The hands of the clock never stop moving. Time never stands still. That which could’ve been and never was is but a dead point suspended in a cruel never-tiring machine and you wave it goodbye as you pass by it. Because the clock never stops ticking. And one plus one never ends up equaling two if the equal is swallowed in a worm hole.
Sky raised her hand and knocked twice. She took a deep breath. This was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do. She pictured her guitar sitting in a corner of her room back at home. She imagined she willingly ripped its strings. She imagined hearing the sound they made as they broke. Ripping Ray out of her heart was incomparably more painful.
But she had to. This had to be done, for it had never been meant to happen. She and Ray, they’d been a glitch. A loophole. And now she had to fix it.
He’d never been hers to claim.
Ray gulped when he opened the door and she stood in front of him, gnawing on her bottom lip nervously. He didn’t know what to say to her. And it looked like she wouldn’t have known what to reply, anyway.
“Hi,” she murmured eventually, running a hand through her blond hair. “Can I come in?”
He moved aside for her to step inside, his heart humming at her sight and proximity. But she barely cast him a second glance as she looked around the room, her eyes roaming everywhere but on him. It was as if her eyes were shy to linger on him for too long, afraid they were to fall captive once again. Which was absurd. Ray had always been the one to fall captive to the endless horizon her blue eyes held.
Eventually, Sky took a deep breath and turned on her heels to face him, as if she’d finally made up her mind to say what she’d come here to say.
“You shouldn’t have come back,” she stated, and Ray’s heart shrunk. He forced a sad smile.
“You saying it repeatedly won’t make it sting any less, you know. It’s a flawed mechanism, though I appreciate the intention.”
Sky sighed in exasperation.
“I am not joking, Ray. You don’t get it. I can’t live carrying the guilt that you blew your best shot just so that you could come back seeking something that I don’t have.”
Ray shook his head and, in two giant steps, he closed the distance between them and cupped her face in his hands, resting his forehead on hers.
“I don’t care,” he whispered, his warm breath tickling her lips. “I don’t care. You’re my best shot. And I only want you.”
She unwrapped herself from his arms and put the distance back between them. Ray noticed a few tears tickling in the corner of her eyes. It made no sense. Why was she here, then? Why wasn’t she willing to go back from where they’d left it, now that he was back?
“I told you, you don’t get it,” she whispered back. “I’m not any of that. I’m not in any way what you make me to be, Ray. I am broken. I am far gone, more that you’ll ever know, more than you can understand.”
“Then make me understand,” he shouted, then he took a second to calm down and lowered his voice back to a whisper, because he didn’t trust it enough to handle this conversation. “Please. Help me understand. I came back for you, Sky. I… I thought this… I thought you wanted me, too.”
Sky let out a humorless laugh that half-terrified Ray, and she gripped her hair as she paced back and forth.
“You think this is what it’s all about?” she raised her voice. “You think it’s because I don’t want you? Ray, I was here that morning. I missed you by a few minutes. I wanted you back, and when I realized you were gone, it damn near destroyed me. I love you. I have missed you so much it made me go out of my freaking mind. But I can’t do this. Seeing you at my door that day, it made me realize it. I can’t go on. I let it go on for too long.”
She turned her back on him and Ray simply stared. He wasn’t sure what was going on. He heard her say she loved him, but she heard her say she was ending it. Which one was he supposed to believe?
He moved slowly, carefully, as if afraid he might scare her away, until he stood behind her, and then he gripped her shoulders, but she just shrugged off his hands. He didn’t attempt it a second time, so he just chocked on air until he managed to get the words out.
“Why?” he whispered. “What are you saying? If you love me, what did you let go on for too long? Us? I wasn’t aware of the fact that we had an expiration date.”
She turned to face him, and Ray noticed the tears streaming down her face.
“Neither did I,” she confessed, and he wiped away the tears.
“Then who says we do? Sky, please, don’t make me lose you. At least give me a reason. An explanation. Anything. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
She looked like she wanted to say something more, but changed her mind at the last minute and, instead, she leaned in and placed a kiss on Ray’s lips. Her kisses used to knock the sense out of him. Used to take him high and low and wide and high again. But this kiss was bitter, this kiss was filled with words she couldn’t say, with memories they hadn’t made yet and would never make, with those memories they had together that still felt too good to be true.
But they stayed locked in that kiss, because Ray was afraid to let her go, afraid she’d vanish into thin air the second he stopped touching her, and she was afraid of the moment she’d have to walk out the door and out of his life.
She’s with me.
Since when do heroes come with side-parted hairstyles?
You do look like a ray of sunshine.
You get to make me be whoever you want me to be.
Lead the way.
