Twirl your hair, bat your eyes, it won’t do anything for you now. Daddy isn’t here to bring back what you want.
The air smelled like dusty old memories, like tears long buried and forgotten. The heat swelled up from the sun-scorched pavement, blistering and angry against my bare feet. I didn’t care. I didn’t care at all anymore. Because they were never coming back. My home was gone, and they were never coming back.
But you came, exactly when I needed you. I felt curl your arm around my shoulders as I stood there in the street, shielding me from the sun. The sun reminded me of them. I clung to you, despite everything that had happened. Because of everything that had happened.
I always dreamed of having a happy, Hallmark relationship, full of secret love letters and chocolates and roses, nights spent with you on a lonely stretch of highway. I never thought we’d be the ones to have it. But I loved it. It was all I ever wanted.
And the last thing I was left with when they all left me all alone on Earth.
Or almost alone. I still had you.
And so we laid there in the sparkling, sugar-dusted sky, your fingers filling the spaces between mine. You asked me if this was what forever felt like. And when I thought about a forever with you, for a moment I could forget the last time I ever saw my family alive, forget the bleak run-on days at school, forget those all-too-fake-sympathetic looks and pity-presents and hugs that everyone around me seemed to think would make me feel better. And all I needed to remember when I was with you was the way our stars looked at night. I hope so, I said.
And for a while, our forever was enough. You made the pain that threatened to overpower me in crushing waves lessen to a trickle.
But the little memories of the life I had lost still seeped in. Me and Mom baking a cake for Dad’s birthday and getting into a flour fight. Dad pushing me on the swing. My little sister tugging at my hand and begging me to play Barbie with her. Going to Disneyworld and riding the Tower of Terror until I puked. All of us piling on the couch just to watch some old movie from the 60’s and finding out that the only good part was listening to a penniless woman scream “Move your bloomin’ arse!” during a horserace full of uptight rich people.
We had stopped the tape right after that part.
Now roses are overrated and chocolates make me nauseous. And our long nights under the sky together only made me lonely. Because you were still just as sweet as the day I had met you, but instead of seeing the green in your eyes, I saw the grass under the swing Daddy used to push me on, and instead of feeling your arms around me I felt my little sister tugging at my clothes like she always used to when she wanted me to play with her. I don’t want to remember you this way.
So I went back to my house alone that night. Alone forever…whatever forever was. Because apparently it wasn’t what we had thought.
I laid in the grass and stared up at the velvety night sky. There are no fingers in between mine. Stars sparkled in my eyes, and I hoped they would flow up into the sky too, up where they would be seen, be loved, be remembered. Where they couldn’t fade.
And the next day, I pushed myself on the swings. I gave all of my sister’s Barbie dolls to the little girl down the street. My sister would have wanted me to. She always used to say they need to be taken care of.
I saw you walking down the sun-scorched street in a pair of brand new sneakers today. Your arm was around another girl’s shoulders, holding her close. You saw me and gave me a timid smile, something at once undeniable and unforgettable in your eyes. And I smiled back at you, thinking, his eyes are such a beautiful shade of green.
I’m glad you’re happy now. Now that you’re happy, and you’re free, maybe I can be, too.