You know the moment, that one crazy euphoric moment, when you think, this is it, you’ve been waiting for this, this is the start of the rest of your life.
Her name was Lena.
Raven haired with big brown doe eyes that felt like a warm cozy blanket on a rainy day. She was brilliant, too, and kind. You could barely keep up with her. Because of her you turned into a different man, a better man. All of a sudden you were watching independently released movies only five people have seen and reading Sartre and volunteering at the animal shelter.
It was a cute story, how you met. She was sitting alone in a corner table, her dark hair in a messy bun, an errant strand grazing her right cheek. She had a laptop open in front of her and her brows were furrowed in adorable concentration.
She ignored you at first, her focus on her work. But in time she opened up to you, letting her walls fall away, the banter flowing easily, like you were old souls, having met before, in another time.
You were the best version of yourself around her. You couldn’t remember the last time you pulled out a seat for another person in your life, and yet, with Lena, it came naturally, like a primal instinct almost forgotten. You had this insatiable need to be her provider and protector, and there was nothing wrong with that, was there?
In short order she became your everything, and you tried your best to be everything for her. You should have seen the signs, but you were too busy loving her. Nobody ever warned you about that kind of love. The dangerous kind. The stuff of tragedies, recorded for posterity, an omen for future lovers and naive dreamers.
You couldn’t believe it when she stopped answering your calls, your number blocked, her friends stonewalling you, a girl army of sharp tongues and quick wits, preventing you from even talking to her.
A little time was all you needed. After all, eventually she would see that you were the only man for her, the only one who understands her, who would love and protect her no matter what.
You were prepared for this, you were prepared to fight for her. You weren't the type of man who quit when the going gets tough.
That restraining order really was a bit overboard on her part, though. Did the police really have to make such a big deal out of a lovers quarrel? 'Stalker' seemed like such an extreme word.
She was always so dramatic, Lena. That was one of the things you loved so much about her. She was so passionate about everything. Of course, that would change soon, once she settles down. They all settle down, eventually.
You had to get creative. Changing your name and appearance seemed a bit overboard at first, but later became such an obvious solution. You just needed a bit of cover, so you could get close to her again.
It was easy, really, with the latest black market appearance augmentation available nowadays. A new nose, darker brows, glasses. You barely recognized yourself when you looked in the mirror.
It took some time, tracking her down again, but eventually you found where she was hiding.
She was still freelancing, working remotely either in her ridiculously expensive downtown studio apartment, or the vintage coffee shop a couple of blocks from her street. She still ordered her coffee plain, with just a dash of oat milk, and liked a blueberry muffin in the afternoon.
Different city, same Lena. It was easy to know people, really, if you just put in the effort.
Lena used to go running in the morning. Three miles by seven, without fail. She seemed to have stopped doing that since moving, however. You read in one of her texts to her friend, through one of those ghost trackers you secretly downloaded onto her phone, that she stopped running because she was afraid she would run into you! How silly. Silly Lena, overreacting again.
Today, though, she seemed to have gotten the courage to put on her running shoes again. It was about time, really. It had been three months since the whole debacle. You would think she would stop the cold shoulder by now.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention." You smiled your best smile as you strategically ran into her on the trail. You held your phone up like an offering. "Working and running, you know."
Lena smiled uneasily, a slight crease between her brows. She was trying to place you. You looked familiar, she was almost sure she knew you, but not quite. Like a word at the tip of her tongue. The appearance augments were working their magic. Though of course they would, at the price you paid for them.
"I'm sorry." You said again. You held out your hand. This time you were going to do this right, take it slow. Now she was vulnerable. "My name is--"
You did not have time to react. In fact, you did not feel the blade at all, until the hilt was pressing into your side, flush against the soft skin of your abdomen. A frown crossed your face as the taste of copper gurgled up your throat.
Lena was not smiling now, her deep brown eyes dark pools of ink, a well you could sink into. She leaned forward and held her lips against your ears, her voice pure silk and velvet as she whispered. "Yeah, I know who you are."
The ground was closer all of a sudden.
Always full of surprises, that Lena, your lover.