Now shut up and dance with me, Ray of Sunshine.
Her kiss took him back to the start, back to where she was an intriguing stranger who took his hand and led him to the dance floor, back to when they were victims of the night, back before she made Ray question whether he was falling in love with a phantom, with wishful thinking rather than a person.
You may come across as a shy, boring nerd, Ray of Sunshine. But I can see through you. In here lies a heart on fire.
He’d never found out whether she’d been right that night. But even if she hadn’t, he was pretty sure she’d made sure to set his heart on fire just to prove a point.
For us, rain is like coming home.
Sky is the limit.
Let’s let the night seal this one for us, Ray.
I can’t promise you tomorrow, Ray.
But she’d given him plenty of tomorrows. Plenty of nights. No daylight. And now, she was ready to take those tomorrow away from him, too.
Dance with me, Sky.
“Dance with me, Sky.”
He’d said it then, and he said it now. A beautiful, painful symmetry. A perfect epilogue to a perfect prologue. And with a sad smile and tears on her cheeks, Sky took her rightful place in his arms like they had been shaped for her silhouette, and they danced again, teary cheek to teary cheek.
I really want to kiss you right now.
She was still shivering. It had been from the cold then, perhaps. Not now, it wasn’t.
I should go.
“I should go.”
She’d said it then, and she said it now. But she didn’t move this time. They stayed embraced, the only dance going on now was their hearts beating in sync. And somehow, Sky’s heart was still always one heartbeat ahead.
Count to ten, and I’ll be gone.
He’d lost count now. He’d hoped so badly that this would trick her into staying. It hadn’t worked. She was still going. Always gone. Already gone.
Goodbye, Ray of Sunshine.
And yet, it hadn’t been goodbye. In fact, their whole relationship had been a collection of unfruitful goodbyes. But then, why did this one feel so permanent?
Dreadful weather, isn’t it?
I’ve been looking for you.
I’m quite the fan of the random and hazardous.
I didn’t catch your name.
I didn’t say.
The promise her smile had held. He kissed her temple and got lost in the memories playing in a loop in front of their eyes.
You’re not walking out on me. Not again.
And she had. Repeatedly. And he couldn’t stop it. And she was doing it again. And it felt real now.
You can’t offer me the sky and pretend it’s not enough.
Lead the way. I’ll follow.
I will make you fall in love with me. I will sweep you off your feet so badly. I will show you how well our pieces fit together. I will make your heart race.
And he had. He’d made good on his promise. He’d given her everything and then more.
All in. He’d been all in. And she was taking it all with her on her way out. His all hadn’t been enough.
Are you even real?
I’m scared that at some point, I’ll blink and you’ll be gone and I’ll have realized I had made you up inside my head.
But was she? Had he?
I incite storms for a living.
I just need to say it. Just once. And you need to hear it just once.
I love you.
We’re not gonna make it. It’s gonna end, and it’s not gonna be pretty.
It wasn’t. It was ending, and they hadn’t made it, and it was ugly and full of tears and questions and bitterness.
For now, I’m happy with being your present.
We’ve got three months to be whoever we want to be.
I could give you a million reasons why we belong in the daylight.
You don’t have to find your way back to me, Ray.
Hell, I’d stay for even the shadow of a whisper.
There hadn’t even been that. Not even the shadow of a whisper. He’d stayed for less. For nothing. Because he thought she was worth fighting for. He hadn’t counted on her not wanting to fight for him.
I came back for you. I couldn’t leave you.
Please, Ray, leave.
You should have left.
She unwrapped herself from his arms and moved past him.
Two heartbeats and a half.
He caught her wrist and crashed their bodied together, kissing her like she’d never been kissed, hungry and desperate and needy because he needed her to stay. Eventually, they broke the kiss, gasping for air, and he searched her eye for the smallest shadow of a doubt he could work with to just convince her to not walk out that door.
He didn’t find any.
She was still going.
“Stay,” he whispered helplessly, though he knew it was in vain.
“You have to let me go, Ray,” she whispered against his lips, closing her eyes.
“But I don’t know how.”
She ran her hands across his face, as if she wanted to tattoo his face on her fingerprints, and eventually buried them in his hair and pressed her lips against his temple before moving them next to his ear.
“Imagine that you never met me,” she whispered. “Think of it as if I’d never walked into your life. Let me be just the bitter shadow of what could’ve been.”
“Sky—“ he tried, but her warmth was already gone from around his body, and he instantly missed it.
He wanted to tell her he couldn’t do that.
He could never forget.
He could never imagine an existence in which he wouldn’t have met her.
But before he could speak, the door closed behind her, and all that Ray was left with was the bitter shadow of what could’ve been.