She bumps me with her hip and I whirl to her, bewildered. Unfazed, she grins and this dank subway lights up. Her hand lifts, holding the cool metal spirals of a notebook. My face—bisected and shattered by the blue lines, the blades in neat files. I stare because I can't help myself and my ink twin stares right back.
The subway is crowded, crowded—hundreds of people mill about where millions of other have already milled. Some shout into telephones and some shout at each other, or at the subway itself, or at the world. It's noisy and damp and cool. Shadows lurk in the corners, but this girl shines like a beacon.
That smile never wavers as she rips out the page and holds it out to me between two fingers. I take it and it feels warm against my skin. I look at it again, then at her—her face, then her perception of my face. God, that smile is electric. She tilts her head and her bangs brush across her cheek and it feels like a punch in the stomach. A wink—and she turns.
"Hey, wait," I say, suddenly hating the sound of my own voice. She looks at me over her shoulder. "What's your name?"
She doesn't say a word but she comes back over to me, uncapping a blue pen that she's produced from somewhere. Her fingers wrap around mine and lift, and I feel the soft, moist tickling of her pen against the inside of my wrist. Seven numbers—I count each one, each smooth curve of blue ink on my skin, and I know right there she's branded me.
"Can I call you?"
The silent, shining creature nods and, with a final brush of her fingertips against my skin—a touch that leaves my head spinning—she walks off into the depths of the subway. She takes all her glow with her—all the color in the world, too, and the very oxygen from my lungs. It flows behind her like a pair of ultraviolet wings, trailing along the floor behind her.
And right there I know I'm screwed. I'm done for. My mouth is dry and I can distinctly recall the feel of her skin against my wrist.
I call her.