasting your love, squandering everything you gave up for my sake. As much as I want to swear to you it was not my fault I-I-“ she gasped for air
"-can’t know for sure.” a violent spasm overcame her and she started whimpering for some moments before continuing.
“One day my clock… it simply stopped ticking, and then she came. She confirmed all my fears, she showed me what a burden I was to you, what an ungrateful husk of a woman I had become. It was obvious I was broken from the very beginning, but in my hopeless love for you I convinced myself I could change. Was it a façade I don’t know, but for a while it felt real. I was your little princess and we danced together without a care in the world. For a while I had no doubts creeping in my mind that I wouldn’t have to pretend anymore.”
“Then /me who is not me/, she told me so, when the grey overtook my world once more, she bit me and let her venom run through my mind. I felt like I had betrayed you. And so, little by little I started punishing myself. Scratches, bruises where you wouldn’t see them, ‘accidentally’ burning myself with boiling water. Today especially I wonder if I would have made it out…”
“Isn’t it comical?” she pondered in a pained tone “I almost lost you to the voices in my head. Surely, I would have walked over the edge. But you pulled me back, and what for, to drag you down even more…”
You both sit in tense silence for a bit. Her sobbing has curbed a little and her pained breaths have calmed down. The tears now flow silently. Even though she’s turned away you can feel them.
“Reminds you of some kind of a generic tearjerker story. I almost know what you want to say, that we will pull through together, that it will get better, that I’ll learn to love myself, that if medicine won’t help, you’ll just be with me 24/7. I know. It just feels so distant, unachievable, I feel like I won’t be able to tell you I’m okay even after all that. I fear I’m too far-gone.”
Some things in life will simply leave you speechless. Someone as close to you as Kronii, to harbor all this pain, alone even. How could you not have noticed?
You begin to speak this time
“Now if I try to express my guilt, won’t you feel guilty as well? Will we feed each other’s insecurity? The fear that we are a burden to the most important person in our lives? I don’t want that. I refuse to take this spiral. So let me tell you instead that you are everything I ever wanted in life, that your mere presence lit up my world. That you made me strive to better myself, that I am the luckiest man in the world to have you supporting me.”
“You might be right and all the things I wish to tell you are some cliché sentimental garbage but if nothing else they are true as you know them to be. You admitted yourself that your mind is poisoned, that you can’t think clearly. Maybe, if you let this night rest you, you will find peace to think it all through. And if not, then yes, I will not leave your side for as long as your pain persists.”
You whisper the last part as you feel Kronii welling up in tears again
As the minutes pass and silence takes over, a stupid idea comes to mind.
“I know a way to ease your pain, but you will have to be brave for me alright?”
After a short pause she nods slightly and even though you can only see her deep blue hair, you know she has braced herself
“I will go bring it. You will have to stay here alone for a moment. Your task is to not allow bad thoughts in your head. Think of how strong you are, how much you trust me and fight off whatever creeping fear approaches you. I promise I won’t take long.”
You get up and squat in front of her side of the bed to take a good look at her face
She wore a pained smile, her eyes still red from the tears
“I-I trust you with my life” she muttered while looking deep into your soul
You pushed softly against her trembling lips. Their sweet taste begging you to not let go.
“I’ll be right with you.” you said and walked out of the room
From the corner of your eye you saw her grasping the covers tightly around her
At the living room, you started rummaging through the old oak storage
“I am the beyond help for pulling something like this. If it doesn’t work, I will have made things considerably worse… Where is the damn thing anyway?”
After a while of pulling out bottles and checking labels you found what you were looking for. A nice round bottle dressed with brown leather. Inside, swirled a caramel-coloured liquid.
You rush to the kitchen and start picking out some ingredients
Butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, a bit of cinnamon
Mixing them around in a heated pan, letting them form into a hot syrup of flavour and aroma
“It’s a sin to put such beverage in a cup but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
You pour the brandy into your matching mugs with the stuffed animal drawings
Then the buttery mix over it and swirl them around just a bit to make the perfect concoction
Finally, you place them on a small wooden platter and carry them back to the bedroom
The steam rising from the two cups quickly fills the room with the gentle smell of the sweetness within them.
