Hola chicos!

This was my entry in The Season of Our Discontent contest. I was inspired by the #2 picture, of the couple amorous against the green lockers in a school hallway. Here's a link to the banner I made with the picture: i848. photobucket. com/albums/ab43/Nayarit1984/7-2. jpg.

But quickly, just huge, HUGE, fucking thanks to my most amazing set of betas, PunkyBumpkin and Alotalittle. These girls pulled out such wonders with this story, and through the DOZENS of edits to get each little nuance right. I couldn't ask for a better team. They're amazing at everything they do. And JUST THANKS YOU GUYS!

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight/"The Sound of Silence"/Spartacus/Spider-Man/Outlander/Romance Sonambulo[Somnambulistic ballad] or any of the other cultural references in this story. No copyright infringement intended.

Also, Andy Whitfield IS a god, and a hero that the world and his fans will dearly miss. May he rest in peace.

This one's very different from my regular writing, and a bit extended from the original entry. I hope you'll give it a try and enjoy it!


And Tenement Halls

Green.

The color you turn when you find out; the pallor of skin that encloses a body swamped and swaying, churning and curling and heaving and revolting.

Metal.

The taste of blood when it pollutes your mouth because the anguish building up inside of you needs an escape, but you can't scream, you can't yell, you can't fight, and so you bite and incise and slit and chew and hurt and bleed.

Breaks of silver.

That stupid fucking beeping machine—every, single, time you look at it—its raping ring piercing and pillaging ears and hearts and souls and spirits and hopes and dreams.

A closed door.

That saying that was a slap in your face, a scoring of flesh deeper than mere skin and tissue and tendon and ligament: "When one door closes, another one opens." But what if all the doors close; what then?

An endless wall.

That one in her room where she puts up her achievements, clutters it with articles she wrote for the paper, brochures of colleges she is thinking of applying to and the pictures of her life. Each one a different smiling face: her mom, her dad, your mom, your dad, your sister and brother, you, and her. Mostly of you and her. Always you and her.

A silent hall.

The one outside her room, where her door is steps from her parents'. The same one you find yourself in when you overhear the conversation in crushing cries and wailing whispers, your watered eyes drilling into those disgusting brown walls, the color of wilting leaves and cracked branches, of decay and dirt and despair and everything that was once vibrant and living.

..xx..

Agony.

Indescribable fucking agony. The type that sets up camp in your heart, weighing it down, clenching it, twisting it, holding it hostage; and you can't move, glued in place, a mass of dead weight, numb and frozen, with only your thoughts, your memories, your past, your wasted faith and prayers . . . nothing . . . to keep you.

Pain.

The first emotion to creep in, like a black fog over every pore of your skin, seeping deep, staining, deeper and deeper still, until it coats bone, thick as tar, sticky and irremovable; it forces you to your knees, shoving your face to the gravel and demanding recognition. Soon it's the only emotion that matters, the only thing you can feel.

Breaks in breathing.

Because it truly is possible to will yourself to never breathe again, to starve yourself of reverie, of the hope for better days, of the happiness in simplicity, of any happiness, of vitality, of necessity . . . of life. Much like it starves her of hers.

Breaks for time.

Time passes by so quickly that it's a mist and it eludes you. You reach out, hoping to grasp it, but it slithers through your fingers, and you're left wanting and needing and wishing that this weren't happening; yet it's always there—you're bathed in it. Nothing devastates more than that fact: that the time you have isn't there at all, that all the time in the world is a farce, that moments that speed by as if they were days were mere minutes. Because no matter how quickly time passes, it passes by so slowly.

An endless life.

You fall, again, into the cycle—green, metal, breaks of silver, a closed door, an endless wall, a silent hall, agony, pain, breaks in breathing, breaks for time, and an endless life. It's all you know; it's all you have known recently; it's so profound that you can't remember a time when you knew anything else. The vicious cycle that had devoured you makes a mockery out of the life you once had with her.

And the silence of living it alone.

The chaotic cacophony screeches and squeals and screams. And it's a pressure that builds in your head and it just won't stop until all the noise is one sound . . . no sound. You hear nothing, not the sympathies spoken your way, not the whispers of your health and sanity among family, not the words of idle conversation moments later, hours later, days later . . . months later. You wonder if this will always be your life, will it always feel like this, will it always hurt . . . will it always be so quiet. You look at her and grovel and plead and fucking pray that she'll break the silence. That you'll never have to remember, you won't have to dream, you won't have to fantasize, because you'll have her there.

Like you always have.

..xx..

Green.

It was her favorite color. Sometimes it was complete bullshit. Sometimes she said it was because it was the color of your eyes. Sometimes it was because you reminded her of the first memory you have that always brings a foreign twitch to the corner of your lips, that crescent moon that you'd long since forgotten how to do, but when it came to her was only so natural.

You had been five.

It was the first time you had asked her the question, and you had known her probably a month, not that you had had any concept of what a month was at that age. Or not that you'd just moved to town or anything; you'd lived in Forks, Washington all of your young life.

That question you'd asked her back then wasn't so much "which color is your favorite?" as "which one you want?" She had a pink crayon in her gummy right hand and a green one in her left, both pointed at you. Sand from the playground was caked under her stubby nails, uneven, brown pigtails stuck out behind her ears, and berries from lunch were smeared across her lips and chin. You had glitter in your choppy hair, a smile, although a bit crooked—even then—on your face, and glue on your chubby cheeks. You both had been paired off together in class: pre-school. You had asked the her the question twice, and glared, in as much of a menacing glower as a five-year-old could make when he meant "serious business." When she didn't answer, again!, the question might have turned into "gimme one or I'ma tell you're not sharing." She kept the green. You had thought she'd choose pink. It turned out she never did like pink.

And that was how you spent that day, with her. A gleam was in her big brown eyes, almost too wide and curious for her small face, your proud scowl continuing to soldier on for the cause as you watched her swish her sassy five-year-old head to and fro as she told you all about the "right" way to color inside the lines. Something she hadn't done then, and as the years came, didn't do in the future either.

But that was your girl . . . never inside the lines, but always thinking that she was.

Metal.

The schoolyard monkey bars that you had hung down from the summer of your eleventh birthday, in your best Spider-Man impression, as she stood under you, waiting for your first kiss. By then the two of you had come a long way together—through Kindergarten show-and-tells and Third Grade Spelling Bees, and boys have cooties, and "well I hate you 'cause you have a stupid face," and your brother pantsing you in front of her and your realizing you actually cared that she pointed and snorted, and her not talking to you for a week because you laughed when her mom had to buy her her first training-bra. Somewhere through the punching and hair-pulling and the years of non-hate, non-love but "why are you always around, don't you have a life," you got jealous when she had friends she liked spending time with more than you and she got snippy at girls at school who passed you notes in class or waited for you after to talk.

It wasn't like that first kiss had been planned . . . well, that was a lie. She hadn't planned it. You'd been planning it all summer since the movie came out, because one day, and you don't know when the hell it snuck up on you, the thought popped into your head. Then the only thing you could think about was doing that with her. And from then on, somehow, she weaseled her way into your thoughts permanently. Neither of you had really known what you were doing then, and as far as first kisses went when you're eleven, it wasn't a good idea to do it upside down.

Your black Spider-Man t-shirt—not that you had planned it that way or anything—hung off of you, almost falling from your shoulders and dangling arms. That hadn't happened in the movie, and she had to fight through it like cobwebs in an old attic. So you pulled it back up and then found you couldn't use your hands because they were too busy holding your shirt up. That definitely didn't go as planned. You were swinging all over the place, and she had to grab you by the torso to steady you. It turned out that you discovered that day just how ticklish you really are. She had enjoyed this new discovery and for the next ten minutes was thoroughly sidetracked from the reason you were dangling from the monkey bars upside-down in the first place.

Her fingers, although longer then since your "green" days, were still punctuated with stubby nails, only then they were bright yellow; and instead of pigtails, it was one ponytail, down the middle, brown hair spilling out and reaching her shoulders. She was taller than you, something you were seriously hoping would change in the future because it was something she brought up constantly.

When your squealing laughs ended and your sides hurt so much you cried "mercy" to get her to stop, she finally centered you on your purpose. And when you leaned toward her, you were in perfect reach . . . of her nose, not her lips. It wasn't anything like you planned, or the movie. But her big brown eyes sparkled with the promise of trying again. And you thought you were king.

