Light Up My Sky

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Chapter 4

“No, mom, it’s fine. Yeah, I’m fine. Mom, it’s okay, stop worrying about me. Tell Lily I said hi and to enjoy her senior year and give little Sarah a kiss for me, will you? Sure, mom, I’ll take care. Yeah. Yeah. You, too, mom. See you soon. Yeah. Bye.”

Ray hung up the phone and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. He loved his family and he adored his little sister more than anything in the world, but conversations with his mother exhausted him. She’d had to raise her children on her own and had done the impossible to keep her eldest son in college. For Ray, his mother was a goddess and he had nothing but admiration for her, considering the sacrifices she’d had to make for her kids. And that was partly the reason why she was being so damn paranoid all the time. Having her kid so far away from her sight had her constantly on the edge. And constantly got on Ray’s nerves.

He sighed and put his cell phone down, resuming his breakfast before heading to the library. He was already running late, like he always was whenever his mom called. He ate quickly and got dressed, deciding the only way to make it in time to work was to take a cab, though he’d always preferred taking the subway.

He grabbed his keys and phone from where he’d let them on the table and hurried out the door. It was a sunny day and he found himself loathing it. He’d been a summer kid and loved summer days, and yet, ever since Sky had shed some light over the matter, he had come to realize there was beauty and serenity in rain and cold, foggy, November mornings. Besides, within the storm, in the eye of the hurricane she’s left behind, still stood her.

Sky.

Yet again, Sky.

Her name kept playing on repeat, like a song playing in the background, stuck in his head like an obsessive tune. And ever since that girl in the elevator, he’d grown truly obsessed. His days revolved around a single question: was it her? And Ray hadn’t been able to answer that question yet.

He climbed inside the cab and watched the background quickly fade around him, everything becoming just an autumn rusty blur as the car drove down the crowded streets. He closed his eyes and sighed, tuning out the driver’s attempts to make small talk about the weather. He felt the clouds of a headache gathering behind his eyes and he knew it would be a long day. Most were. And stressing out over a call he never got from that law firm about that internship didn’t help. He was starting to think Michael Smith had been full of crap.

The car came to a halt at a street light and Ray cursed under his breath as he took in the traffic scenery. Nope, clearly there was no way he’d make it in time now. He leaned back in his seat as the taxi driver spat a whole palette of curses so variate, they nearly made Ray blush. He turned his attention towards the window and stared in the distance. Stupid, sunny day. When had he become so boring and depressive? He was glad Derek wasn’t there to point out the exact moment.

July 13th, 1990. Wake up, Raymond. You were born boring and depressed.

Yeah. Right.

He let his eyes wander across the streets, following the pedestrians with his gaze as if they were raindrops racing down a foggy window. And with the taxi driver still swearing and honking the horn in the background, he froze once again, the all too familiar tightness settling in the middle of his chest as he watched a girl walk down the sidewalk.

He was pretty sure she was the same girl from the elevator. Same blonde hair, same silhouette, same posture, same delicacy in the way she held herself. And his gut told him that, if he’d gone close enough to her, he would’ve seen the same clear blue eyes staring back at him.

He felt his heart race in his chest. But was this girl Sky? This time, he had to find out.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, because while his brain was all over the place and his heart yelled at him to just do something, anything, his body was still frozen into place, unable to move an inch. And before he could wake up from his reverie and react, he felt the car move.

“No, no, no!” he yelled at the taxi driver, who looked at him like he’d gone mad; which Ray probably had. “Stop the car. Stop the car now!”

The poor guy had to oblige and stop the car. Ray tossed him a 50$ bill, not bothering with the chance, and practically jumped out of the car and raced down the street in the direction where he’d seen the girl. He ran back and forth for a few times, but she was nowhere in sight. He felt panic building up inside of him. If there was even the slightest possibility that girl had been Sky, he couldn’t let her go a third time. He couldn’t be that dumb.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, panting and looking around. Where the hell could she have gone? He ran a hand through his hair and thought he’s really lost her for good this time, when he saw a blonde head over that cute peach coat he’d seen her wear walking to the subway.

