She exhales, sharp, through pursed lips. And Luna, looking up at her from the corner of her eye, knows, that she is going to relent. Cool, calm resolve writes itself across her face, ironing smooth her brow; fingers splayed in anger settle slowly, lightly, once more upon the gear stick.
Luna closes her eyes, just for a moment. A brief respite, a pause, to recollect herself. Her arms are crossed over her lap; unconsciously, or perhaps just unwillingly, her fingers pinch the soft skin at the inside of her elbow, nails digging in, tighter and tighter. A steady, grounding stream of pain.
She opens her eyes at the subtle sounds of fabric scraping across rough fabric. Shonali shifts towards her, angling left, still buckled behind her seatbelt, impossibly loud in the taut silence.
She reaches towards her, and Luna does not flinch - years of relentless, requisite training of holding herself still, every action reaction under careful control, of fingers bruising like manacles around her wrists… years of ill won experience stiffen her body.
She does not flinch, but she very badly wants to.
And suddenly, all her care, her caution and composure, abandon her.
She stumbles, fumbling with her seatbelt buckle, fumbling with the door.
“I, just need to.”
Shonali startles, as she half falls out of the car. “Lu,” she calls, half muffled as she searches for her own buckle, but Luna is already marching away.
“I just, I need some space.” Her voice is cold to her own ears, bitterly, needlessly cold. She cannot bring herself to apologise, though she wants to want to.
She just keeps walking, ignoring the voice following her, the slam of the passenger door, the click of a latch. Away, where Shonali can’t follow her.
She feels terrible. She feels numb. It’s complicated.
Her jacket is still in the back of the car, and her skirt is long chiffon that catches on bramble thorns, and the air is cold and she left her partner alone in a car on the side of a road after hurling horrid accusations at her, and there’s a deep pit of emotion welling up within her that she is sure will drown her the moment she lets herself feel again.
For now, she moves on autopilot, mind suffocatingly blank.
She isn’t sure how long she’s been walking. She doesn’t want to check.
Her phone is silenced, but still on. A concession, of sorts. It vibrates from time to time, nestled in a large pocket Shonali had secreted into the seam for her. She doesn’t check that either.
At some point her forest trail widens to a well trodden path, and paradoxically, she slows her pace. A short while later she comes across a bench, and stops entirely.
The worst part is, she knows it’s her fault. Her event that she was dragging them both to, her levied accusations that Shonali had delayed their departure on purpose, her fault for leaving the car.
Ha. They’re definitely going to be late now. Assuming they haven’t already missed the gathering entirely.
Way to go, Lu-Lu, says the voice that still lives within her no matter how many times she thinks she’s finally rid of it, rearing its ugly head whenever she’s at her lowest. Ruining your relationships, blaming people for your own mistakes. Petty and moody and volatile: same old Loony-Loo.
She still can’t check her phone.
Maybe she lied. The worst part isn’t the knowing that it’s her fault. The worst part is not knowing how Shonali will react.
She left her alone on the side of the road, storming off knowing she wouldn’t be able to catch up in time, choosing badly maintained trails too narrow for her chair even if she did try to follow.
Though why would she follow. That voice isn’t a foreign entity. Painfully familiar, constant companion. It’s her own.
She should really answer her phone.
Shonali must be worried. She will be - she cares, she’s proven it time and again.
But what if…
She had thought that David cared, too.
And she hates herself for even thinking it, but…
She looks back at her life and she can see, plain as days, all those little flags, that David had been throwing up from day one. The belittlement, the comparisons, the snide, biting remarks - a hundred little weapons in his arsenal that he’d proudly showed off to her, under the guise of wit, long before she’d ever been set in his sights.
Shonali and David are different, she knows they are. But she’s missed the signs before and she knows that she could miss them again. She doesn’t know that she can trust her own judgement, and it terrifies her, because how can she begin to rely on people when she can’t rely on herself.
She knows it was a dick move, to run away, but it’s also the only strategy she knows can work. Flinching was useless if it still left you in his reach; arguing was futile when you could never make yourself sink to his level, because you never thought to learn how to best make him hurt like he did for you; resisting was useless when you shared the same flat, and bed, and all the same friends. It was a war of attrition, and it would have worn her down to nothing.
Years of her life wasted, sunk into a relationship doomed to fail or to fail her. Years later and he’s still stuck in her head.
She can’t go through that again.
And it’s been years, and Shonali has never let her down, but even so there’s only so much you can expect a person to take. She gives and gives and gives, and sometimes it just feels inevitable that she will eventually realise that Luna is too hollowed out to give anything in return - too hollowed out for any amount of love to make her complete.
For crying out loud, she left the car in the middle of the drive to an event she was complaining about being late for, and disappeared into woodland for hours. None of that is rational.
Everytime she wonders, ‘is this is?’. Everytime the answer is no, and the question comes back a little quieter each time, but she still can’t help but think. Everyone has a line, and she can’t help but wonder when she will cross it.
Living in constant fear of the other shoe dropping is exhausting. Part of her wants to wait on the bench forever. At least she’d know that Shonali would have to be done with her then.
But she doesn’t want Shonali to be done with her. She wants to be with her, and she wants to rely on her and she wants to trust her. Shonali has proved herself to be trustworthy - she wants to believe that.
She stands up, pulls out her phone and begins the long walk back.
She misremembers a turn somewhere, and re-emerges from the forest a little too far down the road. The empty tarmac before her sends her into a momentary panic, before she hears a loud horn beep behind her.
The car is right there where she left it. Shonali is there, waiting where she left her, half leaning out of the car and waving.
Luna smiles, quiet and private, and begins walking forward.
Maybe it is okay, to trust this, accept it, and know that she isn’t going to leave.