Lonely, starved of warmth, the six-year-old girl stared into the crystal river water.
Her father didn't notice that she had sneaked out of the house. Would he even care if he knew?
Sorrow was written across the girl's face. Waterfalls emerged from her eyes along with cries and sobs. What had she done to deserve this dejection?
Abandoned by her mother, neglected by her father, and frightened of nature and society alone, Little Sheila had nowhere to call home, yet this crystal river... somehow it gave her comfort allowing her to see herself.
Almost as if she wasn't alone, but had her inner soul there, watching over her like a guardian angel.
It relieved her of her grief. Someone she could talk to, someone who existed to her. Even though no words came back, she could hear the sounds of nature, tickling the tip of her ear, keeping her company.
A raspy voice, just above a whisper.
"Did you really think I'd give up that easily?"
Horrified, Sheila turned around to face the intruder.
God, she thought. He looks so different.
His hair was as wild as the jungle, untameable and unruly. Clearly, he must have been hitting the gym, as there were some muscles forming under his black t-shirt. He was so tall, Sheila used to stand on her tip-toes to kiss him in the past. At the time, she loved how big and strong he was, which made her feel safe and secure in his arms. Now his exterior made her feel so small and vulnerable.
And his face. She could barely recognize it. It seemed like it had warped into something else. Something ugly. Perhaps it was his crazy smirk, or his dark attire, but something about him seemed more... demonic. He wasn't the Mason that she knew. He was a stranger. He terrified her, but she wouldn't let him know that.
"If you don't leave, right now, I'm calling the police," she said, sternly.
He was not fazed by her warning.
"Calm down, kitten. I'll leave in a bit, don't worry."
Sheila glowered at him. "I'm serious, Mason. You've broken into my house without my permission. That's crossing the line. You better get the hell out right now."
"Wait..." he stepped closer to her, "I just want to talk first."
Sheila took two steps back, eyeing him cautiously. She crossed her arms, feeling her heart thumping heavily in her chest. Her mind was spiraling out of control, cluttered thoughts sparking turmoil within her soul. There was a lot that she wanted to say to him, too, but she figured that it would only lead to a heated argument.
"I don't want to hear it," she snapped.
"Give me five minutes," he persisted. "And then I'll go."
Sheila rubbed her arm, attempting to pacify her anxiety.
"Well, go on then," she said, reluctantly. "Your five minutes start now."
Nonchalantly, he began to unbutton his shirt - an action that made her highly anxious. Instinctively, she grabbed for her phone, ready to dial the emergency number.
Then she paused.
Mason had unbuttoned his shirt halfway down his chest, pulling it apart to expose his defined pecs. In giant, bold letters, the name 'SHEILA' was tattooed across the upper torso of his chest in black cursive lettering. The area looked red and swollen, like an angry wasp stung it several times - a clear indication that this was a fresh tattoo.
Sheila was stunned. "What... why....?"
"Because I wanted to." He came closer to her, enabling her to have a clearer view.
Sheila felt compelled to reach out and stroke the design, but she refrained from doing so, fearing that her touch will only cause him pain. She backed away from him, again.
"I wanted to get a tattoo of your name for some time now."
During their relationship, Mason had spoken of getting said tattoo multiple times, but Sheila would always shut the idea down. Did he want to risk getting something permanent when they might not last? What if he ended up with a new girlfriend - what would his future wife think of such a tattoo? What if he got fed up of the tattoo and regretted getting it? What if he got a skin infection? Sheila would constantly ask him these questions to deter him from making such an impulsive decision.
"You're a big part of my life," his words were meant to be soft, but there was poison in them. "You're the only person who pulled me out of the darkness that I was in for so long, when I was at the lowest point in my life." He moved close to Sheila once more. "I was ready to give up on everything, until I met you..."
Sheila moved back, creating distance between them. The closer he got, the more she couldn't think clearly.
"I don't want to hear this!" She shook her head. "Any of this."
"I wanted something permanent to remember what you've done for me," Mason continued, ignoring her plea. "I'm pretty sure I'll always remember you, no doubt, but I wanted to make sure that I'll never forget - not even for a single moment." He chuckled emptily, as though he was dead inside. "So, stabbing myself with a bunch of needles and scarring myself with ink seemed like the best idea."
Sheila gawked at him, unable to believe this was reality.
"But... it's so... big," she said, gobsmacked. "Did it hurt?"
Mason shrugged carelessly. "I was hoping it would..." His comment puzzled her. Sometimes she couldn't understand how his brain functioned. "I wanted it to be painful but, as it turns out, nothing is more painful than losing you."
Those words were a stab to her heart, causing tears to sting her eyes. How could he turn up out of the blue and say such things? It wasn't fair. She wanted to move on. She wanted him to move on. But how could they, when he was behaving like this? Sheila tried to stifle her sobs, attempting to hide her grief, and then overcome by the wave of her emotions, she broke down entirely, all her defenses washed away in those salty tears.
