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A Short Story
By Roehl Sybing
Tina's weapon fell to the ground. She could see there was still some fight left in Gregory's eyes, but all of her anger in that one instant suddenly left her body.
"I can't do this," she said.
She looked at her adversary from across the abandoned warehouse. He was still ready to kill her. It wasn't always this way. In a previous life, they were actually close friends, and quickly became lovers for a short while. But when they found out they had belonged to rival factions, their mutual wrath towards each other was inevitable. First, a simple misunderstanding, then an angry outburst, then an outright deception. One thing had led to another, and what had started as their small contributions to a long-standing war had turned into personal vendettas rivaling the ferocity of the larger conflict itself.
Tina had gotten the upper hand on Gregory that night, tracking him to this warehouse where an arms deal was to take place. Her clan's presence in the area scared away the black marketeers at the last minute, which was then too late for Gregory to escape. She had cornered him right where she wanted him.
It was at that moment when she, an assassin of significant repute, faltered.
"Come on, let's finish this!" he cried. His weapon aimed right at her, he was all but ready to pull the trigger.
She opened her arms and dropped to her knees. "Kill me," Tina said.
Gregory looked at her. "What?"
"Just do it!" she shouted.
He tightened his grip on his weapon, pointing it at Tina again. "Pick up your piece and fight me!" he said. His words echoed against the walls of the warehouse, but Tina would not comply.
A weak whimper was her response. "I can't."
Gregory exhaled anger, trying not to express confusion. He asked her, "Why?"
"Because I can't live without you."
He heard every word. It matched perfectly the expression on her face. He believed it to be a lie. He charged his weapon, ready for the kill.
"I had you in my sights twice. I could have ended it, but I just lacked the will. Now I know why."
"Shut up," said Gregory, "Just shut up. You should've done it when you had the chance. To think I let you ever get this close to me!"
"I understand how you feel, Gregory, and that's why I won't go through with it," Tina said softly, "My life is over. It's over if I can't have you in it. So you better just kill me."
Gregory clenched his teeth, pressing the barrel of his gun against her forehead. A tear ran down Tina's cheek as she closed her eyes.
"Please," she said, sounding out every consonant of her cry.
Tina's head tilted back as Gregory pushed the gun into her forehead. With eyes closed, she could hear nothing - not the wind blowing through the warehouse, not her own beating heart, nothing - except Gregory's exhausted breaths and he prepared to shoot.
She felt the gun pull away. She could hear its safety engage, then its metal casing as it hit the ground. Every muscle in her body, in that instant, relaxed.
Tina opened her eyes. As she because used to the light again, she could see Gregory's back turned towards her. Gone was any previous impulse to draw blood.
"Gregory..." she whispered. Deep down, she had hoped that he didn't spare her life. She had genuinely believed in his loyalty to his clan overpowering her loyalty to hers. She had hoped it to be over by now.
Gregory turned back towards her, and shook his head. "I wish I was never at the riverbank that day."
Memories flooded back. Coincidentally, for different reasons, each had left their factional markings off their clothing the day they met. On that day, life became much simpler, and happier. Tina desperately tried to feel that same feeling again, as Gregory paced the floor.
"What do we do now?"
"I don't know...I don't know..." Tina kept repeating.
He remained silent, pressing his hands against the temples of his head. "This is crazy, we can't do this," he finally said.
Tina hesitated to speak, but managed to get it out, "Yes, we can."
"Don't you get it?" he cried out loud, "I love you, Tina, but I...can't...trust...you! I just can't risk your betrayal!"
She rose to her feet. She stepped towards him, only to see him back away. "Don't you think I'm scared too? Don't you think I'm afraid of trusting you too?"
Gregory stopped his retreat, but only after beckoning Tina to stop her advances. "Maybe we just don't belong together," he tried to convince her.
"It's not true," she replied, "Maybe if we just...try. Try to trust each other again."
Tina smiled weakly at him, and his face softened. Just moments ago, he truly was intent on killing her. Perhaps he was foolish for letting his guard down, as he was now fighting with himself to come to his senses. But he no longer saw a huntress determined towards destruction, but the woman he had once loved, even for a short time.
Still, Gregory could not bring himself to touch her again. Not without a plan.
"We have to get out of the city first," he said, "They'll surely be looking for us by daybreak."
Tina nodded. "I can do that."
"We would have to leave everything behind. They know about us, so if we do this, there's no going back. Do you understand that?"
"There's nothing to go back to," Tina said, "You're all I have now."
Gregory's distrust of his clan's enemy ebbed, little by little, but it was still there. It mixed with the desire he had shown on his face, just as it had shown on Tina's. But both of them knew there were not enough words to bridge the insecurities they held about each other. Only action was convincing enough.
He leaned towards her. Slowly at first, but his intent was apparent. Overjoyed, she stepped forward herself. They met in the middle, embracing each other for the first time in a long time.
The lovers kissed, sharing a passionate connection that didn't break until Gregory was ready to speak again.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you, too," she replied.
They kissed again, hoping to confirm to each other their enduring commitment together.
Then the knife came out.
In all honesty, Tina didn't know how it happened. She had no intent to do it, no motivation to destroy the one and only thing she said she had. But a sensation processed in her brain flipped a switch, and everything in her training told her to draw the knife from her belt and plunge it into her lover's chest.
"No!" Tina cried, backing away.
Gregory looked down in complete shock. He felt the pain, for sure, but the realization of her betrayal stung even more.
Tina ran to him, catching him as he began to fall.
"Ohnoohnoohno," she repeated at a frantic pace.
Helping Gregory to the ground, Tina examined the wound, ripping off some of her garments to cover the gaping hole that was now gushing red. It was to no avail. She almost couldn't bear to look at Gregory's face, knowing for sure that he must be expending whatever energy he had left towards expressing outrage.
Instead, his face was one of gentle disbelief, of disappointment. "Why?" he said, "I trusted you!"
"I don't know," she said through her anguish, "I don't know. I'm so sorry, I don't know."
"I thought you loved me, you said so!"
"I do, I do love you!"
"I don't know!" she cried, "It's just who I am. It's in my nature. It's just what I was supposed to do. I couldn't control myself! Please believe me, I didn't mean for it to happen!"
Gregory's eyes rolled back into his head, as he began to die. He was caught between loving Tina and wanting to exact his revenge on her, only to lack the energy to do either. His last glimpse before death was of Tina, teary-eyed and distraught, crying for him not to leave her.
All tension in his body released at that moment, and Gregory died in Tina's arms. She cried out once more in pain. Inside the abandoned warehouse, she was all alone, coming to the realization that all the hatred, all the distrust, all the misunderstanding between their two factions had the power, on a single impulse, to break the trust of two lovers.