I know it should be warm. It should be. By all rights, by all laws, it should be warm. Maybe it should even be hot. Yeah, yeah, it should probably be hot. It's July. It's six in the afternoon. The sun is bright, the air is humid, and the summer is young. It should be hot. It should be broiling. My skin should feel like it's melting away from my very bone.
And yet it's not. I'm freezing. Chills are running over my body, spreading over me, overtaking me, plaguing me. It's like the plague. Fucking chills, fucking plague, I'm plagued. I'm sick, I'm disgusting, I'm plagued. I'm dirty. I'm unfit. I'm unworthy. I'm…I'm…
I'm really freaking stupid.
It was just like me, really. It was exactly like me. How something could fit my personality so perfectly, so absolutely, it was…it was really stunning. Of course I would let that happen. Of freaking course. I'm just that kind of person, you know. It doesn't matter what it is. The perfect shirt, the perfect shoes, the perfect haircut, the perfect game, it doesn't matter. I always let it slip through my fingers. I always let it slip away, fall away, melt into the stream of time. It always escapes me. It always eludes me.
And you would think that the one perfection everyone needs, the one perfection everyone strives for—you would think I would be able to keep that. You would think I would be able to hold it tight. You would think I wouldn't ever be able to let it go.
I surprise myself at how amazingly efficient I am at losing everything. Everything.
I lost my everything.
The grave is cold. Maybe that's why it's not warm. Maybe that's why it feels so God damn freezing. The grave is cold. The stone slides beneath the pads of my fingers like silk, like strange, foreign silk. How something so horrible can feel so flawless will never cease to amaze me, but it does. The only imperfections on it are the grooves sliced into the rock, the grooves that spell out her name. That doesn't make sense, either. Shouldn't her name be the smooth part? Shouldn't her name be the one perfection amongst all the imperfection, and not the other way around? Shouldn't her name be the polished, glistening face, and the rest be rough and weathered?
Rough and weathered. The rest will be, too. The satiny feel won't last forever; soon, it will be rough and weathered. Soon, the only evidence of her perfection will be worn away, taken away, robbed, rough and weathered. It scares me. The fact scares me. With more care than before, my fingers attempt to memorize the cool, glossy finish on the grave. It feels like her. The purity, the utopian quality—it feels like her. The way it was so flawlessly polished, so flawlessly crafted, so flawless—it feels like her.
And yet she is beneath it. She is not part of it, not part of the perfection. She is…she is beneath it.
I snap my eyes shut. I can't deal with this.
I want to leave. I want to run away. I want to run off of the steep decline, off the cliff, and tumble down into the rocks that surely lie beneath the blanket of rippling waves that snarl beyond the edge of the grass ledge. I want to heave myself into the open space, into the open air, and fall. I want to fall. I want to fall into time, to disappear, to never be seen again. I don't want anyone to see me. I don't want anyone to see…to see what I've done…
I want…I want…
I want to see her again. Just one more time.
It was just a distraction. It was meant to be just a distraction. I couldn't concentrate. How was I supposed to, when the teacher clearly talked in a monotone so depressingly boring that I could've passed into unconsciousness just by walking into his classroom? It never even occurred to me to pay attention. That was never even an option. I probably should have; it was the beginning of the year and we were to receive our first test in a few days. I didn't care. Last-minute cramming sessions had always worked for me in the past, and math was my best subject. There was absolutely no trace of worry in my mind.
My eyes wandered. Often, they wandered to that pretty girl in the far corner of the room. She was really pretty. Long blonde hair, nice green eyes, a rocking body, cute clothes—very classy. Boy, she was pretty. I thought about asking her out a couple times, but I always came up with strange, bizarre excuses not to. It had even gotten to the point where I was certain she would say no to me because my shoes were untied, and I simply couldn't ask her out that day. Call me a pussy.
I was staring at her. The back of her head looked crazy good today. The way the fluorescent classroom lighting caught the strands of bright blonde amidst the gold was hypnotic, simply hypnotic, and with each twitch of her head, another tendril of platinum would appear. I tried to count them. I got to fifty-six before I got too bored.
A movement sniped my attention then, and my gaze shifted forward. The girl sitting in front of me had tossed her hand lazily in the air. Probably to ask a question, which would be weird for her; I hadn't heard the girl talk all year. In fact, I had yet to see her face. Curiosity tugged at the back of my mind, but I wasn't concerned. It was only a matter of time before I was made to see the front of her head instead of being forced to idly look at the shimmering mahogany tresses that hung just past her shoulders in neat waves. It was only a matter of time before she would have to stand up, turn around, and pack up her bag before leaving. I would see her soon enough. I wasn't worried in the least.
