Disclaimer: It's all Jonathon Larson's. No one could hope to measure up anyway.
"May 14th, 11:32 AM. Maureen is making her monthly visit, and as per usual, she's brought enough clothes and accessories to practically move in."
"Shut up, Marky. I have to look good for the sake of Providence," Maureen replied, smirking, and shook her hair forward over her shoulders.
Mark brought down his camera, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, for all of the weekend," he remarked, but he was smiling.
"Oh, shut up and take me out to breakfast."
In acquiescence, Mark grabbed a sweatshirt and dragged it over his head, opening the door to the dorm for Maureen and ushering her out. She flounced ahead of him, and he smiled faintly at her back as they left the building and started picking their way slowly across campus.
As it turned out, Mark found Brown to be the most tolerable on the weekends that Maureen was visiting. At first, he'd tried to convince himself that he didn't need or want any connections back to Scarsdale (unspokenly, back to Roger), but Maureen would never fail to be an exception to every rule that Mark set up for himself. After two months of doing his best to evade her relentless questions about visiting, Mark had arrived back from his Psych class one Friday in November to find Maureen curled quite contentedly on his bed, because she'd taken upon herself to come, and Mark's roommate Benny had let her in.
By the end of that weekend, Mark had completely forgotten why he'd ever wanted to keep his best friend out of his life.
"Mark, where are you?" Maureen demanded a few minutes later, after the third time Mark had lost the thread of idle conversation that they had running. To punctuate her question she waved striped gloves in front of his face. Deftly, with years of practice behind the action, Mark caught her wrists and drew her arms down to her sides.
Her question wasn't entirely unfounded. Despite it being a Saturday, Mark hadn't slept well the night before, and as a result, he'd woken up still tired. To remedy that, he'd borrowed Benny's coffee maker and downed the better part of a full pot before Maureen or Benny awoke. Rather than fueling him with energy, the hot liquid had instead left him feeling strung out and buzzing.
"I'm fine, Maureen," he told her nevertheless, keeping his attention on her left cheek, just shy of her eyes, as though that might keep her from calling him out on his semi-lie.
Unfortunately, Maureen wasn't as unobservant as people tended to expect. Self-absorbed, yes, but certainly not unintelligent or unaware of the world around her. In fact, as an actress, she had to be aware of her surroundings in order to provoke the reactions she wanted, and that carried over into her everyday life as well. As a result, she eyed Mark and replied, "Bull. Shit. What's up, Marky?"
They were well into campus now, with a sweeping green lawn to one side, stone benches lining it on the path on which they stood. With a shrug, Mark dropped onto a bench. Though it was already May, the weather hadn't warmed up yet, so the cool stone was chilly even through his jeans. Maureen seated herself carefully, arranging herself sideways on Mark's lap, arms resting loosely on his shoulders, eyeing him speculatively.
Under the intensity of her gaze, Mark's worn nerves vibrated, and he could feel himself giving in. Still, he muttered, "Sitting in my lap probably isn't the best way to get me to focus."
Despite herself, Maureen grinned. "It'll get you to focus on me, I think," she shot back, and Mark inclined his head, admitting, "True, touché."
For a moment, he looked over Maureen's shoulder, past her to where a few people were passing their bench. He knew exactly what this looked like to the outside world—a boy and his girlfriend, sickly-sweet as they cocooned themselves into their own private universe.
Maureen's hands were warm through her gloves as she reached up to cup his face, and she said insistently, "Focus."
Drawing his eyes back to her, for a moment Mark let himself be caught up in the little shell built up around them. They were so close—no different from a thousand times before, but it had been awhile since Mark had been at all tempted to lean in until there was no space left at all.
Lest he do something foolish (and that would be exceedingly stupid, he told himself firmly), Mark sighed. "It's just that…god, Maureen, I hate it here."
Once the words were out of his mouth without Mark ever having intended to be that honest, it was as if a floodgate had been lifted so that he became a conduit for all the emotions that had been piling up since last fall.
"I hate it. Everyone walks around like they're some kind of demigod because they're at an Ivy League school. The professors treat us as if we should be machines, no creativity wanted. It's all about beating everyone else, not…succeeding for yourself.
"My parents want me to go into some high-paying field, but I'm barely passing most of my classes because I just don't care. Do you know how long it's been since I last filmed anything worthwhile? I thought—I took a film studies class, and it wasn't anything other than a waste of time. There aren't any budding Spike Lees or Quentin Tarantinos in there—no one wants to try to show the world as it is. It's all fucking…Spielberg, or Zemicks…just idealistic or fantastic.
"My literature classes are just as bad. Emily Dickinson is alright, but it's never balanced with Maya Angelou. Edmund Spencer, but never Pablo Neruda. What about the raw, ugly things? Jack Kerouac and Chuck Palahniuk? Where are they? This…all of this…it's like some pretty costume, an illusion. It's not…I can't…"
Abruptly, Mark's words stopped pouring forth. Maureen was watching him with something akin to amazement as he wound down, and Mark squirmed under the weight of her gaze. Finally he mumbled, "Sorry, I didn't mean to…you know. I just…"
"No, Mark, I want you to tell me these things. You never tell me anything anymore," Maureen replied, smoothing a hand through his hair. Mark turned his head into the touch, closing his eyes.
"Does this have to do with Roger?"
The words were so quiet that Mark almost didn't catch them, but when he did his head snapped back up, away from Maureen's calm hands and voice.
"What?" he gasped, the word sounding strangled in the flash of anger, "Roger? No, Maureen, it doesn't fucking have to do with…Roger. Why would you….what is that supposed to….I can't believe…."
