This was how he chose to remember her – full of love for him.
Maybe she knew it was the last time she would see him, or believed it might well be so, at least; maybe that informed the emotion to some extent. But – and he was fully aware that it was an old contention, almost as old as the hills in which she lived – he knew that in those moments, she did love him, and loved him as much as when she had turned over and over the notion of turning her whole world upside down because of the way of living he suggested to her.
It had been a while, but who wouldn’t want to see the love of their life again, when she was still loved as much and as hard as the first time they had fallen for each other? The day joined a long list of times, moments within times, infinite and eternal returns between one pair of eyes and the other, stretching all the way back to the immediate lust of the first meeting, and their parting later that day, when she had looked back along the crowded platform with a look of such longing that he knew she wanted more than anything to stay with him. He had stayed watching her till she was swallowed by perspective, or the crowd of commuters, whichever it was.
It was a surprise to them both, that the attraction was as magnetically strong as ever even after all this time. ‘I feel you drawing me into the screen,’ she said, and they gazed at each other, imagining the kisses, feeling their lips meet and part and meet, their tongues feather one another’s, while their navels ached, and their hearts melted all over again. The telepathy, the power of the mind, the feeling of giddiness, of being a lovesick, swooning teenager; it was all still there. Fuck, she’s beautiful, he thought. She really was. Is. Will always be. Those eyes, that smile. A luminous and lovely and an incomparably animate woman, lit up from the inside and catching the light from without.
She showed him the length her hair was, before she had had it cut. She placed her hand at right angles to where her breasts began their outward curve; he calculated that she had lost a good six inches of hair, if not more. But to him it didn’t seem so much shorter than when he had seen her last, a couple of months before. With his beard she said he looked stricter. ‘It makes you look older, but in a distinguished, sexy way. Don’t you feel like you have more gravitas?’
She was a shapeshifter. It was how she was; she couldn’t help it. Though she had long since begun to try hard to stick to one skin, she still struggled with the limitation. And yet that very shapeshifting and her struggle against it only made him love her all the more. She was not and never would be static, yet still she tried, and he knew that now she would try her hardest to develop some form of permanent anchorage. Perhaps, finally, she would manage it, sufficiently to be happy. He hoped so, for her sake. Because it wasn’t easy to be a shapeshifter. He knew that.
Every day with her had been an adventure, just as every conversation was, in an imaginative sense. She always felt what she saw, saw what she felt, and moved with her feelings and what lay in the line of her sight. He had felt every convulsion of hers as if their two organs were rubbing up against each other without there being the least bit of skin and bone in the way; his heart was raw. It wasn’t easy to love a shapeshifter. She knew that.
Yet in spite of all the troubles they had faced, the endless ups and downs, despite everything, he was the man to whom on that last occasion she had shown a sign which read – in letters written as big as the glorious smile of the woman who held it – ‘I LOVE YOU’.
And that was how he chose to remember her.