At first, I was content with just peering at her long, slim hand. But then my eyes traveled a smidge farther south, and they picked out a detail. There, proud and large, was a huge bracelet, seated upon her slim wrist. Actually, it wasn't so much on her wrist as it was on her mid-forearm. The thing was far too big for her, it was obvious; now that I thought about it, I had seen her fiddling with it, trying to push it farther and farther up her arm so it would quit sliding down her smooth skin. It was brown leather, rather worn, with slim pink scrawl on it, a design of some sort. I couldn't make it out.
It was pretty, I supposed. It was surely different. I'd never seen a piece of jewelry like that, and trust me, I'd been close enough to plenty of girls to be able to make that kind of statement. I don't know why it grew on my so quickly, but before I knew it, I was gazing at it as often as I could, trying to make out the details on it. Were they words? Phrases? Just loopy lines?
I couldn't tell. It drove me insane.
The bell rang. She just slipped her arms through the backpack straps, stood, and left; she hadn't bothered to unpack anything. Her skinny legs were long and graceful as they carried the girl out the door. The thick curtain of her hair swung against her back, gently grazing it every now and again.
I stood, a little disappointed that she didn't have a need to turn around. It seemed as though I would have to wait another day.
And then I looked to the floor as I tried to maneuver my way around my desk.
There, beaming up at me from the blue linoleum, was a large ring of rough brown leather accented with pink.
My eyes don't open. I can't open them. If I open them, I know what I'll see. My attention will find its way once again to the very same bracelet, now clinging to my own skin. It's perfect for me, the perfect size, circling my wrist as though it was made for me. It feels disgusting. It feels lovely. It feels lovely and disgusting to have it fit like a glove. On the one hand, it isn't mine. It was hers. It belongs to her, and yet she'll never be able to wear it again.
On the other hand, it isn't mine. It was hers. It belongs to her, and now I'll always have a tiny piece of her.
I rub my forehead in frustration. Jesus, why can't I figure any of this out? Why can't I just ever choose a side and stick to it? Why can't I be happy that I have the freaking bracelet, or upset that I have the freaking bracelet?
She was never indecisive. She always knew. She was always so sure. So damn sure of herself…
Something, something, I need something to do. My hands. My hands, they need something to do, something to do, something to distract me. Distractions, they've always done me in, and yet I need them. I need them. Please, give my hands something to do. Anxiously, I brush aside a few stray leaves on the top of the plot. They don't crinkle under my touch. They just glide along the soft blades of grass, whispering gently as I move them, uttering phrases I don't want to hear, and yet everything I know to be true.
My fault. It was my fault. My fault, my fault, all my damn fault.
It's always been my fault.
The snow grazed her eyelashes, nipped them gently, kissed them. I was jealous of them. I was jealous that they could caress her with the softest of touches, a touch I had yet to master, and yet a touch that I knew she would love. But my hands were far too rough, far too blunt to be able to accomplish it.
She cocked her head to the side, stumbling slightly on the way to my car.
"What do you mean it was sold out?" she asked. Her massive blue eyes shone, contrasted perfectly with the snow, like clouds and sky.
"The movie was sold out," I said. I lied. "But there's a party at my friend's house, and we can go to that instead."
"What kind of party?" her brow furrowed as she tried to work through all of the last-minute changes. The question she asked was the one question I didn't want her to ask. She had a knack for that. She had a knack for always getting the truth out of me, no matter how slippery or elusive I imagined it to be.
"Just a party-party," I answered vaguely. "You know, a get together. But with a lot of people. You'll love it, I know you will." We'd reached my big black SUV, and she tottered to the passenger side as I whipped around to the driver's side. I ripped open the door and hopped in, but there was no other presence in the car. I glanced to the side, and there she was, her face filling up the window on the other side. With a huff of impatience, I leaned over and opened the door, shoving it fully open.
"Come on, get in," I coaxed gently. It wasn't a mad tone, a mean tone, a demanding tone. Perhaps it was more playful than anything. I was never mad or mean or demanding when I was with her. I was someone else entirely when I was with her. I didn't know who I was when I was with her. I didn't know him, the new person, but I knew everything he would do; he was who I wanted to be. He was the person I'd always tried to be, and yet failed miserably at. She made me who I wanted to be.
I didn't need anyone to tell me what she looked at me with, what emotion was brewing beneath the thin azure barrier of her orbs. She was afraid. Her large eyes grew two times their normal size, grew to massive proportions, swallowed me. They dragged me in. They screamed at me. They knew.