Why would you bring him up? What is that supposed to imply? I can't believe you.
He tried to stand, but Maureen wouldn't move off of him, and he didn't quite have the heart to push her away, so instead he turned his head and glared off into the distance.
"Look, Mark, I'm sorry," and now she sounded pissed as well, "but it's just that ever since Roger left, you haven't been yourself. I know you guys had something…really had something great between you, but…it's over now. You have to let him go. He left you."
Mark bit the inside of his cheek, hard, until he could the coppery flavor of blood was on the edge of his tongue. Then, once he had a semblance of composure back, he practically whispered, "He told me that he didn't want me to settle for a life where I had to give up my dream."
"That's the one thing that I still agree with him about," Maureen replied, and she didn't sound angry anymore either. After a moment's pause, she added, "You have to do what's right for you, Mark."
They stayed out for most of the day, because even without telling her, Maureen seemed to realize that Mark didn't want to be confined within his residence hall, as much as he could help it. By the time that they finally did wander back, it was dark, and Benny was out, so Mark put on a movie.
As it played, Maureen situated herself against Mark, leaning against him easily, as if there was no doubt that she belonged there. He slid an arm around her waist, and she set her head on his shoulder, neither of them talking. As the end credits started to roll, Mark realized that he had just about drifted off, and blinked hard a few times to wake himself up more.
"I have to tell you something," Maureen was murmuring against his neck.
"What is it?"
"I'm transferring schools next year," she replied, and something about her voice made Mark's stomach clench. Before he could ask the obvious question she continued, "I'm going to NYU. I just got my acceptance, and I wanted to make sure that I got in before I told you, in case it didn't work out. I only found out Friday, just before coming. It's just that in Boston, I'm never going to get any real exposure. In New York…well, that's where actors and actresses actually get big breaks."
NYU. New York City. Mark's mind reeled, just like it had the previous autumn. Something about New York just drew everyone to it, and he was going to keep being left behind, every time. Swallowing hard, he flatly said, "I'm glad you got accepted."
"Don't sound like that, Mark," she responded, and after knowing her for as long as he had, Mark could tell that she was unhappy, even though he couldn't see her face in the dark from the angle that they were sitting at. "I almost didn't even apply, because I'd be further away from you."
That caught him by surprise. He knew that Maureen considered him her best friend, but he hadn't realized that he affected her choices that much, no matter how many times she told him that he absolutely did. The silence was heavy between them, but it was more uncertain than tense.
Finally, whispering, he said, "I'm coming with you."
Her voice was sharp as she queried, "What? But Mark…"
"No, listen. I hate it here. I'm…I think if I stay here I'm going to go crazy. I'll drop out of school. I'm going to go to New York with you. You're going to need a director for some of your work…right?"
"Yeah…of course I would….I'd love for you to be there, but…Mark, think about what you're saying. You'd drop out of school?"
Mark could hear the concern thickly laced through her voice, but nevertheless, he was already nodding against the top of her head. "My parents are going to hate me."
Under him, Maureen laughed lightly, agreeing, "Yeah." Mark had expected her to protest more, to tell him that he was being a complete idiot, and he needed to stay in school, and she'd still visit him all the time, but that there was no way that he was coming to New York City with her. The fact that she was agreeing with him felt too easy. He supposed it was the only thing that was going to be simple about it.
Vaguely, he wondered what his roommate was going to say. Benny was a man with direction. He had come in with enough credits, and was taking enough units every term so that he'd definitely be graduating early, and he was completely set on going into business management. Despite that, he and Mark were friends, though Mark could clearly picture the look that Benny would get when Mark informed him of what he was going to be doing next year.
His parents would throw a fit. His mother would cry and tell him that he had so much potential, and his father would inform him that he was throwing his life away, because he was their baby, and they wanted him to be perfect.
Before he even realized what he was thinking, he continued with how Roger would be the only one who was actually proud of him, because he was doing what he wanted instead of what everyone else wanted for him. Abruptly, he realized that Roger wasn't going to feel anything about it, because there was no way that he would even know. Maureen was right. Roger was gone.
As the thoughts rolled through his mind, Maureen's searching hand found his and squeezed it lightly. "Hey, Marky?" she said into his ear.
"I'm gonna get my pillow and go to bed now," she told him, starting to shift away from him and towards the couch that she normally slept on during her weekend visits.
Before he had time to process what he was doing, Mark had tightened his grip on her hand. At the extra pressure, she stilled and turned slowly back towards him, her brown curls and eyes blacker, and her pale skin even whiter in the darkness of the room. He could see the question written all over her face, in the set of her mouth and the tilt of her head, and he took a deep breath.
Heart in his throat, Mark managed to croak out, "Maybe you could….stay here, with me, tonight."
In the pause that ensued, he was pretty sure that he had messed everything up. Mark wasn't exactly suave, whereas Maureen had enough charisma that she either charmed people immediately, or else drove them away in a hurry. There was no in between with her, whereas he was a massive grey area.
Swallowing hard, he was about to just laugh it off and deny like hell that he had meant anything by his words when suddenly Maureen had twisted in his grip so that their fronts were pressed together, and their legs tangled up. "I don't want to be your second choice," she told him firmly, so close that their noses brushed together.
They looked at one another, Mark still completely in shock, and then he whispered, "Never, Mo."
As she leaned in, a satisfied smile playing over her mouth, he wondered if it was her or himself that he was lying to. Then, when she had pressed her lips to his and nudged her tongue in between them, he decided that it really didn't matter as long as she didn't ever stop what she was doing.