The Unused Room Ch. 02byvelvetpie©
Reality came back slowly to Caiden. He raised his head and took a deep breath, fighting the nauseous feelings that threatened to overtake him but a gentle hand pushed him back down, accompanied by a soothing voice.
"Take it easy. You can't get up just yet." Michel's concerned face came into focus and he laid a cool cloth on Caiden's forehead. "You have to let the blood come back gradually or you will pass out again."
"You were looking at the sketch of you and Hardy and you just pitched forward." Michel said softly. "Is this the first time you've been back to the apartment since Hardy died?"
Tears welled in Caiden's eyes and he rolled away from Michel, embarrassed at the show of emotion. "Yes."
"That explains why I haven't heard any footsteps up here since then." He took the washcloth away, staring at Caiden's back. "I can't imagine what you're going through, Caiden, but I hope that you know that Hardy was very much in love with you."
Caiden turned back over, gazing into Michel's eyes. "Tell me about him."
Michel cleared his throat, rubbing his face. "I met Hardy when he moved in. He was trying to carry that huge aquarium up the stairs and I offered to help him." His face softened and a smile touched his lips. "He was so good-looking, Caiden. He just took my breath away." He paused, touching Caiden's shoulder. "But he was very quick to tell me that he was taken." Michel's eyes fell upon the partially-hidden portrait he had taken months to complete and perfect. "He called you his 'Starry Boy'. He told me that he'd never met anyone like you."
Caiden listened to Michel's words, his heart breaking into a million pieces as the descriptive words limned his dead lover far better than the artist's elegant strokes had. He drew a picture of how an outside might see Hardy: strong and unbreakable, loving and confident. It was so good to hear that someone else had seen what he'd seen in Hardy. "He was the love of my life, Michel. I'll never love anyone like that again."
"You will when you're ready." He stood and held out his hand. "Come on and sit up. Slowly." He watched as Caiden sat up, breathing deeply and noted that the color had returned to his face. "It takes a while to work through pain, especially when you've suffered a loss like this."
"No." Caiden arose and went to the window, putting his hand against the glass as he looked toward Ground Zero. "I'll never love anyone like that again."
"Then your heart will be an unused room and you'll be lonely for the rest of your life."
Caiden heard the words but they didn't sink into his mind. He reached into his pocket and thumbed his phone into operation, raising it to his ear. As Hardy's last words to him filled his ears and his throat ached with tears, Michel quietly let himself out, praying that Caiden would understand the enormity of his decision.
Caiden blinked his eyes in the darkness and sat up, sure that he had heard his name being called. Maybe it had been just a dream.
"Over here, Caiden."
His heart stopped as he turned his head and saw the luminous outline of someone sitting on the window ledge. "Hardy?"
Caiden burst into tears and leaped out of the bed, intent on embracing him but the ghostly visage held up a hand, stopping him in his tracks.
"Stop. You can't touch me."
"Oh, Hardy! I miss you so much!"
"I know you do, Caidy. That's why I'm here."
"You've come back to me!"
"I'm dead, Caiden. I can't come back except like this, in your dreams."
"Then I'm confused. Why are you here?"
"To help you love again."
Caiden returned to the bed, his face striped with tears and anger clouding his eyes. "I don't want to love anyone again."
"You want to go through your life alone?"
"I'm not alone! I have you!"
"You have memories of me, Caidy. You know that's not the same."
"I don't need anything else."
"Yes, you do. You need someone to put their arms around you, someone to talk to."
"I can talk to you. I don't need anyone else."
"If that's what you think, then this will be the last time that we talk. I won't put your future in jeopardy."
"That's not fair."
"Life isn't fair, Caiden. We both know that." Hardy turned from staring out across the city and gave his lover a gentle smile. "You have to leave me behind and find someone to share your life with."
"I can't, Hardy. I love you too much."
"And I love you but it's time to let me go. It's the reason you came here and you know it's right. Let me go."
Caiden screwed his eyes shut, desperately trying to will Hardy's voice away but he knew deep within his heart that it was time. With a whimper of defeat, he collapsed into sobs and cried until he fell back into sleep, his dreams littered with broken hearts and lonely tears.