As you approach the bed you notice a set of your night garments laid out on the bed near you
“Y-You should put your pajamas on” said Kronii softly, with the blanket still pulled up to her chin.
It didn’t occur to you but all this time you had been walking around naked
You blush a little but manage to give a retort with all the fake confidence you could produce
“How so? Am I intimidating you?”
She dove completely under the sheets in shame and mumbled about how you are a “blockhead”, whatever that implied
You set down the hot drinks near her and took to putting on some clothes
Kronii was now in some kind of apathetic limbo. Compartmentalising her emotions, she had isolated everything that hurt her on the inside but at the same time many things now felt detached, foreign.
In that state she looked with childlike curiosity at the cups, like she couldn’t decipher what their purpose was. She took in a deep breath. The shivering had stopped at last.
“It smells like you put Christmas in a cup.” she muttered
You looked at her with an amused face
“Well, aren’t you going to try it? It’s not the holidays yet but you have my permission. Be careful though, it’s hot.”
She brought the edge of the cup to her pink lips, gauging carefully whether it was safe to drink.
At the end she breathed in the aroma once more and took a small sip.
The intense flavours danced back and forth across her tongue, the burning sensation of alcohol dousing her throat, lighting the flame inside of her.
“The first hit was the hardest” you thought as you watched her recoil a bit from the drink’s strength.
It was already taking effect. Kronii’s face turned towards you with the most innocent expression you had seen
Her fair skin was slowly taking a rose hue around her cheeks
Your own face had probably taken a stupefied look as you observed her adorable mannerisms because she quickly replaced her calm face with a more serious one
“What do you want to do with me?” she questioned, lowering her head and looking straight down at the sheets that covered her.
“I want to make you feel better” you returned trying to reassure her “I want nothing less than to have you be confident enough to accept my unending love for you”
She shuddered and spoke again without making eye contact, “I just promised to you I’ll be strong and fight whatever is inside of me. I already want to go back on my word…”
She took a bigger sip
A nervous laughter came over her, low, not continuous, like she was contemplating a dark joke. She took her ribbon that was laying on the nightstand next to her and tied it lightly around her neck
“Sometimes I think I would feel content being a sack of meat for you. No obligations towards me, no emotional baggage, barely any maintenance… and yet you choose each and every day to wake up and dedicate your life, love and labor to this mentally ill mess of a warden.”
After letting out a long sigh she braced herself to keep going
“I-I will, no, I must match your efforts. No matter what, I must be worthy of everything you offer me. I will face the cold but this time I must do it with intent to prevail. It’s just… by nature I’m so afraid, so please, if you would suffer my selfishness and be my shoulder to lean on then I promise you to brave it all. If it is you by my side, fear be damned, I will make it.”
Bowing deeply over your lap, you could see tears dripping down her nose complementing her shaky voice. It broke you, so to speak. To realise that her admiration and love for you reached such depths. Who else in this wide world had ever put that kind of trust in you, or placed you in such a pedestal that even themselves would appear miniscule by comparison?
No, without a doubt, for Kronii, you alone were the most precious thing of all.
This “revelation” that you always suspected deep in your heart, it filled you with the warmth of her tender love.
You brought your hands to the sides of her head and leaned down, kissing the top of her head, whispering “I will, I swear to you I will, now and forever I will.”, professing continuously your reassuring vows to her until she started to calm down.
You realised you were crying as well while still connected in a tight embrace
You two stayed like this for a bit before she was ready to let go. This time with a smile ever so slightly more confident than all the previous ones. This time she would make it.
After both finishing your hot beverage, you returned the mugs to the kitchen. Upon your entry back to the bedroom you notice your backpack next to the foot of the bed. With all the commotion you had almost forgotten.
“Say, are you still naked over there?” you ask as naturally as the question itself could allow.
“Why? Do you care to take a peek?” she responds laughing, thus returning you the favour from before.
