He left me.
I thanked the security guy - J. Felipe, I finally remembered to check his name badge - for his assistance when we made it to the lobby.
He left me.
I walked ever so slowly. Almost as if I was giving someone every chance to hold me back. To tell me he had made the biggest mistake in his life. But nothing happened.
He left me.
I just kept walking. Didn't even think I had a place in mind to go to until I realized I had already reached the only place that would welcome me, no questions asked.
Keagan answered the door on the third ring of the doorbell, took one look at my face, and her own face crumpled as well.
She knew I was in love with Dmitry.
It was the only thing I felt safe and proper for her to know. And now—-
The fact that I didn't even have to say a word, and Keagan...
"Oh, Tahey." Keagan pulled me inside. "He left you?"
Hearing those very words from someone else—-
It was just too much.
And my knees gave out without warning.
"I d-don't even know w-why."
I crashed down.
"He just l-left me."
"Even k-knowing w-what it would do to me."
"He still...left...m-me."A NEW DAY BEGAN. AND another. And another. Keagan fussed over me without asking a single question. It was why she was good at her job, and why people like Dmitry those who built Strakh Inc. preferred working with her.
And the words—-
He left me.
They were still there. No longer as vicious, but more a dull throbbing pain, like an old injury you'd just have to learn to live with for the rest of your life.
He left me.
I obsessed over them even though I knew it was wrong. Tried to make sense of the unexplainable. Tried to find the smallest clue - God, any clue would do at this point - just so I could understand why.
I just needed to know. So I could move on. And I was desperate. So desperate that I swallowed my pride and tried to call him...only to find out that Dmitry had already blocked my number.
When Keagan learned what he had done, she had erupted like a volcano and told me in no certain terms that I'd be a fool if I continued to love an asshole like him. And of course, she was right. But...
I just had to know why.
So I swallowed my pride again. Called Sasha this time, but this turned out to be a mistake.
I'm sorry, Ms. Baskerville. I'm so goddamn sorry. If I had known he'd hurt you this way, I would never have encouraged your feelings for him.
Then tell me why, I begged him.
But on this, Sasha remained tight-lipped. I'm sorry. It's all I can say. It's all I have the right to say. I'm sorry, and I hope for your sake that you'll eventually be able to forget him and move on.
His words, God...his words made it so clear that he had never been in love.
Because if he had ever been in love, he would know.
I would never be able to forget Dmitry.
I could learn to stop loving him. I could learn to start hating him.
But to forget him?
Because that was just how love was, when it was at its most precious.
And it was this very love as well that made me unable to refuse a call when Keagan told me the next day that Thomas was on the phone, wanting to talk to me.
I didn't get a word in edgewise after this.
"Oh thank God."
Thomas started weeping then, and I couldn't help remembering the last time I heard him cry like this. It was when my mom died, and the memory made me forget my own pain.
"Daddy." It had been years since I last called him this. "What's wrong?"
"He told me he killed you," Thomas said hoarsely. "I didn't want to believe him, but the things he knew about you..." A choked sound escaped him.
"Who told you—-"
"Dmitry. Dmitry Adrianov."
And I felt my world start to crumble.
If this continued, Dmitry would soon overtake my dad's record, and he'd win first place for the number of times he made my life hell.
"H-How do you know him?"
Thomas let out a hollow laugh. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?"
"Just tell me." My voice shook. "Please."
"His sister," Thomas said tiredly.
"That's her real name, but the men I do business with...they listed her name as something else. Told me she used to be the woman of some arms dealer but was let loose when she double-crossed her lover."
"And of course," I said dully, "you didn't bother to check if their story was true." He never did. It was why Thomas kept insisting he hadn't done anything wrong. He had paid in good faith. Purchased lives of people who had hurt other people.
His journals said otherwise. In them, his own truth came out to damn him. He had written frequently of how some of the subjects passed on to his "care" didn't seem to match the profiles he was provided. But in the end, he had chosen to be blind, deaf, and dumb to all the clues around him. And because of that—-