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I stared down at his fingers, impatiently entwined with mine, my conscious warning me that I should turn around to the comfort of the known. Yet that had long since passed by, nothing was the same now.
“Come on,” his thick lips formed the words, yet my mind was on other things. It had traveled back a few months to the day that haunted me much too often. The day that I had known was coming for almost a year. In truth, I had seen her slip away before it was made final, but all the same to hear that she was truly gone felt as if an unforeseen blow to the stomach.
Dead, gone forever. You hear about it every once in a while, a family losing one of their parents. You might say how horrible it is, cry if you know them, but never, ever, would you understand. In first grade, a boy in my class lost his father. At the time I didn’t get it. Mommy, is death like a vacation? I had asked then. Oh honey, it’s more like moving to a new place. One where none of the people you love can go until god decides that it is time she had answered simply. I nodded, as though this had made me much wiser and the fog had cleared, for at the age of seven things aren’t as complicated as they are later in life. Now that she had “moved away” I knew that death wasn’t the sweet smelling garden that my mother had planted, it was pain, torture, an angry storm wrapped around me, spitting lighting and booming thunder whenever it thought the time was funny. In the middle of mourners, and tears, and friends who had miracuously popped out of nowhere, I felt empty, alone, barely there. The longing to feel is overwhelming, because living as a vacant shell is the worst sort of life, if you could even call it a life. And then I found my way in, a dreadful way, but a way all the same. Boys.
At the moment it was Mark, an overly gorgeous and overly senseless boy who cared as much for me as he did for his bed. I was a place to lie nightly, and then left, covers scattered in every direction and never put back in place. The sad thing was, I didn’t find anything wrong with the situation. Being used right now seemed oddly calming. Maybe that’s not the right word. It seemed as though I could feel something again.
“You look beautiful,” he breathed into my ear. It was a lie of course, but who really cared? In the moment I believed him, and maybe he believed himself to.
We kissed, an imperfect kiss that movies would never feature, yet in reality appeared very often. There were no fireworks going off in the background, or the spark that I had once read I would feel, just an awkward embrace between two mismatched puzzle pieces.
And then he twirled his finger around my dark hair, the way that she used to when kissing me goodnight.
I’ll love you forever and ever, and though the sleep might keep us apart, my love will leave you never, she would smile every night, our little ritual. After that she’d pull the covers up, a protective shield to the cold of the world, kiss my forehead gently and turn off the lights. Dad couldn’t do it the same way. He tried for the first week she had been placed in the hospital, yet his voice was too deep and the poem wasn’t recited well. It just wasn’t the same. At fourteen, most teens don’t need a parents goodnight kiss, but I loved it, needed it. My family was extremely close, that is until we were shredded into pieces.
The thing that pushed me over the edge, or possibly pulled me back was what he said next. “I love you.” How dare he throw those words around, carelessly, not knowing what love is. Love was what I felt for my mother, for the way she would laugh at my bad jokes, and tell me that my kindergarten doodles were a work of art.
I ran. It probably wasn’t the kind way to leave a semi relationship, but my legs had taken over, leading me to the place that my heart had known I should go all along: home. The run didn’t take me long, my town being small enough to run around its border and not break a sweat. My dad was home already, that fact in itself pointed to the angels arranging this moment, maybe even my mom sitting in heaven, the way she looked before chemo had failed to fix her kidneys, beaming that her plan to bring us together had worked out. He sat, deep in contemplation over something, on our old ugly couch, that we could never get rid of since she had picked it out.
“Daddy,” I squeaked, my voice seeming alien from its lack of use, tears already streaming down my face. “Will you hold me,’ I asked, crawling into his arms. He shielded me instantly from all my troubles, the boys, the emptiness, and let me just cry out all the pain that had been pent up for much to long.
When the river of tears began to lessen, I stared into his caramel eyes, seeing the slightest reflection of my puffy, red face. “I love you,’ I told him, using the words the way they were meant to be.
“Forever and ever,” he said, twirling my hair around his large fingers, and coaxing me into a peaceful sleep. I had made it back, and though the world was misshaped, having faced its own twists and turns, I was home.