Thunder rumbled overhead. Usually I would count the gap till lightning struck, but not this time. I was busy praying I wasn't too late.
I bounded up the narrow stairwell two steps at a time. I held on to the banister, fully aware of the filth and grime that were beginning to coat my palm with a thickening layer of slime. Not that I had much choice. Raindrops pelted at me like an endless wave of angry insects, limiting my vision and making my steps treacherous. I'd already lost count on the times I almost slipped. Above the din of the building storm, I could hear my heartbeat. I could even feel it in my fingertips.
Please. Don't let me be too late.
I lost track of how many floors I left behind me. My chest felt tight, my breaths came out ragged and hot, and my sides felt like someone was squeezing me hard, long nails burying deep. I was already panting, acrid-tasting raindrops making their way into my open mouth, but still I ran.
Wait for me.
I could barely make my way to the partially opened door when I reached the top landing. The small, dust-coated space was littered with broken and forgotten desks and chairs with missing legs, piled up looking like they would topple and bury me with the slightest sneeze. Even the rotting door leaned at a slight angle inward, its top hinge broken. I was never acrobatic, but determination helped me through the door. Into the rain. Lightning struck somewhere beyond my periphery vision, casting the sky with a sudden illumination before plunging me into near darkness again.
I'd been on this roof only once before, and even then it was one time too many. The big granite slabs were unsteady at some places. With piss-smelling hallways filled with maggot-laden garbage bags, I wouldn't expect the roof to be maintained with any more care and devotion. I promised myself then I would never come here again. Yet here I was, rubbing my eyes with my grime-free hand to clear the rain off my lashes.
Why must he pick this freaking place, of all places?
Shielding my eyes the best I could, I scanned my surroundings. People could play badminton and basketball up here, full court each, without getting into each other's way. If the footing wasn't this uneven, and if the edges weren't only secured with knee-high rusted railings. Other than a few other stairwell openings and the occasional vent pipes jutting out awkwardly, the roof was an open space. He was nowhere to be seen, and I was running out of time. Even without the blinding rain, twilight was fast approaching, and I wouldn't be able to see much anyway.
Where the hell is he?
I took out my phone, risking damaging it in this deluge. I had to try. I pressed the button 2 without even looking at the keypad, to speed-dial his number. I closed my eyes, and listened.
At first I thought I was imagining it. Then Damien Rice's song got louder there was no mistaking it. It came from the other stairwell. I flew toward the sound, praying hard I would find more than his mobile there.
I found him sitting against the wall, his arms hugging his drawn knees. He was looking down, chin resting between his knees. His eyes were partly hidden by his hair. He ignored the rain flowing from the plastered locks just as much as he ignored the clothes that clung onto his body. He was shivering, but I couldn't tell if it was from the cold. His mobile lay forgotten by his side, its screen glowing softly. The song stopped abruptly when I canceled the call.
My heart almost stopped.
"I told you not to use the song as your ringtone. What if I couldn't hear it?" Could he hear me above the chatter of my teeth?
He didn't look up. He didn't move one bit. His silence was loud.
"I was afraid you'd jump."
"I could have," he finally said, barely above a whisper. "I wanted to."
"Are you alright?" I took a step closer, my hands reaching out. I was shaking. But I did not feel the cold. He was here, in front of me. My heart reached out further than my tentative body could.
"I don't know if I could do this anymore, Rina." He looked up when he said my name. What I saw looking into his golden eyes, dark now without luster, broke my heart more than the words he told me when he left six days and three hours ago ever could. Where was the fire? Where was the life I loved to discover in those beautiful eyes? He bowed his head low and started rocking back and forth.
Where was the Adrian I had always known? Where was the anger, the confidence? Where was my Adrian?
"Everything I've done. Nothing. Gone." His shoulders sagged lower, boneless. Even his voice, his tone, was midnight.
I kneeled in front of him and reached for his face. I lifted his chin to face me. He did not resist. "Hey, I'm here, aren't I?"
He closed his eyes. "I don't have any strength left."
"Adrian," I whispered, each syllable of his name a song on my lips. I smoothed hair, dark with rain, from his eyes. "Let me in. If you refuse to see the light, let me in on the darkness. Let me be lost with you. Let me be your strength as you've been mine."
"You can't, Rina," he said. "Not after what I did to you."
"I love you, Adrian."
I hugged him close with all the strength I could muster. I would not let him go. Not this time. He was still at first, but then a miracle happened. He hugged me back.
The rain was heavier still, but I was far from cold. Adrian was a soul helplessly lost, and so was I. But we found each other again. If I was never sure of anything else in my life, this I knew to be true:
I love Adrian.
And he loves me back.