In one of their moments, when they pretend they have everything, Sherry holds his hand and tells him secrets, and Jake listens carefully, eager to know, to be part of her life. It's late and they don't have a steady place to stay, and she deserves better but better is not an option now.
All they can afford is a kind of okay.
"When I was seven, I got a dog," she says, giving his hand a small squeeze. "My parents got me one for my birthday because they decided that's how they were going to let me know they cared, so I ended up with a Dachshund puppy."
There is a pause, and he has spent enough time by her side to know that she's afraid her voice will falter, she's swallowing back the sorrow of a painful memory and trying to keep afloat instead of drowning in the past. He knows because he does the same.
"I named her Trixie, and she was really cute. She couldn't see me sad that she'd jump in my lap and lick my face," here she giggles, but Jake knows how to read her, and her face and expression and her body and invisible scars. "She contracted a rare disease a year later and died. I kept telling my parents she wasn't okay, but they didn't make much of it—-that's the first time I hated them."
They're lying on the floor of their empty living room, staring at cracks in the ceiling, and she's wearing his shirt, it looks better on her anyway, and he's in sweatpants and he realizes this is dignity or something very close to it.
She's telling him about her parents, about her life, she's letting him in.
"I woke up one day and Trixie was dead. I didn't do anything for the first couple of minutes, but then I screamed and my mother came running. She looked scared. She saw Trixie and hugged me and told me it was life and that's how it works, things living things must die," she laughs a bitter laugh. "And that's so…ironic. Living things must die, and she and my dad were working on a virus that caused every dead thing to come back to life."
She shakes her head. "We buried her in our backyard. My father couldn't speak to me for more than ten seconds because he was finally making progress in his research. He told me he was sorry. No one cried, no one seemed to care, so I cried for hours. I felt like I had to cry for all of them."
For the first time since she started talking, she looks at him. Her eyes are so blue, and so are his, but hers are haunting in that beautiful way.
"That's my biggest fear: having to cry, to feel for somebody else again. It sounds silly and egoistic, but I can't help it. I…"
"It's not silly," he blurts out. "Turst me, it's not silly nor egoistic."
She smiles and when he pulls her closer, she rests her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. It's loud, but it sets her mind, her body at ease.
"I guess we're just messed up," she says.
"Yeah, no shit," he says, kissing the top of her head and keeping her close.
It doesn't take much for her to fall asleep, and he keeps on wasting time staring at the ceiling, finding new cracks and thinking about his past, his mother, the father everybody knew except him and all the things he could have been but chose to ignore.
He hopes to be a better man, at least.
He holds on to Sherry and prays she feels just as warm and safe as he does.