It's the stuff of Hollywood, thinks Abigail, tapping her pen against her notebook. Any movie, really. Somehow, fate shows its face and makes itself known. Somehow, something happens—they fall off a cliff, one falls into a coma. Somehow, they are thrown together, and two become one. Never does it leave them.

It's like a story a soldier once told her: "I've a buddy I'd known my whole life. I also have a friend I met last month. We went to battle together, and we got closer in one day than I ever got to the guy I've known my whole life."

These things happen. These things no one wants to happen, but secretly fantasizes about. Because a simple touch of disaster is the knot between two people. It makes the tie.

Abigail has a sick mind sometimes. At least, that's what people say. She thinks so, too. She doesn't like to be sweet and kind and open. That is not something she knows how to do.

Would she be a melting pile of sorrow in such a disaster?

And she can see it now, too:

When they are adults.

He lies in bed. Caramel hair swept back from his forehead, save the one little kink that sticks upright, all the time, like an antenna. An unusually peaceful look about him; his face relaxed. Something happened. A tennis accident, maybe. He plays tennis, all the time. She usually sees a brace on his arm, when he pushes himself more than usual.

A ball hit him in the head too hard. An opponent was so bitter, so vindictive, that when he lost he slammed his racket into his head. Whatever happened, he lies here, in a coma, breathing mask over his face. The racket hit his chest, too.

It's nighttime. Or day, maybe, and his family and friends—including his brother, who also plays tennis, and is so unusually concerned—have left, and for whatever reason, though they were very reluctant to do so.

But whatever happened, she is alone with him now. And she talks to him, because he's in a coma, and people can hear in comatose, but not everything, and she only half hopes that he hears her.

It's serious, because she cannot bear to speak to him or treat him well during his waking moments.

But she does. A breeze flies in through the window, and there is a great sadness in her, for the terror that he may be lost to her because his condition is critical. And he is such a lover of tennis, he is probably traumatized beyond belief, thinking, How can people do this...

And she holds his hand. She has the gall to hold his hand. Cup them between her palms, her fingers, her pale, pale skin contrasting his sun-browned skin. She is near tears, because it hurts her to see him so harmless, helpless before her.

Where is your life now, Brandon?

Is what she says to him. She feels his big hand between hers, the roughness not unexpected, and so very masculine: A sign of his strength. It are still warm, because his heart is warm—his personality, his life.

A great love sweeps through her, wells as a bubbling pit of water, warming her every pore.

There is so much she loves about him. His laughter. His kindness, rare but true. His way of loving. His way of living.

And he makes her laugh, though she would never admit it.

The way his antenna bobs when he laughs, sways when he talks. The sweat that sticks to his brow when he has soaked the courts with it.

And she says, very softly, as she rolls his hand between hers, the words that are already in her heart,

I love you. I have never dared to say this. I have loved you all these years. I can't help it. I've tried denying it. But it's true. I do love you, dearly. I just want you to know that.

Because, in all honesty...

And the words roll out, tasting of cheese between her teeth, though she means each and every one—

I love you so much, it hurts.

She pauses to catch her breath. She's done.

It's so stupid, she thinks.

But she thinks so all the same, in her secret heart of hearts, and such a place seems to exist.

I don't have a heart, she thinks, and thinks no further.

And what happens next? Does he wake up? She won't say it, but she does hope.

Maybe he does.


And now a wind climbs through the window. It sweeps the pages away from her book. There is the dry, soft clack-clack scatter as they fall to the floor. They fall apart like the flakes of her broken fantasy.

Are you okay, Abigail? says a classmate as she picks the paper up. You're really red.

I— Shut Presley