The cell was intensely dark; no light but a dim beam coming from a distant window in one of the corners, carrying a little of the moonlight. It was deadly quiet; the prisoner could hear no sounds but his heavy breathing, weary gasps that were let out every now and then. It was frostily cold; he could feel his skin shivering, bare-chested he was in the middle of it all. He could feel his teeth starting to grind together, ignoring his desperate tries to stop them.
The prisoner looked around with weary eyes, but what could he see in the midst of this extreme darkness? But what did he need to see anyhow? He needed to see none, and he wanted to see none. He already had his very own visions, replayed in front of his eyes one time after the other desperately, as his memories haunted him, and his fears and doubts almost drove him to madness.
Suddenly, there was a change. The darkness was interrupted by a faint light that went on for just a few moments, before it was gone, and everything was back again as they were. The prisoner waited for any change in anything, forcing his tired eyes even more open to try to find out if there were any visitors, but he could see nothing and for a moment, he thought that the light was just another vision, an illusion cast by his qualms.
However, his thoughts began changing once he heard faint sounds of footsteps. The steps were slow, delicate and equally weary-those of a woman’s. The prisoner kept his head up curiously, wondering who could that visitor be, or was that just an illusion, too?
“Richie,” that faint, loving sound came to his ears like a dream that for a moment, he was ready to believe that he was dreaming. But then her figure was revealed out of the darkness as she approached him, carrying a dimly lit candle in her hands whose light was faint just enough for them to see each other’s faces.
She was a woman not more than twenty, such a beauty, but her beauty was sadly spoiled by the bruises that filled her face and arms, left her nothing but a tired, desperate but ever so loving look in her eyes and a ragged, torn dress that was once so elegant and pretty.
She kneeled to be of his height as he continued to stare at her with disbelief, and her hands slowly moved to gently caress his cheeks as she gazed at him with such compassion and love. Her gaze slowly turned to one full of sadness and sorrow as she noticed what had become of her Richie; bruises filling his bare chest, pain striking through his arms that were chained to the wall upwards, and the drained stare in his eyes.
“Oh Richie, what have they done to you...I am so sorry, god, I am sorry. It’s all because of me. I am so sorry.”
As he heard her voice over and over again, and her image was clearer before his eyes, the prisoner began to realize that this wasn’t a dream or a mirage. It was true. His beloved was right in front of him.
His face finally showing a small smile in such a long time, he softly replied, “Anya, is that really you? Is it you? Is it you, my love?”
His hopeful questions forced a smile upon Anya’s face, and as she continued to caress his cheeks, she looked so lovingly at him and replied, “It is me. They let me see you. They let me see you at last.”
His eyes were full of happiness as he was sure that his love was really with him and it seemed as though all the weariness and pain were going away as they were replaced by a sudden burst of hope. Had his arms not been chained, he would have wrapped his arms around her, hugged her, and twirled her around in glee. Oh, how he wished he could do that right then!
For a moment, the couple just gazed into each other’s eyes longingly, wanting to get in as much as they could of each other, for who knew how much time they had to share together? Their lips touched and they kissed passionately; once, twice, thrice till they couldn’t take it anymore. The tears soon trickled down their cheeks, hers in despair, his in happiness.
“What happened, Anya? How did they let you in here? I-I almost thought I was never going to see you again. I missed you so much. How horribly I missed you, Anya.”
Anya continued to caress his cheeks ever so passionately, gazing into his eyes all the while, as though it were her last time to see them. Smiling faintly to him, she replied softly,
“I missed you, too. I missed you so much. God, I missed you. But how terribly have they treated you, all because of me. I am so sorry, Richie. I am so sorry, so sorry, sorry...”
She hung her head down in despair and regret, perhaps to avoid looking at the bruises that filled her lover’s body, or to avoid a possible look of reproach. The prisoner couldn’t move his arms to comfort her, but he was close enough to touch her cheek with his, smile at her softly and reply tenderly,
“Anya, I’d do anything for you. Anything, if it meant sacrificing myself for you. I love you, Anya. I love you.”
His words were sincere, and he smiled at her with such a warm, loving smile and a tender, affectionate gaze in his eyes that made her heart warm up, and forced a smile on her face as well. But likewise, it forced the sadness in her heart to grow, and the tears in her eyes to flow.
“Richie,” she moved even closer to him and approached him more, their noses almost touching, their breathes blowing against each other as they stared into each other’s souls, “I want you to promise me. I want you to promise me that you’ll be happy. That you’ll smile always, live on, and be happy.”
There was a look of bewilderment on the prisoner’s face. What could be Anya talking about? What made her think that there was actually hope for happiness, when he was locked up right there, hanged right there, hurt like that, and imprisoned like that?
Before he could ask, Anya continued, her voice beginning to stagger, her tears trickling down slowly, “Richie...I want you to promise me. Promise me. You’ll be happy, and you’ll find love again, and you’ll even form a family, get lots of kids...”
Her voice trailed off, her tears simple trickled down more, and she sobbed. The prisoner looked at her with surprise and alarm. What was Anya talking about?
