He likes to pretend.
She likes to live.
He lives in a world of words and poems and ideals. She's thriving as she launches herself headfirst into the world. He smells like fabric softener and hope. She smells like wisps of smoke and broken dreams. He holds out, watching and waiting, blending into the wall. She's dancing with laughter and spotlight, and she's living.
He wishes, suddenly, that he could join her.
And so he does.
She's impulsive. He's never been very good at thinking fast and acting out.
But she is.
She's reckless, drinking angry bottles of liquor, and smoking long into the night. Patrick's with her, of course. He's nothing if not loyal. But he strays to the side lines, fading in and out of sight.
He can't shine with her because she outshines him every time.
But he doesn't mind it. Not really.
He loses himself within a book that his English teacher gives him. He tries to forget and drift away, believing in a world where everyone belongs and can live freely and carry out life unrestrained.
He's good at imagining. He always has been.
It lets him forget his best friend's suicide, and he can forget that there was never a letter. He can forget his Aunt's death and the empty spots in his mind. He can stop feeling scared, and pretend that he;s really living.
She cuts her hair short.
He stunned by the change.
She's grown edgier, more closed off. She's wrapped up with some new guy, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is how dull her eyes have grown, and how her laugh seems so much more flat. Like she's dead on the inside.
He understands because every day he puts on his own mask to hide the truth.
She gives him long, flat stares from across the room, clasping tightly to some guy's hand like it's a life line.
He gets it. He just doesn't like it,
They drive fast through the tunnel, the wisps of the wind whipping into the truck. She's standing above them all, head held high and arms outstretched. The music roars from the little speakers, and Patrick keeps stepping heavy on the gas.
He likes to pretend she's flying, as if she were an angel.
But then she slips back into the truck, eyes heavy and heart cracked.
He studies with her, trying to pull her out of the current so she can one day carry out her dreams. She tries and strains to pull herself out-but that's okay.
Because he is there and he will help, because he will always be there.
She smiles at him, lights flickering above them.
He feels his heart pound.
He kisses her.
She kisses him.
Because she loves him, but won't love him that way. She's protecting him, but she's breaking him apart.
It hurts and he wants to cry but he can't because men don't cry. It's a fact of life, his brother tells him.
So he holds it in, and he feels heavy.
He feels like he has fallen for a shooting star.
Her smiles are just a touch brighter, and her laughs sound so much more real. She's wearing lipstick like it's a mask, and she's wearing boots like they're her armour. But she is living now.
She dances in the living room, the strong drumming of the music filling the spaces in between. He feels alive, because she is living.
He dates her best friend. He's fine with it, because he feels a surge of victory when she gives him a slow glance. Their kisses are empty and slow, and he feels pain breathing. He's so sick of the lies and the false emotion he gives out so freely, because they're all anyone wishes to hear.
Sam's smiles slow, but they're still steady. He leans on them when he feels tired, because she is there and she is all he can ever think of.
He breaks something that can never really be fixed.
Sam stops smiling.
He stands tall, and blackness tugs at his vision. Patrick's on the floor, hurting. His heart has been ripped free from his chest and torn apart, and he's been reduced to a being living numb.
So he fights.
Everything is dark, and all he knows is raw anger.
This is his friend, reduced to a broken being. He hurts and he breaks, and he isn't meant to hurt and break because he shouldn't.
He won't let this happen, not anymore.
Life gets better.
It's a whirlwind of wine and cigarettes and old music, but Sam is there, and so is Patrick.
He's okay with this.
But then his world is transformed into bliss, because it is only him and her forevermore.
He likes this sort of life.
He can handle it, he imagines.
It's a nice sort of reality.
But then it breaks.
All he can find are knives and all he can hear are sirens. A voice is frantic, screaming at him from the phone. But he can live like this, knowing and remembering-he just wants to die.
But he doesn't get his wish.
He doesn't like to talk.
He just wants to forget, and grow oblivious. But that just won't happen.
Every closed wound is torn open and rubbed raw. Feelings are examined and documented, and his life is put on display.
But he gets over it.
S'not healthy, they say. Bottling anger.
So he just stops caring about the little things. He moves on.
She returns, for a few days.
Her eyes are soft and her voice is whispery.
He can't let go of her hand, because she's so far out of his reach.
"I love you," He tells her franticly.
She smiles at him. "I love you too." It's so well-rehearsed that it breaks him apart. How many men has she whispered that line to? How many others had she told those words?
But he's okay.
She likes to live, and he likes to pretend.
For now, he can smile and nod.