They knew the movie wasn't sold out. She knew the movie wasn't sold out.
The words formed on my lips. I was about to offer to rent a movie.
And then she slipped silently into the seat, closing the door gently behind her.
The click of the door echoes in my ears now. I clap my hands over them, trying to drown it out. Please, please, go away. Leave me alone. I can't bear to hear her sealing her own fate, not again. Not ever, not now, not ever, never again. Please, please, just leave me alone.
I don't need help. I don't need someone to explain that with each beat of my heart, with each breath, I drag farther and farther away from her. With each conscious thought, with each intentional movement, we're further apart. We grow more and more different with each passing blink, with each shift of time, we fade. With each beat of my heart, with each breath, with each conscious thought, with each intentional movement, with each blink, with each shift of time, my entity shatters. My heart shatters. I shatter.
Not that night. Anything, any other time, just not that night. Please, please, not that night. Not the snow. Not the car. Not the beer. Anything, please, anything but the beer.
I glance down. The lilies I brought lay in the grass. Abruptly, my throat constricts. I assumed it to be a nice gesture, a gesture that seemed required, a gesture that I was happy to give. Now, as I peer down at them, they look like her. They look like her, laying in the street, sprawled, lifeless. They look like her, life slipping away, life dripping away, lifeless. They look like her, lifeless.
They remind me of the roses I had brought that night.
I'm begging you, not the roses. Not the roses that were quashed in my car, the roses that had little flecks of white snow in the gaps between the petals. Anything but the white of the snow beside the red of the rose. Anything but the white beside the red. Anything but the white of the snow beside the red of her blood.
My teeth gnash together as I try to restrain the waterworks. Against my efforts, a plump tear plows down my cheek anyway, whipping over my clammy skin and hurling itself off of my jaw. It lands silently in the pieces of emerald grass. Not a sound, not a hiss, not a sigh. Nothing. It just disappears, sinks beneath the earth. It's closer to her. It's closer to her now than I can ever be.
I'm jealous of it. I envy it.
The quiet slam of the door as she closes it behind her sounds again in my ears. I don't try to stop it.
I don't deserve to be left alone.
The waves roar behind me
Icy water rushed up to our toes, lapping at them gently, like a puppy reuniting with its owners. She giggled. The soft, windchime-like tinkle of her laughter always made me smile. I didn't even have to see the grin on her face to know exactly what it looked like and to be intoxicated by it. It was surely burned into my brain by now. Surely it was too radiant to not have. Surely it was like the sun; if I looked at it enough, I would be blinded by its searing beauty.
It was warm then. It was July. It was six in the afternoon. The sun was bright, the air was humid, and the summer was young. I sighed contentedly, hyper-aware of the angel that my arm was wrapped around. I longed to put the other around her somehow, but it was supporting my body, preventing me from falling into the soaked sand that I was already sitting in.
This would do, though. I could see clearly how the sunshine bleached her entire body, shining brilliantly in her dark locks, brushing over her skin with a delicate caress that she couldn't find anywhere else. The only thing that I couldn't see that I was desperate for was the wink of the rays in her perfect eyes.
The water exploded up again, their arrival announced by a crash and a delighted hiss as the foam clung to the liquid. It caught the edges of her white dress and darkened my shorts further.
I didn't mind. I didn't mind getting a little wet. I would drown if I could have her in my lap as often as I wanted.
She was fiddling with my hand, my arm. Her touch toyed with my appendages. I delighted in the sensation, the way her skin ran flawlessly against mine, the way we fit together, we fit. We just fit. It felt so subconscious, so right, so natural to have her against me.
But she paused in her fidgeting. I saw her other hand fall from its place on her thigh and meet the sand. One finger slid into the damp ground, dragged up, curved, then down to a point. She did the same thing, just in the exact opposite direction. When she pulled her hand away, a large heart was buried into the earth, little ridges of granular rock jutting up from the chasms she created.
There was no doubt that her eyes were on me. I just couldn't bear to take my eyes away from the simple doodle in the sand, the simple thing that shouldn't have filled my own heart with this…this feeling that I couldn't even begin to try and describe with meaningless words, words that were tossed around daily, and somehow meant nothing. It would be wrong. It would've been wrong to try and put a name to it, put a name to the feeling. I wouldn't be doing it justice. I would've been insulting it, insulting her.
And so I stared.
Waves scampered up to us again. The clear liquid clapped over the drawing, smothering it. I didn't look away. Only when the water receded, when it pulled away, took mercy upon the marking in the sand, and revealed it to still be there, could I pull my gaze to her face instead. Only when I saw little rivulets of the water pooling in tiny drops within the damp canals she'd made could I look to her face instead.