Ray let a heartbeat pass. Two heartbeats. Two heartbeats and a half. Before the third heartbeat, he sprung forward and ran towards her. Almost three full heartbeats was all the time he’d allowed himself to hope this was really Sky and that he’d catch her, before shutting down his brain and letting his body take over.

He moved through the thick crowd in frustration as people kept getting in his way, and soon, the girl disappeared from sight. He had to get to that subway station before losing her again.

“Excuse me! Sorry! Sorry, sorry, coming through,” he kept moving quickly past people, regardless of whom he bothered. Derek would’ve been proud.

Eventually, minutes later that felt so little, so late, he flew down the stairs to the subway and he scanned the crowd for that peach coat and that blonde little head.

“Come on, come on, come on,” he kept muttering under his breath, speaking to no one in particular, as if there were some words that could’ve sharpened his senses and helped him find her.

He paced back and forth, looking around desperately, still hoping, still praying, still cursing. He finally reached a spot near the train and his heart knew the drill already.

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Two heartbeats and a half.

He saw her.

Three heartbeats.

She was on the train and the doors were closing. It was the elevator scene all over again.

Shit, Ray shouted in his mind. Shit, shit, shit.

He stood helplessly, in front of closed doors once again, this time able to see her as she left him behind. He took in her features. Golden curls, full lips, pointed cheeks, cute nose. She was definitely the girl from the elevator, but her eyes were fixated on the ground and he wanted so badly to see them. He couldn’t tell if the was Sky, no, he couldn’t be sure without seeing her eyes. But it had been so dark that night, and there had been that damned mask and the rain and his daze…

He still stood there helplessly, waiting for the train to move, having the girl just in front of him, just one set of closed door between them.

And then she raised her gaze and their eyes met. Hers widened slightly and she blinked in surprise. Ray let out a shaky breath. Then she smiled and all the world dropped dead.

And then the train moved.

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Two heartbeats and a half.

Blue eyes. Clear blue. Blue as the sky during the sunniest summer mornings. And if that hadn’t been enough reassurance, that sly, teasing, challenging smile had confirmed it.

She was Sky.

Before the third heartbeat, Ray fled again. Now that he knew it was her, there was no way in hell he’d lose her. He had no plan, but his feet told him to run, so he ran.

He caught sight of a subway map in his peripheral vision on his way and stopped for a second. Three, four, five subway stops on the route she was on. If he had to search each and every last one of them, he’d find her.

But you can’t run faster than a train, dumbass, he heard a small voice in the back of his head that sounded suspiciously like Derek. And while he wanted to shut that voice up and sprint into the marathon of his life, he knew there was truth to that little voice of reason. He couldn’t outrun the train. But what was he supposed to do then?

Think, Ray, think, think, think, he prompted himself, feeling the adrenaline pumping through his veins.

And then whatever God was listening decided to answer his prayers, because he caught sight of a kid walking towards his bicycle.

I cannot believe I’m about to do this. May God have mercy on my soul.

And without thinking twice, he leapt forward and, before the kid could reach the bike, Ray grabbed it and climbed it as fast as he could, thanking heavens above it was big enough for him.

“I’m sorry, kiddo, I’ll return it to you as soon as I can,” he called over his shoulder, not sticking around long enough to deal with the aftermath of his actions. Though he could hear the kid crying in the distance and calling for his mom and Ray couldn’t help but wonder if people could go to jail for borrowing bikes from little children. Law school hadn’t taught them that.

But every rational thought catching shape in his head was soon overwhelmed by the rhythm of his delirious heart chanting her name.

Sky.

Sky.

Sky.

Good Lord, it was her.

Good Lord, what the hell am I gonna say to her?

But he couldn’t think about that just now. He had to catch her first. And seeing as his muscles were already starting to feel a little sore, he just hoped he’d be fast enough and that he’d hang in there long enough to be able to stand in front of her. Stand, preferable. Not collapse at her feet from exhaustion. But he’d take what he could get.

His feet moved aggressively over the pedals and he soon reached the first subway station. He stopped the bike, trying to catch his breath. He looked at the panels and saw that the last train had arrived three minutes ago and had already moved on. Ray looked around, thinking that she couldn’t have gotten far in just three minutes, and that she would’ve probably still been around. But she was nowhere in sight, so he took it as a sign he could safely be on his way, too.

