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By Marsha Steed and Drew Monroe
2000The moon painted the leafless trees with it's silvery sheen.  Clutching branches were already shorn of their greenery by the winter winds. The chill could be seen in the very air around them.  The cold captured the fine mists of their breaths and created a rising vapor which settled about their shoulders like a fine cape.

He smiled slowly, cupping her chin in his palm.  "It is chilly isn't it? Do you want to go in?"

Her gaze settled within his at the gentle touch of his hand, "Winter is still with us." 

A soft laugh escaped her.  "If we go in, all of my favorite parts will stand at attention and yours shall try desperately to disappear and save any warmth possible, and so it will be for a time my lamb."

"Come, lets walk a bit." 

He draped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close as they turned towards the virgin ground.  The snow had covered all within its protective quilt and their steps left a visual memory of their passing.  Her arm reached out to snake about his waist, and her hand settled upon his hip as they moved toward the newly draped ground.  It was a comfortable position, born of long association with one another.

"What are your thoughts?"

Her eyes still held upon him as they walked.  "Many little one.  . " pausing, he turned her to face him.  The night was painted perfection, chill with no wind, velvety darkness with a pool of moon.

"Tell me what happened yestereve?"  His voice softened, she could hear the lacing of pain through it though he strove to hide it well.   His eyes glistened with the memory and yet he spoke nothing of his discovery, only awaited her response and explanation.

"That is always your way.  Too many thoughts. . ."   Her sentence remained unfinished as he questioned.  The look within the depths of his gaze and his tone spoke to her of his concern,  while urging caution at the same moment. 

His fingers were delicate for a man's, long and graceful.  The many years in front of the keyboard had trained and disciplined them to act as extensions of his thoughts . 

"I am not certain of what you speak."  She answered.   There were a number of things that moved quickly through her mind at his question and at his touch.  The look of uncertainty she gave was clearly not an act of deceit on her part, but an honest reflection upon the question that he had offered to her.

He again drew her chin upwards with those finely shaped fingers.  His eyes were the color of the moon, a pale blue that sparkled with unspoken ideas and emotions.  He wasted few words, and his lips were used to silence. 

He listened to her thoughtfully, weighing her words against what he knew. 

"I spent some hours in private meditation, contemplation."  She offered. 

He spoke softly still, as if his words were a cradle for her own answers to be laid within protectively.  "And what did you learn?"

He was almost holding his breath for the answers.  Her response had taken him back somewhat, though it pleased him.  What he had been told surely could not be the truth, while the innocence yet shone in her eyes.  Inwardly she flinched.

"That there are those whose thirst cannot be quenched, and those who hunger for that which is not theirs to possess.  And there are those who possess that which they cannot enjoy." 

His left arm wound around her waist and pulled her closer.   His eyes did not break her own.  Wisps of chestnut hair framed his face and a longer shock of it drifted down his back. 

"Tell me of possession then, speak of the answers lain to rest.  Tell me that the waiting is through or that the nights will regain their warmth." He implored her with the murmur of his voice. 

The moonlight painted a dazzling silver sheen upon the curve of her fair cheek as she tilted it to look upon him.  The jet black locks of her hair tumbled along the length of her back,  each movement sending it caressing against his arms as they held her.

"Would you ask me to lie to you then?"

The dance of silk against his bared forearms sent electricity along his muscles and through his spine.  It was with great fortitude that he remained still and listed to her speak without pulling her fully into his arms. 

"No.  . .  I would ask as I ever have.  . .  To lie with you."  His voice deepening only slightly at the thick meaning etched behind the words.

"Each evening you stand before an adoring audience and offer them a glimpse into your soul.  How gladly would they be here. . . with you.  And yet, it is you and I that return to this dance.  There is only so long the maestro will play my darling."

His thumb drifted softly over her lips, he silenced for a moment while he enjoyed the silk of them.

"I've been called to Geneva.  I leave day after tomorrow."   He continued, and knew he should have broken the news somehow easier.  Softer,  gentler,   but he had no power to.  The words escaped like errant children playing hookie from their schoolmaster's confines.

Her dark gaze noted each breath, the sudden declaration evoking an eerie calm with her.  Without thought she pulled herself slightly away from his touch.

"Perhaps it is just as well."  She mused a moment. "Geneva,  you will need your winter coat."

Inwardly she cringed again.  Then added quietly.  "I hate it when you go there."

Her motion did much,  as well as her disengagement.  He drew in a long breath and released her.  Taking a long drink of her face, he turned,  shaking his head.  "There will be no return this time." 

She cannot see his face, his warmth is almost tangibly drawn from her as he took her words as a final answer.  His boots crushed the soft powder beneath them as if the very action could quell the ache that had begun in his toes and radiated upwards.  His hands were stuffed deep into his pockets and his back was now her only view.

Moving with an easy grace, she settled herself immediately before him,  a hand reached up to touch the chain which nestled upon his skin at the base of his throat 

"Does this decision bring you pleasure or pain?"  Her eyes watched with deep intensity. 

"How can you ask me that?"  Barely able to choke out the question, he moved away from her touch.  Each moment mortared another brick on the wall he was emotionally building between them. 

"You ask for my honesty,  even as I seek yours." She replied.

The chill radiating outward did not come entirely from the snow or the surrounding grounds, but perhaps from the pair themselves.

"Will you find what you desire in Geneva then?"  The sound of the frozen ground crunching beneath her steps could be heard as she moved.  "Or is it simply escape that draws you there?"

