His eyes opened, as his body involuntarily lunged forward, he quickly regained composure before he fell forward into the bed. He shook his head, reasoning that he must have fallen asleep, stupid. Slowly, his eyes drifted to her. She, who lay straightly across the bed, with little twist in her body, clung to the sheets, as she had been doing for days. Still suffering. His hand brushed hers gently, having no effect on the nearly lifeless girl. The clock ticking steadily in the background only reminded him of his mistake, falling asleep at a time like this. He leaned forward, hiding his face in one of his hands, while the other remained close to hers, so if she should wake, she'd have something to hold, besides the bed sheets.
He lifted the coffee cup to his lips, sugar only, people watching. He found it fascinating how the world seemed to slow down during the weekend, instead of running out towards their busy work schedules, people actually sat down at the café, browsing the internet or having a friendly conversation. The people beside him were flirting, he was sure they'd wind up in a hotel somewhere later that afternoon. To the opposite side of him, was a college student, sipping some frozen drink and typing vehemently on some forum. He smiled to himself, feeling quite like a secret agent. The breeze blew several different scents in his direction, some of them quite appealing. He was often here alone, not that he minded, the strangers kept him company, as much as he wanted anyway.
Slowly he began to tune them out, his thoughts drifting off to some foreign land, where he imagined the strangers to be even more unique then they were here. It wasn't long before he had completely forgotten his own world, unlike him really, he liked to know what was happening around him. He noted suspicious activity, mostly so if a situation went awry he'd be nowhere to be found. He smiled inwardly at the thought of the lovers beside him suddenly going from sickeningly cute, to angrily cursing the other. It would certainly make his day a bit more exciting.
"Excuse me," He blinked back to reality, staring up at a young girl, whose friendly smile beamed down upon him. "May I sit here? All the other seats have been taken."
He nodded, carefully watching her fold her umbrella down, even though there was no rain to be found. Her pastel pink colored dress ruffled slightly in the wind as she settled down across from him, still smiling. Awkwardly he tried to think of something to say, all that came to mind was 'nice weather we're having', but he felt, for a girl such as the one in front of him, that conversation wouldn't go over well. He noticed the small curl her hair held, and he noticed how her smile reached deep in her jade eyes, genuine happiness, he also noticed how fragile she looked, almost breakable. Though something about her said she was anything but breakable, that her figure was simply a misunderstanding. The color of her hair seemed unusual against the color of her skin, she was pale, not like an albino or porcelain doll, but like someone who no matter how hard they tried, just couldn't tan, and her hair was a deep brown. Odd, but for her, it worked, quite well he noted. She was, well, fantastic, to say the least.
"I'm Alice," She spoke softly, adding to her fragile image, her hand outstretched waiting for him to take it.
"Orin," He replied, taking her hand carefully, afraid of breaking her. Her skin was soft; he halfway wondered how she had survived her entire life. "If you don't mind my asking, why do you have an umbrella?"
The only response he received was a small giggle.
"Orin?" Her voice echoed, tiny, barely a whisper, he swallowed the sudden pain, and smiled.
"You're awake," He said.
She smiled just as faintly as her voice, it didn't reach her eyes, they were devoid of life. He hated to look into them, to see the state she was in, but he had to, so she wouldn't be afraid. Not that she was the one afraid at all. He slid his arm underneath her, lifting her up carefully; she remained limp in his arms. The fear was getting the best of him, as he fed her water, watching her fight to do anything. After a few moments, he laid her back down, gripping her hand gently. Her body trembled as the fever spiked, freezing her. Orin lifted the blanket beside her, draping it over her; she smiled again, in thanks.
"Do you think," Her voice shook with the rest of her. "That I'll get to see the stars again?"
Alice ran ahead of him, laughing as he chased after her. He reached the top of the hill moments after her. Their panting was the only sound, the stars glowing above them the only light. Alice was fascinated by the stars; she was amazed by the thought that there could be so many beautiful things, all in one place. He wrapped his arms around her from behind, she looked up at him, grinning, he returned her eager smile. She adjusted them so that they were staring up at the sky together. It had been two weeks since she told him she was dying. Two weeks, and he had never been more determined. There was no cure, she said, so she lived her life happier than any other person, because it kept her sane. He admired that, loved it, and his determination was born from that. He refused to let her spend a minute without a smile on her face. Anything she wanted, he gave it to her.
They were silent for ages, just staring; he wondered what went through her head when she saw the stars. She told him, one day, she was going to be a part of them, to him she already was. She had smiled then too, at his cheesy remark, but he swore it to be the truth. He looked back down from the sky, to her wondering eyes, she wasn't smiling.
"What's the matter?" He said quietly, keeping in touch with the silence.
"I'll miss them so much," She too whispered, silent tears sliding down her face.
