It rained.

It always rained in the city, always a perpetual downpour, so much so that the city planners had to accommodate for it by building extra sewers and gutters to deal with the runoff, and yet, despite the extra precautions, the gutters were still full of the spent water. It was the kind of rain that one could hear on the roof, especially at night, rain that pounded and sloshed to a rhythmic beat, a beat that he was all to familiar with. But with this rain, this particular storm, came an awful cold, an unnatural and occult cold, a cold that soaked through his clothes and permeated his skin and sank into his bones, where he feared it wouldn't ever leave, that it would remain some extant part of him until the day he died.

He watched the drops come down on the sidewalk, like thick, fat tears shed by angels as they watched his tragedy unfold on the stage that was this world. Each one splashed down into a puddle, ripples spreading out around it, the ephemeral effects of a single drop. Sitting on the stoop outside of the apartment building, he was contemplating his plight and how he had gotten here, sitting on the curb outside of her residence. He bit his lip, knowing that it was his own fault, his own devices that had led him here. He was always the callow one, the feckless one, the one who thought he knew everything and anything about the world, when in reality he was simply a puppet, and she the puppeteer, the mastermind, the engineer, with the thin marionette strings of her subjects twisted around her fingers as she watched them and their foibles in her macabre court.

Truthfully, he felt like he didn't belong here, like an alien in a milieu to which he was not a part of, an interloper to a world he had long since abandoned. Now it existed only through her, and in the tattered memories that he kept. I wonder if she's changed, he thought. I wonder what's she's like now, now that…

He couldn't answer the question. Now that what?

Now that he was gone?

A terrible thought struck him, one that squeezed his heart within his ribs and took his breath away from him. What if she were to turn her back on him, to leave him here, to abandon him, when she was the last beacon he had in this dark, rainy world? Would she let him be simply another casualty in this gray plane of life? The thought was irrational, and he found himself a fool for ever surmising such a thing. She would never do that to him, he knew it; the proof were the years she had stayed by his side, fetching him out of progressively worse situations, never failing to ameliorate the chaos he managed to create.

And so, slowly, carefully, he climbed up the stairs, to apartment 4 A, and he knocked on the door, his knuckles barely rapping it, lacking any sort of aplomb he may have possessed previously. No one answered, at first, silence filling the hall and his head. He stood back from the door, crossing his arms in front of his chest, trying to rid himself of the terrible cold, and his mind returned itself to the thought of her spurning him. It wasn't her style, her attitude, however; she wasn't the type to do something on a whim, to leave him in the hallway on a vicissitude of her heart.

But it seemed that way. He was ready to give in, to give up, to turn out the lights and go home, completely beaten and defeated, the fatigue eating away at him, a lassitude that he had hoped could be resolved by her, when the door opened.

She stood there, completely unchanged since he had last seen her. He struggled to find something to say, but the words remained locked in his throat, kept under lock and key, for he was afraid he would say something foolish and that his efforts would have been in vain. She looked him over, studying the messy, wet hair plastered to his face, his waterlogged clothing, and his emaciated face with the pleading eyes. She looked at him with cold eyes, dead eyes, and yet they were eyes that had patience and a certain tired quality to them.

He took a shaky breath, still hardly able to believe that it was her. She was the epitome of slick, with shaggy ash hair and distressed green eyes, a thin nose and a long face, one that gave her the appearance of an aristocrat. He expected her to inveigh him, to chew him out for what he had done, but all he heard was silence, and he fixated his eyes on the small scar beneath her left eye, a scar that he remembered how she had gained, but that was something he preferred not to think about. He suddenly felt shallow in character, remembering all the times he had ingratiated himself as a futile attempt to win approval of his peers, while she had remained in the shadows, always watching, always noting, always understanding, with her innate ability to understand human nature. He understood now- he was the pawn, he had always been the pawn, the tool on the great black and white chessboard of this game they played, and she was the queen.

"I guess you'd better come in," she said.