But that was your girl . . . determined. And in a little over a year, you'd both got it right.

Breaks of silver.

The water, the way it had looked when you broke the surface, the moon bouncing off of it. She had still been under there somewhere.

It had been an exceptionally hot summer day in Forks. The summers were beautiful, but that summer, six days after your fourteenth birthday and before you'd start high school, had been one of the hottest ever. The only pool in town, the community one, close to the only high school, closed at six PM then. But at nine that night she had crawled through your window, the one you left open begging for at least a breeze to waltz through. It surprised you that it was her instead. Usually you were the one crawling through her window, even though every time you did you said a little prayer that Daddy not wake up and hear you or find you. All that bike riding back and forth to her house from yours kept you in shape, though. And you'd finally beaten her by over four inches that past year, and it looked like you weren't done growing yet. It was your crowning glory. You were still waiting for your voice to deepen; that was a little embarrassing, but beggars couldn't be choosers, and you were happy with the height. It wasn't like she was unappreciative anyway. You had seen the way she looked at you as you came out from your bathroom in just your swim trunks. That blush, Godthat blush, you'd always love it about her. You had loved it when you were little because you could make fun of her for it; you loved it now because it told you what you wanted to know. And you would love it always because it was her.

She had turned away, blushing like a ripe tomato and looking like one too. Her lanky body, which she was just starting to grow into—her hips widening, the appearance of breasts that you had spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about, her face thinning out into the beautiful swan you always knew she was—was red from head to toe. You both had spent too much time in the sun that summer, and she hadn't tanned so much as burned, like a lobster.

You had been playing "Marco Polo" for the past ten minutes since sneaking into the pool, but you were cheating. Of course you were cheating, like she knew you would. Her bare shoulders, crossed by the thick straps of her black bathing suit, peaked out of the water before her arms, and then her legs as she kicked, swimming loudly. She wasn't very good at that game, so it wasn't like you needed to cheat. You had always been faster than her, so you jumped out of the pool, ran to the other end, sat down on the ledge and waited for her. She hadn't even finished getting out the "Pol—ohhh" before you wrapped your long legs around her and pulled her to the lip of the pool with you. Her squeals made you laugh, as did her attempts at tickling you. The tricky cheater, always using your weakness against you. You slipped into the water next to her; your legs, still wrapped around her, traveled down her body until they were under you and you replaced them with your arms, holding her to you. Her laughing was split by smiles and her eyes shimmered more than the water under the moonlight.

She leaned in for the kiss first. Those supple pink lips searched yours out like a moth to a flame, igniting you from the inside out. Your whole body responded, as it always did. From the toes up, but mostly centered in the middle. Well, a little lower than the middle. She smiled into the kiss as your tongue "Marco Polo-ed" hers. And again you cheated. Your breathing picked up and the blood rushed through your body. Your fourteen-year-old, hormone-driven hands moved up from her waist where you were holding her and tentatively went to the sides of her breasts. She gasped and you quickly moved them back to her waist, looking more than a little sheepish. She pulled away from the kiss to stare at you with wide, brilliant eyes. However, much to your anticipation and excitement, she bit her lip as a blush painted her cheeks.

But that was your girl . . . always blushing. And that was your favorite color.

A closed door.

Her "lunch" during her afterschool newsletter extracurricular—well, the closed door you both hid behind in the closet where her "lunch" break was the last thing on your minds.

Freshmen year she had taken to writing; her English teacher had recommended it, and your girl had jumped at the opportunity. She had loved it, and you supported her, but it seriously cut into your extracurricular activity time. You had tried out for freshmen football that year to try to occupy your time, but it wasn't for you. Instead, you found yourself sticking around after school to help her with the paper. Not that you were interested in the paper at all.

Usually you were bored out of your mind when you weren't on that "lunch" break with her, but you didn't want her to walk home alone, so you stayed. You rolled up a couple of papers into a makeshift drumstick and banged on things in the room to the tempo blaring in your ears from your iPod. She sat across from you, head down, practically making out with the screen of her laptop, and biting into one of the apples she saved for snacking. You never understood why she needed to get so close; she was lucky she didn't need glasses.

Then you imagined her in glasses, remembered the "lunch" break you had taken with her not but twenty minutes before. You remembered the soft feel of her supple skin, the lingering taste of her lips, and the sound of her pulling back, breathless. And it all had contributed to the image of her in glasses. Maybe a button-up white shirt, tight. Her breasts, which you were still obsessed with beyond reason, had been coming in quite nicely if you did say so yourself, and maybe they were not able to be contained inside the shirt. She had a black skirt, but with a slit in the back, that hugged her really well. Heels: tall, black heels. She never wore heels, but this was your fantasy, not hers—it wasn't like you weren't willing to wear a fucking kilt and call her Sassenach when she made those big brown puppy eyes at you, so the least she could do was wear some damn heels. And she was wearing a killer pair of black heels in the picture that was forming in your head. Her long brown hair was held up with a pencil, twisted. Was it getting hotter in here? She looked up at you, over the lip of her laptop; her lips extra glossy . . . wet . . . pouted as she smirked. She knew; that come hither look in her eyes told you as much.

Of course your girl knew.

She got up from her seat, bent at the waist and gave you a full view of what she wasn't concealing all too well, like the sun was in the room illuminating them like the Holy Grail. And instead of standing, she stayed bent and leaned over the edge of the table, giving you the best silhouetted view possible. You licked your lips, and then at the memories from the "lunch" in the closet earlier, you licked them again, saliva overflowing—salivating. That view left you speechless, and you were so fixated that you didn't understand why the fuck your shoulder hurt, but the pain came on suddenly and immediately. You rubbed it and then looked down, trying to understand the abrupt pain that had ruined your fixation.

A half-eaten apple was on the floor. What the hell? You looked up, trying to figure it out, and at that exact second another apple came flying through the air and hit you smack in the middle of your forehead. What the fuck?

Your eyes met hers; she was standing beside the table she had been sitting at the whole time in jeans, your sweater that was three sizes too big for her, no glasses, and hair that was a pile of frizz because of the rain. You couldn't lie, your heart sunk a little. Then you caught the smile in her eyes and the laugh on her lips and you realized what had just happened. She was wiping her mouth and shaking her head while looking at you. You didn't get it until she pointed at you, and you repeated her motion on your face. It was wet. Had you drooled? Oh, that was disgusting. You immediately stood up from the table, getting ready to find some napkins, when her laugh became louder.

Your eye found hers as your brows furrowed and you knew you were looking more than a little confused as you stared at her, wondering what the hell was up with her. She was laughing so hard that she struggled to breathe and was even cackling. It was so loud and she held her side, leaning on the table. She was bright red and started to turn blue, but the laughing just got louder until she wasn't able to take it anymore and she fell to the floor, pointing and rolling and laughing and kicking.

What the hell was her problem? It frustrated you to no end because the least she could do was let you in on the joke.

Then you looked down.

Quickly you scrambled to sit back down and adjust your jeans, your wide eyes darting back and forth between her, pointing and laughing on the floor, and what was, sure as shit, a tent in your pants.

But that was your girl . . . playful and always willing to laugh at your expense.

An endless wall.

The one you had decorated with her, that day after school . . . well, she had dictated and you had decorated. As if writing for the paper hadn't been enough, your girl had also joined the student government freshmen year. It was the Thursday before homecoming, and the school needed to be decorated that night before Friday, so that it looked spirited for the big game—the one they were bound to lose, but who were you to ruin the festivities?

The freshmen had the math and sciences building. You were listening to her genius layout while she went on animatedly, her long, beautiful arms waving this way and that while she explained how she wanted to decorate the only free wall she had to work with. She had cut up letters beforehand and wanted to have them spelled out jaggedly along the wall. More specifically, she wanted you to hold the letter up while she stood back to see if it was "just right."

How you had gotten conned into that shit was beyond you. You were sure your brother had a Halo game with your name on it that very second, yet there you were. But when she looked your way, her brown eyes smiling, her pink lips pursed and moist, and her pale skin radiating like it always did when she was excited, you began to have an idea. You'd easily walk through fire for her. You both had known it too.

So there you were, holding up an "A," arms stretched as far as they would go, leaning towards the wall, and asking her for the sixth time, "Is this good?" When she didn't answer, you turned your head the best you could without moving the letter, because God forbid you mess it up if it was exactly how she wanted it. You had learned your lesson on the "P."

