Our legs dangle over the edge, swaying slightly. We stay silent and I don't need to look at him to know he is staring below. We scour the streets beneath us with our lost eyes. Even in the dead of the night, with the stars obscured by the fumes and clouds above, the noise doesn't cease, the cars don't stop and the city dances.
Discarded bottles lay behind us. How many, I've lost count, but enough to make my vision grow hazy, my grip on the edge of the roof loosen slightly and my head to droop, landing lazily on Reed's shoulder.
I feel the rough fabric of his jacket scratch against my cheek and his body tense as I twist to be more comfortable.
My broken voice slices through the muted sounds of the city. I swear I hear his breathing falter slightly before he grunts in response. I don't push for an intelligible answer.
"How do you do it?" my voice cracks "How do you forget?"
The pause seems to drag.
"You don't." His reply is simple and blunt as he takes another swig of the newly opened bottle in his hands.
"You don't understa-"
"Don't." He cuts me off, a raw anger I don't recognise seeping into his voice.
"Don't tell me I don't understand, okay?" he demands, his shoulders tensing even more so beneath me.
Laughter travels up from below. It's the kind of laughter I miss. The laughter when you can't stop no matter how hard you try. When you just let go and let yourself laugh until you can't laugh a second longer. It's helpless, it's care-free, it's beautiful. I can't remember the last time I laughed like that.
"I'm sorry," I say finally "I didn't... you know I didn't mean it like that."
He doesn't reply and my heart constricts. I feel a faint pang in my chest, amidst the bones of my ribcage from the vulnerable organ I had not been sure could even feel anymore. I imagine how it must look now. Torn, broken, just beating. A stark contrast to the image on cheesy Valentine's Day cards filled with heartfelt words and empty promises.
Without a word, I lower my head until it hovers next to his chest. Just to the left, between his smoke-damaged lungs. Then I hear it. The steady beating of his heart pumping sweet blood through his veins. I feel his hot breath on my exposed neck as my thick curls fall forwards, covering my face. I imagine, if I was sober, I would have blushed, but the alcohol numbs the embarrassment, the feeling.
And that's all I crave now. All I need. Not to feel. Because if I feel, I'll remember. I'll remember the times she and I spent in my childhood bedroom, talking, laughing, whispering secrets into the darkness.
It wasn't late – it could only have been four, but the winter not only brought with it the chilling breeze, but the darkness, consuming the little light we clung to, much too early.
I stood on my old mattress stretching upwards to reach the ceiling. With every move, the tight coils inside creaked weakly. A gut-wrenching sound replaced the gentle creaks as Eve clambered up onto my bed to join me.
We stood in silence as she mirrored my pose and reached upwards. What she lacked in height – a good three inches less than me – she made up for in the huge jump she took as she stuck the last star in its place on the ceiling. As she landed, the mattress groaned.
"There, done," she declared proudly and looked up to assess our work. An over-excited grin appeared on her face.
"Let's try it out! Come on, lay down," she ordered and eagerly jumped off the bed.
Calmly, I laid down, ignoring the familiar creaks, as I watched Eve bound over to the doorway, close the door, blocking out the light from the hallway except for the thin slit that appeared beneath it, and flick the light switch.
The lights extinguished as if they were only candles and the darkness enveloped us. I could just hear Eve's galloping footsteps as she ran towards me and leapt up and over my tensed body onto what had become her side of the cramped single bed.
The pregnant pause that followed caused Eve to giggle. Once, then once more until we had both erupted into uncontrollable laughter for absolutely no reason at all.
Suddenly, Eve's giggles came to an abrupt stop and she tapped my arm gently. Through the overwhelming darkness, I could just see the silhouette of her slender arm and pointed finger, directing my gaze upwards.
My ceiling was alight, glowing in the darkness. I breathed in a heavy sigh as I took in the sight. Stuck to my once blank ceiling were hundreds of glow in the dark stars, shining. The glow of the light lit her face, casting stray shadows.
"Wow," seemed to be the only word I could utter. It was little more than a murmur, but she heard me.
I don't know how long we lay there, how long we gazed at the stars, without saying a word, but it didn't matter.
Not to us.
It must have been hours before my door jerked open with a bang.
"Girls?" my mother's inquisitive voice travelled to us from the doorway and all too soon, the lights flickered to life.
The stars disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Gone. But, in the end, it was okay, because I had her. I had Eve.
And now she's gone. Dead. Not even the brightest stars can rid me of this hideous feeling of being so desperately alone.
"What are you thinking about?" I had almost forgotten the man whose shoulder my head now lay on once more.
Another painful silence fills the air around us.
