Keep Me From You
by Keren Ziv


He waits for her in a Paris surrounded by storms, and when she comes, eyes bruised but triumphant, he kisses her lips.

This is all he's ever wanted.



There are precious few things in his life now. His work occupies the largest block of his time; he loses himself in it the way that a swimmer immerges oneself into the water. For hours leading into days, he stays there, holding his breath, trying for that last second before exhaustion and asphyxiation threaten to overcome him. Only when his eyes are like an ibis's, reflecting too much to be guileless, does he surface. This helps him stay clean.

This vespiary wherein he dwells hands him the single genuine reality that he's allowed anymore. His heart beats for his work, and he reminds himself of his limitations, of those things for which he must not live. In this subsistence, he looks comfortable. It is, however, only a putative contentment that he owns.

Once he had thought that his world was made of his Emily, and in her he had found a solace that was not replicable. Together they had been something more than he had ever imagined being, and without her he is lesser than the least he had ever imagined himself. There is nothing, he discovered, without the burning of worship in your chest.

The paths of his years are writhen and torn, and there isn't anything that will repair or straighten them for a leisurely stroll by a pretty lady. He is dry of pretty ladies, and gentlewomen shy from the tangles and thorns that line his lane. In these later days, this is fine with him; he needs no kickshaw woman for talk and pleasure when he has her.

She is his life's rowen, his second crop to one season. For this terrible, terrible life that he's lived, she's his gift hope to make it right. He thought perhaps that he could make it better with Sydney -- that Sydney, maybe, had been that chance. How could he have known that his salvation was barely three or four contacts removed from himself?

Songs are not written of his climb from the nadir, his anguish. They could not explain the light and darkness that she brought with her, nor the summer and winter that came like stowaways in her suitcases. She is incomprehensible, and he has the most difficult of adorations.

And that is his why his is an irredeemable spirit.



Today, with the French sky green and grass yellow, she's in a swivet. Sydney is supposed to have taken this assignment, but Sydney is en route to a Spanish hospital after a disagreeable encounter with a semi-automatic in Barcelona. She is obviously worried about her sister; it does not help her as she tries to learn the protocols that she's had scarcely half an hour to scan.

"You'll do fine," he whispers into the line. He watches the brown clouds of late October as they fill his horizon. "The rain will help."

"I know."

She goes, as planned, communications silent.

He paces the walks of Roue Libre, watching the bicyclists and waiting for her call. Jack and Vaughn have taken the train to Sydney, and Marcus has remained in Los Angeles due to some obligation to his daughter. He is all she has in country (and she is all he has in the world).

Her call of completion comes early, and it's just turned eight when she arrives at the safe house, broken in places but still running with a clock-like rhythm and dependability. She had mere minutes to prepare for this, and she did marvelously. Her cheeks flush red with her success, and he listens eagerly as she tells him the details.

With an anecdote about a near-death experience, she makes him laugh, and he reaches out to touch her.

"You look like your mother," and it is not Emily, so it becomes acceptable for her eyes to be so bright and for her hair to have shadows and gloom in it instead of the laughter and warmth that his dearest wife had once had. Virtue and legitimacy wane with dusk's light.

The rain has not followed her from the villette in which she worked, but she's brought a little of it with her, and it sparkles in her mother's locks like the diamonds that his wife would have bought their Jacqueline.

"I love you," he tells her.

Irina would have stared him in the eyes there and laughed. Irina's youngest smiles and replies that she does too. That is too much like Emily.

When he leans in, it almost doesn't surprise him that she does too. It is his despondency and destitution that does this damning act, and he wonders what in her does it too. All that he is sure of is that she is his deliverance.

Darkness has completely fallen on the city, and through the window the stars are lost for the lights of people. Hidden stays the moon behind the too many clouds that have yet to reach Paris, and he can feel the black of the night reaching for him to steal what he's captured, and he devours it hungrily, trying to keep it selfishly for himself.

He's shared so much with so many all these years that he will not allow himself to offer parts and pieces of her too. This is his, and his alone, and her eyes are the missing moon in the sky, and her fingers are so like that of her mother.

He sighs into her shoulder (that, too, is a greedy achievement).



In the morning, he cannot love her less, but he cannot look at her without tasting dishonesty on his lips and tongue. With the new light asking for atonement, he does not see himself as licentious but as looking to be healed, and what transgression is in that?

The rain begins just as she wakes. Her eyes on him, he feels split in half and nonplussed. It does not matter though, because, whencesoever his thoughts are issued, they end with his love for her.



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