But you weren't able see her in that position. You called out to her before a soft smell of strawberries reached your nose, like it was directly under your nose. You tilted your head down, and sure enough your beautiful swan managed to squeeze herself between you and the wall. And it was the top of her head that you smelled, her shampoo. Using two fingers on both sides of your body, she had her fingers "climb" up you, under your shirt. You twitched, because that shit tickled; she leaned closer to you and told you not to move. Your eyes widened as she tilted her head up towards you and started kissing your chin. When you started shifting, she stopped. She giggled at your grunt of disapproval. Another warning to stay in place slipped sinuously from her lips.

Next thing you knew, she pulled her arms around your back, doing that finger climb thing again and pressing her breasts up against your chest. Whatever that game was, you loved it. But when her fingers reached the top of your back and dug into it to drag back down, your whole body reacted by shifting into her. Through a clenched jaw, you gritted her name; and through an even thinner layer of control, you pushed your pelvis into hers. Your heart rate picked up and your breathing too; she even started sucking on your chin, pretty fucking suggestively if you said so yourself. Before you had the sound of mind to drop your arms and trap her, she pulled out.

When you turned to her, blue-balled and gaping, she simply replied under her lashes with a smirk that you weren't allowed to move.

But that was your girl . . . a tease. One that drove you crazy for years before letting you reach gold . . . three more years, four months, thirteen days, six hours, and twenty-nine minutes to be exact—not that you were counting or anything.

A silent hall.

The one in the school library where she had taken you to "help her reach a high book." You had both had the same history class, just at a different hour. And there had been a research project due. You had chosen to do yours on the Roman Gladiators and slavery. You'd seen Spartacus on Starz; fuck yeah, you decided you were gonna research more about that shit. You even convinced the teacher to let you show an "approved" clip of the show. She did hers on women's suffrage, little feminist teacher's pet that she was. All in all, the research session was pretty boring. Not that your topic wasn't the shit, because it was, but there was definitely a difference in reading about it and watching it in full gory detail, with some total female frontal nudity added for variety, and Andy Whitfield kicking major ass.

You were seriously contemplating the merit of only using the show as a resource when a loud thud brought your attention to your left. Your swan was looking all over the place, rubbing the side of her face, and turning a pretty shade of red. Her eyes were wide, if that could be said of them as they were half-opened, and it looked like even that was a struggle. You couldn't help laughing. Which got louder when she attempted a glare but ended up looking like she was having a seizure, with only one eye cooperating. The standard "shhhh" echoed around the room from six desks, but who did it wasn't important; they were all staring.

It was obvious she wasn't going to last. So you decided to take matters into your own hands . . . well, hers, so to speak. You grabbed her right hand that was closest to you and stuck it in your mouth—okay, about three fingers, because that whole thing wasn't going to fit in there. Besides, sexist or not, it wasn't like you needed the practice of shoving something that wasn't bound to fit in there anyway.

You sincerely did it to be funny. You had always done shit like that; so had she. You licked your finger and stuck it in her ear; you held a banana or candy bar at your hip height and then pressed it into her back; when she put her hand over your mouth, you spat on it; you stuck your finger up her nose; you constantly stuck your fingers in front of her face and asked, "What's this smell like to you?" Even if it was roses, the action always caused her to call you disgusting and push you away; every one of your little "tricks" did. It was amusing and helped pass the time; plus, that face she made was priceless. So that was the goal again: you'd wake her up and she'd shove you, calling you disgusting.

But it didn't work that time. And so you started nibbling on her fingers one at a time, thinking that would do it. Goal still intact, she turned her head toward you while it was still lying on the desk where all the books were in front of you both. A smile crossed her face while her eyes remained closed.

Your eyebrows furrowed. That was most definitely not the response you wanted. You were about to stop when a small moan slipped from her lips. Wait . . . . Your eyes narrowed and you asked her, around her finger, if she liked that, and for a little more emphasis you swirled your tongue around her finger insinuatingly. She lazily opened her eyes, and they were hooded for a completely different reason. She kept your stare as she bit her lip and watched with rapt interest as you continued tonguing her fingers, making a careful note to use that little trick again when you both were alone.

Slowly she pulled her hand back and stood up. She turned toward some shelves, looking around, then turned back to you and told you to follow her. You looked at her like she was crazy; the library was pretty packed that day and there wasn't anywhere hidden. She rolled her eyes and said that she just needed help getting a book. Yeah, her words said that; her eyes, her tongue that was making laps around her lips, and the blush that colored her cheeks said something else entirely.

"Here?" you asked her, the word bathed in a whispered accusation, before telling her you couldn't. She stopped your protest, though, by grabbing your hands and pulling you towards the first unoccupied hall.

But that was your girl . . . adventurous, and with a little incentive in the right direction, willing to take chances.

Agony.

Sophomore year, when you had been blindsided, and it had been all because of her. In the spring of freshmen year, you had decided to try out for the baseball team. You had made the team and loved it. But between her extracurriculars, and yours then, considering the team even had practice over the summer, your time with her had lessened greatly towards the end of that school year. So you both decided that it was best to share an extracurricular together. There was no way in hell you were ever going to write for the paper, so student government it was. The "elections" were held at the end of freshmen year for the upcoming sophomore one. You won Secretary—that had seemed like the least "demanding" position—easily for the sophomore class, what with being a star on the baseball team and having a girlfriend everyone knew. Even if she wasn't involved in everything, her dad carried a lot of weight in that town.

The summer you turned fifteen was a good one; your voice had deepened some and you were even growing hair on places of your body that made you stand a little taller. The first two weeks as sophomore class secretary once school started, under your very esteemed president, went by like a breeze. You were right; it was the easiest position. Plus, your boss had the hots for you. Life was all around good. Even your dad loved the idea that you had become "more involved in school."

Imagine your surprise when, on Monday of the third week into that school year, you were woken up by a bullhorn next to your ear. You bolted upright in bed, gasping; you saw white and weren't able to focus on anything. Your ears were ringing so badly you swore they'd used an explosive instead of a bullhorn. When the pressure in your head lessened, you finally focused your eyes around the room to see that your girl was standing next to the bed with a smile on her face, two thick, black, defensive lines painted on her cheeks under her eyes, a shirt she'd never worn before, a bullhorn in her hand, and the other two sophomore class officers around your bed.

You quickly looked down, aware that it was still hot outside, so you had probably slept without a shirt on, and sure enough, you weren't wearing one then, but you were covered in some sticky honey. What the fuck was going on?

You looked around the room, gaping, while your girl yelled "surprise" and shit like "initiation" and "every new member of student government has to go through it." And slowly it all started to make sense. Why your mom had made sure you had gone to bed before eight the night before, considering it was two in the morning when your eyes found your alarm clock. And why there had been special assignments in student government the previous week that only you and the freshmen had done, while everyone else had stayed behind. You wondered why you hadn't heard about it last year if she had to do it too. And you said as much to her, and she just smiled as she waved her henchmen over. Sweetly, she told you that she had known you would eventually join student government with her and she wanted to be the one to initiate you, so she had kept her initiation quiet. But apparently since she was finally able to let out the secret, she went on and on about what the seniors last year had made her do; how they had even gotten the chief involved and had taken her down to the police station and got mug shots as mementos.

How did you not know ANY of this?

While she continued regaling you with the tale of everything the seniors had done for her initiation, her henchmen moved in on you—the vice president, an All-American, best cornerback in the county, and his lanky, acne-prone sidekick treasurer. Before you were able to realize what they were doing, they both grabbed your arms and pulled them behind your back. VP made sure to pin them to you, holding you down. That was about the moment when you figured out they'd orchestrated that shit. The treasurer's nasally cackle filled the room as he started putting these strips of what looked like ace bandages, but about the length of your palm and only a couple of inches wide, along your chest over the sticky honey.

You looked to your beautiful swan, who wasn't looking so beautiful that morning—perspective would do that to a person. And that was when her words of what she had done the night before sunk in: "watched a movie" and "funny scene" and "perfect initiation for you." But it was when you remembered her saying "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" that your head really started to hurt.

What?

Wait . . . WHAT?

The moment you figured out what the fuck she meant was the exact moment that Acne pulled on one of those strips, and you screamed bloody fucking murder. All the while, Ugly Duckling over there was laughing her ass off. Then she joined in the fun and leaned over to pull on a strip, but you started thrashing, because no way in fucking hell were you going through that again. You'd never known anything more painful in your life. Your chest felt like it was on fire.

