By: Natasha Knight

"Because you interest me. Because I find you beautiful. Because I want to know your pain."

"I don't know anything about you," she said, trying to make sense of what was happening between them. "What we did earlier, I've never done…those things… with a stranger."

"I don't think we'll be strangers long. Tell me, why are you here alone, Gabrielle? What brings someone like you to a place like this alone?"

She searched around her, taking another sip of wine. He remained studying her, his eyes not unkind. She wanted to tell him the truth, to let him see her. Would he want to have anything to do with her once he learned her secret? Or was pushing him away just another way of punishing herself?

"I used to come here with my husband," she said, taking a large sip of wine as he digested this information. Whatever he felt, he hid it well as he remained watching, waiting for her to continue. "He died two years ago and this is the first time I’ve returned here."

"I’m sorry for your loss," he said.

She nodded, acknowledging his comment. "I don’t know that it’s…fair…for me to be here with another man in my bed."

"Fair?" he asked just as Luciana served their starter: a plate of various meats with olives and crusty bread.

"Fair, right," she nodded when he offered her some of the meat but hunger wasn’t what she was feeling at the moment.

"I lost my wife some years back," he said, his attention on serving her.

"I’m sorry," she rushed to say, berating herself for her self-centeredness. "How old was she?" He couldn’t more than forty, forty-two she guessed.

"Early thirties." He set his fork down. "Don't feel sorry, she chose to die."

"Do you mean…suicide?"

He nodded once, his eyes darkening if that was possible.

"Do you have children?" she asked.

"A daughter. She’s ten now and spending some time with her grandmother."

"Oh. It must be very difficult."

"She was very young, thankfully. She's the reason I survived. Do you have children?"

She knew he couldn't want to talk about this and she was fine to leave it.

"No, we were waiting, wanting things to be just right. They never are though, are they?" she asked, regret casting shadows behind her eyes.

It was quiet for a few moments and when she continued to look down at her plate, he lifted her chin so that she had to look into his eyes. "The pain won't let you go until you face it." He let the words weigh into her consciousness. He was right; she knew that. The only way out was through. "Have you faced yours, Gabrielle? Or does it still hold you in its grip?"

She only stared at him, eyes wide. He knew the answer to that question or they wouldn't be having this conversation. Her heartbeat quickened and a cold sweat covered her body. "It was my fault," she whispered.

"What was his name?"

"William," something tight twisted around her heart.

"How did he die?" he asked, taking one of her shaking hands in his.

"A car accident. We’d been at a party, it was toward the end of the evening, there weren’t so many people left and we’d all had a little bit to drink. The host was an old friend of mine, an old lover actually." She tried to gauge his reaction but his face remained impassive. "William walked in on us. It was stupid, it was nothing, just two drunk adults acting like children. We were just kissing, nothing else. It just happened, out of nowhere." She took her hand from his and wiped at her tears.

"Go on," he said, not reaching to comfort or touch her, just listening to her confession.

She gathered her strength, composing herself. She needed to do this. She’d been keeping it inside her for so long. "He was so angry, I’d never seen him like that." She sipped her wine. "I ran after him, trying to explain, trying to talk to him, but he wouldn’t have it. He shrugged me off, shoved me when I tried to take the car keys away. He drove off so fast."

She’d known what would happen, had known that was the last time she’d see William alive. Something inside her told her that even before the call came. It was the same voice that reminded her of her guilt almost daily. "He ran a light, got hit on the driver’s side hard. I didn't even get to see him one last time to say how sorry I was." Quiet tears streamed down her face. "So you see, Julian," she gulped down the rest of her wine. "When everyone was telling me how sorry they were, what a loss it was, I knew all along that I was responsible. That it was my fault he died."

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