The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Chapter Seven

Pushing open the heavy double doors, Darien and I step into the crowded main hall of school. People are swarming everywhere, talking idly, shouting to each other. We head straight to my locker to put away our coats.

After I stuff them in and shut the door, I look at Darien. He's smiling, as usual. I smile fondly back. The wilful autumn sun is pouring through the windows, and the people milling around behind him are out of focus and blurring; only him, his eyes, the pores on his skin, can I see clearly.

I hold out my hand, and he takes it. He probably doesn't realize this means anything different to me than usual. He probably wouldn't understand why I'm apprehensive about walking hand in hand down the school hallway. But why should he?

When we get to the Art room I take off my hoodie. It's remarkably warm in here. While we're settling in, a girl hesitantly walks up to us.

"Hey?" she says. I've never talked to her before. I don't know her name.

"Hey," I reply. "What's up?"

"Umm… is it true? I mean, I heard you two, like, fucked in the shower room yesterday." Her eyes are wide, watching.

"No!" I say heatedly. I sigh, trying to calm down. "Nothing like that happened."

"But we're boyfriends now," Darien adds.

"Oh yeah?" the girl asks.

"Yeah. We're really close. We slept together last night."

The girl looks back at me. I can't hide the blush all over my face.

"But we didn't have sex!" I say. It's no use. She scurries back to her table, probably to relay everything we said.

I sit back on my stool.

"You know Darien, you shouldn't tell everyone we slept together. They make assumptions."

His face is questioning.

"Like, they'll think we had sex."

"What's that?"

"Well it's… really hard to explain. I'll tell you later, okay? But it's something that isn't other people's business."

"Alright," he says easily. I pull his hand into mine, and feel his palms. I'm trying to reassure him: I'm okay with this. I'm not embarrassed. Or too embarrassed, anyways.

The day continues like this. In English, the two girls behind us ask the same things, and then giggle the whole class. In Science nobody has time to talk, but I see guys and girls giving us looks while we are supposed to be taking notes.

When Science ends, Darien turns to me. His eyes are kind of glazed. I think he pretty much zones out whenever we have to take notes. When his eyes focus on me, his face jumps to life. It's subtle, but I see it – from bored to interested.

I lean over and peck him on the nose. He tastes like paint from his finger-painting adventure in Art class.

"Let's go eat lunch."

I drop my bag and recline in a chair beside Peter. Darien sits on my other side.

The girl who told Darien yesterday he was cute – Shelley is her name – leans across the table.

"So I heard you two are like… together."

"Yeah," I say, putting my arm around Darien, my cheeks only flushing slightly now.

"Could you guys like… kiss? For me? It would be so sweet. So sweet."

"Shelley…" Peter groans.

"No, that's okay," I say. I turn to Darien and look at him. He takes the initiative and kisses me intensely on the lips. Caught off guard by the passion, it takes me a second to respond.

After he pulls away, Darien turns to Shelley with a look on his face as if to ask 'how did I do?' I roll my eyes and lay my head on his shoulder.

Shelley is having a fit of giggles. "So sweet. Can I paint your nails, Darien?"

"Yes please!"

"Let's see, I've got pink, blue, and green…" She ruffles through her purse and brings them out.

"I like that green."

"Sure thing."

While Shelley starts on Darien's right hand, I look up. The windows show that the weather remains fair. This in itself makes me smile.

"Hey, since tomorrow's Saturday, we were going to go to the mall. Did you two want to come?" Peter asks, fixing us with a questioning look. I feel elated that he's trying to include us in things.

"Sure. What time?"

"Oh, we were going to meet at the front entrance around one in the afternoon."

"I wanted to meet at eleven but apparently that's too early," Shelley says without taking her eyes off of Darien's nails. She gives a shy giggle.

"Cool, we'll definitely be there."

I feed Darien his lunch because the fingernails on his hands are still drying.

When History finally ends, I pack everything into my back-pack. I'm really excited.

"Let's go take a walk!"

Darien sure seems up for it. We head to my locker to get our coats, but when we get outside, we realise we don't even need them. I stretch my arms to feel the air as much as possible.

"Thank your sister for me, next time your see her."

Darien laughs at me. "Okay," he says. "But you know she's not just doing it for your sake, right?"

"Yeah. I mean, I know some glowing orbs in the sky who do things just for my sake, and the sun ain't one of them."