"Christ!" he curses, twisting his body and hoisting his legs up. He shots upwards, balancing himself.
I reach up to him, offering a hand to help steady him. He violently swats it away.
"Leave me alone!" he exclaims, his eyes meeting mine, the steady flames that always flicker in the recesses of his otherwise stony eyes are blazing.
I look away first.
"I don't need your help!" His words entwine with the sound of shattering glass.
My head whips up. The sound of the half-empty glass bottle smashing into the brick wall behind me resonates in my ears, making me wince.
Only now, as he stares at the dirty ground and paces, his thick jaw-length hair obscuring his eyes, do I take in his appearance. I notice his formal attempt for the funeral: a creased black blazer, but the sleeves are rolled up, revealing his inked forearms. I see words, dancing up his arms, disappearing beneath his jacket, telling stories.
Then, a girl. Winking, laughing, smiling.
She reminds me of Eve.
His scuffed shoes are splattered with the remainder of whatever had been in the bottle and just through the parting of his dark hair, I see his jaw click.
I know, if he looked up, his hair would fall into his bitter grey eyes, brushing his angular jaw. He's certainly a type: defined cheekbones, piercings, judging eyes and furrowed brows, but no one could deny his beauty. An artist's dream.
I scramble up from my temporary seat, my body aching in discomfort, but I don't approach him. It isn't fear – I'm not scared, that I know – but somethingstops me from running to him.
As I watch, he leans down and retrieves the last bottle of beer from my bag discarded near the edge of the building and slumps to the floor. I stand, frozen, as he folds his legs so that they graze his chin, wrapping his arms around his knees. For once, I see something unusual from Reed, something alien. Vulnerability. Reed is vulnerable.
"Grace?" I jump timidly at the sound of his questioning voice. His voice holds the same broken quality as my own.
"Yes?" I reply, taking a cautious step towards him, the weight of my feet displacing the gravel on the roof.
"Sit with me."
I notice it is less of a question than a demand, but I don't have the energy to protest and nor do I find myself wanting to. I make my way to where he sits, one foot stumbling over the other.
As soon as I find myself at his side, I join him, mirroring his position on the hard, painful ground.
I feel the small stones dig into my skin, but I welcome the aching pain..
"I try to forget too, you know. The drinking, the drugs. It's just to forget."
He stops abruptly and lifts the bottle in his hands to his parched lips.
"But it doesn't do anything. Sure, I forget for a while. A couple of hours of pure oblivious bliss until it all comes crashing down again and I can remember. Christ, Grace, I'd give anything not to remember." The lingering traces of anger creep back into his voice and I see his knuckles tighten around the bottle, his skin paling.
Almost of its own accord, my hand rises up and my fingertips trail along the side of his jaw that faces away from me. Slowly, I bring his face to meet mine and his eyes soften. But only slightly. So slight you could miss it if you don't keep your gaze trained to his.
I didn't consciously notice we had both leant forward until our foreheads touched. His skin feels like fire against mine and as I meet his eyes once more, I see a flicker of something new. They are not the eyes of someone bitter or mournful, nor of someone filled with an impossible rage, but those of someone who wanted.
His lips meet mine, angrily, urgently, powerfully. I sit shocked for a moment, but that is all it takes for me to respond and I feel my body press against his as I match his urgency and return his kiss. As I feel his touch around my waist, holding onto me, my hands find their way to his hair, gripping it in my fingers and pulling him even closer. I feel Reed shudder as we fall towards the wall behind us, his back against the hard bricks, our bodies moulded together.
I don't quite register the movement. One moment, we were kissing, fiercely, intensely, and the next my hands had untangled themselves from his mop of hair, our bodies parted and our kiss ended what felt like all too suddenly and all too soon.
Our breathing is heavy, ragged and out of time as I stumble backwards slightly, my fingers trailing a gentle pattern across my swollen lips.
We look up, lock gazes and his lips part to speak. The thought of what words came next cause me to whirl and run, grabbing my bag from the floor and scrambling for the handle of the door. Finally, I grasp it tightly and wrench the door open. The stairwell is dim, weakly illuminated by a flickering amber light above. I take the stairs two at a time until I burst out into the abandoned apartment building.
I stop, catching my breath, and stand, silent, just listening. There are no footsteps on the stairs behind me to interrupt the quiet nor does a single voice call for me. One lone, salty tear escapes from my glistening eyes, followed by another and another until I slump to the floor, sobs rising from my throat as my body shakes.
* This isn't perfect, but I posted it anyway and I would really love to know what you think. Please do point out to me any mistakes you can see because I don't always spot everything. Thanks x