But the brigade had anticipated that reaction because suddenly three pairs of hands reached out around you and ALL, PULLED, A, FUCKING, STRIP, AT, ONCE.

If you thought your chest was on fire before, well . . . you were completely wrong. It felt like your chest was fucking sunburned and then rubbed with bleach, then ironed, then grated with sandpaper and ignited. You had a huge dose of adrenaline shoot through your body then and jumped free from their traitorous clutches. Like a chicken with its head cut off, you flew and flung around the room, wailing, waving your hands in the air trying to create wind around your chest; all the while profanities screeched out of your mouth. The noise called to wake your mom and dad and brother and sister.

And as if that wasn't fucking precious before, then when they were all standing around laughing and taking pictures, you swore you were going to pummel her for this.

Speaking of the devil herself, through the acrobatics you watched her run to your closet, the back of it, and start digging around. The second you heard the boxes being moved, you knew what she was looking for, and you started paling—if that was even possible, considering you were still red from the fucking rug burns on your chest.

She came out of the closet triumphant, waving what she had been looking for above her head like it was a million dollar lottery ticket. And suddenly what she was wearing made sense: that black shirt she never wore, the one you had bought her last Christmas as a joke because of those stupid books she was obsessed with.

Black, with two words written on the front: his Sassenach.

You glared, jaw dropped and fuming, at her as her smile widened into the biggest fucking grin you'd ever seen on her face, holding up the kilt she had bought you.

But that was your girl . . . a damn, dirty, sneaky traitor.

Pain.

Junior year, when you had learned just how steep the price the piper charged was. And that piper had worn a brown uniform, a mustache, and went by Chief. You'd been sneaking into her room at night through the window since you had learned to climb the tree, practically. You had seriously thought you were a sneaky bastard at not having been caught for years. But wasn't that always how the story went . . . when you let your guard down, you became complacent and made mistakes.

One day in April when you were sixteen, you were leaving early in the morning after having stayed the night with her, when you confidently stepped on the third branch from the pane. But you missed the branch by a long shot, and before you could realize the mistake, you were plummeting.

Now, there was never a "right" way to fall, and that was certainly something you had learned that day, because next thing you knew, you were squirming on the wet grass under the tree with your arm twisted behind your back and your left hip and leg hurting like a bitch. The squirming was your attempt to get up, but it wasn't working. You gritted out her name, in between the immense pain, pain that put your burning chest during sophomore initiation to shame. Your breathing was coming in fogs and through your nose.

You heard the front door slam, and within seconds she was at your side, hands trembling as they skimmed over you, not sure where to touch. She called out your name in between whispers of "shit" and "are you okay?" and "baby, I'm so sorry" and "what the hell do I do?" If you didn't love her, or if you weren't in actual, fucking, excruciating pain, you might have had a smartass remark for each of those. But your thought process wasn't where it usually was that morning. Through a clenched jaw you told her to call your dad. It didn't matter much what you did at that point; there was no doubt you had been caught. And you decided it was better to face your dad than hers.

But fate had other ideas, because the next slam of the door was followed by a deep, gruff "what the hell is going on here?" Your girl was on the phone with your dad, talking in her usual exaggerated, arms-flailing way, and you were left looking up at the one face you'd really hoped you wouldn't see in all of this. A squeak that you barely recognized as your own voice told him you had fallen. He hunched down closer to you; his not-so-pleasant morning breath, the first of your punishments that day, fanned humid over your face. When he said he could see that, you wanted to dissolve away into the grass, because the next words out of his mouth were: "What exactly were you doing at three in the morning that you happened to fall from this here tree, son?"

You said your prayers, silently told your girl it had been nice knowing her while you had the opportunity, bit the bullet and told her dad the truth. You were never stupid enough to lie once caught; not to say that you hadn't lied your teeth off to prevent getting caught before, but once you were there, you always figured manning up was the only way to get through anything. You were still pleading your case by the time your dad showed up, sleep-clogged and just as irate as her dad. He was able to talk some sense into her dad, though, and allowed you to be taken to the hospital.

The whole way there your dad told you how disappointed he was and wanted to know how long this had been going on, how he blamed himself for working such long hours and your mother for having always had stars in her eyes when it came to "the two of you." He made sure to remind you that if you really loved her, knocking her up before she was married or before you were able to provide for her wasn't the way to show it. He also made a point to tell you that whatever punishment the chief saw fit, he would support one hundred percent.

It turned out that you had broken your radius and your ulna, and you didn't play baseball the rest of the season because of it. As if that wasn't punishment enough, the chief had you charged with trespassing. A misdemeanor that would have been erased if it had been anyone else's house. The fine was unbelievably three hundred dollars, which you had to pay out of your own pocket. You didn't have it, so you had to get a job. But your dad refused to let you get a job after school, stating that your studies and afterschool activities were more important, and that since this was your mistake, it was yours to correct on your time, not the school's. So he paid the fine, but you got a job during the summer to pay it back.

You saw very little of your swan that summer, and ever since your fall, her dad had imposed these ridiculous rules. When you finally were able to quit your job, you were sitting on her couch telling her that you didn't think the punishment had been fair. She smiled at you and said she agreed that her dad had every right to do what he had done.

But that was your girl . . . well, more like Daddy's girl. And she'd sell you out the second Daddy said so.

Breaks in breathing.

That night, the one that had meant the world you, the one that had been worth the wait. After the debacle with the chief, you hadn't dared cross his orders. The only way you had been allowed in her house was if you stayed in open spaces or there was another person, deemed trustworthy by the chief himself, in the room. There had been no other option.

It wouldn't have been romantic to say you both had planned it, but the truth was, you had. She wanted it to be after she turned seventeen, and she also wanted to be on birth control for at least three months before, just in case. You were going by whatever rules she put in place; she had always had you knotted around her finger like that.

So when an opportunity presented itself the last weekend of September of your senior year, because your parents were going out of town, you both seized it. She had said she was staying over at that new girl's house, a curly-haired gossip, for some girl-on-girl bonding or some shit. She had even made sure her dad dropped her off because he wasn't an idiot and knew your parents were going out of town that weekend. But it worked to your advantage that she had planned months in advance, and so after her birthday she told her dad about the sleepover, and even had the sweet little curly girl go over to her house and back up the story. Your older brother was away at college and your younger sister was convinced to stay at a friend's house that weekend; you had to pay her handsomely for that. Luckily you'd saved over the summer from your job at Newton's.

She came over, and if there was ever any doubt that the whole night had been planned—which there wasn't—she thoroughly erased them when she stepped through the door looking like you'd never seen her look before. Her hair was done and curled and teased and she was wearing make-up and fake lashes and lip gloss and a really short red dress. She looked fucking stunning, but you weren't able to not laugh as she stumbled through the door in heels. When you asked her what the hell she was wearing, she did one of those flippant waves, with a shrug that looked a lot like, "Oh, what? This?" Like she wore that fucking shit all the time. Did she forget who she was in the room with? You rolled your eyes and tried to hide the fact that you had bought special cologne and gotten a haircut the day before.

You both decided on dinner and a movie before moving on to the main event. You had no idea what was good sex food, so you figured she'd need energy and opted for a six-piece family bucket from KFC. The movie was harder to pick out. You wanted to go with something classy and romantic like The Notebook or something, but your girl had always been a pathetic movie crier, doing that pinky dab and head turning away and coughing when a whimper would slip out. There was no way you'd be able to keep it straight during that shit. So sappy was ruled out of the question; also nothing gory, because that just couldn't be good luck. So Spartacus was out, even though those sex scenes were hot. No action, no drama, no mafia, no crime, nothing too preachy. By the time the day came, you still hadn't decided on what the perfect movie would be. So when you both sat down in front of the TV in the living room, you just decided to see what was on. And that was how you both ended up watching Family Feud on the Game Show Network. After two episodes, you both were pretty bored of that and your girl was resorting to fake yawning. And since you were smoother than silk, you offered to take her up to your room for a rest, since she was obviously "getting tired."

Never mind the fact that she wasn't tired at all or that you both had already planned on taking it upstairs.

