She doesn't look up. Her fingers twist the tissue that she is holding in her hand until it crumbles into pieces in her palm. Fitting, she thinks, but she cannot bring herself to stop staring down at it.

"Alex," he repeats, his tone intended to be soothing. It isn't. "How have you been sleeping?"

Her eyes close. "Not  --  I  --  not at all." As she says it, Alex can feel the weight of thirty some-odd sleepless hours bearing down on the rise between her neck and shoulders.


The tissue disintegrates in her hand. He leans to slide a box of fresh ones across the table toward her. She doesn't take one. "Always the same one." Her voice is barely above a whisper, and even Alex doesn't recognize it through the taut strain over the lump that has formed itself in her throat. "He's there." The next pair of syllables hiccup out on a sob. "Morde." The palm of the hand that isn't holding fast to the shreds of tissue rubs over her mouth. "We're walking, and he's holding my hand, and we come to this  --  this cliff, this precipice, that drops out over the ocean? I can hear the waves so loud in my ears, it's like we're standing right there next to it." Her tongue snakes out to wet her lips, and Alex is surprised to find that her mouth has gone dry. "He looks at me and he says something, but I can't hear it. And then he steps." She presses her lips together in a thin line until the flesh of them turns white. Tears slink down her cheeks. She doesn't wipe them. "He steps, and he's gone. He lets go of my hand and that's it. I want to go with him, but I just stand there. Stupidly. Staring into the darkness like he'll come back, like he's going to make some mystical reappearance or something. But he never does. And then I wake up."

"When you wake up, how do you feel?" He nudges the box of tissue with his fingertips again. This time, he doesn't relent until she releases her hold on the one she has destroyed and plucks a new one from the opening in the box.

"Lost. Just  --  lost." Her hands tear apart the fresh tissue. "And I can't stop crying." She swallows. Her mouth is still dry. "But it doesn't end. Because even after I wake up, he's not there, you know? And that's my fault. I know it's my fault. I left. I gave up. And maybe it'd be okay if it stopped there, but it doesn't stop there. I could go back if it stopped there."

He is silent for a split second. The look that he offers her is stoic. She can sense that he is providing her with time to continue, but she doesn't. "Why can't you go back, Alex?"

She feels queasy. Her gaze darts around the room until it lands on a trash can situated near the door. Alex holds it there. "Because I didn't just break a promise," she begins, her voice weighted with the possibility of more tears. "I broke vows."

"You are separated, yes?"

Alex can't stand it any longer. She bolts from the chair and grips the trash can's edge until her knuckles go white. When she finishes heaving, he is standing beside her, offering out that same box of tissue.