I woke in his arms. He had not moved in the night. He was dozing with the smooth side of his face pressed into my hair, drooling a bit. I stirred and his eyes opened. We disentangled our limbs awkwardly.
“I’m sorry. Last night was a bad night for me. People in the house down there can be mean.”
He nodded. “Bad neighbors.”
“Bad family.” I shrugged.
“The man is not.” He said, helping me up.
“What man? At the house?”
“Yes. The man is not family. The mean man.”
He shook his head. “Man at the house…”
I made a mustache gesture. “Ignatio. Ig. He is the man.”
He wiped his hand across his lip and nodded.
“Does he know about you? Does he know you are out here?”
He nodded. Then he tapped his chest above his heart.
“I don’t understand. You show me?”
He lifted his shirt. He was pale, ghost skin over ribs and muscle. Right above his heart was a scar shaped like a star burst. At some point it had been a third-degree burn. The tail of its comet travelled up his neck onto the burned area on his face. He would not look at me, seemingly ashamed of his mark.
I leaned in to touch it and he flinched away.
“No. No. Look, we match!” I rolled up my pantleg to show him the “y” on my calf. “See?”
“Oh.” He touched my scar gently. “Oh. You hurt now?”
“No. It’s old, but I’m not ashamed of it. Things happen. My leg still works.”
His slid his palm under my knee and straightened my leg slowly. I wanted to laugh, but I was struck with an odd, electric chill.
He took my hand and placed it on the lowest point of the star burst. “You see.” His eyes, the same blue as glacial rivers in Chamonix, were wide and trusting.
My fingers felt the edges of his pain, the braille of his skin raised red. How long ago did this happen? I traced up, following collarbone and jawline, over the bas relief of fear and shame. I pressed my palm against his skin and felt the pulse underneath. He exhaled, alive under my touch. Without thinking, I kissed the marked side of his face, then just below his neck, finally the source scar above his heart.
His hands lifted my face to and he pressed his open mouth to mine, stealing my breath. Any logic or distance I had was ripped away by my deep ache of longing for him.
I needed to stop. This needed to stop.
He gazed at me. Our hands fell away from each other.
A small idea began to burn at the back of my brain. This could not be Louis. If Enid was right, if the coroner and insurance companies and even Aunt Gerda were right, then Louis was gone. I was drawn to this man because of my own loneliness and disconnection. I had hidden myself and my scars, even during school, my whole life. The only people that I was still connected to were in the house. I was here to severe all connection and make things right, to fall into the abyss if need be.
But perhaps, I was not in the abyss alone.
He was already there this whole time. This man in the shadowed corner, with neither name nor home, had scars like me. His palest blue eyes were my mirror. And without pretense or doubt, I became a person of love. I was special.
“We need to go down to the house. My house.” I said quietly.
He backed away from me.
“Don’t be afraid. I won’t let anyone there hurt you.”
“The Maaaaannnnn!” He argued.
“The Man is done hurting anyone.”