it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah...

Touching him brings her a warmth that she can't describe. It is like a balm for her once wearied heart, lighting her up from within. But as they walk down the sidewalk, he refuses to give her his hand. There is something that isn't quite right. His strides are long and quick and she struggles to keep up with him. It isn't long before she notices that he goes out of his way to keep himself at a distance, relieved to reach the car. When he parks across the street from her apartment and keeps the engine running she knows it means he has no plan to join her upstairs and that's when she realises what he's doing.

Ken hasn't spoken a word since they left the restaurant. He is mulling over something and his brows are furrowed, staring straight ahead at a speck on the windshield. Katya sighs softly and she sees his jaw harden in frustration from the corner of her eye when she moves her mouth to speak.

"Tell me what you want to say," she posits and swallows down the lump in her throat. His grip tightens on the steering wheel but he doesn't reply, squaring his jaw. There is an anger radiating off him that she cannot place, she doesn't know what she's done, but she knows she's the cause of it. He flinches when she moves to touch his shoulder. It stings far more than a physical blow when she brings her hand back to rest in her lap.

"Talk to me," she presses, wanting desperately to brush her fingers through the short curls at his nape, balling her hands into fists instead. Her eyes are the first to betray her, glassy with tears that she blinks back. It's been fifteen minutes and he hasn't said a word as he continues to stare at the windshield. Katya sizes up his face from her seat in the passenger's side. It already feels like a memory, a face that she could kiss whenever she wanted, that hardens with anger and disgust when she gets too close now. He recoils when she shuffles in her seat.

"What happened?" she asks. "What have I done wrong?" Katya has had this conversation before but she has never wanted to have it with Ken. The questions are the same at the end of any relationship, questions that never get complete answers only well known refrains. It just happens. As easily as it began, it ends. The wheel of life keeps turning. Life keeps pulsing forward, moving on. You're always expected to move on. To the left, to the left. It's universal and she knows that. But she's stubborn and there's no reason to give him up. He hasn't given her a reason.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that she's brought upon herself. At the mercy of her own pathetic self-esteem. Ken is too handsome. He is too successful. He is too good for her and she knows she doesn't deserve him. Now he's finally realised it too. Katya pulls at the hem of her skirt, pushing it down over her thighs where it has ridden up, suddenly uncomfortable in her clothes, her belly pressing against her seat belt as she exhales.

He is looking at her now, finally, shaking his head, his blue eyes are not hostile, but they are no longer kind, they are no longer hers to behold. "Please get out of the car, Katya," he says firmly. He is polite even in this and she finds herself laughing bitterly. Her lower lip trembles as she brings her gaze back up to look at him. Though she be but little, she is fierce. Her eyes narrow, her throat is sore and she bites back all of the vindictive barbs that catch there.

"Is that it?" she asks, as calmly as she can, one hand on the door handle, holding to it tightly though she has no intention of leaving without an answer. "Is that all you have to say to me?" Her voice is more combative than she intends it to be and she knows he doesn't take to it kindly when he switches off the car engine and unbuckles his seat belt to turn to her properly. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. Katya knows he doesn't do it on purpose, but it seems like he is chiding her.

"What do you want me to say to you, Katya?" he asks and it stumps her into silence. "We always said we wouldn't play games. From the beginning. I'm not going to give you a line. I'm not going to lie to you," He sighs, shaking his head before he continues.

"I don't love you and I really don't think I ever did," He gets no response out of her. Katya is silent, it feels like she has been punched in the gut. He takes her silence as a cue to continue. "It wasn't love. I just needed someone and it had been a long time. The sex was great, but that was it. That's all it was. I just don't want you anymore,"

These are not his words. These are words Ken has borrowed from a string of exes she couldn't get to stay. Katya is too stubborn to cry, but she is losing against the hot tears that burn at the corners of her eyes and is choking on curses that would horrify her to voice. It makes no sense. It had all been so different yesterday. He had loved her then. Katya knew it as he wrapped her up in his arms, moving in her and looking at her like she was the only thing in his life that mattered.

What had changed in a day? For a brief moment, she remembers a hospital room. Ken laid out on a gurney, but the image fades as quickly as it appears and this Ken continues to regard her with critical eyes. Katya is distracted by the way her collar tightens around her neck and her arms seem to strain against the seams of her blouse. Her shoes are too narrow and her skirt feels tight around her waist. He doesn't seem to notice and he asks her again to leave the car. "Ken, please," she frowns, brows merging as she struggles against her shrinking clothes and reaches out a hand.

Ken lets her touch his forearm but his expression is one of revulsion. "Please don't do this," Her eyes leave his and catch her own in the rear view mirror. Katya gasps and moves her hands to her mouth when she recognises her reflection. Her heart-shaped face is round, so round that the cheeks have puffed out and her neck has all but disappeared at this angle. The face she balks at is a face from the past and as she struggles to make sense of its resurgence now, she hears the back of her shirt rip with the extension of arm.

"It's this, Katya," Ken says calmly when she looks back at him in horror, realising that she's suddenly carrying an extra thirty-five pounds on her small frame. "I don't want this. I want someone more attractive," he affirms. Her memory finds the faces of his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriends. Each one is tall. Each one is beautiful. "You will never be enough," It's the final straw and the tears finally fall. A vivid memory of high school cafeterias, of tall, thin girls in dance class pointing and jeering, of locker and bathroom graffiti that reads Fatya Stinks.

Katya won't cry in the car while he looks on. She has more pride than that as she yanks the seat belt free and pushes out of her seat into the street. There are sirens wailing in the distance that she ignores. Ken starts the car and drives off and the heel of her shoe breaks as she rushes to get out of the way. There she remains, standing in the street in clothes that are three sizes too small. It is like being caught in a daze and when it finally hits her, the enormity of it, she crumbles on the sidewalk. Her face is a mess, when she moves her hand to touch it, the skin is enflamed and her kohl-rimmed eyes look as though they belong to a marsupial.

When she realises her phone is buzzing in her bag, she takes it out and rejects the call. As the phone returns to the main menu, she discovers that she has six missed calls from her sister's phone number. In a panic, she returns the call, barely recognising Sasha's voice when she answers. Katya can hear the loud sound of sirens echoing through the phone as a voice suddenly begins to explain and she realises with a start that it's not Sasha at all.

"Come quickly! There's been an accident! Your sister --" is all Katya hears before she's on her feet again. Her broken shoe is discarded and she kicks off its mate, barefoot against the pavement, she starts to move in the direction of the sirens. Her legs are heavy, panting hotly, she feels the extra weight drag her down as she moves into a sprint, as fast as her body will go. It is not fast at all. The tears stream down her cheeks as she screams out her sister's name. The exertion is taxing and steals the air from her lungs, but she keeps going. Sasha is all she has now...

to be continued...

pt. 3back