I thought things would be different after I moved to New York and was away from my family, who tended to be overprotective at best, when they weren't outright controlling my every move. But it had been their idea for me to go to school in the City, so they let me go with their blessing.
I thought Foxx would move in with me and finally we could really be boyfriend and girlfriend. Instead, I got a roommate, and Foxx only came around when she wasn't there. Apparently, my parents wanted me to be independent, but not that independent. Or maybe they didn't want to spend the extra for a single room, I don't know. I was not very happy about it, though.
Foxx was glad I'd decided to come to a larger city. He brought me everywhere; to the theatre, to Chinatown, to every museum we could find, to the point where I was in danger of flunking out of my first semester. We held hands, and when Lauren, my roommate, was out with her friends, we hung out in my dorm room, both squeezed together on my single bed, watching TV. We never went much farther than that, thought not for lack of trying on my part. Foxx was hesitant to take it further, even though I could tell he cared for me.
He tried to tell me the reasons why, but I didn't want to hear them. I didn't want to know. I didn't care that he never ate when we went out, or that nobody seemed to notice him when we were together. I refused to believe he had anything to do with the frequent deaths that peppered the news. New York was a big city. These things happened.
So I took what I could get when it came to Foxx. He came and he went as usual, and in between I attended classes and pretended everything was all right.
Lauren burst in on us one evening when she forgot her purse. "Oh," she said as she skidded into our room and saw me cuddling in bed with Foxx, who looked every bit as surprised as Lauren. I had my head on Foxx's shoulder and his arm was around me as I laughed at something funny he'd just said. Lauren glanced at the TV, which showed the nightly news. "It's too early to be in bed," Lauren said, grabbing her purse off the desk where she'd left it. "Why don't you get dressed and come out with me?"
I exchanged glances with Foxx, who'd gone silent as soon as Lauren entered the room.
"Come on. It'll be fun!" Lauren urged. She sat down at the edge of my bed, perilously close to Foxx's legs. "It's not good for you to stay cooped up in the dorm all the time."
"I'm fine," I told her. "Next time."
After Lauren left, Foxx murmured, "Maybe you ought to go out with her."
I snuggled closer to him. "I'd rather stay here with you."
He regarded me gravely. "You're immune, but she isn't. I probably should stay away for a while."
"What? No!" I grabbed Foxx's hands. "I don't get to see you enough, as it is!" I was afraid he would disappear again and I'd be alone. "Please stay."
Foxx settled back down, his eyes trained on the local news which broadcast all the day's happenings. Today there was one stabbing, a couple of automobile accidents, and a prominent businessman who'd gone missing after a stroll in the park. And those were just the ones that made the news.
Foxx continued to visit me in my dorm, sometimes when Lauren was there, though she never commented on it. Towards Thanksgiving, Lauren began coughing uncontrollably at night. She ended up having to leave school permanently, so I got my single room after all. I found out during exams from one of Lauren's friends that she had passed away from her illness. It was all very sad.
Lauren's friends took me under their wing, so to speak. The camaraderie of a shared loss, I guess. They invited me to their parties and study groups. I think they felt sorry for me after what happened to Lauren. Of course, I didn't want to go most of the time. Foxx encouraged me to give it a try. So I did, for his sake, so he'd stay and not go away again. But Foxx never came on these outings with me. Never.
I saw Foxx one evening as I was hurrying across town to meet some of Lauren's friends—I still had a hard time thinking of them as mine—for an outdoor movie. The streets were crowded with rush-hour traffic. I tried to catch up with him, to persuade him to come to the movie with me, or if not, to hang out with him instead. It had been a few days since he'd come around.
But Foxx didn't see me in the crowd. He crossed a busy street about a block ahead of me, stepping quickly to make the light. The slanting sun limned him in shades of gold. He was so beautiful! He caught up to the last few stragglers right before the traffic light changed, and I saw him touch a young man on the arm, as if maybe he knew him. For a moment Foxx's golden aura surrounded them both. Then the young man slowed down and stopped, with Foxx still beside him as the light changed and a line of cars roared past. The first car swerved around them because it had seen the young man stop. However, the car behind must have been blinded by the sun. It plowed right into both men in the crosswalk with a sickening crunch. The young man crumpled to the ground. Foxx kept on walking.
My hands flew to my mouth and I stopped dead as ahead of me people screamed and horns blared. The car which had hit the young man had come to a stop, skewed across the intersection. I couldn't see what had happened to the poor man who had been hit, but I knew. I knew he was dead. And Foxx had kept on walking.
After that, I couldn't lie to myself about Foxx any longer. I still loved him, but wherever he was, people died. Except me. When he came around now, I didn't beg him to stay anymore. And when I had something else to do, I told him I couldn't hang out. Unbelievably, Foxx was okay with that. He was glad I was making other friends.
But I missed him. I found myself looking for him in all sorts of places, and once or twice I spotted him. Always, people died when he was near. Accidents happened. There was no rhyme or reason to it, either. Some were young, some were old. Hardly any, of the ones I noticed anyway, deserved it. But who was I to judge?
I asked Foxx about it one rare night when he stayed with me until dawn. The semester was nearly over, and soon I would be going home for the summer. I knew Foxx would not come back with me to my small town, and I can't say I was sad about it. I didn't want any more people that I knew to die. Turns out, Foxx didn't judge, either.
"When you first saw me, back in Canada, were you, were you going to, you know, take me? Was it my time?"
Foxx smiled. "I don't know anything about whose time it is to go, but yes, I would have taken you back then."
"Why didn't you?" I asked almost bitterly.
Foxx put his hands on my shoulders so I'd have no choice but to stare into his achingly beautiful face. "Because you saw me. It can be lonely, to see and never be seen." He let me go, and I turned my head so he wouldn't see my tears.
"You think I don't know that?" I cried. I knew firsthand how it felt to never be seen for who you really are. It was the story of my life.
Foxx turned me back to him and wrapped me in his arms. I always felt at peace in his arms. "I do know," he murmured. "But you have a chance to change all that. Don't waste it on me, Emily. I will always love you, but you need to let me go."
Let him go? I stared up at him, my eyes widening. I hadn't realized I was holding him here, to me. "I can't," I choked out in a strangled whisper, the tears coming faster now. He was real; it was the rest of the world that wasn't quite real to me.
Foxx bent down and kissed me softly on the lips. My eyes fluttered as a wave of calm flowed through me. My first kiss, I thought. And my last. When I looked up, he was gone.
That was the last time I saw Foxx. It's been ten years now, and life goes on. I still live at home, though I have a good job that I don't particularly like. My parents still insist I go with them on family trips, so I do, having nothing better to do. I look for him everywhere we go, but I don't think I'll see him again. Our time is done.
A golden figure leaned against the outer wall of a large bank building, watching the young woman who had just finished her workday hurry by. She didn't see him. Couldn't see him anymore. He pushed away from the wall and began to follow her.