Text for You by Sofie Cramer

prologue

“Good morning, Lilime. Care for a croissant?”

Without opening her eyes, Clara breathes in the delightful aroma of fresh coffee. She stretches out on the soft bed and surrenders herself to the warm feeling that fills her entire body. It must be the weekend! Otherwise there’s no way Ben would be up getting breakfast ready, especially given how late they’d gotten to bed last night. It must have been close to four o’clock by the time they’d come stumbling home from their favorite Italian place. This was after two bottles of rosé and way too many glasses of Ramazzotti, urged on them by Beppo in that charming way of his, just like he did every time they ate there. When they got to the stairs, Ben scooped Clara up in his arms and carried her to the third floor without batting an eye, simply because her feet were hurting from all the impromptu dancing on the way home.

Now he carefully sets the tray down and gingerly sits next to her. Tenderly his lips begin to brush against her face.

“Actually I had something else in mind,” Ben whispers in her ear.

Clara is a little more awake now. She feels Ben’s fine, short stubble on her chest. His mouth slides slowly down her paper-thin nightie.

She loves it when he wakes her up like this. Nothing gives her such a sense of being taken care of than to feel his strong body so close to hers.

But he’s very light. And she can barely sense the familiar way he smells. Something is different today.

Hesitantly, as if in a trance, Clara opens her eyes. And all at once she’s wide awake.

For a second she feels like a stranger, trapped in a time that’s unfamiliar to her.

And suddenly it’s back again, the brutal reality: Ben isn’t here.

Ben will never be here again.

She must have been dreaming. It’s been a long time since Clara had a dream. In the last two months and five days, she hasn’t smiled either—though she’s tried to, every now and then. Like for example when she’s attempting to keep her mother from launching into another one of her exhausting pep talks. If she were the old Clara again, maybe her mother would be more willing to leave her alone and let her manage all by herself.

All by herself . . .

That’s exactly how she’s felt since that day in January when her beloved Ben fell to his death from a balcony.

All by herself. Abandoned. Alone. Alone with all the thoughts that haunt Clara like a giant shadowy figure. Especially at night. Again and again she’ll wake from a restless, dreamless sleep. Only for a fleeting, peaceful second between sleep and waking does Clara feel like the Clara she used to be.

Before Ben died, Clara was a confident, independent woman. A woman who was less romantic and sentimental than most of her friends. It was this strong, rational side that Ben had found captivating about her right from the start. They each had different ways of looking at the world, true, but together their separate worldviews formed a wonderfully complete vision that was a source of comfort and support for both of them.

Whenever they fought, they were quick to make up afterward. One of them would say something, sheepishly, trying to swallow their pride, then a gesture here or there would give way to a familiar touch as their bodies drew closer. This was usually followed by a playful chase around their cozy one-bedroom apartment, until finally Clara fell exhausted into Ben’s arms. As he held her she could feel his fingers on her ribs beneath her shirt, and all he would have to do then was feign like he was going to tickle her and already she would be shrieking with panic and delight. When finally he would lean in closer and tenderly kiss her slender neck just below her ear, whispering affectionate nonsense as he kissed her. At moments like this he would call her “Lilime” in a soft voice. Only Clara knew that this was short for Lieblingsmensch—favorite person. Her bright green eyes would begin to shine every time, and they would make love without another word.

Even after being together for more than three years, there was still such a feeling of closeness between them every time they made love that it was as if they had only just fallen for each other.

But not the night it happened. One reproach had led to another, and today Clara would do anything never to have uttered such harsh words.

She could still hear the sound of the door slamming when Ben left the apartment, beside himself with anger. It was the first and last time he’d ever left without saying where he was going.

When she thinks back on how relieved she had been that she was now by herself and was free to vent to her closest friend Katja about how immature and irresponsible Ben was, despite his thirty-two years . . . Clara can still feel the guilt coursing through her whole body like burning acid.

True, that night she had kept an eye on her cell phone the whole time she was talking to Katja on the landline, discussing whether she should teach Ben a lesson this time and take off for a whole night, something she’d normally never do. But no text came from Ben. And he was always texting her. Whenever he had a break between classes at the university, was out on the road with his band, or over at his buddy Carsten’s place getting loaded—if for no other reason than that he didn’t want to give Clara the chance to feel annoyed, he would considerately send a few reassuring words to “Lilime.”

When they first met at Cheers, Clara had been skeptical. She’d heard all the rumors about Ben Runge the lothario, the guy who’d turned the head of every pretty girl in Lüneburg. But with his texts, Ben made an effort to show her that she was the only one he cared about. And so, whenever he thought of her, he would send her a text and make her phone light up for a brief moment, as a kind of token of his love.

But since that horrible night, Clara hadn’t received a single text.

Ben doesn’t contact her at all anymore.

He remains forever silent.