It’s very early in the morning when Maya heads into the office, feeling genuinely happy for the first time in weeks. Between a surprise visit from cousin Carlos and her budding friendship with Simon, she’s finally begun to adjust to life on her own. The pangs of loneliness are still there from time to time but she is hopeful. She opens the main door and makes her way upstairs. The only time she tenses slightly is when she walks past a certain desk that has been empty since that awful day.
She starts the coffee pot in the break room and turns on her laptop. Once she’s poured her cup, she returns to her desk and begins sorting through the paperwork that greets her almost every morning. It takes about a half hour before she comes across the envelope. She opens it with the same efficiency as any other, pulling out the photo in order to file it in the proper case folder.
Mayahuel sits in stunned silence, studying the photograph, trying to make sense of what she is seeing. He heard you. She knows this face. The sad tall boy. But how? She never told anyone. He heard you. She recognizes the script on the note and looks around wildly, getting up from her desk to check downstairs. Is this maybe some sort of cruel joke? He heard you. How could he know? She pulls a magnifying glass from her desk and examines the tiny Romanian patch on one of the uniform jackets in utter disbelief.
“No puede ser,” she says to herself, trembling as she puts the glass down and carefully replaces the photo with the note in its envelope. She picks up her bag and puts the envelope inside, her face determined stone as she walks out of Knightsbridge. Maya reaches the gallery. She feels like she can’t breathe. She drops her bag on the entry floor and bounds up to the studio where she’s saved her grandmother’s keepsakes in storage.
By the time she finds it, the floor around her is littered with all the drawings and photographs that her abuela collected throughout Maya’s life. Her heartbreak at how much she misses Adela combines with the pain in her chest as she stares at a crude rendering of the person she’s loved for as long as she can remember. She traces the swirls on the drawing as every moment with him comes back to her. The sad tall boy who was her only friend. M’ijo. Mihai. The illustrated man who kept her alive in Seoul by loving her. The promise she'd made was the only thing she took with her from that place. Algún día encontraré tu nombre en mi alma para poder contarte que estoy en este mundo porque me salvaste. He'd been a figment of her imagination, though. Someone she'd conjured from childhood to hold her hand when she was scared. How could he even exist outside her head?
He heard you. She picks up her bag downstairs where she folds the drawing and adds it to the envelope. Tapping into her phone as she walks toward Agartha, she pulls up Stroi’s New York address.
Maya stands in the hallway of the hotel shaking with nervousness. The memory of the way his indifference cut her to the quick when she thought him a stranger makes her terrified of how much it will hurt now that she knows who he is to her. She takes a deep breath and the suite's door opens just as she musters the courage to knock.
She searches his dark eyes as he stands in the doorway. “You were real?”
Her voice quavers and her chest aches with decades of regret. Maya slowly takes his clothed hand as if it were a thorned lion’s paw. She steadies her own hands as she gently removes the glove to reveal tattoos she could have easily drawn from memory. He heard you. Moving almost mechanically, she reaches to undo the topmost button of his shirt. She uses a finger to open the collar just enough to see the inked demarcation across his collarbone that she’s traced a thousand times but never actually touched.
Desperately trying not to cry, she digs in her purse for the envelope and fumbles with it. Pulling out the folded drawing, she clutches it in her hand along with the glove and holds it out toward him. She speaks softly, her voice tight with trying to parse everything she wants to say to him into the few words she manages to squeeze from the heart in her throat.
“You saved me so many times. I tried so hard not to forget you. I'm so sorry...”
The tears come when she says his name out loud for the first time in her life.