You never believe in the colours black and white. Or the concept of a black and white world. It just didn't work like that. They world was grey and it was as simple as that. There was no clear cut right and wrong. You always had to look at everything else surrounding the decision you were making. Always. No exceptions.
Not even when your girlfriend is abusive because that doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. It doesn't mean there is something wrong with you, no matter what your Health teacher keeps telling the class. Arguing is good sometimes. It means you aren't perfect. Like Katie isn't perfect.
You don't believe in the concept of being wrong, but right now you know that she is very very very wrong.
"Katie," you say, trying to be practical. "She's your daughter."
"I know, but I have a store to run. Can't you just watch her, babe?"
"I have to go to school."
"You can skip. I skipped all the time and I turned out just fine."
"You got pregnant in your senior year and would have dropped out if I hadn't threatened to break up with you," you tell her. She doesn't care. All she wants to do is hand over the baby to you and not think about it again for the day. You babysit little Addy almost every day and she never even thanks you for it. But you do it because you love her. Katie and baby Addy. They are about seventy five percent of your life. The other twenty five percent, of course, being Rhode.
"That was uncalled for. I'm just asking you to watch her for the day, Killa-Jules," she says. She tells you that you are bright like as much energy as can be. Like kilo-joules of something. So that's what she calls you and it works perfectly.
"Fine," you agree and you take Addy from her. She's smiling like nothing could be wrong in the world. She's not old enough to realize what a terrible person mommy can be. But that's okay because to her, Mommy is the most amazing person in the world and sometimes, you think that too.
When you curl up beside her at night and cuddle, even though she would deny she likes to cuddle you know she does. Just like Rhode. Rhode always told you she hated to cuddle, but you disproved that the first time you slept over in the third grade when you watched a scary movie and Rhode was curled up half on top of you by the end and you fell asleep like that. She wouldn't admit it even if you held her at gun point, but that doesn't matter because ever since that first night she never ever ever stopped. Every time that you sleep over at her house, every time you and Katie have a fight, she's there right by your side, curled up like a kitten. Except that Rhode is more like a lion than a kitten and it doesn't really matter much anyway because both of them are adorable when they sleep and so is Rhode.
Addy coos and you bounce her on your hip as Katie gives you a quick peck on the cheek and runs down into the bookstore below. She bought it about six months ago on the spur of the moment. You kept telling her it was a bad idea, but she told you to shut up and bought it anyway. You ignored her and told her that she wasn't in the right place in life to buy a bookstore, she could barely even afford groceries. And thanks to loans, she still can't. You can't even get a job to help out because you have to help her with the store and you have to help her with Addy, but you don't mind that much because there is no place you'd rather be than in a wonderful bookstore with your amazing girlfriend and her beautiful daughter. The only thing that would make it better would be if Rhode could be there, but Rhode never liked Katie and Katie never liked Rhode so that would never work. Katie always says that Rhode was a coldhearted bitch and you know that sometimes Rhode is a coldhearted bitch. To everyone else at least, never to you. Rhode always says that Katie is a mean spirited jerk who likes to inflict pain upon others and who will always hurt you so you should leave her before she can. Rhode is better with words than Katie is. But you don't love either of them for that so it doesn't matter that much.
"Can I take her to the park?" you ask eagerly. You love taking Addy to the park.
"Whatever," says Katie.
You grin and grab your coat and Addy's little baby coat. You're off to see the wizard the wonderful wizard of oz!
Off you go, out the door and down the road and the park is only two blocks away. Addy giggles and gurgles the whole way.
You skip into the park happily. Addy laughs and you set her in the baby swing and push and push and push.
She coos and giggles.
"Juwee!" she calls and you smile because it's your name. Kylie-Juliette Ariana Rose DeMonetery.
"I'm here, Addy," you say and she coos again.
You stay at the park for about an hour , but then Addy starts to cry for Mommy and you go back to The Book Case.
Katie is busy with a customer so you take baby Addy upstairs to her apartment. It's small. There are only three rooms up there, a bathroom, a bedroom and a small kitchen. The three of you share that bedroom when you are there. Baby Addy is still young enough that she can't be too far from Mommy and there's nowhere else for her to sleep anyway. You take baby Addy in there and give her favorite toy bunny. She giggles.
"Hey, Addy Waddy, Mommy's busy. Yes, she is. But she'll be here soon," you tell her.
