The night was cold, chilly, dark.

She sat across from him, her elbows resting on the table, watching him devour his sandwich. They were silent, as they usually were most of the time. Because what else could they possibly talk about?

Her hand kept on playing lightly on the table top, as she resisted the temptation to reach out and grab his cold coffee. The drink looked too good to resist, but she was still recovering from a bad flu and did not want to risk it. The conflict at heart, however, was much greater.

She pulled down her sleeve to hide the scars on her hand, and as an added precaution, put her hands under the table. The scars were faint and couldn’t be noticed unless someone paid really close attention, but she was still worried that he might spot them. And she didn’t want that to happen, because that’d get him angry at her, and she hated it when he was angry. She didn’t exactly hate it, but his temper scared her, especially at a time when she knew she would be unable to deal with it.

That troubled her. She had never had a problem handling him before, stark raving mad temper and everything included. But then, she had never felt herself grow so weak before either. She didn’t want to tell him about the smoking, the cutting, and the many things in between. She couldn’t bring herself to do that because she knew he would blame himself and she could not – would not – let him put the blame where it did not lay. Yes, it often grew hard for her that she was trying to reach out to someone who couldn’t really see through her, but then wasn’t she at fault for keeping everything a secret?

She watched as he ate, texted, and paid attention to the television behind her seat. She wondered. Wondered what he would say if he knew. She was breaking here, and for someone who claimed he could read her like an open book, he was failing quite miserably when she wanted him to not do that. A little voice in her head told her to let down her guard and have a little more faith; to speak up. And then there was the other voice, the one that told her to not risk being shunned again. How ironic that this voice sounded a lot like his.

She looked down at her lap, biting her lip and playing with her fingers. She dug her nails in her palms to prevent herself from crying. Her insatiable need to have a friendly touch on her hand and a warm hug wrapping her in it were growing too much for her own comfort. In that moment of desperate helplessness, she felt like a little child who just needed to be held close and told that her state of mind was just a horrible nightmare and that everything would be perfectly fine soon. She needed someone to do that, and she was willing to believe anyone.

But would someone come through? When loved ones failed, what good would strangers be.

“So, what’s up?” His voice felt distant and seemed to linger in the cold winter chill. They didn’t speak much now, so it made sense that she cringed at the sound of his voice. The simple question made her want to cry and let out so much, but she kept her emotions in check because she did not want to be let down, and more importantly, she did not want him to worry.

She looked up, a fake smile plastered on her face. He did not see through the fake smile or the empty eyes. She had succeeded yet again in fooling him and making him believe that nothing was wrong with her. Oddly enough, she felt a sense of elation at that. She was getting good at this.

“Not much, you tell,” she replied, in a voice whose hollowness could not be heard by her listeners.

This was exactly how their conversations started everyday and moved in circled from thereon. Neither had much to say, so they clung to silence and occasional smiles as their antidote to being unable to talk.

They got up and walked out into the December chill. The night was windless yet there was a slight chill pervading. She wrapped her shawl more firmly around her and took his hand. The touch felt cold, so she dropped it. Just another Friday night that was. Monotony was the norm, pretense was her mantra.

She held her purse even closer. The cigarettes and blades it concealed would be needed soon.