I went to visit Commelina. She’s been absent for a while at my wire walks. A few days maybe. I’d have gone sooner, but I’m ashamed to say I failed to notice her absence immediately. It was Assumption, or perhaps Avarice, who told me.
They come, alone, to the wire. It’s strange to see one without the other. They look limbless somehow. Reduced. As if the mirror that gives them substance in the world by reflecting their other half into existence is gone. I feel I should close one eye. Or both. They make me uneasy like this.
I step from the wire. Climb down to the ground. I think having ground beneath my feet will make it easier to see them. It doesn’t. The ground is real, it’s solid, but they are still wrong. Still singular and reduced.
‘Where’s Assumption?’ It comes out more of an accusation than I intended. But really, how dare they scare me like this. I am scared. I am afraid the other is dead. If I make them name themselves, then I magic the other back into existence. Names are power. So are words. But they do not cooperate, as if I could expect any different. They raise a brow, look upon me loftily. Something of the owl in that gaze. I am being hunted. Or something about me is.
‘Who?’ they ask.
If this is a game, I refuse to play. But then I make a guess, which is playing after all. ‘Avarice?’
They smile. Frost on berries. Is that amusement or anger? They show no emotion so easy to decipher. ‘Does it matter?’
This takes me aback. Does it? Is this their game or mine? Is it a game at all? I replay what they said, what I said, and realise how I have behaved. Why should they conform to my comfort? Any discomfort I feel in seeing only one alone is mine. I have no right to lay blame elsewhere. Shame is like acid reflux, it burns in the throat and heart. ‘No. I expect it doesn’t.’
They gesture to take in the woods. ‘Who else is missing?’
‘You heard. Think. Who is missing here?’
That’s when I knew. Without thinking, without looking. I knew she had not been here, not today and not for a while perhaps.
‘A few days perhaps. She’s on the pond. You might want to visit.’
‘That’s all you came for.’ Know one thing, and all the rest falls into place.
‘She comes for tea. She misses you.’
‘So why doesn’t she come to the wood?’
They left after that. A ghost drifting between the trees. One they were gone I was uncertain if they’d even been there. Felt tempted to run fast as I could, beat them to their cottage and see if indeed both would still be there, laughing at their joke. It would be just like them to send a ghost to me and call it one alone. But I didn’t do that. Instead I went to the lake, to Commelina. Partially that was guilt, and partially worry. They gave me reason to believe something was keeping her away, from the wood at least. Or the wire. Or is it me on the wire in the woods? One of those perfect connections that shorts out the world? I know it. I feel it. Perhaps she does.
Visiting her gave me no answers. Not immediately.
In the last light of the day, the surface of the pond was smooth as glass. I couldn’t see Commelina at first. She was hidden, drowned in the embers of sunlight crackling along the far bank. The lake seemed different. It took me a while to work out why. And then I saw it. Right through the centre, from one side to another, ran a line, fine as a hairline crack in a window, breaking the surface. I moved to one side, then to another, but it wouldn’t go away. Not an illusion then. But of course it was. With a surprisingly joyful trumpet, Commelina broke away from sunlight and came flurrying across the water toward me, straight through the line.
That was the end of it. I forgot all about the line. Spent an hour and a half sat quiet with Commelina, watching the sun seep away and stars prickle through the darkening of the sky.
It’s only now that I am home, sat in front of my looking glass to brush my hair before dinner, that I think of the line.
And I realise.
When she swam through it, the line did not break.
© Ren Warom 2014