"Mommy," she repeats and you nod happily.
Your phone rings and you answer it, moving to get Addy's bottle off the dresser.
"Hi," you say, going into the kitchen quickly to heat it up. You can still see Addy playing on the bed.
"Ari, you were supposed to call me like two hours ago," says your best friend, Rhode.
"Sorry," you say. "I took Addy to the park."
"You watch that kid way too much considering she's not yours," says Rhode and you go back into the bedroom and pick Addy up. She coos happily at her bottle. She loves being fed.
"She is," you say even though biologically she is not your daughter, but you've been with her mom since before the concept of her even existed.
"Ari, she's not. Katie needs to learn to take care of her own damn kid."
"She's busy, Rhode. Lay off her."
"I know, Rhode. What did you want?" you say with a sigh and Addy sucks happily at her bottle.
"Are we gonna hang out later? I haven't seen you in awhile."
"You see me every day at school," you say even though you know what she means. You miss her too.
The door opens.
"Gotta go," you whisper and snap the phone closed. You look up at Katie.
"Who were you talking to?" she demands.
"No one," you lie. Katie doesn't like Rhode and you know it oh so well.
"Don't lie to me," says Katie. You know she hates being lied to and you don't know why you did it. It was a terrible horrible idea. She's angry and you don't like it when she's angry.
"Sorry," you mumble and hold Addy tight as she keep sucking away.
"Who were you talking to?" she demands again.
"Rhode," you answer obediently because you don't like the fire in her eyes.
"I told you not to talk to her," she says. You know she did, and you know you should listen, but you've known Rhode longer than you've known anyway that still in your life.
"Katie..." you plead quietly.
"If you want to talk to her so damn much why don't you go live with her?"
So you hand her Addy and you leave. It's not a very far walk to Rhode's house and you have made the walk many times before. Every time that Katie got to be too much.
You walk into Rhode's house without knocking because you've been there so many times that you never knock anymore because you practically live there. You've known her forever.
"Rhode," you call loudly and happily. There's no need to let Katie get you down, she's done this so many times it doesn't even matter anymore.
Her head pokes down from the top of the stairs with her wild black hair and her purple eyes. She's the only person you know with purple eyes. She's the only person in the world with those eyes and you feel lucky to know her.
"Ari?" she asks and you go up the stairs.
"Katie told me to leave. So I did."
Rhode sighs like she doesn't want you to be there, but you know that's not true. Rhode likes to pretend she doesn't care and you think it's absolutely adorable even though you know that she hates being called adorable. Even by you.
"I'm watching House," she says and you smile because she knows it's your favorite show.
"Yay!" you cheer and you watch together. Even though you have a girlfriend you can't help but stare at the beautiful doctor on the screen, the one they call Thirteen. You like this show because House reminds you so much of Rhode. And sometimes even of Katie. To everyone, but you Rhode is a bitch, a jerk, any other name you can think of, but you would never call her any of those because she can be so nice to you. She likes to hear about all of your dreams, the ones about rainbows and puppies (even though she likes to claim to hate both, you don't believe she can), the ones about Katie (even though you know she hates Katie), the ones about anything and everything in between. Katie just tells you to shut up so you stopped telling her things.
You were afraid to to tell her and now you just don't want her to know.
You've never been afraid to tell Rhode anything. She might hit other people, but you know she would never lay a finger on you. Not like that.
You rest your head on her shoulder because you know she won't swat you off.
You jerk up as a new episode starts and there's Thirteen on a bed with another girl and they're half naked. It's the hottest thing you've ever seen, except maybe that dream you had where Rhode and Katie didn't hate each other.
Rhode laughs and you keep your eyes glued to the screen.
"Like that, dontcha, Ari?"
You nod, never moving your eyes from the bodies kissing. She laughs again and then it's over and they're sleeping.
You sit back, not putting your head on her shoulder again.
"Hey, Rhode?" you say.
She turns to you.
"Have you ever kissed a girl?"
"You know the answer to that, Ari."
"I was hoping it changed."
You shrug because you have no idea why. You were just hoping, not really questioning why.
"Do you want it to change?" she asks and you realize how close you guys always sit.
"Yes," you say.
"Then kiss me," she says.
"What?" you ask.