He had to ask her, but before he could say anything, she had calmed down, managed to get back her smile again, though her tears had not gone anywhere,
“They-They...They are going, they are going to execute me in the morning, Richie.”
A look of shock was all over his face then; look of horror, a look of terror, of the worst nightmares and fears coming true.
“They are going to execute me in the morning,” she repeated, her voice becoming more stable but not any less sadder, “It is settled. The only solution, the only way this can be settled once and for all. They are going to let you go. You’re going to be free.”
She smiled at the last sentence, a part of her heart happy with it, and that part comforting the rest of her heart through the pain she endured.
However, the prisoner had snapped out of his shock, and had come to realize what was really about to happen. Shaking his head frantically, fighting hard the tears that were threatening to spill, he replied,
“No way! You can’t let them do that to you. You can’t! You can’t sell away all what we fought for, everything we sacrificed, everything we dreamed of together, everything we wished for and planned to do together...You can’t do that, Anya. You can’t, you can’t...”
The tears finally spilled down. It was too late for that. Deep down in his heart, he knew that it was. He knew that it was over. But how was Anya expecting him to move on, and be happy?
She continued to caress his cheeks softly, wanting to comfort him and get as much of his touch as possible. Softly, she kissed him on the lips once more then gazing into his eyes, she replied,
“I asked them to let me spend my last hours with you, and they agreed. Now, Richie...Promise me. Promise me that you will be happy. Once they let you go, you’ll go on, be happy, remembering our love and good memories, but finding love again to build that family we so long dreamed of, and make our dreams come true.”
He shook his head slowly, “But you wouldn’t be there to see them. You wouldn’t be there...”
She smiled and replied, “Yes, I would. Because I am a part of you, right? Because part of me lives in your heart, right? Because you’d carry my memory, and our love. You’d be making my lifelong dream come true.”
The prisoner gazed into her eyes, unable to say anything, choked up with emotion as his tears continued to trickle. She gazed back into his, fighting hard to keep her smile for his sake. But how could she? How could she when she saw the tears all over his face, when she never saw him cry before? How could she, when he looked so weak, when he was always the one strong for her? How could she, when she knew that her death was a few hours away, her farewell for her lover, their dreams and everything they built together?
Her smile slowly sinking to her tears and sobs, she continued, succumbing to her sorrow, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die so young and leave all our dreams and wishes behind. I don’t want to die without marrying you, and getting to be happy with you forever.”
His own tears increased, her sobs slowly rose, and soon, her arms were thrown around his neck as she continued,
“I don’t want to die without building that family with you! I don’t want to die without having those kids running around us; filling our life with happiness...I don’t want to die without having that adventure with you. I love you, Richie, I love you...”
He couldn’t hug her, he couldn’t wrap his arms around her once more last time, so he cried his heart out and as he did, he kissed her. He kissed whatever touched his lips of her. For the next few hours, they’d kiss, hug, and share an embrace. For just a few hours.
The darkness of the room was once more lit by the same light from before, and harsher, harder footsteps were heard. The footsteps of them; the guards who’d come to take Anya away.
A couple of strongly built, heavy soldiers entered to find the couple in a quiet, fearful embrace. Their eyes didn’t even care to look at the men who just entered; they only looked at each other. Their eyes only saw each other. But deep down, they both knew it. They knew it was farewell.
“Come on, time to go,” a soldier’s hands moved slowly to Anya’s arms which were clasped tightly but gently around the prisoner’s neck, her eyes never leaving his gaze for a second. As she grew more aware of it, she turned to the soldier and asked pleadingly, “A moment. Just one. ”
She looked so miserable and desperate that the soldier nodded to her without showing any signs of sympathy, but god knew if he really had any. Anya turned to the prisoner once more, whose eyes were filled with tears. Cupping his chin with her hands, she leaned in to kiss him once then said,
“It’s time for me to go. I’ll be always in your heart, right, Richie? You’ll always remember me, right? But you’ll also be happy, and keep that smile of yours always, ok?”
God knew how much the prisoner wanted to cry his heart out, to ask the soldiers to take him with her, to kill him with her. But for her sake, for the sake of Anya, he had to be strong. He did his best to look strong, albeit the tears that went out and he couldn’t control them.
Seeing him quiet, Anya smiled, and continued on quietly, “Now…I want you to do me one little thing. I’ll go out with them, but I will keep my eyes on you, and I want you to keep that smile of yours. I want your smile to be the last thing I’ll see of you. Please, Richie.”
He nodded, and fought so, so hard, so many battles, to force a smile on his face. She smiled back. Then their lips touched into a long, passionate, loving kiss that was never before. She wrapped her arms around him; he kissed her from the bottom of his heart. A last, farewell kiss.
But a farewell is a farewell, and the kiss was broken. Their eyes gazed only into each other as Anya’s arms were taken from around his neck, and Richie had to keep his smile on for her sake, no matter how hard it was.
She was dragged away, not fighting, not resisting, her eyes only watching that smile as it grew fader and fader, further and further, more and more blurry, and then her eyes closed.Sleep well, Anya,
was the last thing she ever heard.