From across the hall, a familiar song met his ears. A melodic, beautiful piece indeed, though he hadn’t heard it in many, many years; it sounded so... different now. Warmth bloomed inside his chest for a blissful moment, like an embrace from his joyful past. But without the heat of the fire, without their hands intertwined as they waltzed to its beat, the piece became distorted, a mockery of his past memories. The piano’s notes were slower, played weaker than he remembered. It was torturous to sit through, and he felt his stomach churn at every new chord; his eyes threatened to cry, stinging at the edges not just from the stuffy heat of the tall, wide room. Couples walked hand in hand towards the centre of the ballroom, and began their march of light footing. They weaved in and out through each other like squirming bugs going about desperate business, a sea of bodies. A sudden urge ticked at his senses, feeling a compassion to do the same, but as his hand fumbled for the form beside him, he was met with only the cold, wooden chair against his open palm.
He's not there.
It was foolish, really, and he knew it himself; but part of his heart ached to lose himself in the mindless dance once again, with him. He had been gone for two years, but not a night had passed since when he didn't remember what he'd failed to stop, the man he couldn't save. The ring on his finger was a burden he did not have to carry, for death had already parted them, but he did not have the strength to put their oath, to put him in the past. He couldn't help but believe that every moment they had shared was nothing but a memory that would be lost in time, for without him by his side, he meant nothing. His parents, his daughter, his own family forgot about him soon. The young girl moved on and grew up, became a struggling teenager who refused her father's help in any circumstances, and tried her very hardest to forget about what had come between their family. Her eyes betrayed her, every time.
His mind flicked back to the harsh reality, and the song around him became nothing more but noise. The delighted sighs and whispers between young lovers became harsh screams in his ears, stabbing pains to his head, and their footsteps were as loud as the world that came crashing down around him. The screeching of his mind almost knocked him down from where he sat, making him forcefully jolt, for the piece was no longer a reminiscence of kind memories, but yet again a death knell.
He clutched his temples, stumbling from the seat and shooing off a concerned woman on his way to the door, which he weakly pushed open without casting a gaze towards it. The fresh air filled his gasping lungs in an instant, a desperate sigh accompanied with a choking sob.
Must I always falter? I never used to. Not until... not until the merry-go-round of life threw me off from my wooden horse and to the harsh ground. I felt the cold embrace of stone on my grazed skin, the colder body within my arms, my protection, and I knew nothing would be the same.
The man pulled the dark cloak of his hood over his glistening face, and turned his back on the hall, on each tortured thought bubbling in his chest. He went back into the village, towards the empty cottage where only he and his thoughts could reside in the lonely night, once again.