"I just need a day to myself," was the simple excuse that Matthew had given Hector earlier that week. He didn't know whether or not the Marquess' brother remembered the date or not, but he had gotten the day to himself without resistance.
Now that he had it, Matthew was restless. He remembered saying that she wouldn't have wanted him to give up because of her, but it was over now. It was a year exactly since the day he had lost her on the Dread Isle.
Sometimes he didn't know what was worse; the memory of her body, propped in the trees, like some sacrificial warning, waiting to turn back those who had dared stray too far in the woods. Or the dream of what could have been that haunted him from time to time.
In that dream he had taken her to meet his parents; a simple dinner, by a fire in their small house. They would talk about normal things; the weather, how he had grown up so fast, how his nephew was starting to remind his parents of him when he had been four years old. When to meet Leila's parents, what sort of food did they like, would they come to dinner soon? How nice a spring wedding would be, who would be invited. They would never talk about the type of work that had brought Matthew and Leila together; "it was heartbreaking, really. You two should settle down somewhere quiet."
The dream would sometimes go further; sometimes he would dream their wedding, or their first child or
It didn't matter; he always awoke knowing it was a dream, and wanting to cry out at the unfairness of it all.
He tried to clear his mind and looked around the room. Matthew ran a hand through his blond hair and decided he couldn't stay inside any longer and left. He wandered aimlessly through the streets of Ostia. It was a clear afternoon, and the noise of people going about their daily business seemed contenting and perfectly normal. It was hard not to notice the contrast between the eerily silent fog-filled day a year ago and the sunny, cheerful atmosphere around him now.
Matthew didn't know where he was headed and somehow he didn't care; he just had to keep moving. Through the busy main streets, down side alleys, circumventing dead ends
Soon he found himself outside the city walls.
He stopped on one of the nearby hills that dotted the landscape; further north-east, mountains could be seen, tall and dark against the clear afternoon sky. To the west was a river that wound its way gradually south east until it connected with the mountain range to the south.
Matthew took in everything, and remembered another time in the same place.
Then it had been sunset, the first time out with Leila. The first time they were both back in the city and had a few moments to themselves, to get to know each other and forget about the dangerous work they did for a moment. The sky had been tinged with orange and pinks and the coming night had coloured the few clouds with purples and reds.
"Now that's a view!" He had fallen to the ground, and laid back against a tree, enjoying the simple beauty of the moment. The sunset, he had noticed, was similar to Leila; she wore purples and golden yellows, and her red hair completed the picture perfectly.
"I'm always amazed that you still notice these things Matthew," she had smiled and sat down more slowly, careful in her movements; caution was her second nature. He had adjusted his posture slightly to keep both the sky and Leila in his view.
"How can you not notice these things?" he had replied simply. "It's moments like this when everything seems right that keeps me going; I have to remember these things, or else being a spy isn't worth it. There has to be something worth keeping safe."
"I never thought of it so simply before," she had murmured, looking away contemplatively. The breeze stirred their hair and a few moments of peaceful silence had passed before she had looked back at him. "Promise me something?"
"For a smile like that, anything," he had said with a grin.
"Never stop seeing the beauty in simple things like this."
Matthew smiled to himself as he shook off the memory. The most simple and beautiful moments that he had fought for may belong to his past, but they could help him move into his own future. She deserved to be remembered like this; a fleeting sunset, a perfect moment, something worth fighting for. He had done what she would have wanted; he hadn't given up, even when he lost her. He hadn't let anyone down, and he knew that she would have been proud.