Definitively she was at a loss for words. Nothing could quite describe the sudden cooling of her skin even though her cheeks burned crimson in a mixture of shock and embarrassment. She could not put to words the jumble of emotions that struck her heart and mind so fully as she witnessed the image of him sitting discretely across the street, inside a small café. He had never appeared to be, in her opinion, the café type to begin with. Not when she knew for a fact that the allures and excesses of all things that happened at night—the dark and elegant bars, the scent of wood and worn leather, events where alcohol was served abundantly and preferably free, where beautiful women were also plentiful. Where clad in his smoking and designer watch there was not an evening that would pass where he wouldn’t return to a seductive woman’s apartment or a lavish hotel room. She knew him very well, had always watched from afar.
But never this close.
She wondered if he still thought of her, in the solitude of his apartment, or even now, sitting there by himself, an empty seat taunting him from across the table that held only a cup of coffee and a small vase of yellow lilies. She had never before tried to approach him—not once throughout this decade that had mercilessly flown by them—not once because she’d been afraid to and not once because it had also been forbidden.
She regretted it—every moment apart from him. She regretted being a coward, too afraid to act on her feelings, allowing herself to fall submissively at the feet of her superiors every single time. Not any superior, God knew—the other woman, the one with the hoarse and stern tone of voice, snowy white hair and a willpower and strength astonishing for such a small figure. She was gone now—all of them in reality—and she now found herself in a predicament where there was no one else to blindly obey, in a place where she could do whatever she felt like and undergo all consequences. There was no more protection, not physical, not virtual. It was completely and utterly frightening—to be alone and independent, thrown back into the world all of a sudden, after so many summers and winters in hiding; imprisoned in her tiny East London flat.
She was nearly knocked over, as a pedestrian forcefully bumped into her. She cursed under her breath and held on to the glass window of small boutique to gather her balance—the bastard having continued along his way, not even minding to apologize or make sure she was all right. She glanced across the street again and this time, for real, her heart accelerated impossibly and she felt on the verge of fainting. How pathetic she was and felt, as his icy blue eyes, wide in shock and bewilderment, landed on her and in a split second he rose from his seat, threw money on the table and recklessly crossed the busy street—heading towards her—not caring the least bit if the drivers honked their car horns at him or shouted obscenities.
He stopped in front of her, blue eyes boring into hers. He was impossible to read.
They stood there for what felt like a lifetime, swerving from the passersby and uttering not a single word. His eyes simply travelled her body, not in a sexual way, but as if to search her for clues that this was not real—that she was no longer real. He was reacquainting himself with her and it was the single most heartbreaking thing she had ever witnessed. As her eyes met his, there were tears pooling in his eyes and he tried to keep his lips from trembling. He was trying and failing to put on his armor and rebuild those defenses.
“But how can this be?” He said, his voice breaking and so low that she had barely heard him. “How, Vesper?”
And then she saw the plain gold band on his left hand finger and his eyes followed hers.
“Had I known…” He trailed off, inhaling deeply, composing himself. “Had I known I would have never, not unless it was with you.”
Vesper shook her head, both in disbelief and to fight off the sobs that threatened to escape her. For the first time in ten years, his hands gently made contact with the soft and bare skin of her arms, both tender and firm—a silent request for her to stay.
She counted the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes and reveled on the fact that they were more numerous. Her fingers tentatively traced the lines and Vesper couldn’t help but reacquaint herself as well. The stubble of his beard, the softness of his short hair, growing at the back of his head.
“Oh James… I’m so sorry.” A tear escaped her big blue eyes as she closed her eyes and pulled her hands away from him. He did the same.
“How are you still alive, how is this even possible?” Vesper could no longer contain the tears and sobs that prevented her from being able to speak coherently. She simply shrugged and wrapped her arms around herself, repeatedly shaking her head.
“M and MI6, James. Up until last year I was in the witness protection program… I couldn’t have contacted you if I wanted to. Always watched, always monitored… always a coward.”
“Ten bloody years.” She nodded. “After all that you did—all of what they did to us—how can I still love you?” His tone was of defeat as he admitted the fact. “Even in death you haunted me, no woman could ever compare. Still can’t. But I’m with Madeleine now and slowly she’s helped me cure myself… Of all of the guilt I carry for the lives I took, for my past and you—help me get cured from the ghost and memories of you.”
“And here I am, ruining it all.” He noticed her bitter smile and tone. “I’m sorry.”
“And what happens now?”
“We move on with our lives—I’ll try to find a job, perhaps take a few classes here and there and you, James Bond, you be happy with that beautiful wife of yours—because I know she is. I’ll turn around in a second or two, with a heavy heart and once again I’ll be dead to you.”
“Why does everything have to be so sad?”
“Would our story be this interesting if it were not… tragic, brutal and sad? I don’t think so.”
“Interesting to whom?”
“The universe, God, the stars above—evils we cannot control. I honestly don’t know… But I’m turning around now, James, for good—and don’t you dare try and stop me.” James Bond refrained from saying another word and dug his hands in his pant pockets. She disappeared into the crowd and once again from his life.
Only she was not dead and he would not let her disappear from his life any longer. Yes, he did love Madeleine and was grateful to her—but she was not that woman who had just been before him—the only woman he had even in death loved more than anything in the world. His skin burned and tingled where she had touched him, his fingers ached to feel her skin once again beneath their tips. His ears longed for her husky, melancholy and utterly enticing voice. And his still beating heart pathetically begged for her to once more give him life.
He vowed to find her again, to be with her once more and in the way that it should have always been. He was no longer a young man—time to waste and adrenaline his fuel—no, he was tired, exhausted of living this life of solitude and grayness, because honestly, this couldn’t be what their lives were destined to be. James Bond refused to accept the fact that he would have to end his days without the presence of her, Vesper Lynd, in his life. And suddenly, without having at least expected it, he found that his fuel was her.