She was not there when Paul woke up. He was used to that now, even though he didn’t like it. He was never sure where Katie had gone or how long she would be. He got out of bed and opened the curtains, looking out on another bright early summer day. It was supposed to be a holiday, some time spent together. Some time away from everything else, but now he was alone… again.
He knew she had little enough control over it. He’d seen her trying to resist the pull as she called it. Shivering and sweating like some drug addict in need as her outline faded and reappeared like someone was trying and failing to tune her back into his world.
Then he’d sighed, feeling the prick of tears in his eyes and he’d let her go.
‘I love you,’ Katie had mouthed as she disappeared from his world to appear in some other place, some other world, some other faraway dimension.
Even as a lonely, friendless child Paul had never felt so alone as he did those times Katie faded away, disappeared from his life and this world.
Of course, he’d asked her where she went when she disappeared in front of him, was she here but just invisible?
‘Sometimes,’ she said. ‘Sometimes it is other worlds, other universes.’
‘I’ve been in worlds where you–’ She’d shook her head and looked away.
‘Worlds where you walk past me as if I don’t exist, and we never met.’
Now, turning back from the curtains that he’d opened on a world without Katie, he wondered about that other him in a world so far out of his reach and way beyond his understanding. How could he ever walk past Katie and not notice her?
After all, that was how they met, him turning in a park as she jogged past, to catch her as she stumbled over the potholed footpath. It had been like one of those meetings in novels or films. They had gone out a few days in a row and then Katie had gone. Disappeared from his life, only to turn up a week later unwilling to tell him where she’d been or what she’d done, leaving without a word or explanation and seemingly reluctant to tell him. He’d walked out on her then, fearing some secret life of drugs, or some other problematic existence that could only drag him down with her.
But within a week he was back with her, unable to live without her. Then – eventually – over time, she’d told him. He’d thought her crazy, at least until the first time she faded away in front of him and disappeared for the rest of the day.
‘One day,’ she said. ‘I will work out how to take you with me, and we will never be apart again.’
Paul had looked across the room at Katie. ‘Could you do that?’
‘I don’t know. I think so.’
Katie shrugged and sipped her wine, watching the flames in the fire. That was back in the winter, and now it was almost summer.
He turned back to face the empty bed.
The air above the bed shivered and shimmered, and she was there. Back again.
Katie smiled at him reaching out her hand to him. ‘Come on, quickly, take my hand. This time, you can come.’
Paul hesitated for a moment. Then he saw the look on her face, the need for him in her eyes. He put his hand in hers, felt the world turn, shift, twist, and pull, and then the room was empty.