"Andrew, how could you? The face I loved… how could you?"
The woman pushed at me with her frail, wrinkled hands and cried hot tears. "I didn't want this. I never would have wanted this."
"I wanted this." I reached out my liver-spotted fingers and grasped her by the shoulders.
She turned away, and withdrew into a grief that didn't let up for days.
I was mortified I'd made a critical mistake. I thought of going back to Ciel and asking her to restore me to my former self. But after some time had passed, the woman began to soften and smile again. When I tried to hold her, she no longer pulled out of my embrace. And then one day she leaned into me, and I felt something stir in her, quiet and trembling like a rustling of leaves. It was then that I knew I had made the right choice.
I'll tell you something about human beings getting old. When they're old, they have less of what they had when they were young. All their lives, they fear the encroaching of this diminishment. But once they're old, they realize they love what little they have left just as much, or more, as they used to love the whole measure of it. They find life still sweet. Then they don't fear anymore. That's how it was for the woman, anyway.
I'll tell you about the woman's last day.
She was sleepy, so I helped her into bed. I took a pair of woolen socks from the closet and wrapped them over her ice-cold feet. Then I sat down next to her, grasped both her hands in my own, and rubbed them until they were warm.
She began to sing in her thin, lilting voice. I curled up behind her and laced her bony little fingers through mine.
"You are good to me," she said, when her song was finished. "Perhaps, one day, you could help me find my Andrew? I'm so afraid something's happened to him. I miss him terribly."
"What was he like?" I said.
"He was a handsome, young-looking reploid. Have I ever told you how I first met him?"
"No, darling, you haven't."
"I still can hardly believe it myself. He gave me such a shock that night. I was singing on the shore, and he just crawled out of the sea dripping wet..."
...Oh? Yes, I'm all right. Well, I think I am. Nature never asks us if we've had enough of someone before it takes them from us. And I haven't had enough of her. Even if we both lived a thousand years, I still wouldn't have had enough of her.
"You're our past and future," Ciel tells me. "Without you, we wouldn't know what we're fighting for."
I don't disagree. Still, when she brings me my full ration of energy crystals each morning, I put some of them back into her pocket. You young folks, only years or months old, who risk your lives for our sake, need them more than I do. Me? I'm too frail to fight, and I'd forget my commands anyway. Did I tell you my memory's not good? It's true, unfortunately. If you want to know why, well, that's a story for another time.
The woman's name, you ask? Her name was...
Let's see... Her name was...