The angry snarl of a bike jolts me out of my fragile thoughts and I know he's home. Returned once again to the mansion. He's been gone months this time.
I stay hidden in my suite of rooms. Watch from a window. Keep my distance. Let others deal with his greetings, his welcome. Let them ask about his mission. I don't want to know. I don't want him to see me. Not now.
But I know he'll come straight up. He always does.
A soft knock and he enters, hovers in my doorway. I continue to look out through the thick glass, keeping my back to him, shoulders tense and rigid. But I don't need to see him to picture what he looks like. That casual lean against the door frame, those faded jeans, hands in pockets; that rough jacket... He's just the same. The scent invades my room, curling round my senses, and I breathe in the subtle hints of leather and whiskey, the underlying bitterness of smoke. Him.
"Hey," he says quietly. That voice, gruff and warm, it closes its fist around my heart and squeezes.
"Hey," I say back. It sounds so wispy thin.
I hear him approach, feel a strong hand grip my shoulder, and I blink, the tears I'm trying to hide escaping without permission, rolling wetly down my cheeks, cooling my skin, and splattering in big uneven drops onto the window ledge below. He turns me around to brush them away with the back of his thumb, then leans close to press a tender kiss against my forehead.
"Just wanted to say I was home," he says, giving me that half smile that used to make me melt inside. He gives my hand a gentle squeeze before leaving, closing the door quietly behind him, and I feel my heart break all over again. As it does every time.
We were lovers once. A long time ago. I look down at the frail hand that was moments ago in his.
Then I grew old. And he stayed just the same.