Once you were upstairs, she sat on the bed and you went to your iPod dock and turned on your favorite playlist before standing next to the bed, toeing the carpet, having no idea what to do. Then when you just decided to saisir la balle au bond—you were taking French that year—and leaned towards her for a kiss, she bolted up off the bed. She said something about having chicken breath and wanted to brush her teeth. You thought that was a good idea, so while she went to your bathroom, you went to your brother's old one and used his spare toothbrush. When you came back to the room, it smelled like her perfume, and you noticed she had a fresh coat of lip gloss on too, along with your favorite color tinting her cheeks. And then you just knew what to do.

Even though you were a novice, you had some tricks up your sleeve. And you weren't above starting with that finger-tonguing thing she liked as you sat her back on the edge of the bed, eyeing her, trying to convey through your eyes everything that she meant to you, everything that this night would mean. The smile that graced her face, all the reassurance, all the trust, all the desire, all the love, was the one you had just placed at the top of your favorites.

Soon enough your mouth traveled up from her fingers to her wrist, to her arm, to inside her elbow, to her shoulder, to her collarbone, and then to the spot on her neck behind her ear, where you sucked lightly and she groaned.

But that was your girl . . . moaning, for you.

Breaks for time.

The rest of that night, when everything had stopped for you two, when nothing else had mattered and time had given you the biggest break of all: the chance to just be.

Once you made it to her neck, your hands started pulling down the straps to the small dress she was wearing before you took it off her. She had this strapless black bra on that matched her underwear; it was by far the greatest thing your seventeen-year-old eyes had ever had the pleasure of seeing. The way she looked up at you, in her bra and underwear, under you, curling into you, molding into you, brown hair mussed and fanned around her, cheeks tinged with your favorite color, lips swollen and calling to you, made your chest swell, your heart ache, and your life sing.

You could have done nothing but go to her, and so you did. It wasn't something you read about in books or what the movies made it out to be. There was plenty of bumbling, plenty of "ouch, you're on my hair," heads banging, clenching, sweating, panting, sliding . . . into the wrong base, "is it all the way in yet?", "not . . . exactly," "well, just do it, it hurts," and not enough moaning and soft sighs and cries of pleasure and declarations of eternal love.

But once you got into it, you both found a rhythm and moved as one, and it worked, and just like everything else in your life together, you both did it your own way. And it was perfect, just like she had always hoped and you had wanted to give to her. When it was all said and done, you realized that the only place to go from the ground was up; practice did make perfect, after all. As her eyes met yours,a little mischievous glint in hers, you recognized she had come to the exact same conclusion, and you both laughed as you fell to the side of her and pulled her into your chest, kissing her shoulder and at least making that eternal declarations part a reality. You weren't able to tell her you loved her enough, and through a smile she said, "Was there ever any doubt?" No. Not ever. Her soft sigh filled the room along with her declarations of love everlasting, and you couldn't remember a time when you had felt more content.

But that was your girl . . . beautiful . . . jaw-droppingly, take-a-second-look, can't-fucking-believe-she'd-have-you gorgeous.

An endless life.

When you had smiled, a long, languorous curve of happiness had painted its way across your face. You looked over at her, curled into your side, tousled—freshly fucked, if you would—hair spilling around her, smiling and saying your name in her sleep, and knew that this was your life, that it could always be this good; that feeling of having her forever swelled and lifted and gripped and marked you, both of you, and it was perfect.

But that was your girl . . . yours.

And the silence of living it alone.

One of your favorite songs had always been "The Sound of Silence." You had lost your virginity to that song, that night.

You had always been a Simon and Garfunkel fan. Sure, it was beyond your time, but you had an old soul and an appreciation for music that many didn't understand, not even your beautiful swan. But it was always a passion of yours.

You were that type of brooder that spent months with Pink Floyd or Simon and Garfunkel on repeat. By the time you turned fifteen, you never wore a shirt made after 1991. The only ones that were good enough for you were vintage concert tees that you had bought off eBay, or in a flea market, or hunted for in yard sales that you dragged your girl to at five AM on Saturdays. You made an exception for 1991 because it was a vintage of Nirvana. But your favorite era lay between the '60s and '70s. And the poetic folk duo had always been your favorite . . . their music just spoke to you.

You should have known.

There wasn't anything in this world that hadn't ever been repeated. History had always been like that, always would be. After all, "the words of the prophets are written . . . ."

"Fools," said I, "You do not know, silence like a cancer grows."

..xx..

Green.

"'Green, how I want you green.'"

She had had an oral presentation for senior English. She had needed to memorize a poem and had chosen Lorca. You had heard the word "green" so much in that hour that you swore it was making you nauseous, and if you never heard the word again it would be too soon. You watched her pace the room—she had always memorized things better that way—with a new resolve.

Ever since that night in September, you had watched your beautiful swan with hungry eyes. It wasn't like that was some newfound addiction or anything. You had always had little to no control when it came to her, a very specific type of bloodlust. It wasn't some surprise that everything about her sang to you like the siren she was. But once the floodgates had been opened, your seventeen-year-old, hormone-driven body was insatiable.

You jumped up from your bed, goal-oriented. And when you wrapped your arms around her from behind and pushed your pelvis into her back, there was no banana or candy bar this time. Though she still reacted like there was. You had the mind to look offended. The two months that had passed since that night had definitely put some notches on your belt, and you weren't a rookie anymore; you knew very well what your girl liked and how to make her exceptionally happy.

Your eyes narrowed as her lips were pursed when she turned around to face you, one eyebrow raised in question. She was just as insatiable as you then, so there really was no reason to play coy. Instead, you just shrugged and ground your hips more. But she snickered as she ducked out of your grasp, shaking her head and holding her book up, waving it at you. When you dove for her again, she stopped you by telling you that she needed to study. You wouldn't be lying if you said your face was incredulous, to say the least.

Study? Really?

She just shook her head more, and when she threatened to put a certain mustached keeper of law and order on speed-dial, you stopped dead in your tracks.

But that was your girl . . . ever the studious little bookworm.

Metal.

The lockers, the old ones in the gymnasium that had been unused for years, because Forks just hadn't ever had that many students. It had been a wall of green lockers, broken up by some silver where the locks went and one closed door to a classroom, along an endless wall in a hall that nobody used. It had been senior year, and you had both had the same study period. It had been her idea to go "exploring." And you'd have followed that girl straight into hell.

When you both came across the silent hall, you made sure to scope out the location, what classes were in session who might have a clear visual to the area. You both were in luck because a little right of the center was a perfect hidden location from everything. But just to be safe, you both spent the entire first day you found the old lockers sitting in that hidden spot, waiting to see if anyone came through the hall during your study period. No one ever did.

And that was the beginning of a very enjoyable fall and winter semester, sharing hidden kisses and caresses, and looks and words and sighs, and moans and groans out in the open, yet in your own little world. Who knew that that would become one of your favorite places?

But that was your girl . . . resourceful.

Breaks of silver.

The drinking fountain that winter. Any drinking fountain, really; it had been like a drug to her recently. Her lips had been chapped a lot more.

She had been thirsty all the time, and sluggish, and just not her usual self. You found yourself coming up with any excuse to carry her books, any excuse to have her sit down when you could run and get things for her, any excuse to just do things for her. You didn't call her as often at night because you knew that she'd prefer the sleep. The bags under her eyes worried you, the occasional bruises that kept popping up because she was too tired to look where she was going and ran into a desk corner, or door knob or anything really.

You knew she was stressing about school. Her dream had always been Dartmouth, and you often wondered just how hard she was pushing herself with all her advanced classes and extracurriculars. She even took on yearbook that year because she said that it was the thing to do as a senior, to make sure their book came out the best it could be.

When you asked her if everything was okay, she just smiled and told you it was nothing. And you knew it just had to be the stress she was unnecessarily adding on herself, so you did the only thing you could: you tried to lessen it for her any chance you got. Yet, she still never asked for help when you knew she needed it.

You caught her trying to carry the speaker system to the stadium before homecoming when you felt like you'd reached the cliff. You knew she had stayed up the entire night before to make sure everything went according to plan; she had made buttons and banners in her room, since you had put your foot down about decorating. And that time wasn't the first time she had gone out of her way; it wasn't even the tenth or fiftieth. She was constantly taking "duties" from the other officers because the curly-haired girl had dates, and the All-American had football, and Acne had his AV club. Everyone always placed their responsibilities second because they knew they could count on her. And you had bitten your tongue on the issue more than once because it wasn't harming anyone . . . only now it was.

Couldn't they see what all the extra stress was doing to her? Couldn't anyone else see?