We're walking towards the sea. The path we're on has tall telephone poles holding power lines, and cedars and pines towering over those. I'm feeling whimsical. Chewing the inside of my mouth absently I ask what's on my mind.

"If you were a bug… what bug would you be?"

"I would be a… hmm… I dunno. Are people bugs?"

"No, Darien! You can be a centipede. I'll be a mosquito and then I'll drink your blood."

"Gluck!" he says, making a grossed out face.

"It's what they do. Really. You should've been here in the summertime." I'm walking on an upraised fence, holding my arms out for balance.

We pass by a couple dressed up really nicely, with a photographer taking their pictures in front of a stand of trees. One of them kissing, one of them holding each other.

"What's that? Are they boyfriends?"

"Oh, probably wedding photos. That's like, after boyfriends or girlfriends, people get married. It's the next step."

"Cool. They look like they're having fun."

We cross a road and follow the street. There are a lot of shops around the waterfront, and as we walk by we look inside.

"Is that a bug?" Darien's nose is pressed up against a glass storefront.

"Nope. It's a lobster. People eat lobsters. They're supposed to be delicious. Apparently."

"And these?"

"Crabs. And these are salmon… and these are cod… this is an octopus."

"Cooooooool."

"Those little circle things are suckers. They can grab a hold of you and never let go."

"Neato."

Soon the storefronts turn to the park. It's a long stretch of paths along the rocky shore, ending with a nice place to watch the sun go down. We walk along the park to the far end. As we sit and watch the sea, a chill breeze blows through us. We pull on our coats again.

The sea is abnormally dark and choppy. It froths and moves in irregular ways. It's bizarre and uncanny.

"That's the sea. It's the big blue part you can see from up in space."

"It's pretty."

Darien appears calm and mellow. I lean into him for warmth, and we snuggle closer.

"Let's watch the sun set. It'll be amazing."

"Okay."

While we watch the sun inch down the sky, I try not to think about anything. The more I brood on Darien, on him having to leave, on my life, the worse I feel and the less enjoyment we can have together. So I focus on the breeze on my face, on the shifting panoply of colour in the sky, and on Darien's huddled warmth next to mine.

When the sun is just above the horizon it is shooting rays directly in my eyes, so I turn my head into Darien's shoulder.

We get up in the quickening dark. Out at sea two freighters pass, their haunting fog horns echoing. I can see little lights perk up all around the city. As we step on cold sand and abandoned kelp, I spot a small gazebo. When we pass I stop with a shock.

"Darien…!"

"What is it?"

"Look!"

I point to a small spider, noiselessly weaving its web in a corner of the gazebo. We climb the stairs and sit, looking in wonder.

"Now that's a bug," I breathe. I watch the starlight turn the pale strands a glowing white. The whole web seems luminous and unearthly.

I make a choking noise in my throat. The web gets progressively blurrier.

I'm crying, it turns out.

"Are you okay?" Darien asks.

"Yeah," I say. I try to say; it comes out as one part wail, one part sob. "It's just so beautiful."

"Yeah," he says, totally at peace.

"Why does life have to be this beautiful? It hurts."

Darien doesn't say anything. Instead he continues to sit beside me, his hand interwoven in mine.

Once the tears have stopped I wipe my eyes. "Sorry," I say. I feel silly about this. I calm my breathing and give Darien the best smile I can muster. "I think I'm good now."

Darien is smiling unbelievably wide. Shockingly wide. He's never looked so happy in his life. It kind of takes me aback.

"Darien…?"

"Clayton." He pulls me up from the seat and holds me close. "Clayton, I don't know how to say this. You're… you're home now."

"What?"

"You're home. You've reached your safe haven. You're alright now."

"What? No, Darien! I'm not ready. I'm not home yet. I still need you!"

"We all need each other Clayton. But I'll be right where you can find me. Always watching over you, up in the sky."

"No, Darien," I insist. I pull on his coat, bringing him as near as I can. My knuckles are turning white the way I'm holding him. But I'm not screaming, or crying. I think he knows I've already given in.

"I love you Clayton. You are wonderful. You are everything a person should be. I'll miss you forever, you know that? And I'll tell anyone I meet about the beautiful boy I met on the planet Earth."

I let out a long oh. Oh as in 'oh my love,' or 'oh I'll miss you,' or 'oh don't go;' a long, low, drawn out syllable where I place all my heartwrenching feelings. All my sadness. All my love. All my trust. All my heartache.