"Kiss me," she repeats and turns her head towards you. And suddenly those purple eyes are all you can see. She leans and you lean an the thought that you have a girlfriend doesn't cross your mind in the slightest. Her lips are so soft. You don't want them to ever ever ever leave yours. Her tongue wiggles into your mouth and you try to wonder where she learned to kiss like that, but then you forget all thoughts that aren't about Rhode's lips being on yours right this second.
Then they are gone and you are still breathing heavy, wishing they were on your lips again. You want to kiss her and you want noting other than to kiss her.
"So whatcha think?" you manage and you don't know how.
She smiles and you and you smile back, not caring what you are smiling at. All that you care is that she is smiling, and you are smiling and you are smiling together and you don't care if it's sounds corny because it's the truth.
You don't say anything else and neither does she, but you lean in and kiss her again and she kisses back. You never want to stop.
Later, as you lie in bed together she turns to you.
"Why are you with her?" she asks and it takes you a second to figure out who she's talking about because you've almost forgotten Katie.
You think and you can't come up with a reason why. She's mean, but so is Rhode. But Rhode isn't mean to you. She would never do any of the things that Katie does. You tell Rhode.
"Leave her," Rhode says simply.
You can only think of one thing to say.
"Okay," you say and at this moment in time you really mean it. You'll leave her.
"Do you believe in unicorns?" you ask her.
"No," she says shortly and you knew she would do that even before you said it. But that never stops you because you want to know if she changes her mind.
"No one has ever seen one," she says.
She has a point.
"Do you think they missed the boat?" you ask.
"What boat?" she asks, pressing buttons on her controller. You are play some video game that you don't know the name of and Rhode is winning by a lot. You aren't really trying. You don't like winning because that means someone else is losing and you don't like seeing people sad.
"Noah's Arc," you say. Of course, it's Noah's Arc. What other boat would the unicorns have missed?
"Why would the unicorns have missed Noah's Arc?" she asks impatiently. She gets impatient sometimes, but you don't mind. You know most people wouldn't have dealt with you nearly as long as she has. She hasn't killed you that and you are grateful for that. You really are.
"Well, I assume they were around before that, but they aren't really now. Or if they are they are really good at hiding because we don't see them much anymore. Sometimes people do though."
"People who are on drugs," she says.
"Maybe," you say even though you don't really believe it. Sane people have seen them too, when they weren't hallucinating.
The screen goes black then declares Rhode the winner. You pretend to be sad because that's what you are supposed to do when you lose. You don't really feel sad though.
"You never try," she complains halfheartedly.
"I don't like winning," you tell her even though you know she knows this because she knows every little thing about you. She's been there forever.
She smiles and tells you that you are so weird. You smile and thank her because you know she loves it when you are weird and you love the fact that she loves it.
You smile. She smiles. You play the game again and again she wins.
You kiss some more and Rhode's mom calls you down for dinner. She didn't see you come in, but she isn't surprised at all that you are there. She never is. Sometimes you think she always sets a place for you, even when you are there.
Dinner is amazing, as always. Rhode's mom, her name is Lily, is an amazing cook and she beams when you tell her so.
She asks if you are spending the night and you say yes. She smiles and says the pajamas you left here are in the drier. You smile. She's so nice.
You wake up in the middle of the night with Rhode wrapped all around you, your heart beating out of your chest and remember why you were with Katie. You sit there and think. For the first fifteen years of your life you could never find your heartbeat. You never knew it was there. You wished it was. Katie helped you find it and you fell in love with her. Now you wish you never had. It's so loud and noisy and you hatehatehate it.
Rhode stirs and you pretend to be asleep so you don't wake her. She's cranky when you wake her up at two am to tell her sometime she didn't really care about.
"I know you're not sleeping," she says and you turned towards her. "What's wrong?"
"My heartbeat," you answer. If you told Katie that she would laugh and tell you everyone has a heartbeat, you were hiding something from her. But you really never are. You don't like hiding things.
"Want to listen to mine?" asked Rhode and she pulls you close. Your heart was racing and it slows down to match with hers. You heard a poem once that said if two hearts are close enough together they change to beat at the same tempo and soon your hearts are. You smile.
"Thank you," you whisper against her lips. She kisses you and her breath doesn't smell good, but you don't care because it's still hers.
You fall back asleep slowly. You know that you can't go back to Katie, even though she showed you that you are really alive.