And it was never only that.

She always made lunch for her dad on the weekends and took it to him at the station. She always helped her mother with the chores, always took on the responsibility because her mom was spacy and would end up putting detergent in the dryer or burning the pasta she was boiling. She had always helped your sister with her "emergencies" and your mom with her scrapbooking and gardening and your dad with his patient filing. She always made it to your games, giant smile in place, always was your biggest fan, sponsored the pep rallies and coordinated the fundraisers and brought your Gatorades when you forgot.

You told her that the other officers could finish whatever the hell she was doing on their own that day, but she had some spiel about the curly-haired girl wanting to get a new dress for homecoming, and All-American needing to study for an exam, otherwise he wouldn't be playing in the football game. She said she didn't mind. You watched her then, a pressure in your chest, all the love in your heart, as she lethargically shook her head and said it was no big deal, though you had other thoughts about it. It was a big deal to you, and you hoped that others realized just what she did for them without, ever, having, been, asked.

But that was your girl . . . selfless.

A closed door.

The way you paused outside hers, trembling around the jam, unable to grasp what the hell was going on.

She called you to come over that night, and said she had something important she wanted to tell you. But your sister needed some help, another one of her "emergencies"; little shopaholic that she was had bought too many gifts for Christmas. For a shopaholic it made no sense that she always did her shopping a week before the day. Once you helped her unload the car, she asked for help wrapping. You didn't mind. Your mom and dad were eerily absent all day, because usually it was your mom who would help your sister. So by the time you made it to her house, like she asked, it was well into the night. Your first clue should have been that her dad let you up into her room, unsupervised. But by the time she seemed ready to tell you whatever it was, she just looked so damn tired. She even looked thinner to you, definitely paler; she really had been getting sick a lot lately, but who didn't get sick during the winter? She just needed rest and some extra love and attention, which you didn't mind at all.

You told her to lie down, that you were going to get you both some milk. She smiled weakly up at you from her place tucked in purple and resting on a pillow as you left the room. There was something about the way she was looking at you; you couldn't put your finger on it, but it made your chest ache, it made your mouth dry and your throat attempt to swallow something that wasn't there. You quickly went back to her side of the bed and placed a soft kiss on her lips; you couldn't not, not with the way she was looking at you. Your hand went to the side of her face, stroking her cheek softly, nurturingly . . . lovingly. When you asked her what was wrong, she shook her head and asked for you to get the milk and then come back and lie down with her. You told her okay.

On your way back to her room from the kitchen, that ache in your chest and throat just didn't let up and started branching out into the rest of your body, and it felt like you weighed a ton. Halfway down the hall you were stopped by a screeching cry, the sound a wounded animal makes when it knows it's close to the end. Your body turned of its own volition towards the noise, and that was when you realized there was more of it: loud sniffling, whispering wails, crushing cries, muted yells all coming from behind her parents' door.

There wasn't a way to explain it, but you just knew this involved you and that you had to hear it out. With ghost-white fingers, you grasped the jam to the door, to keep from falling when you heard "she didn't want to tell him before, not until we got that third opinion and she was sure."

What?

WHAT THE FUCK?

Your mind was reeling, speeding by faster than you'd ever known it to work when the next word you heard was "leukemia."

NO.

Your eyes widened, growing blurry because of the forming tears, as you looked back for a sign, for a hint, for ANYTHING you could have missed. This can't . . . what is going on? You dropped the two glasses of milk, spilling—draining—like the blood from your body at "blasts." A freezing chill trembled up your spine at "acute." No. This . . . this can't be right. But still your throat closed up and dehydrated and you felt it.

With each eavesdropped word, your gut wrenched, your skin paled and sweated, your heart screamed, and it felt like a fucking blade was driven and twisted deeper and deeper into your back.

How the fuck did this happen? Why? When?

Your knees buckled at "prolymphocytic." Your eyes watered and pooled and overflowed and you couldn't fucking stop it, not the water, not the pain, not the screaming in your head as you thought about the past month, as that stupid little fucking voice told you you hadn't seen it because you didn't want to.You couldn't breathe; you couldn't fucking breathe, at "chemo." You clawed your face, pulling and yanking anything you could grab, at "marrow transplant." Your body caved into itself, gasping, retching and heaving at "stem cell." This wasn't happening.

Yet, still her parents went on spewing these fucking words that scarred your soul without even a thought towards your destruction in the hall. Every fucking cell in your body blazed and scorched, and you didn't understand when this happened. How something like this could happen.

What difference did "refractory disease" and "poor prognosis" and "Seattle" and "best care" and "be prepared" and "hospice" make when they all destroyed you? Each one of those words you wanted to throw back, to scream and fight and go back ten minutes before you were even in that hall so that they wouldn't be true.

They couldn't be true.

They just couldn't. There was NO FUCKING WAY that this was happening, not to her. She was young and happy and beautiful and smart . . . and your world. And healthy. And healthy. This just couldn't be happening because she was young and happy and beautiful and smart and HEALTHY.

It was "fatal," however, that cut through the shock and tears and screaming and tremors and finally brought you to your knees.

But, that, was, your, girl. Your girl. Your girl didn't get sick. Your girl was invincible. No. No. No, not your girl. NOT. YOUR. GIRL.

An endless wall.

You stood out there, staring at that fucking dingy wall of disgusting brown for too long. Until the color of wilting leaves and cracked branches, of decay and dirt and despair and everything that was once vibrant and living seeped so deep into your bones you were certain you were the color of decay and dirt and despair, that you would never be vibrant or living again. Your eyes bled tears; you couldn't remember the last time you blinked; your knees were numb from drilling into the carpet; your forearms had rug burns from where you dragged them raw at the floor, screaming. The chief came out to try and pick you up, but you couldn't fucking move. You heard him say something about calling your dad, and you felt his flighty wife put a tender hand on your shoulder, but it felt like a fucking leech, sucking you dry of whatever life you had left. And it was just that you couldn't get up, you couldn't go in there, not now, not like this, and see her there, on the bed, yellow and weak and thin and frail, but still smiling at you, lying to you, trying to make it seem like everything was alright. When you knew nothing was further from the truth. But the truth was you couldn't go in there now and see it was real. You wanted to save whatever time you had that told you it was all just a dream. A nightmare. And you'd wake up any second now.

Any.

Damn.

Second.

Now.

But you didn't wake up.

And you couldn't let her do this alone. You wouldn't. So you pushed it aside, boxed it up and closed it off, so that you could take care of her, be what she needed. When you opened the door, there she was: beautifully frail, lying on the bed, tears streaming down her face, arm stretched out toward you, calling you to her side, the only place you ever needed to be, and a soft "sorry" on her lips that you quickly erased with yours. It wasn't her fault, and she had nothing to be sorry about. And you held her and told her as much and how much you loved her, how much you would always love her, how she was the strongest person you knew and that you would be there for her, you'd figure this out.

But that was your girl . . . sick.

A silent hall.

That fucking one you were stuck in because you weren't family. It all happened so fast; you didn't even have the chance to be in denial about it. One second you were standing, shaking in shock, outside that dingy hall by her parents' door and then the next you were barely standing, shaking in shock, outside in the hospital hall. Your heart still hadn't had time to catch up to what your mind had already accepted.

You wondered if your heart ever would.

In a blur, months went by with treatments, appointments, emergency rooms, surgeries, and transfusions. And it felt like you weren't even there, yet like you'd never left this fucking hall. All that time alone to think, you couldn't help but wonder why. Why now? Why this? Why her?

Why you?

WHY, FUCKING, YOU?

Then it consumed you: guilt. Each time that small selfish thought crossed your mind, you felt it stab her, little by little in the back, and it hurt you more. You were dying, surely—there was no denying all of your agony and pain—yet you remembered looking at her every day that week, the past few months, ghostly pale, fragile, contorted in limbs too thin for her body, and bruises on the skin you revered, and stains on the front of her hospital gown by her neck, dark brown stains that were once on her chin and lips, and you knew that what you were suffering was nothing in comparison. And you hated yourself even more for feeling as you did, when she was there trying to smile at you, reaching out for your hand, trying to make your life easier.

All the while, you were stuck in that fucking hall, losing time. Because it was either too fast, or too slow; but either way, there was just not enough of it. There would never be enough time.

And all you wanted, more than anything was more time. You begged and pleaded, and negotiated and demanded, standing, falling, on your knees, crying, yelling. Just . . . please, give me more time.

