Someone Like You
By Laura Schiller
Based on: Matched/Crossed
Copyright: Ally Condie
"Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light.
I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited,
but I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
I hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
that for me, it isn't over …
Never mind, I'll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don't forget me, I pray.
I remember, you said:
"Sometimes it lasts in love,
but sometimes it hurts instead."
- Adele, "Someone Like You"
Em Romano climbed the air train steps so fast, she was breathless by the time she reached the top. The digital clock on the station's concrete wall read 7:24 in white neon letters, glowing balefully in the morning mist; two minutes to go until the inter-province train rolled in.
Xander Carrow, punctual as always, stood with his hands in his pockets and a standard-issue wheeled suitcase, blue to match his crisp new workers' plainclothes, sitting next to him. Staring along the straight steel line of the tracks as they disappeared into the horizon, he did not notice Em until she tapped him on the shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" was the first thing he said, blue eyes darting around the station to make sure none of the sleepy, early commuters were watching too closely. "You should still be at home – you'll get cited!"
"It's okay," she said, ignoring the twinges of guilt and embarrassment in her stomach. "Cleanest record in our grade, remember? I just – I had to – someone from the old crowd should be here to see you off, since ... "
Since your Match can't be, she thought wistfully, seeing the same thought reflected Xander's face.
'The old crowd'. Sera and Piper, transferred to work positions in separate Boroughs. Ky, disappeared to who-knew-where because of some very prestigious promotion of Mr. Markham's. Cassia, relocated to the Farmlands of Keya Province with her family. And here was Xander, going to Central to study medicine, leaving Em behind as all the rest had done.
His disapproving frown cleared up; as usual, he understood much more than she was saying.
"Well, even though you shouldn't be here … I'm terribly glad to see you. Emily."
"Same here, Alexander."
They made an effort to smile playfully, but on both sides, it fell flat. It was an old in-joke they had once shared with Sera ("Serafina"), using the long, outdated versions of their names instead of the short, modern ones their parents had chosen from the Society's List of Acceptable Names. As soon as their Instructor had expressed her disapproval, they had stopped; but knowing she might never even see her friend again, let alone exchange nicknames, made it almost impossible to smile.
"If – when you see Cassia, tell her … " Em almost choked on the words she found impossible to say. Tell her everybody knows her affair with Ky Markham is the reason she's been Relocated. Ask her why on Earth she would do such a thing, when she's got a promising sorting career and a loving family and – you! Ask her why she never even talked to me about it. Tell her to write to me on the port, at least to let me know if she's all right … if they even have a port where she is …
"Tell her I miss her," she finally said.
Xander, the first morning sunbeams gilding his blond hair like a halo, his blue eyes dark with sorrow for his missing Match, was a sight that made Em's throat close up even more with suppressed tears.
"I know what it's like," she said, trying to sum up all her wild, incoherent mix of sympathy, love and envy without ruining the moment. "Being seen as second best. But Xander, you'll always come first to - to your family. Your friends. Please remember that."
Suppose she told him the truth, here and now?
I was so happy with my Match. Dalen Carter, blond hair, blue eyes, five feet ten inches. Predicted rate of success: 97%. Favorite leisure activity: swimming. Favorite recreational activity: games. He was everything I wanted – except, describing him to Cassia in the meal hall, I saw you over her shoulder and realized why …
The Officials know. They knew I loved you before I knew myself. They gave me the closest possible substitute instead of the real thing, never mind how hard that is on Dalen as well as me. If this how Cassia felt when she chose Ky, how can I blame her? And how can I blame you for not even seeing me? Because even if you did, we wouldn't even have a choice …
But no. Absolutely not. The last thing she wanted to do was make his journey away from home even harder than it already was. She swallowed her tears, took his strong right hand in both of her smaller ones and held on tight. No one could cite them for that, not after a friendship of eleven years.
It was Xander who broke the rules this time, by sweeping her up into a breathtaking, dizzying embrace just as the train roared into the station.
"I'll miss you, Emily," he said, his warm breath tickling her ear. "Optimal results. You deserve them."
"Optimal results, Alexander," she replied as they broke apart.
She smiled as he grabbed his suitcase and dashed up the unfolding steps. She smiled as his spiky head appeared in a window and they waved to each other. She smiled as she ran along with the train as far as she could, until it sped up and she fell back, gasping, her hands on her knees. It was not until the train had disappeared from sight that she finally let herself cry.