He'd never seen her cry, it ripped him apart inside, his arms moved automatically, turning her around, allowing her to bury herself into his shirt. She gripped at the cloth, the silent sobs shaking her to her core. He felt like his world had stopped spinning that finally her haunting words had sunk in. She was dying. He couldn't save her. Never before had he felt so worthless.
Just tell her what she wants to hear, the doctors told him, before sending her home to die.
"Yeah," He told her. "You'll see the stars again."
She sighed, a happy sigh, before the energy she had built up depleted sending her back into unconsciousness. He stared at her sleeping form, allowing fear to finally consume him. The fear that those would be the last words he ever said to her, the fear that her heart would finally collapse, her lungs would stop filling with life giving oxygen that she would fade away forever. He touched his face, feeling a sudden wetness slide down his cheeks. It's okay to cry, they told him, when she's gone, it was perfectly normal they explained. Grief counseling, they'd slipped it in between telling him how to care for her. He wiped his eyes, shaking the pain away. She was still breathing, he couldn't give up yet.
"What do you think?" She asked, twirling around in front of him.
"It's beautiful," He said, causing her face to light up.
She modeled the green dress for him, she'd fallen in love with it the second they'd seen it in the mall. He surprised her with it days later. She flung herself in his arms, laughing, which in turned caused him to laugh. He spun her around; she liked the way the dress swished around her. He set her down; cautious of the mischievous look her eyes had filled with. Alice held her hand out, waiting for him to take it in his.
"May I have this dance?" She said, winking at him.
"I'm not very good," He began, only to be cut off by her finger resting on his lips.
"I'll teach you."
She grabbed a hold of him, positioning his hands on her waist, while she glided her arms around his neck. Their bodies merged as one as she lead him around the room in a makeshift Waltz. She beamed excitedly, about the swishing of her dress, about the dance, he laughed at the silliness of it all. For a brief moment, they forgot all about the incurable disease, and became two lovers engaged in their first dance. Their mind was on one another, all other things forgotten, things like how ridiculous they must look parading around the living room, sidestepping furniture.
They came to a stop sometime later when breathing became difficult, they laughed together, still with their bodies intertwined. Their eyes drifted into one another, as their laughter gave into silence, their breathing still uneven. Slowly his head tilted downward, leaning into her, as she lifted up slightly to meet him half way. Their lips met, gently at first, more passionate as they prolonged their separation.
She pulled away from him, looking into him with an emotion he didn't recognize. She crossed her hands in front of her, biting her lip shyly. He observed her movements, waiting for her to speak what she was thinking. She exhaled deeply before finally spitting it out.
"I love you."
The next day he found her, still in the dress, curled up on the couch, in a precarious position. She looked at him, apologetically, but when she blinked, all emotion wiped away. That's when he knew, finally, that he was going to lose her. Her body became too weak to support itself and she tumbled forward, his arms there to catch her. She was in the hospital for three weeks before she started to beg to go home to die. The doctors told him it was probably for the best. He hardly left her side anymore, now that they were home. She slept most of the time, and he tried to find things to distract him from seeing her strange form. She wasn't Alice, she was an empty shell of what was once Alice, but he knew Alice was still in there, in eternal slumber, so he couldn't bring himself to stop watching her, to stop touching her.
She wanted to die in the green dress, he knew it was coming, the end, because the green dress clung to her skin, like it was a part of her now. He wiped the sweat from her forehead, before picking up one of her favourite books. He flipped through until he found her favourite passage, and he began to read it to her. Towards the end of the book, she began to stir, to wake up once more. He knew that every time she opened her eyes was another step closer to the end, but he was grateful for his final glances into her eyes. He knew that seeing him made her happy too, still made her heart flutter. She slowly turned her head to see him, too weak to smile anymore, instead she just stared. It terrified him, she was a zombie, a shell, and it hurt him too.
He shifted closer to her, setting the book aside, touching her face, brushing her hair back, it stuck to her skin just as the dress did. She looked so miserable, he couldn't bare it. His hand stayed on her face, caressing her, it brought her comfort, and she leaned heavily in his hand.
"Orin," He hardly heard her, she was fighting, she shouldn't fight, he tried to get her to be silent, but she wouldn't pay him any mind. "Orin, promise me…promise you won't cry…"
"I-I promise," His voice shook, knowing very well that his promise could never be kept. "I love you Alice."
He could feel her body collapse, her insides stop functioning. He could feel the world spinning, something was stabbing him. He slid away, gripping the sheets; he buried his face in them, next to her lifeless being. He broke his promise.
The sun beat down against his skin, as he stared at the girl across from him. She hadn't answered his question, and he guessed he was content with not knowing the answer. After all, she was just another stranger for him to observe. She leaned forward on her elbows, resting her chin on her hands, all to stare at him. He waited, she waited. The world passed them by, but they didn't notice, caught in their stare. The college student had closed their laptop, the lovers had moved onto that hotel, but they were stuck fast in time. He had to admit, he kind of liked it there.