When she thinks about the summer of 1917 (which is more often than she'd like to admit), she remembers only him. She hears his laughter and sees his smile, tastes his lips and feels his arm wrapped tightly around her waist.
She remembers walking hand in hand on the beach, wading into the waves and jumping into his arms after the cold water washed over her feet; smiling at him across the dinner table; lying next to him on the grass under the night sky.
"Doubt thou the stars are fire/Doubt that the sun doth move/Doubt truth to be a liar/But never doubt I love," he quotes, so softly that she almost misses it.
"Shakespeare," she whispers back.
"I defy you, stars," he murmurs, and there is a quiet desperation in his tone that fills her with unease.
She doesn't know what to say, so she kisses him.
She remembers the way she felt when she was with him – genuine, strong, and imperfect. With Jay, she was brave. For the first time in her life, she felt as if someone actually cared about the thoughts contained inside her head instead of the pretty golden hair that covered it.
When he left, the world seemed to cease spinning. When he left, she collapsed. Complete annihilation. Just like a dying star, only it didn't take long for her to burn out. His absence sliced her apart, drowning her in an ocean of uncertainty and shadowy promises.
She wasn't as strong as he thought she would be. She couldn't keep herself afloat. She reached out for help, seeking salvation from a stranger's lifeboat, and she climbed inside without a backward glance. She married her savior, though she did not love him, and bore him a child, whom she also did not love. She exchanged a life of romance and honesty for one of luxury and insignificance.
When she thinks of Jay now, she thinks of Shakespeare's stars. She thinks that for a time, she did defy the stars that had been fixed in the tapestry of her life, and that this was the happiest time of her life. She knows that Jay never stopped defying, that he continued to resist reality even when he found her again. She both resents and admires him for this.
She sees that this is the difference between the two of them – Jay never stopped trying to change the hand that he was dealt until he was satisfied with the result, while she gave up on her happiness far too quickly because she wasn't strong enough to stand alone. She knows that the Shakespeare quote that most accurately describes her is in fact not either of the two that Jay whispered in his husky voice that warm summer night; no, those words describe men and women braver and stronger than she. Her words are not Romeo's or Hamlet's; they are Cassius': "The fault is not in our stars…/But in ourselves, that we are underlings."