"I would have you come at my side, if that will not be, then I must leave and allow you your choices.  I can no longer stand aside.  It is a good position, perhaps its coming now, after yesterday, is a sign.  It seems that you are unconcerned."  His eyes virtually grew liquid with unexpressed pain.

"The decision should then be an easy one. "  She retorted just a little too quickly.  "Perhaps it has been all along." 

The barest hint of bitterness seeped through his pain, the self-preserving balm simmered just below the spoken surface of the intensity of the moment.  Not a man of dissertations, the monologue seemed to have sapped his energies.  His eyes dulled as he lifted his hand habitually to brush some hair off of her cheek.  He dropped it before it made the contact. 

"My decision is it?"  The laugh which accompanied the question bore a hint of harshness.  He bowed slightly, the evening pregnant with ugliness or ultimate joy, lingering on the precipice.  A word from either of them at that moment would push them over to one side or the other of the invisible chalk line, perhaps irrevocably.

"I have no desire to be a possession,"  Her hand reached outward to rest against the cold leather of his jacket.  "I long for the depth of feeling that does not require the control of passions,  nor the bargaining of favors for favors."  Her words and her actions are at odds.  Though her comment would push him from her, the silent reaching out pulled him to pause.  His eyes searched her face, and the only thing he could find to speak was what his heart was filled with.

"I love you Miranda, I always have and I always shall.  It is all I have."

His hand covered her own in a quiet affirmation of his words, yet the touch was brief as he gave one final squeeze and returned her hand to her.  They both know it was her decision; his was made years ago. 

"What is it that you silently accuse me of Draven?"  Her hand now stuffed into the pockets of her jacket.  The brief touch and release was much a rejection as anything. 

"Your decisions are your own Miranda.  As you speak, I have no claim on your time nor your passions."

"Have I not stood beside you throughout?" Miranda Renquist's eyes were rich with her inner fire.

"When I go, you shall have both time and passion, more freely to spend as you will."  The bitterness was less masked now.  The ache within him had begun at his ankles and was rapidly taking over his thoughts and reactions. 

"Your words are arrows to my heart, and you know it."  Her words were tinged with bitterness as well.  "In quiet gardens and behind closed doors.  . .  in tiny inns and dark groves.  . .  you have stood by me. . ."

"And yet.  it is not enough, is it?"  Sadness cloaked her anger. 

"I need you to stand by me at the end of a performance.  . .  and not delicately draped on the arm of the chairman of the board."   Spoken softly, her own words wound him, never would he wish for her pain, but his own is full and there is no returning.  Only forward will be life for him now.

"And yet, it was exactly that performance that helped you with your first contract, isn't it?"    The words almost hissed.   There, he had said it, confronted his need.  He took her hand then, bringing it to his lips, the music swirling in his head which easily could speak what he needed to say, but could not in this unfamiliar and clodding language he was entreated to use for expression.

The touch of his lips calmed her anger somewhat.  The depth of her pain would not be felt fully until some time later. . . when tears would crowd from beneath closed lids onto cold sheets. 

Draven had not the spirit to contend with her.  It was her unbridled passion and shelion-like defenses that had drawn him so completely under her spell.  He could not fault her for what he loved most about her. . .  and yet it was exactly that which carved into his spirit and drew his will out in buckets. 

"Remember me Draven.  And know that the sun does not shine so brightly in Geneva that the shadows will crowd my memory from your heart."   Her appreciation for him was endless.  His talent she acknowledged as God-given and unlike any that she had beheld.  Her devotion to him was also boundless.  She would wait for him until all hours of the morning.  Her one limited passion was his desire to possess her, and it was this singular thought that kept her now from his arms.

"Sweet child of the material world,   remember me when all of the lights have faded and the diamonds lain in their cells.  Remember me when your bed is cold and your heart has no more room for another compliment or your hand for another kiss.  . .  Remember me Miranda. "

He was going to turn then,  and walk away.  He was going to not look back, and not wait for her after the evening's last performance. Instead, he took her into his arms forcefully and crushed his lips to her own.  His kiss poured from himself all that he wanted to give her, needed from her.  She sensed the hesitation within him,  even as he enfolded her body into his embrace and his lips captured hers.  Her body slipped easily into the familiar mold of his own.  The silken caress of her lips captured his and prolonging the kiss beyond that which he intended.  The soft intensity of the moment was drawn outward by the closeness. 

Once more, he would ask once more.  His pride could allow that.  If her answer was still no, then he would walk away and never look back, though his heart would never forget.   He broke the kiss and whispered into her ear as her body was molded to his own.

"Marry me Miranda. Stand with me.  Let me be yours."  Cupping her face now in both hands, his eyes pleaded for his very life, a word from now would be his executioner. 

Both hands slipped from her pockets and gently draped over his neck, holding his face close to her own.  The soft whisper of his words caressed her ear with each syllable.

"My love for you is deep, Draven.  I can never deny that."  Once more was all he had, his pride and spirit would be broken beyond that.  Fervently he whispered as he drank in each of her features.  ''Marry me." 

The soft movement of her head was subtle but it was enough.  He released her abruptly.  It was over.  His heart  groaned as he struggled to maintain his composure.  Her hands dropped to her side like a puppet with broken strings. 

"As you wish then."   A cool bow was given as he turned on his heel and began striding away from her. . . forever. 

The world suddenly got dark as the moon was covered in a thick cloud.  The night's chill cut deeply into the unprepared lovers farewell.  She watched him as he went.  A certain knowledge remained that she would see him again, although the when and where of it remained a mystery, for now.

mscp © 2k Marsha and Drew

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