We both knew why she touched her lips softly to mine just then. We both knew the reason.
The waves hadn't taken the heart with them. They hadn't dragged it out to sea. The heart stayed strong.
I don't fight it this time. I just stay. I kneel there and let them over take me. I let the memories drown me, drown me like I wish the waves would. They suffocate me, clutch my head and rip me under. They suffocate me, inhale me. They suffocate me. They give me what I deserve.
I take it.
I sat on a bench. I didn't dare leave the scene, but I couldn't stay in it. Near it. Near it was good enough, right? It had to be. I couldn't stay there. I couldn't stay beside the destroyed car. I couldn't stay beside the ambulances, the police cars, the people. I couldn't. Being beside them sickened me, took my stomach and ripped it to pieces. And so I glued my butt to a bench just beyond the scene, on the outskirts.
Sensory overload was a good way to describe it. Sights, sounds, smells were pulling me in, guiding me in, coaxing me to my death. I was going to die. I couldn't live with all of this.
The noise. There was so much noise. The wail of the sirens, the crunching of metal, the squeal of tires. That was bad. That was the stuff that would give me a headache, a short term punishment. But that wasn't the worst. That wasn't even close to the worst. The screaming, the hollering, the…the crying…that was the worst. The sobs, the shrieks, the gasps, the sound of hearts shattering…the sound of my own heart shattering…
"What the hell happened?"
"Who is it?"
"Can you see?"
"Damn it, I can't see…"
"Is that…is that Lucy?"
"No, that can't be Lucy. It can't be…"
"…Holy shit, it's Lucy!"
"Oh, my God, Lucy!"
"Lucy! No, not Lucy!"
No, not Lucy. Anyone but Lucy. I didn't care, just not Lucy. It couldn't be Lucy. I wouldn't accept that it was Lucy. The alcohol helped me. The alcohol let me believe that it wasn't Lucy. My brain was suddenly quiet, tranquil, sluggish. It wasn't Lucy. It just wasn't Lucy. I didn't know where she was, but that wasn't her. Lucy wasn't the one sprawled on the pavement, broken.
"OH MY GOD!" a shrill shriek pierced the air above everything else. Everything else died. Everything else sank into an eerie quiet. Everything else took backseat.
"OH MY GOD, LUCY!" A woman and a man came sprinting forward, completely ignoring the police barrier. The woman fell to her knees, clutched the head of the girl on the ground. The man knelt beside the two of them, unsure of what to do, unsure in his movements. The woman had the girl's dark hair. The man had the girl's bright eyes. A perfect synchronization, a perfect hybrid, flawless. She was so flawless. Flawless in every way, shape, and form.
It couldn't be her. God damn, it couldn't be her. It wasn't fucking her.
I shuffled my feet slightly. The pavement growled under my soles. Thinking wasn't an option. I couldn't think. Thinking would make it hurt more. Thinking would make the pounding worse, the shattering worse. Thinking would just enhance the problem.
And so I let the alcohol saturate my brain a little more.
"Lucy, oh God, Lucy," the woman sobbed, rocking back and forth as she pinned the head to her chest.
Please, alcohol, do you magic.
"No, please, hold on, Lucy," the man choked quietly. How it was audible over the woman's reckless cries was shocking.
Do your worst, alcohol. Drown me in comfort, take me from reality.
"Please, Lucy, don't go, don't leave us!" the two exchanged ragged hollers over the beautiful body.
I'm waiting, alcohol, come to me.
But it never came. The numbness that assailed me moments before, just seconds before when I was behind the wheel of my Jeep, had fled. It had retreated, departed deep into the recesses of my mind. It was nowhere to be found, disappeared when I needed it most. The pain, the pain that erupted from the center of my chest, was not dulled in the least.
I stood. With a little teeter, a little sway, I wobbled forward. Stagger, stagger, I approached them. Her hair was a thick drape over the pail rod of her mother's arm.
"Excuse me, son," a gruff voice asked. I glanced with heavily-lidded eyes at a man clad in a police uniform, his mustache twitching in anticipation. "You are the driver of this here vehicle?" He gestured to my crumpled car, the crumpled car that had ripped a life away.
No, no, it wasn't the car. It was me.
It was all me.
I must've murmured a confirmation, because the man kneeling beside the girl immediately bolted upward and stalked toward me.
"This was your fault, Jansen?" he growled. When I didn't answer, when I couldn't deny, he gritted his teeth. "It was you! This is all your fault!"
