Her favorites were the grey days, of heavy clouds and scattered showers. The days where she could pile on layer after layer of fabric, a scarf around her neck, a hood on her head to hide most of the scarring. She loved flushed cheeks from the cold and the tingle of heat as it seeped in through damp clothing.
She loved the rush of wind, the pitter patter of falling water, the blossoming umbrellas.
On days like those, the grey days, Emily always opted to spend her lunch breaks outside, cigarette in one hand, latte in the other.
Some days, the other girl would show, always in her navy blue peacoat and wool newsboy cap. Always with a cigarette of her own, captured between two pink lips. Always without a light.
On those days, the grey days, the lunch breaks, Emily would wordlessly extend a lighter, flicking the flame to life, casting a warm glow in blue eyes.
The two of them would stand, close enough for warmth, but not so close as to touch, inside of an alcove, carved into a scummy brick wall. Steam would rise from the vent in the sidewalk before them, swirling enchantingly around ankles and up shins, billowing like smoke.
They never exchanged names, nor occupations, ages, or even a word. It was their unspoken bond, something more powerful than smoke break small talk, and Emily found herself living for those grey days.
It was the middle of November now, Thanksgiving coming nearer and nearer, and Emily tried to ignore the nagging fact that she'd be spending another holiday alone. Even more, she tried to ignore the nagging fact that she wanted to ask the girl to eat with her. She wanted to cook for her, share a bottle of ridiculously expensive wine, listen to vinyl and dance in the living room. She wanted to unbutton the blue coat, pull off the newsboy cap, run her fingers through shiny blonde hair.
"Do you want more?"
"God, no." The blonde laughed, patting her stomach. They shared a warm smile, fingers entwined over the table, and around stems of wine glasses.
"I love you."
She wanted to love her, hold her, kiss her, and she didn't even know her name.
It was a grey day, almost a black day, as menacing nimbus clouds slithered across the sky, taunting those just waiting to run in from the impending rain. The thrill of it all made Emily smile as she stood in the alcove, cigarette burning, eyes sparkling.
Like clockwork the girl appeared at her side, cigarette of her own ready, something between a smirk and a grin on her face. Emily brought out the cheap red lighter, flicking once, twice, three times, to no avail.
Three hands cupped aorund the end of a still waiting cigarette and again the lighter flick, flick, flicked.
Emily's brow forrowed. "It was just working." She wanted to explain. "You can share mine." She wanted to offer, spine tingling at the mere thought of the other girls lips meeting hers, even just through paper.
With a glimmer in her eyes, a small hand reached into the pocket of the navy blue coat, and pulled out a lighter of its own. One try and the end of the cigarette blazed to life. The sudden brightness and heat almost scared Emily, but a soft smile steadied her.
Emily's mouth fell open as the lighter was once again deposited into the safety of a pocket.
"All this time?" She asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Smoke streamed out of the blondes mouth, and she laughed. A beautiful tinkling sound that made Emily's head buzz. Lightning exploded above them and Emily flinched as the sound of thunder echoed against the brick wall, but the girl didn't flinch, almost as if she hand't heard it.
"Well, not the first time." Her voice was even more beauitful than Emily had imagined, with a kind of southern lilt to it that made her grin.
"So our entire relationship has been a lie." Emily could feel herself getting pulled into this woman, into her calm and her chaos and the aura that seemed to drown them everytime they were together.
"Not all of it." Smoke dance daround their heads, and a wink was cast her way.
"Well, well, if it ain't little Jenny Jareau." A drawling male voice, thick like molases and just as unpleasant broke the trance Emily had felt herself falling into. Simultaniously they looked up to see a scrawny man in a police uniform leering at them.
"Officer LaMontagne." Jenny nodded curtly, her arms shifting a fraction of an inch, barely touching Emily's side. The tension was almost unbearable, and suddenly Emily wished the clouds would lift, give her some air, let her breathe. Lightning ripped across the black sky once more and the thunder roared louder.
"You all know eachother?" Emily wanted to ask, appalled that this man could talk to her smoking buddy.
"Profesionally." From somewhere around them the word whispered through the smoke.
"Fancy seeing you here. Thought your kind hung down on fourth street. Ain't that your corner these days?" Jenny Jareau was clearly uncomfortable, terrified, and a little pissed. Emily took another drag of her cigarette, almost choking on the burning in her lungs. A few streets away a siren blared.
"This a new recruit?" His sickening mug jerked toward Emily, his fingers reaching toward her. "You whores just get classier and classier." Thunder and sirens and Jenny's laugh rang in her mind, and she almost missed what the blonde said next.
"Leave her alone, LaMontagne. Leave us all alone." The still burning cigarette tumbled from Jenny's fingers in a shower of red sparks, falling onto Emily's pant leg. She could smell the burning fabric, feel the smoke slither up her leg and it was all a little too familiar, a little too real.
"Come on, J-Jayj." She'd meant to say Jenny, but the words exploded from her mouth sporatically, her nerves shot, her limbs trembling. She just wanted to get away from this man, to get Jenny to safety. She just wanted the noise to stop.
"Jayj, please, JJ?" The words echoed around her, and she couldn't tell if it was herself screaming or the woman next to her. Red and blue lights danced before her eyes, flames flickered orange against her retinas.
"Emily?" Her leg still felt like fire and her face was seared and blistering and LaMontagne had turned to smoke and sparks and heat. "Emily, honey."
"Jayj!" And as quickly as the fire was there, smoke suffocating her, screams ringing throughout the alcove, they were all gone.
"Emily, honey, it's time to go back in." Monica was there, familiar with her smooth ebony skin, and greying hair and bright blue scrubs.
Bright blue. Bright blue.
"Jayj, no." Emily mumbled pathetically, staring down at her pants, terrified and amazed that she wasn't a pile of ash. Her fingers flew to her face, feeling unfamiliar lines and bumps that weren't supposed to be there. All of this was wrong.
But Monica's friendly arms were guiding her, and JJ's eyes were smiling at her, and a small voice in the back of her head was reasuring her.
JJ's gone. This is your life now. Twelve o'clock meds and six o'clock dinners and no more razors to shave your legs or asperin for your headaches because you can't try to off yourself again.
The small brick alcove dissolved like a cartoon and chain link fences with sharp wire tops appeared. This was all wrong.
You never were the same after that explosion, after losing her and losing yourself and not recognizing this scarred, hideous face looking back at you in the mirror.
The hallways were dark and she still smelled like smoke, the reality of it all was making Emily sick. Monica tried to steady , to anchor her into reality, but her head was spinning too fast and before she could catch herself, the cold, linolium was covered in tears and vomit.
There were never smoke breaks, because you don't even smoke. There was never a blue coat. Just blue eyes. Just blue scrubs.
White coats spun around her, a needle pushed into her neck, and for a minute everything felt calm.
Was there ever any of it? Was there ever anything besides JJ?
Emily knew the answer as she was wheeled into the bare walled room, layed out on the thin cotton sheets.
She'd never been to that place, never had those smoke breaks. There was no JJ.
There wasn't even Emily anymore.