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     Lix stood in the middle of Randall’s new London apartment, surveying his beautiful living room. He had asked her to come over, not wanting to be alone when he got home, needing her company. The furniture was an eclectic mix of modern pieces and things that had once belonged to his parents. Of course scattered here and there were the evidence of his love for all things exotic, tribal pieces from Africa or Asia, a beautiful Oriental rug under a gleaming coffee table. And of course the place was spotless, as she knew it would be. Everything neat and orderly, the books in the bookcase in alphabetical order according to author, the room possessing an almost eerie symmetry, reflecting the personality of the man who lived there. She could hear him making tea in the kitchen. Randall. So much like the man she’d known all those years ago and yet so different. He still held that vibrating wire inside him that at any moment could snap, but she’d seen over the past few months that he’d learned to control it. And he was no longer drinking. They’d had a long couple days, starting with the revelation that their lovechild had been killed in France where Lix had left her, hoping she would be safe. She knew he still felt the grief deeply, and that part of him always would. The same was true for her.

   The day she’d given Sophia to the Mafrands kept replaying in her mind. Sophia going with them happily at first, being an easygoing baby. Then somehow it was almost as if she’d figured out what was going on. Lix had barely gotten around the corner before she heard Sophia start to cry, screaming out wordlessly for her mother. At first Lix had been frozen where she stood, every cell in her body willing her to turn around, to run after them and take back her baby girl. The child she’d carried in her body and labored for more than a day to give birth to. The child she’d conceived with the man she’d come to realize many years later was the love of her life. Even as a baby Lix had been able to recognize pieces of Randall in Sophia, she certainly had his eyes and was sprouting wavy golden-brown hair the same shade as his in his youth. But Lix hadn’t turned around. She stood in that spot on a street in France, tears streaming down her face, listening until her child’s cries died away and finally could no longer be heard.


   The sound of Randall calling her name brought Lix back from her memories. As she snapped out of her reverie she realized she’d been crying. Randall held two steaming mugs of tea by the handle as he walked cautiously into the living room, not commenting on the tears staining her face. Lix sat down on his leather couch and stubbed out her cigarette. He sat down beside her, setting the tea down carefully on the coffee table. She wiped her face with her hand, observed the mascara coming away with the tears. Randall sat with his hands in his lap, kneading them together. Lix looked over at him, seeing how very tired he was. She knew he blamed himself for Sophia, and even more so for what had happened to Freddie. He’d been in hospital for three days now, clinging to life. Cilenti had beaten him nearly to death. They’d all been at the hospital as much as they could. Bel had barely left his side, only leaving when Lix ordered her to go home and get some sleep. They still worked on the week’s show, feeling Freddie would want them to keep going, to never stop. With a heavy sigh Randall removed his glasses, placed them carefully on the table, fiddled with them until they were just right. Leaning back he rubbed a hand across his face, then rubbed his eyes, trying to fight off the waves of exhaustion sweeping over him. He had taken off his suit jacket and tie when he’d come in, had shrugged his braces off but not removed them. His shoes had come off first, not wanting to get his plush new carpet dirty. He had requested, somewhat sheepishly, that Lix do the same. She’d been two steps ahead of him, wanting to get out of her shoes as quickly as possible and giver her poor feet a break.


    As they sat together Lix sipped her tea. She smiled to herself at the taste. Randall had remembered how she liked it, just a bit of milk and a generous helping of sugar. Randall’s tea sat untouched. Lix placed her mug back on the table, scooted a bit closer to him, crossed her legs facing toward Randall. He looked over at her, eyes red and puffy. He’d been getting no sleep the past week. Lix reached up and brushed a stray piece of his hair back into place, let her hand rest on his shoulder. This close to him she could smell the pomade he used for his hair, a not unpleasant scent, so very much him. He reached his hand over and placed it on her knee. Lix looked up, caught his gaze. Something in her chest tightened, her face beginning to burn. Randall’s blue eyes held a heat she recognized instantly, an unspoken invitation. She didn’t wait for him to ask. She shifted, lifted herself up, settled facing him on his lap. His hands found their way to her waist, holding her steady, anchoring her to him. She shrugged out of her coat, the room becoming increasingly hot. He waited for her to make the first move, as he always did. She leaned down, kissed him lightly, pulled back, looking at him to make sure it was alright to go further. His face was full of pleading and told her all she needed to know. He needed her right now, needed her to be with him, to give him some small island of peace in the sea of troubles in which they’d found themselves this past week. She kissed him again, deeply, holding herself steady by bracing her hands on the back of the couch. Suddenly she felt him wrap his arms around her waist and lift her up, gathering her in his arms. She’d forgotten how strong he was, his thin frame belying a surprising physical strength. He carried her down the hall to his immaculate, well appointed bedroom, closed the door behind them.
*
   When they woke the next morning the sunlight was shining through his window and setting alight the coppery highlights in her hair. Randall woke first, always had. He’d gotten out of bed, put his trousers on, and now sat in the chair and watched her as she slept. He smoked his first cigarette of the day. She was still stunningly beautiful, body different now than it had been when they were first together, more sensuous, softer. He was all too aware of how his body had changed. In his youth he’d been quite athletic but years of alcohol abuse, chain smoking and poor diet had made him the thin, gaunt man he was today. Still, Lix had told him in no uncertain terms that she still found him to be utterly handsome, and had proved it to him last night. As he watched her she stirred, then finally leaned up in bed, looked at him with that beautiful half-asleep look he’d always adored. She pushed out of the covers and got out of bed, still completely nude and not caring in the slightest. Randall let himself watch her as she walked into the bathroom, closed the door. When she was finished she came back out, his dressing gown wrapped around her.
   “Do you have one of those for me?” she asked, flicking her gaze to the cigarette in his hand.
   “Of course,” he said, reaching out for the silver cigarette case and handing it to her along with his lighter. She took out a cigarette, closed the case, tapped it three times then placed it in her mouth. She brought the lighter up to her face, lit it and breathed the cigarette into life. She gave Randall back his things and walked closer to him. Feeling a bit brazen she sat down softly on his lap. He did nothing to stop her, wanted her to be as close to him as possible. She draped her arm across his shoulder, leaned in and gave him a smoky kiss. When they came up for air she settled her head against his shoulder, snuggled in against him as much as the chair would allow, let him hold her.
   “Thank you Lix,” he said softly, reaching up and stroking his hand languidly up and down her back.
   “For what darling?”
   “For this. For being with me last night. You have no idea how badly I need this, needed you.”
   “Oh Randall. I needed you too.” She leaned back up, looked him in the eye. “Randall…do you think. I know we can’t undo the past and it will stay with us forever. But do you think we could make a future together? Could we be what we once were? We loved each other once, as much as a man and woman can love each other. Could we have that again?” Randall was quiet, Lix could see the wheels turning in his head at her admission. Her heart sank as each silent second ticked by. Finally he spoke, a sly smile spreading across his face.
   “Well Miss Storm. We’ll never know if we don’t try.”