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"I keep you by my side because it is what I said I would do.", she whispered, letting her hand fall downwards. Only after she did, I noticed that she had been holding my shoulder in a hard grip. Something between a prolonged, reassuring pat on the back and a stopped-mid-motion massaging effort gone wrong.

"But..." I tried, but her eyes had spoken what they had needed to. Or perhaps it was the cancelled motion of her hand. Or perhaps it was the fact that her outline was slowly fading into a blurry mist of confusion, as the inside of my contact lenses filled with water.

"Batten the hatches, capt'n, this is going to be a tough one", I thought, as I half turned away from her. Standing next to me, feeling deeply uncomfortable with the situation. The dog - nay, puppy, I should say - was wandering between us. To her, smelling her hand. To me, smelling the fear that was oozing out of my pores.

We had had a long history together. In fact, we still had history together. Our lives so tightly intertwined after all the years of marriage that the mere idea of having to go about with my do's and don'ts without her approval - or disapproval, as the case was more and more often lately. Always the practical one, my mind started separating us. "First physically" I thought, and shrunk away from her apologetic hand gestures. "And here comes the hard part".

We hadn't loved each other for months. Perhaps years. Perhaps we had never loved each other. But she was one of those people who you cannot possibly dislike. The best friend there ever was - but as I made the mental preparations of leaving, I started wondering if that is where we had become wrong: Although marrying a friend seems to be better than most people manage, there is always Love, and the lack of it in both our lives seems to have taken its own toll.

So there I was, sitting on a leather chair (£248 at DFS, purchased together a year or so ago), trying to ignore the cheerful music pumping out of the stereo (£529 plus an extra set of surround speakers, purchased together, at the beginning of our relationship), and was wondering what it would be like to leave this wonderful creature to someone else. Someone else's arms. Someone else's hugs. Undoubtedly, someone else's tender kisses and passionate lovemaking.

I got up and walked out the door. As I heard the door click behind me, the puppy loudly complaining that she wasn't allowed to go for a walk, I felt my chest split open. After all these years of effectively being one person, our nerve-endings had merged. Through osmosis. Through sex. Through passion, comraderie and common experiences. With every step I took away from our her house, I felt her nerves being torn from mine. Her blood circulation no longer flowing in me. Us no longer being one.

As the train doors closed, and the train rolled out of the station for the four hour journey to wherever the first train that had came into the station was heading, I allowed my mask to drop. With a convulsion that seemed to come from my fingertips, my toes, my very soul, I collapsed in the train seat.

"No thanks, I'll pass on the tea and coffee, if you don't mind".


The first piece of proper fiction I have managed to write since I lost it all.