Her name is Hazel and she's aggressively quiet and quietly aggressive. You remember her face from long ago, beauty blurred at the edges and green eyes that burnt like emerald embers. You remember sharing sighs and rolling eyes and you remember that she was a simple extra in the story of your life.
Until Gus brought her in and made her stay.
(Even after he himself was gone.)
You once communicated with sighs, but in the weeks after Gus' death it turns to touch.
She holds your hand. You stroke your thumb over her paper thin skin. She squeezes your fingers. You squeeze back.
And those little movements say everything they need to say, really, because neither of you have enough words to tell the other that you hope his Something is real.
(And maybe you only fall in love with her to protect her.
But maybe not.)
She's funny. She makes you laugh when you think you're going to drown in this perpetual blackness without your best friend.
It's like her gift. And you thank her for it often.
You long to lean close and kiss her. But you won't, for several reasons.
One) You don't know where her lips are.
Two) You don't want to scare her away.
Three) She's his.
And that last one is the biggest and scariest and most heartbreaking because, okay, you promised you wouldn't leave her alone but you never promised not to love her.
(Maybe he knew you'd love her for him.
And then again, maybe he didn't.)
Maybe he thought he could trust you. Maybe he thought you couldn't revel in her beauty when you couldn't see it. Maybe he thought you were stronger than him.
But it doesn't matter what he thought.
Because he's dead.
(I'm sorry, Gus.)
She only outlives him by mere months. It kills you inside because you've tried to picture her face and you can't and even though you can't even see her anymore…well, now you never will.
And it kills you so much more when you're at her funeral. Because you can hear the whispers and sobs of so many people and you know, you know, that none of these people cared as much as they pretend. It infuriates you, boils your blood, but you let the anger fizzle away. For her.
They ask you to say a eulogy.
You need to memorise it because you can't exactly read, can you? But, at the last minute, the words fly from your head and all you can say is,
"I'm sorry. But none of you knew her. She was a beautiful person and I'll never forget her. I love you, Hazel Grace. Your parents love you. And Gus, he loves you too. I hope you're happy together. I hope you're Somewhere."
And then you break down.
You pray to them and sob for them and beg and plead and rage.
"I hope you're happy together. I do. But I'm selfish and I want you back."
(And maybe you no longer believe in true love.
But then, maybe you do.)
You used to hate your blindness, this empty, soulless future, this black, never-ending dream where realities blur and sometimes you hear their voices.
But you decide one day that you like the dark.
It makes it easier to imagine their face as they laugh together.
(Not that you can see the light.
You wake up one day and smell summer in the air. It's almost as good as seeing the sunlight.
In fact, in many ways, it's better.
Because now you can sit (alone) in the garden and feel the honeyed warmth on your skin and pretend that Hazel's on one side and Gus on the other, and you're all just thinking of the future you will surely have together.
(You'll learn how to stop the chest wracking, bone breaking, throat scraping, breath halting sobs. Eventually.)
(You'll never accept any robot eyes now.
It's not worth looking at a world where good people suffer and beautiful people die.
Even if it is beautiful itself.)
Maybe one day you'll laugh again.
But then…maybe not.