It was past visiting hours, and her mom and dad were in there; the hospital had been lenient enough as it was, or so your dad kept fucking reminding you. But since her family refused to DNR/DNI her—not that you blamed them one bit—she wasn't in one of the special rooms, and you were stuck in that fucking hallway, your words stuck in your throat, your heart bleeding, your lungs collapsing, your tears pouring and your hands clenching in fists against the door as the doctors rushed in. The call for code blue over the hospital intercom wasn't necessary. You knew full well what the fuck it meant when people started running into a room in a hospital; you'd seen it twice already. And it all fucking happened with you . . . in . . . the . . . hall . . . screaming silent words because you had no voice; she'd taken it with her, just like every other part of you that couldn't be in there. But your anger found purchase and your fists rammed into the wall and door, your foot kicking for all its life. You couldn't stop beating and punching and crying and yelling and clawing and screaming and fighting, and this couldn't fucking be happening.

And as selfish as it fucking was, you had only one thought. Please, not now.

Not fucking now.

Wait, baby.

Please . . . please, wait for me.

Wait until the morning when visiting hours are back again.

Please, not yet.

You didn't even get to say goodbye.

You didn't even get to fucking say goodbye.

But that was your girl . . . dying.

..xx..

Agony.

As you watched them lower the casket into the ground, the same color of her hair, the same color of her eyes, the same color of your dreams, of your hopes, of your future . . . sunk into the earth where it lay buried and inundated and swallowed and stiff and lifeless.

It was raining.

The second you had walked out of your house in your black suit and felt the water run down you, you had lost it. You fucking lost it and punched the hood of your car, paint chipping, cracking, breaking around your fist, like the shattering of mirror into a million pieces that you'd never be able to put back together again, that would never be whole again, or right, or the same as it was before, that when you picked the up the jagged pieces they tore into your flesh. A broken mirror that would never again reflect what it once had. You kicked and lunged and fumed and slammed and fought with every muscle in your body. How fucking dare He pull this shit? What right did He have to cry on this day? Where was He when she got sick? Where was He when you begged day and night for her? When you fucking prayed to GOD that she make it out of this . . . that she have the chance to apply to Dartmouth, and live in a dorm, and have a wedding, and become an English teacher, and a fucking stupendous mother and grandmother, and grow old and happy with a long, healthy life. You would have given up everything for her to have that; you offered everything so that she could. If she met someone else in college, you would have stepped aside, because at least she would have been here—HERE—and you knew that nothing could ever be wrong if she was in this world. But where the fuck was He? Why now? She didn't need Him now. Where was He when she was dying? Where the FUCK was He then? And now He had the audacity to show up and fucking weep from His grey skies for her, when she was up there with Him . . . when He took her from you? Each teardrop from the heavens felt like acid burning into your skin, and you clawed and ripped and scraped to peel them off . . . you fucking wanted nothing to do with it. Fuck Him and this shit. He took her from you and you'd never forgive Him that. And with each drop of acid that burned through you, you spat on the ground that swallowed her whole, because He fucking took her.

But that was your girl. Not anymore, though. Never again.

Pain.

You honestly can't say what possesses you to go back, but here you find yourself. The gymnasium at your high school looks different, yet exactly the same, and you wonder if it's simply because now your perspective has changed. Would anything ever hold the luster of life it once had? Your leaden feet move and you follow, past the double doors, deep into a place you hadn't let yourself see since December. And before you know it you're there—your hidden hallway. You taste the old lead paint and asbestos in the air, long before you see the rows of green lockers, the sliver that breaks through with each lock; you smell the mold and metal. You grip your chest, the pressure is immense and hasn't ever left you, it collapses your heart, swallows your voice, and claims your breathing. It seems like an eternity since you both hid away in the silence of the long hall together, pressed against the cool metal lockers, sighing and moaning and kissing and biting and loving and taking for fucking granted the precious seconds you had together.

Then the disgusting scent leaves, the taste leaves, the feeling, everything, and you're besieged, and it's everything you can't do but think of her, feel her, breathe her, know her . . . remember her. Her name is a whisper on your lips, a taste on your tongue, a beat in your heart, a shiver along your spine, a wet glisten in your eye. She's everywhere around you. You're swamped by the memories.

You feel her fingers dig into your shirt to bring you closer.

You hear the metal snap when she's pushed up against the locker wall.

You smell the strawberries from that shampoo she loved; it tingles and burns in every pore of your body.

You taste the mint of her lip gloss as your lips fold into hers.

You touch . . . anything and everything she'll let you get your hands on, the warm flesh of her stomach as you run your fingers along the lip of her jeans, the tremble in her ribs from her breathing as you bring your hands up more, even the lace as you pull her bra to snap it back at her. You hear her laugh, you feel her bite, you taste her tongue . . . and you smile.

You will never be as happy now as you were then.

The cool metal of the dusty, green lockers stings your fingers as you run them along, walking the hall, swept up in the memories that are your only comfort now, your only warmth, the only thing you have of worth.

Suddenly you stop . . . and, it's real.

Baby?

In the silence you hear it, screaming, pounding, calling you home. Bump-bump . . . bump-bump . . . bump-bump . . . bump-bumpbump-bumpbump-bumpbump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump. Whether it's hers, or yours, doesn't matter, because your racing heart is hers, just like hers is yours.

There she is. And you don't even question it. You don't even care. You've missed her so fucking much, and she's here, and you need her to be here, and she is. She's waiting for you, in the middle of the lockers, mischief in her smile, lust in her eyes, and life in her cheeks, smiling and tapping the watch on her wrist to tell you that you've got a limited amount of time to make her happy before your free period is up.

She came back to you.

You run to her, trembling, water streaming down your face but from something other than desolation, and it's never felt so good.

Don't ever leave me again . . . can't . . . I can't do this anymore.

I can't do this alone.

I can't do this without you, baby.

For the first time . . . in a long time, you feel weightless, you feel free. The wind captures your face in a caress, a hug, like it's saying "welcome back, we missed you." And you smile. Fuck. Your face feels funny; it twitches, and only a corner of your lips pick up, but—shit—it's more than you've had in so long. Your fingers are vibrating in ecstasy to feel her skin under them again, they've missed home, and your arms prepare to sweep her up and crush her to you, and never let her go. But someone else reaches her before you do. YOU reach her before you do.

And your smile plummets from your face.

The world stops, screeching to a halt, and you fall off. Your knees crash into the old linoleum, your arms, your fists.

There you are, holding her, your back to the lockers, your tongue down her throat, your hands around her waist, her fingers in your hair. It is an apparition of a memory, so vivid, so heartbreaking . . . so . . . not real, that you cry and you heave and you watch with blood-stained eyes as anger brews inside of you, boiling and coursing. And you're so fucking pissed at this apparition because of the simple happiness these two have, you two had, when not but a couple of months later you would both lose all of it. And the switch has been flipped, instantly, immediately, your motivation changed, through burning eyes, you know what you have to do.

Warn him: you have to warn him, yourself. You have to tell him what's going to happen so that maybe this time it doesn't fucking destroy you. They can't go on living in this dream world where everything is easy and perfect, when it wasn't. It fucking wasn't, and it's going to come crashing and burning in their faces, and you have to stop it.

Brutally, you pull him off of her, and your fist draws back and you swing. You don't stop swinging. You hear her scream, but she doesn't know that you're doing this for her too. You're doing it for you both. You have to stop him before he fucking loves her more than he already does, because each fucking day that he goes on blind will kill him later, and you have to stop it. You ignore the bile burning in your throat, the pain gripping, grinding, your heart and soul. And so you keep swinging; you feel her on your back, kicking and pulling and telling you to get off of him, but you won't stop.

You need this.

You revel in the scorch on your palms from the clenching fists, in the throbbing on your knuckles from his face and jaw, in the warmth on your hands from his blood, in the torture in his eyes, in the singeing, the stinging, the spasms. If this is even a tenth of the pain of what your life has been since losing her, then it's nothing. And so you beat him, you kick him, you claw at him, you scratch him, you curse at him . . . you hate him.

He had everything. He fucking had everything you want and will never have again, and he had no idea he would lose it. He didn't value it.

He could never value it enough.