No. No. No, it couldn't be. It couldn't be my fault. This couldn't be all me. I…it couldn't…I wouldn't…never…I just couldn't…not her.
"Sam," the woman gasped, massive brown eyes shimmering. "How could you?"
"I…" I stuttered. My attempts to piece everything together were coming to no avail. "I don't…I can't…"
"Look at him," the father sneered. Disgust patterned his face like tattoos. "He's drunk as a skunk. I can smell it on him." Then, he got right in my face, despite the objections of the officer. "Was it worth it, boy? Was that cheep beer and stale vodka worth it? Was it worth my daughter's life, my little angel?" It wasn't the snarl that scared me. It wasn't the glint in his eyes that sent despair spiraling down my spine. It was the single blob of water, the single tear that escaped his lashes and tumbled down his cheek that set my heart ablaze.
All I could do was pant.
"Sir, please step back," the officer almost pressed a hand to the man's chest.
"Step back?" he glared at the policeman. "You want me to step back? How can you tell me to do such a thing? This bastard robbed my daughter! This bastard fucking killed my girl!" He was screaming now, pointing an accusing finger right before my nose.
"I understand, sir," the police nodded, sympathetic. "And he will be tried accordingly. But you must—"
"No," the father shook his head slowly. The volume had evaporated from his voice, poof, like magic.
"No, you don't understand." He stared at me. His eyes, her eyes, buried deep into mine, bore to the very center of my being. The harshness, the fire, everything seeped into me. I choked on it all. I couldn't swallow it. I couldn't swallow this.
He turned away and helped them situate her on the stretcher.
"Lucy…" someone mumbled.
They wheeled her away.
"Lucy…" someone gasped.
She was plopped into the ambulance.
"Lucy…" someone hiccupped. It couldn't be me. It couldn't possibly be my voice so pregnant with regret, so void of anything other than the blackest of emotions. It couldn't possibly be me. It couldn't be me.
"Let's go, son," the officer said, and he snatched me harshly by the hand. "You've got some explaining to do."
"Let's go, son," a voice yells. I don't move. I don't blink. I barely even breathe. The voice is beyond familiar to me now, too familiar. It almost sickens me to hear it.
The shuffle of grass meets my ears. Go away. Just please, go away.
A few seconds later. "Let's go, Sam," the voice probes softly again. "You're over your time limit."
"I can't leave," I choke. My own voice is weak. I'm always weak.
"You've got to," he responds, clasping a hand on the top of the grave. I want to smack him. I want to hit his hand away so hard that his fingers fall from his palm. "You'll get in too much trouble if you don't. I can't let that happen."
"But I can't leave," I sputter again. Tears rake down my cheeks now, and I don't try to hide them. I'm done hiding. I'm done with everything. "I just…I can't leave…"
But I know I have to leave. I know that there's no sense in staying—she wouldn't want me to stay anyway. Why would she? I was the one that killed her, after all. I was the one that thought it was a brilliant idea to go driving in a booze-ridden haze. I was the one. I was the one. It was all me. If I was her, I'd want me as far away from my grave as possible.
My legs grow a little stronger when I think of this.
"I'll give you five more minutes," he whispers gently. "I'll be in the car." And he retreats.
When I'm certain he's gone, my hands fist themselves into the lush grass beneath me.
"I'm sorry, Lucy," I rasp, and my arms begin to tremble. "I never said it, but I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. Please, if there's any way I could make you understand, I just…I…I'm sorry. I'm really, really, unequivocally sorry. I know it doesn't mean much now—" I scoff, but my mouth is thick with tears—"but if I could do it over again, it would've been me. Okay, well, if I could do everything over again, I wouldn't have gotten in the damn car. I wouldn't have even gone to the fucking party in the first place—look, I…I'm just so fucking sorry."
A tear falls from my chin again and buries into the dirt.
The thick forest that surrounds the little, pristine graveyard seems to leer at me. The emerald leaves seem to shudder around my knees. The setting sun seems to beat harder down on my back. The waves seem to give one final, tremendous roar, just as I stuff my face into my hands and begin to mutter:
"I love you, Lucy."
A/N: Inspired by the song "Lucy" by Skillet. I guess I've got this thing with alcohol. I hate the stuff. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Please, don't drink. It's bad for you, trust me. It's just real, real bad.
Sorry if this thoroughly depressed anyone.
P.S.—yes, I'm still doing Steplover. Summer is FINALLY here, and I've FINALLY got some time. I always like doing a one-shot to come back on, though…and I have yet to write the latest chapter :). This is just to get the writer's block flowing and moving out.