He had the same result in the second and third station and he was growing quite confident in his odds. By the fourth station, he caught up with the train and actually had to wait for a few minutes after its arrival to completely scan out the crowd and the passengers who had gotten off. Sky was still nowhere in sight.

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Two heartbeats and a half and he went for the fifth station.

The third heartbeat knew he’d find her there.

He didn’t dare making a plan as to what he’d say to her. For now, he’d be happy to just stand in front of her and be on the receiving side of that wicked smile once more and let her know he hadn’t been able to get her out of his head. Day and night, his skin itched where she’d touched him. She’d had to know the way she’d burned his heart wasn’t that of a flame, it had been that of a Phoenix bird. And she’d left ashes behind that felt like salt poured into wounds.

He pedaled fast towards the fifth station, counting his breaths until he got there.

He was seconds away. The train had just arrived. He’d just wait there until she got off the train. There was no more first, or second, or third heartbeats, no more halfway heartbeats. His heart was a firework show, random and loud and explosive.

The bike couldn’t go fast enough. He was a few feet away, he—

He felt the background shift around him and, next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground, the bike inches from him, one of the wheels broken. What the hell?

He groaned and got up, just to see and old lady crouched in front of him, reaching for the onions that had fallen out of her bag and failing to get them all. It occurred to Ray that he might’ve bumped into her. Oh, dear Lord.

“Jesus Christ,” he exclaimed, hurrying to the woman’s side, trying to help her pick up her onion. “I’m so sorry, ma’am, I should’ve watched where I was going. Are you okay, are you hurt?”

He picked up the last onion and placed it in the bad in the woman’s hand, and the old lady simply chuckled, patting his hand affectionately. Oh, he did not have the time for this. If he lost Sky again, he would’ve surely done so for good.

“It’s okay, dear, I’m fine,” the old lady told him, smiling gently and speaking slowly. Ray wanted to just run and find his girl. “It’s you who took the more serious blow. Oh, dear, are you hurt?”

“N-no, ma’am, I’m fine,” Ray hurried to say, trying to get away. “I’m terribly sorry, but I have to—“

“Oh, such a nice young man,” the woman continued, still smiling widely, oblivious to Ray’s troubles. “So eager to help me. Oh, and saving my onions, too. Yes, my old Gus does have a weakness for onion rings, he can’t get enough of them. And there’s this grocery store just around the corner that has some great sales.”

“That’s great, ma’am, but—“ Ray tried to excuse himself while there was still time, but the lady wouldn’t let him speak.

“Oh, dear, silly me,” the woman exclaimed. “Here, honey, have some onions. I can give you a magnificent recipe for onion rings that you’ll just love—“

She pulled out two onions and forced them into Ray’s hands, who kept trying to move away.

“Thank you, ma’am, but I don’t need—“

“I’m telling you, son, onion rings are—“

“Yes, ma’am, I’m sure, but—“

“Come on, son, don’t be shy. It’s as repayment for helping an old woman like me.”

Ray sighed and gave up trying to reason with her, so he took the onions from her hands, thanked her and ran the rest of the way to the subway station, hoping he hadn’t been too late.

He was panting by the way he got there, his eyes glued to the panels. The train had left seven minutes ago. He looked around, clinging to one last hope that she was still around, the some tiny, insignificant in the universe could’ve slowed her footsteps and kept her within sight. But after ten minutes of looking around, it slowly started to sink it.

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Two heartbeats and a half.

Before the third heartbeat, Ray’s heart sank. He still had no Sky.


She got off the train at the end of the line, still thinking about the boy with a sleeping fire in his eyes and a crooked grin who’d rested on her lips a few nights ago. That night wasn’t one she’d allowed among her days, so Ray of Sunshine didn’t belong among them, either. She hadn’t changed her mind about that.

But as she left the subway station and was walking away down the crowded streets, a few feet away, she caught sight of an old lady forcing two onions in Ray’s hands. And the poor guy looked so frustrated, so irritated, so helpless and helplessly polite, it was utterly adorable.

One heartbeat.

Two heartbeats.

Half a smile.

Sky turned on her heels and went on her way.

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