Final chapter. I am extremely grateful for the wonderful comments/criticism. I've already got a new story in the works, so I'd be extremely thrilled if you would check it out (shameless self-promotion, I know.)
So here we go.
"I was just a fifteen year old girl but he had the most immensely profound effect on me. He inspired me."
"Ah-hah," Luke sighed, looking at his plate. The French really did have this portion control thing down. It was a six-course meal—each the size of a quarter on an ornate plate. The whole thing would set him back four hundred dollars at least. All that, plus the stupid horse ride through Central Park that she insisted so sternly on. And of course, the cheapest room at the Four Seasons.
"From that moment on I knew that my life could never be ordinary," Madison continued, "that I was made for something special."
This night was going to cost him a grand, Luke thought. The least she could do was be considerate. Concentrate more on the food that he was paying so much money for. She had barely touched anything—but had been so eager in ordering. She had insisted on this restaurant. Why wasn't she eating anything?
"—My destiny on this planet was decided—" she continued.
Why wasn't she eating instead of talking?
He surreptitiously took a look at his watch. It was already nine. Two hours earlier, he had come to pick Madison up from her room. She insisted on it. When he arrived, she was down the hall in the bathroom. Vicky lay on her bed, her legs pressed against the wall, reading from a textbook. He stood in the doorway with his hands in his pockets. She didn't look up or say a word.
Madison had simply assumed the two had gotten into a fight when they were at home. She didn't care enough about it to inquire further.
Six courses was a lot of courses. Dessert never tasted so sweet.
"When he played on his guitar," she continued, "I felt as if the world had hushed and I was looking into the face of genius."
Madison looked beautiful. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a tight bun while her eyes looked especially blue. She wore a black dress, short and tight. When she leaned her elbows on the table, her shoulders seemed especially thin and fragile. She was a vision. She was exquisite. She was ordinary.
When the check was paid and the awkward walk into the street walked, he shivered and rubbed his hands together before hailing for a cab.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked flirtatiously in the taxi.
"I have a surprise for you," he said into her shoulders.
She laughed and turned to him, pressing her lips to his. He tasted the strawberry of her gloss, and then the bitterness of her lip liner. Up close, even in the darkness, her foundation looked heavy, her eyes looked falsely overdrawn, and her nose was a little crooked. But this was Madison, after all, beautiful Madison.
Hear arms wound around his neck, her leg hung over his lap as she straddled him in the back seat, and pressed the whole of her upper body to his chest. He sat motionless beneath her, his shoulders slung back, elbows resting lifelessly on the leather of the seat. His eyes were wide open, staring past her face into the emptiness of the traffic ahead of them in the windshield. His lips barely moved.
She tore back, jerking her head up and hitting the low ceiling. There was alarm in her blue eyes.
"What's wrong?" she asked him cautiously.
Nothing was wrong at all. Not at all.
"Is this really what you want?" he asked her. She moved her hips and scurried back to the seat.
"What do you mean?" she asked bitterly.
"I mean—we couldn't be more different. What could you possibly want with me?"
"Silly boy," she smiled and placed her hands on his cheeks, moving her mouth closer.
"No, I mean it," he turned away and stared into the window.
"What—are you kidding me?" she exclaimed almost angrily, "If this is some crazy plot to impress me with your sensitivity, it's failing miserably."
"I'm not trying to impress you, Madison, I'm asking as simply as I can—what do you see in me?"
She didn't answer. There was no pretty, agreeable answer in her. Not even for someone as skilled as Madison in pretty, agreeable answers.
"Well, don't see the dilemma?" he asked.
She was rigid, stern-faced.
"Is this a really roundabout way of breaking up with me?"
"Look, Madison, I have to tell you the truth. Otherwise, it would just be me taking advantage of you. I'm not the right guy for you. I don't read poetry. I definitely don't write it. And there is absolutely nothing in you to entice me to try to change that—"
She started, her shoulders contracted.
"Come down, please, let me finish," he continued, "I'm not special. I'm not poetic. I'm actually kind of an asshole. And just so you know, I don't even listen to what you say. And you like to talk so you should have a guy who doesn't think you're a pretentious idiot—"
She slapped him. Her small hand left a red print on his face. He rubbed it and sighed.
"That was harsh—on my part, I mean. The thing is, the only thing that interested me in you in the first place—"
"Shut up," she whispered.
"The only thing was that I couldn't have you. But the problem of wanting someone for that reason is that eventually you do have them—and then if there's nothing else there making you want more—well you stop wanting!"
"Let me out here!" she screamed at the driver, who had all this time sat silently bored by the scene in the front seat.
"No, that won't be necessary," Luke said, turning to Madison, "I'll get out. New York is too dangerous for a girl to walk around at night alone."
He got out a block from campus. It was strangely peaceful—none of the typical city rush, the sour air above sewer vents, gray concrete and empty streets. This was the place to love. The place to be in love. Even if it wasn't Manhattan. Even if it was only Harlem. This was some achievement, some extraordinary new discovery.
He once resented his father. Resented his father for not letting him go to a state school, play football, sleep with girls in halters and miniskirts, with running mascara. One couldn't see the stars in New York, but that didn't seem to matter anymore. April already. A whole year had gone by. And there he was—with a sudden perception of life ahead of him—the dark path he happened upon almost accidentally, out of inducement—something that began with kicking and screaming, but was now a peaceful, meaningful, fulfilling trip forward.
On campus, the air smelled of freshly cut grass and the sweetness of an impending storm. The sky lit up with electricity and thunder roared on the horizon. He walked with his hands in his pockets, breathing deeply, moving slowly. He wanted to get caught in the rain. He felt it would somehow make his life more complete.
The rain in New York City. The rain in New York City. He chanted it to himself as he walked. There was some secret hidden in those words. Some answer he had been longing for all this time. And to think he had told Madison he wasn't a poetic person.
Up ahead, the quad flapped out into old brick buildings. The staple of the elitism of ivy league. Beyond that, the black sky swallowed the landscape greedily and ominously. It thundered again. The lightning spread over the black sky like a rupture or a canal of veins. When will this world fall apart, he wondered. When will it split? And when it does, where will I be? How will I feel? What will I regret most?
He had lost his train of thought when he realized that all this time, the path he had taken blindly brought him outside Madison's dormitory. A girl stood on a porch, her back turned to him, her shoulders hunched. He approached and leaned on the railing. She moved and turned to him.
"I was kind of expecting you'd come," Victoria said. Her hands were folded and her eyes soft, moist, glittering.
"Really? I guess you do know me better than anything else," he sighed.
"I heard what happened with Madison. I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry for? There isn't anything for you to be sorry about." His voice was hard.
"I know, I know." She was scatterbrained and panting, leaning her head and then defiantly jerking it up.
"Oh, Vee-vee," he sighed, "It's all your fault, you know."
"My life would be so much easier without you."
"I'm just waiting for you to accept it."
"That you have to fight for happiness."
"You're calling yourself happiness?"
"No, I'm saying you're going to have to make yourself happy. It isn't the victory but the fight that brings real happiness. I'm only the cause—the thing worth fighting for. The rest is up to you."
"And what am I in your world?"
"You're the same thing. You have been for a while. I was miserable once. I was lost. You made me feel again. You did it without even knowing it. You inspired me, you—"
She didn't finish. His lips were already pressed to hers. Their arms wound around one another and their eyes were shut. A raindrop landed on her shoulder. Then another, then another. Before long, heaven was crying on their heads, and Victoria's eyes were the color of music.