And I suck in a breath. No. Not good riddance. I raise my face to the streaming water. It’s not good riddance at all—I am going to miss her. I lean my forehead against the tiles. Just last night she was in here with me. I stare at my hands, my fingers caressing the line of grout in the tiles where only yesterday her hands were braced against the wall. Fuck this. Switching off the water, I step out of the shower cubicle. As I wrap a towel around my waist, it sinks in: each day will be darker and emptier, because she’s no longer in it. No more facetious, witty e-mails. No more of her smart mouth. No more curiosity. Her bright blue eyes will no longer regard me in thinly veiled amusement…or shock…or lust. I stare at the brooding morose jerk staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. “What the hell have you done, asshole?” I sneer at him. He mouths the words back at me with vitriolic contempt. And the bastard blinks at me, big gray eyes raw with misery. “She’s better off without you. You can’t be what she wants. You can’t give her what she needs. She wants hearts and flowers. She deserves better than you, you fucked-up prick.” Repulsed by the image glowering back at me, I turn away from the mirror. To hell with shaving for today. I dry off at my chest of drawers and grab some underwear and a clean T-shirt. As I turn I notice a small box on my pillow. The rug is pulled from under me again, revealing once more the abyss beneath, its jaws open, waiting for me, and my anger turns to fear. It’s something from her. What would she give me? I drop my clothes and, taking a deep breath, sit on the bed and pick up the box. It’s a glider. A model-making kit for a Blaník L23. A scribbled note falls from the top of the box and wafts onto the bed. This reminded me of a happy time. Thank you. Ana It’s the perfect present from the perfect girl. Pain lances through me. Why is this so painful? Why? Some long-lost, ugly memory stirs, trying to sink its teeth into the here and now. No. That is not a place I want my mind to return to. I get up, tossing the box onto the bed, and dress hurriedly. When I’m finished I grab the box and the note and head for my study. I will handle this better from my seat of power.