You slowly sit down on the floor, legs crossed half under the bed so that your head is just above the mattress level, right next to her head. Reaching under the bag without letting her see you, you pick up the box with the colourful wrapping and bow and place it on your lap.
“So, what’s it gonna be? Do you want me in my PJ’s or like a baby tonight?” she says smugly and sticks out her tongue to tease you even more.
“After all this I’d rather you be warm and fuzzy.” you say and present her with the gift, “This should do the trick” you add savouring the speechless astonishment painted on her face.
Blood rushes on her cheeks again, at the same time your heart beats relentlessly for this girl. Her happiness becomes your happiness. The excitement that overflows from her trickles into you and makes your limbs shake like they’ve been hit by a shivering cold wave.
The girl unwraps the package with childlike vigor, almost squeaking with excitement and reveals a transparent case. Inside it…
“I LOVE THEM” she shouts waving her arms around adorably, holding a brand new set of pajamas and underwear .
She begins putting them on. They are all variations of the deep blue of her eyes mixed with a tone of grey fitting for the darkness of cold winter nights.
The half-a-size larger than her, hooded, long-sleeved top wrapped around her leaving enough space for it to feel baggy and comfortable.
The pants followed suit. Both pieces had a double layer of pure cotton, guaranteed to keep her warm no matter what. Additionally, the sleeve endings had detachable gloves and socks respectively.
“THEY EVEN HAVE NON-SKID PAWS UNDERNEATH”
She got off the bed and looked down at herself. Bringing her palms on her face she kept giggling and twirling around without a care in the world.
But she wasn’t done yet, for just as you thought she was beginning to settle down, you felt a great push on your chest, shoving you back to the bed.
She had jumped at you with the force of a charging bull and having toppled you she had now free reign over your “incapacitated” body, rubbing onto you, cuddling, kissing…
“Good grief, all this from a comfy set of nightwear”, you say softly with a cheeky grin on your face.
You knew of course that was far from the whole truth. How often do you get to wholeheartedly accept a gift from the heart of a loved one? Without guilt that is. Not a common thing for Kronii or you for that matter.
She positioned herself in a way so that she could cover your entire torso and just lay there warming you up, caressing you, almost purring like a cat content on her cozy little spot on her owner’s lap.
“Thank you for letting me in” you say.
After a long while of savouring each other’s touch, you decide it’s time you entered the final phase.
You carefully grasp the little ball of fuzzy Kronium and place her next to you on the bed, turning to look at her questioning but loving eyes.
“One more thing I forgot to mention”, you begin saying, “We need to start packing up.”
Her face takes a concerned expression, “You don’t mean we are moving, right love? Please tell me it’s not that.”
“No, no we are not skipping town don’t worry. It’s just, I hear mountain resorts are fantastic this time of year. Say Kronii, do you wanna see some snow?”
She can’t even muster a response, all that comes out of her mouth is a vaguely human shriek of excitement as she covers her face with her sleeves and starts moving her legs erratically.
You get up and reach for your cellphone, “This is the most important part for her” you contemplate.
“What do you want at this hour?” came the voice from over the line.
“Good evening to you as well, Marcus. I’m checking in to inform you.”
“Inform me about what?”
“I’m gonna be sick for the next seven days”
Silence. He stands on the other side trying to comprehend
“The hell do you mean you’re gonna be sick”
You give out the most sarcastic, meretricious cough in your repertoire, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to come in for a while. Relay the message, please and thank you.”
“You can’t bail right now, they will tear you a new one”
You are turned around but from the corner of your eye you can spot Kronii observing anxiously, hanging on from every word.
“They won’t do shit, unless they want the project to die.” you spurt out with an air of confidence.
You throw the phone away on the bed, frustrated groans and complains still coming out of it and you look at Kronii once more.
You give her your hand and lift her up from the bed into your embrace. You stare at each other, a silent proclamation of love.
“For an entire week, I need no one but you dear”
One more kiss, the most sincere one she had given in a long time.