Somewhere between delusion and lucidity, you realize that you're beating yourself, but that that isn't possible, and the tears that fall from your eyes like rivers pool and flood. Your mind yells, pounding viciously in your head, asking whom are you beating, but you're too gone to pay attention and you turn your anger on the lockers. Because you need this, and you're not done being fucking pissed at the world yet. You won't stop until you've ripped flesh from bone; until your heart pounds outside your chest, too fast, too hard, too much, and it stops . . . then maybe everything will just stop.

Your fists collide with the lockers; the sound of flesh hitting metal engulfs you; the blood that flows from your hands down your arm, staining your sleeve, marks you, covering your skin and darkening everything, and you wonder if it's enough to black it out, to cover all of it.Your fists scream in agony and your throat wells in dehydration, but you continue punching the green off the lockers, because she left you and didn't even have the fucking courtesy to take you with her. She'd always waited for you, she always made room for you . . . yet here you fucking were, without her.

You hear the voices now; they're getting louder, telling you to back away from the lockers, to step away from the bloodied boy that you don't recognize, or his crying girlfriend, or any of the havoc you wreaked, but you don't stop. Your body fights with everything it has to stop this, to go back, to change it, to wish it hadn't happened, to get another chance. You don't know how you're so angry, because the fact is you're not. You're sad. You're so, fucking, unbelievably, broken that you don't know how you're functioning, how you made it this far, months after having lost her. But the truth is you don't remember anything, not one single day that she's been gone. Because she hasn't . . . and yet she has, and it's just now sinking in. So you fight it.

You fucking fight it because it's all you have.

But that wasn't your girl . . . or you. And nothing has ever been more painful.

Breaks in breathing.

Because it truly is possible to forget . . . to breathe, to lie in bed and look up at the ceiling for minutes and hours and days and feel nothing, not since that day by the lockers, not even the residual pain from the number of broken bones in your hands and fingers. Silver streaks down your cheeks, but you don't wipe it, you don't even understand how you're crying; it's not a conscious effort, it's just there, a fact: the world is round, and you can't stop the tears from leaving you behind. Now that you've actually accepted it, that your body beat the shit out of itself and gave out what it was feeling inside, you've stopped feeling anything. You thought it would be better this way. Everyone had said you needed to "cope" and "move on," and they were so fucking wrong. Because at least before you felt something; now . . . now you really have nothing. And you wonder if you've actually died because there is no way that you are living.

It cripples you, the weight of every day without her; and you feel inundated, an avalanche you can't break surface from, and you're gasping and choking and sputtering, and you don't want to leave your bed, you don't want to wake up every morning to this feeling of nothing. You can't face it. You don't want to. Because it truly is possible to will yourself to never breathe again, to starve yourself of reverie, of the hope for better days, of the happiness in simplicity, of any happiness, of vitality, of necessity . . . of life.

Much like it starved her of hers.

Breaks for time.

But you don't stop breathing. You aren't starved of life; you're left to carry on. Without her. You don't understand it; it doesn't make sense. You question it. You question it every-fucking-day, but you don't get any closer to the answer. But after days and months of your catatonic state, your parents intervene. You catch the threats, the worried whispers, and so you do what you must to appease them, to hide out in the open. You walk because it gets you somewhere. You go somewhere because it keeps your parents from making you continue to see "someone who can help," because that had been the biggest fucking joke. Ever since you put that kid in the hospital—and even now you still don't exactly know what happened that day, because what others told you and what you saw and knew are two very different things—they watch you. They got you off on your charges because you "knew" the right people, because you had temporary insanity. You don't agree. You figure the insanity is permanent; there isn't any way it isn't, because life without her isn't life, it doesn't make sense, so the only thing that would be left is insanity. And so they all watch you.

You're afraid of calling it quits because of your hate for God. You just know that fucking bastard will send your ass to hell if you commit suicide, so you don't consider it. Because if you're going to have to do it without her, you might as well not do it in hell. Although, you're not necessarily certain that that isn't what this is anyway. Somehow, you're still here, and time isn't giving you a fucking break.

An endless life.

This is your life now. And nothing's changed.

In the end the tears have long since dried up, and all sound has ebbed. You hear nothing, not the sound of birds chirping every spring, or of children playing every summer, or of fallen leaves scrunching under feet every autumn, or of hail pelting on roofs every winter. Somewhere down the line, minutes become days, and days become months; and years later—it doesn't fucking matter how long—you discover that if you're here, you might as well have a fucking purpose. So you decide to go into medicine; your dad's proud like it's a fucking great thing, like you're following in his footsteps or something. But you don't have the heart to hurt him; you do that to yourself enough to get your fill. So you study and you learn and you live, so that what you went through, someone else doesn't have to.

You don't even care who the fuck that someone else is, just that they don't have to know what it's like to die EVERY FUCKING DAY and still not get the benefit of closing their eyes and letting go. You don't sleep. You don't eat. You don't breathe. Your heart doesn't beat. You don't live.

It's funny what people consider living, because you definitely don't consider what you're doing living; but yet you're here, so that has to mean something, right? But you know the difference. You know what it's like to live, to truly live. And it fucking haunts you. EVERY. DAY.

You know this is all there is now; you've stopped trying to fight it, question it, cry over it. It will always be like this: an infinite loop where you feel green, you taste blood, you hear ringing, you don't know hope, you yearn for missed opportunities, and you remember with perfect clarity the moment you found out, you feel the agonizing pain that consumes your body, and time is the only thing you both have and don't—not in the way you want. It will always be like this. Saliva pours into your mouth like venom, poisoning you; you're going to be sick. Your whole body wants to revolt, it tightens in your throat and your chest, and you hate doing this every, fucking, day . . . because time doesn't heal all wounds, some it scours deeper and deeper, keeping them red and raw and bloody and fresh.

You only have her in memories and dreams, in fantasies in your head, and every single hour, every minute, every second that you're alive your mind runs through every gorgeous smile, every lip bite, every smirk, every laugh, every snort, every chuckle, every time her eyes lit up with mirth. It holds on, in the most agonizing vice grip, to every touch, every caress, every soft-spoken word of longing and desire and need and want and love and every, single, fucking, moment that was important in your life because she was in it, a part of it . . . ALL OF IT.

And you hate it. You hate it so fucking much because you had a life then; you know what it's like. You had everything with her. When you were with her, you lived. When she was taken from you, you stopped. Just because you're "making a difference with your life" doesn't mean a damn fucking thing. And it never will. It will never bring her back. It will NEVER bring her back.

When you go home at night at the end of a long day, and your good old friend darkness is waiting for you with open arms, along with his friends silence and insomnia and depression, the only thing that keeps you and caresses you and holds you and hugs you and loves you and fucks you is the only truth to your life: that whatever you do while "living," you'll never get her back.

So, in the end, what does it really matter?

And the silence of living it alone.


Hi, me again.

So I just wanted to leave my recs for my top three favorites in the contest.

1. This is the Way the World Ends by SophiaAnne. It's postapocalyptic, and I love that. Different, dark. And AMAZING. www. fanfiction. net/s/7581197/1/This_is_the_Way_the_World_Ends

2. The Flight by Alby Mangroves. It's canon Esme's tale. Harrowing and beautiful. www. fanfiction. net/s/7640169/1/The_Flight

3. And a tie for third with: This Piece of Our Forever by Bedelia. This one has a twist that is SO worth reading. It's Emily and Sam and post-Breaking Dawnish. AMAZINGLY good. Plus, I take some bit of pride here since I sort of was involved in the writer even writing it! www. fanfiction. net/s/7641239/1/This_Piece_of_Our_Forever. Preferred by Predators by solareclipses. Another entry written in 2nd, so gotta show love there. It's . . . intense. www. fanfiction. net/s/7640408/1/Preferred_by_Predators

And If you've made it this far I want to thank you for reading. This entry was QUITE the challenge, from learning how to weave 2nd person narrative, to the proper ins-and-outs out grammar when it comes to past, past perfect, and present. AND how to play with grammar so that it's not HORRENDOUS, but had the effect I was going for. LOTS AND LOTS of work and editing, and making sure my character dealt with the growth of loss in all the stages, and not writing with dialog, or names. It was quite the quest in risk taking. PunkyBumpkin and Alotalittle did amazing jobs with me for this.

I'm really glad I gave this a try! I'm very proud of the product.

Now go check out Spartacus on STARZ. It's awesome. Or listen to "The Sound of Silence" because it's beautiful.

Thanks for giving this story a chance! xxNaya