By morning, the rain had softened to a gentle drizzle, cool on the skin as it shrouded the garden in silence. Katya sat on a chair on the veranda outside her room and listened to the water drip from the bushes. She rested her chin on her knees and tried to lose herself in empty thoughts. When Andrew walked out of the mist, something inside shifted, tumbled and fell away. She stood up and hid her trembling hands in her pockets. She knew why he was there.
“I just came to say goodbye.” He told her.
Katya nodded and looked at him. He may have hurt her, but he was beautiful. The drizzle turned his hair to a mass of wild and damp curls and his eyes were dark, his gaze unflinching. He was dressed for the journey. Katya didn’t know what to say. Too many words fought inside her head, too many thoughts and regrets.
“I’m taking the roan with me. I sold the other two ponies.” He fumbled in his pocket and pressed a roll of rupee notes into her hand. “This is your share.”
“Thank you.” She put the money in her pocket, glad that the roan was still in his hands. “Are you going back to Kashgar?”
He shook his head. “No. I’m going back to Baltit until I know where I have to go next. I’m going to stay with Moira and Monty for a few days.”
Katya envied him his refuge. “That will be nice.”
“Yea.” He looked down at his feet. Katya wanted to touch him one last time.
She took a deep breath. “Thank you for everything. Thank you for getting me here. I know my family will never forget your kindness. I know I won’t.”
“No. I’ll never forget. I’ll remember everything.” She swallowed.
“I should be thanking you, for what you did for me.”
“You already have. It’s all right.”
Katya closed her eyes as he drew her close. She rested against him as he held her in silence. She felt the thud of his heart beneath her cheek and gave in, letting her arms steal around him. She stroked his hair as he trembled and sighed against her ear.
“I’m so sorry.” He whispered. “Please forgive me. It was never my intention to hurt you.”
“I know and I’m sorry for hurting you.” Katya suddenly regretted those three lost days, wasted by holding onto her pain and crushed feelings.
“Didn’t I tell you at the very start that you would end up hating me?”
“I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.” She would always love him. No matter who or what happened in her life, she would always hold onto everything that passed between them.
“Thank you.” His hand was light on her hair, his voice muffled. “I couldn’t have wished for a better companion.” He stepped back, and held her face in his hands. “You’re brave and you’re beautiful, Katya. You’ll make some lucky man a wonderful wife. I’m already jealous of him, I already hate him.”
“I don’t want to be anyone’s wife.”
“You will one day. You’ll have a good life, a life where you’ll never have to worry about anything, where you’ll always have a roof over your head and know nothing but peace. That is what I wish for you, darling girl, a long and happy life.”
Katya felt treacherous tears slip beneath her lids. Andrew’s lips were warm, he brushed at her tears with his thumbs and kissed her forehead, her tears, her cheeks, the tip of her nose. “Don’t cry.” His voice was hoarse. “Please Katya.”
“I’m trying not to.” She managed a tremulous smile.
“That’s my girl.” He kissed her, a sweet, sad echo of that first, heady kiss. For a fleeting moment, Katya tasted cherries and felt a cool breeze. Then, it was gone. Andrew stood back, his hand fell away from her face. “I should go.” He said. “Just remember this, darling. You’re not the only one with a broken heart.”
He turned and walked away from her, into the dripping garden, into the swirling, soft mist. Katya watched him disappear, frozen and wordless. Running after him would only draw out the agony, twist the thorn into her heart and into his. She collapsed into the chair, hid her face in her hands and cried.