But I can feel him slipping away. Against the darkness of my closed eyes he places a kiss. His warmth leaves my body and I grow cold.

Blinking my eyes open I see him stepping back. He looks as radiant as he ever did. He pulls off the coat, sweater, and shirt. Toes off his shoes, pulls off his socks, and pulls down his pants and boxers together.

Completely bare, and shining like he's already in the sky again, he leans back. A heavenly swing holds him. He grasps the two translucent strings that hold it to the sky, and slowly it pulls up.

"No!" I shout, but he just continues smiling at me. Soon he's as small as a helium balloon lost in the sky. Soon he's smaller than that. Soon I can't see him at all.

Before I know it, I can see the mother-of-pearl curve of the moon in the sky.

"No," I mutter to myself. I finally feel one solitary tear wind down my cheek, leaving a sensitive trail behind.

Solemn, I gather Darien's clothes – my clothes again – and take the first steps back to the house.

I didn't expect to sleep that night. I spent hours just lying in bed, staring at the moon from my window. Somehow or other, though, it happened, and I drifted off.

When I awoke I was entirely disoriented. I had dreamt so deeply I felt like I had lived a whole other life. It was a vivid dream, and a beautiful one. In the grove of apple trees, flowering because it was springtime, I stood with Darien. The sky was black black black, but swirling stars and galaxies lit it up in ways I can't describe while I'm awake. They were impossibly bright, impossibly close, impossibly real.

Darien was wearing a dark suit. As was I. I guess it was our wedding ceremony. I awoke just as I was calling him my honeymoon…

When I ended up at the mall the next day in a mess, Peter, Shelley, and the rest were all very understanding. What they understood was my boyfriend left to go back home without any warning. That he didn't want to continue the relationship. That he said, let's still be friends. They understood, and I let myself rely on them.

I was surprised how easily things moved along. How the current of days didn't slow for even a minute. How easily I fit back into life, started having fun again with my friends. School projects came and went, report cards came and went, arguments among my friends came and went, winters and summers passed by…

Tonight I'm standing in the parking lot of the old theatre. I just pulled Nathan out behind my car to steal a kiss.

"You stole the show," I say. "You were the best one there. I don't know how the other actors can live with themselves."

"Cut it out," he says bashfully. "I wasn't that good…" but he's smiling.

"Maybe it's hard for me to tell so easy," I say. "Maybe you're just too gorgeous, maybe I just know too well what a perfect human being you are, that it blinds me. I'm a completely biased audience."

"Clayton," he says, embarrassed. He looks around, his demeanor changing to a more serious one. "Listen…"

"Yeah?" I breathe, intent on every word.

"Well, grad dance is coming up, and…"

I gulp. My breathing gets shallow and my palms feel like their being held over an open flame.

"And I was wondering if you'd come, like, as my official date?"

For one suspended moment, nothing happens. That's before I wrap my arms around him and yell, "Yes! Yes, yes!"

"Christ that's right in my ear!" he says, but smiling like it means the world. And I kiss him softly. And I look into his eyes, and think, god, I've never loved anyone more than I love you right now.

As we embrace again, I look up at the pale round moon, hovering above the city towers, lighting up the passing clouds. Can you see me Darien? I hope you're watching this right now. Because this would've been impossible without you.

A/N: Applause! Applause! Encore! Bravo!

Sniff sniff. I'm getting teary eyed. My little boys have grown up.

I apologize for the wait. I just had to end it right.

Thanks to my consistent readers and reviewers. This story wouldn't be anything today without you.

Thanks to the beautiful life that lets me live it every day. Thanks to the beautiful words in our language that let me say this to you.

I may come back and edit this story in the future. I feel that some of the middle chapters lose the freshness and intensity. But I have never been more proud of something I've written than I am of this, right now. Whatever may change, I'll try and hold on to this.

If anyone has questions or complaints about things that haven't been addressed, leave a review or send me a PM. If there are certain things that come up a lot I may add on a bit of an explanation at the end.

Fruits of my Garden is almost finished. I have a new project that's already absorbing my imagination. And I still have several chapters of a story called 'Double Mirror' written, but I want to wait until I've finished it before I start uploading chapters.

Fuck. I'm so emotional right now. I'm gonna get off the computer and cry. Thanks, thanks, thanks!