"You're such an idiot," she said, crying and laughing simultaneously, "What kind of an idiot gets a tattoo of their ex's name - after they've split?"
His chuckle reverberated through his chest. "That idiot would be me."
And that's when she could recognize him again. Mason. Sweet, silly, goofy Mason.
"But what about your future girlfriend?" Sheila looked at him anxiously. "How would she feel?"
"I don't care," Mason crossed his arms defiantly. "Whoever the hell she is, I'll make sure she knows, just how much you mean to me." He softened his tone, "I'm not hiding that fact... I'm never erasing you. You shaped me. You're my light, my angel. And I'll let her know exactly that."
"You're such an idiot," Sheila repeated, tears dribbling down her chin. "A crazy idiot."
"I know," he said with a pained smile, "I'm the world's biggest moron for letting you go."
"Mason," she whispered, quivering. "Stop it."
"If I could turn back time, I would make things right," he said with determination, "I wish... I could visit the past me and clock his head in, make him realize he's being dumb."
"Mason..." Her voice was trembling.
"I did a lot of stupid shit that I regret," Mason tightened his hands so much that his fingernails bit into his palms. "I was so insecure about losing you, that I couldn't see my insecurities were destroying us..." He gazed into Sheila's eyes with as much sincerity that he could muster. "But now, now I don't care about any of that. Now, I just want to hold you again... even if it's for one last night."
Sheila was gasping for air, visibly sobbing. Her heart couldn't take it. The more he talked, the weaker she became. She could feel him seizing control of the situation. She couldn't let that happen. She needed to be strong.
She shook her head, trying to shake him away. "Five minutes is up. You need to go."
"Really?" He stepped close to Sheila once more, too close for comfort. "You really want me to leave?"
There was something in his tone that made her gain composure. She stifled her sobs and wiped away her tears, looking directly into his eyes.
"Leave," she said firmly. "Don't make me repeat myself."
Those words made him snap.
Mason shoved her against the wall, caging her in between his arms. The sudden action took Sheila by surprise, as a pathetic squeak escaped from her like a chew toy. She tried to shove him away, but it was pointless. He had grabbed a hold of her arms, pinning them above her head.
"You say that, but we both know that's not what you want." His face was so close to her now. There was no kindness in his gray eyes, they seemed like hard steel. "Remember, Sheila, I know you. I know when you're lying to me - like those many, many times you lied to me before."
He bared his teeth at her. One wrong move and she feared that he would bite her face off.
"Let me go," she said, wearing a brave mask. "Or else you'll regret it."
"Is that so?" He continued staring her down with his dark eyes, still and focused. "What will you do, huh? Beat me to death with your purse?"
Gritting her teeth, she was annoyed that he wasn't taking her seriously. "Fuck you."
He smirked devilishly. "Your wish is my command."
Sheila blushed coyly, her face becoming a rosy hue. She felt his breathing fanning her face, fast and erratic, mixed with her own breaths. She noticed her own breathing had become deep and shaky, her body began to twitch, feeling a rush of energy that coursed throughout her. She felt Mason move in even closer, she felt the heat of his face, of his breath on her. She felt the prickling presence of his lips hovering over hers, teasing a kiss.
"Look what you do to me," he murmured, "You make me crazy."
"I don't make you crazy," she retorted. "You are crazy."
And then he said those fatal words.
"Crazy for you."
Her heart was hammering loudly against her chest. There was a yearning feeling inside of her, to reach out and touch him, to seal the distance between them. The feeling was becoming too heavy to bear; that feeling she always got during her lonely nights in bed, when she was missing him the most; that feeling of her chest becoming heavy with want, it was so strong it became painful.
It was more painful that she couldn't act on these feelings, especially when it would be so easy to give in to temptation. She didn't want to lead him on - it would be unfair to him. Unfair to them both.
"Let me go," she said, weakly, squirming underneath his strong hold.
His face was close to her neck, his warm breath tickling her skin, making her head spin.
"I won't make that mistake again," he whispered, his lips softly grazing her ear. "I'm never letting you go."
Sheila liked her office. It was a comfortable room with oriental rugs and abstract paintings. She hoped that her patients felt comfortable in this room too. She turned on the heating, lighted a scented-candle and watered the potted plants, providing the room with more warmth and a homey-vibe.
There was a new client that she was looking forward to meeting.
She heard a 'knock, knock' at the door.
That must be her! Sheila thought, opening the door.
She gazed at the old woman before her. Her hair, once a shimmering brown curtain, was now just a frilly white thing. The lines across her face were so deep and saggy, like the skin no longer had a connection to the skull underneath. Her eyes, that were once full of light, so bright that it would save any soul lost to the shadows, were now as dull as a dishwater. In a photograph, she would seem as though she was ninety years old or more.
"Hello," Sheila held out her hand. "It's nice to meet you, ma'am."
The old woman entered the room with her walking stick; her gait was wonky, having arthritic joints, and she was squinting her eyes, unable to see well.
"Hello, dear," she said. "I feel very lonely. May we talk?"