So as the sun went down, he stood there on the balcony and had one last cigarette. It was time to go. The last boxes had been packed up and carried down to the car. The flat seemed suddenly so empty, as if it had been cleared out in minutes instead of a weekend. Empty of everything but memories. So many memories. Some were so heartbreakingly beautiful it made his breath catch on the smoke, and others were just… well, heartbreaking.
The flat had been home to so many of his thoughts, just as it had been the first real home of his very own as an adult. No parents, no wife, no fellow soldiers — his alone. He’d never considered Army barracks really home — just a place to sleep while doing other things. And when he’d been married, the home was really his wife’s, reflecting her personality. When he left, it wasn’t really a home he had left, it was her.
The apartment had been truly his. Chosen by him. It had seen his absolute joy and utter despair. All in less than two short years.
He drags on the Pall Mall and looks out over the wall to the neighbour’s garden, and remembers the first day he walked out onto the balcony with his girlfriend and marveled at the cool green wall of trees that divided the two properties and shaded the building. It had been a new beginning for him, a fresh chance of happiness. Every corner of the flat reminded him of her. He saw her touch on everything, her voice in every room. He remembered how happy they had been and smiled in spite of himself. But the flat was also touched by his betrayal now.
The trees were gone, ravaged by monsoon winds and cut down by frightened homeowners. Beyond the horizon of low roofs, a tall apartment complex was rising, glaring down at his balcony. His happiness had been ravaged too, season by season, by a wind more strong than the monsoons. A wind born somewhere in a history of betrayal, that he had refused to tame for too long. In the end it had consumed him. It had destroyed love and happiness and driven her away, broken and torn. His hand shook as he dragged on the smoke, fighting the need to call her and beg forgiveness. But he had done that so many times. It was his need, not hers. She didn’t need his regrets now, far too late. He stifled the urge, knowing it was just his selfishness once more.
He felt this was the closing of a chapter, one that had begun with joy and ended in tragedy. Perhaps the new chapter he was beginning would see him transformed into the man he should have been. A man he had kept locked up for years while That Bastard ran free, hurting everyone he’d ever touched. He wondered whether she’d ever know, or even care. He wished it didn’t matter to him, but he knew it did. It mattered so much to him that she know, that she care.
He stubbed out the cigarette. He knew his parents were waiting. Shelter. Comfort. Love. He needed it so badly, and they would give it to him unconditionally, just like all the women in his life had given him their love — love he’d bruised and broken with his rampage through life. He wished he’d returned that love, unlocked that door. But he hadn’t, and he feared now if it was too late, shook with a dread of never getting that chance again. He wondered whether a man got only so many chances, and no more. He hoped he was wrong.
Time to go. Time to change. Time.
He walked through the flat and down the stairs, not looking back.