You've never been as strong as she expected you to be, but you've never been as weak as she wanted you. That's probably why you both got into that situation in the first place; opposites attract, and absolute opposites attract absolutely. And you were about as opposite as could be, until she made you into her image. Then you started to panic, because you realized you were as lost as she was but you weren't able to deal with it; you hadn't transformed fully yet. When you finally decided to stand up for yourself, you were pretty far in. You're at one of those parties, with swirling skirts and drugs so expensive they're practically legal, where everything seems to sparkle.

But nothing is impairing your judgement, aside from love and pain and other cliched, dubious things. Her perfume has probably accumulated in your blood by now, you think distantly. It triggers a flashback to when you had no future before it was cool. The night air always smelled like smoke, and you sat out there a lot, in that skeletal tree, lazily watching the drunk drivers in the street below, headlights like shooting stars. You were almost oblivious to the sounds coming from inside the house (not your house. Just the house, because there was no alternative) because it's not like they made any sense anyway; laughing, crying, accusations taken straight from soap operas. And you were just as dysfunctional, in your own otherworldly way. You'd been having break downs ever since your brain started working properly, and it wasn't that they were escalating; just that they weren't getting better, and nobody realized. But you finally had the means to do something about it -

she caught you. She saved you. She kept you, and she wasn't overly concerned about making you normal, and you liked that. It was different, but in a good way. It wasn't dangerous.

But she was dangerous. Just like you, she didn't change. Not at all. But now there were different social ladders to climb, and different people to impress; not just your parents and classmates and the people who decided what was chic and made everything sound like a philosophy. You accepted it, the lies, the abuse, the things that made no sense. You thought it was just part of being "other." And whatever she tried to pass you off as, you never said anything.

After all, you don't talk much.

But tonight, you do talk. You try to whisper, actually, but your voice has gotten too rough from not speaking up enough, and it comes out louder than you planned. "We need to talk."

She's surprised, but prepared; she always is. "Just kiss me before the crowd leaves," she says, a sweet hiss. You wish you could talk like that, the words so smoothe and interesting sounding.

And you consider doing just what she says, but you don't. You get scared and run out of the room, and even though your eyes are focused only on the tiles of the floor and your shiny black shoes that make clicking noises each time they hit the floor, you're sure people are watching you. It makes you even more scared, fueling your flight.

As you run out the door, you see the moon is up and the sky is a dark navy blue. The air smells like smoke. You feel calm, and you walk home, your eyes straight ahead, looking at the trees with vines on them and the dark grass and the insects with intricate patterns etched on their wings.

You don't know it yet, but you will only see her twice following this event. The first time will be the next day, in the afternoon. She stayed out all night, and you aren't sure if you should be afraid that she's be angry, and will yell at you and hurt you and make your eyes go so unfocused you want to push them in hard with your thumbs. But she will seem happy, unless that's an angry smile like some people make. So you ask her if she's angry, and she says she isn't. Then she kicks you out of the house.

The second and final time you see her will be in five years, two months, three days, fifty five minutes, and twelve seconds. It will be at a department store, just before closing time. She will smile when she sees you, and she will tell you about her husband who looks like a soap opera character. You will tell her about your girlfriend who plays piano and likes trading card games. You will remember the party you went to with her before she made you get out of her life. You will ask if you should have kissed her five years ago. She will laugh at you and say no. Then she will leave, and you will buy a box of trading cards, because this is your future, and it is not nothing.