1 | The Lovers
′Stars are the souls of dead poets, but to become a star, you have to die.” Van Gogh
Katie - June 14th, 17 years ago
Death was a concept I had thought was exclusively reserved for the sick, the elderly, or carelessly unfortunate. I wasn't any of those things, but the premise of death now somehow applied directly to me. People at school called me a lot of things. Tomorrow dead would be one of them.
Flies collected on the porthole window of the attic. Dust motes danced in the shaft of moonlight that extended outwards. Making his way over uneven floorboards and under exposed wooden beams, Luke reached for the pull string of the light-bulb; the darker crevices of the attic flooded with light.
Stacked board games and discarded boxes littered the floor. The nearest one held a picture of my parents. They grinned at me and unconsciously I smiled back. Luke's worrisome stare met my despondent one. It demanded a reaction from me; something other than what I was doing, which according to him, was nothing.
For a moment, I blinked back unwanted tears, and I resented him for trying to goad them out of me. Denial this time tomorrow would be impossible, I already knew that. I was my own natural disaster waiting to happen.
It was an understatement to say that Luke didn't seem to care for denial. So I did what anyone else would do if their questions were being ignored and unanswered, I repeated them again.
"How did it happen last time?" My stomach churned now the words once again lived out loud.
He exhaled and rubbed the back of his neck. "We've talked about this, why does it matter? That's not your life anymore, this one is."
Lowering myself onto the dusty floor, I tucked my knees under my chin.
"It matters to me," I stressed the word. "How did I die?"
"Katie, listen to me, you've been here before. It won't be the last time either. But each time you are, I'll be here with you," he urged exasperated, "Always."
"You don't know what it's like." I shook my head. "It's easier for you. Am I supposed to feel comforted because you'll be there?"
His shoulders slumped. I knew right then I had just said the one thing that could hurt him the most.
Rain pelted against the eaves of the house making his silence seem louder.
When he spoke again his voice was a whisper. "Katie, I don't know what it's like for you, you're right. But don't forget that when it does happen, I have to be the one to see it and that is never easy for me."
"But I don't understand? Why every time I turn eighteen? What in hell did I do?"
"You know I can't answer that for you, Katie."
My eyes hardened. "Can't, or won't," I retorted.
He cut me a sideways glance that begged me to give him a break. "Both, Katie, only you can break the cycle. I won't jeopardize your chances of doing that; not again."
My eyebrows inched up ... again?
Glancing back at the boxes of photos, memories sparked and played on a loop in my head. The attic, the once safe place for Luke and I, now felt frightening.
This couldn't be happening.
"Do I always willingly submit when it comes?"
"You don't get a choice."
He knelt in front of me, guilt etched across every part of his face. Of all the feelings that should consume him, guilt shouldn't have been one of them. I swallowed against the thickness in my throat, afraid to ask my next question.
"Will it hurt?"
He measured each word in his head, but his gaze was devoid of hope. "Not for long."
"Will I remember you next time?"
He gently shook his head. "But I'll find a way. I always find a way. I love you. I always have."
"I love you." My resolve to rebel against him wavered because I meant every word.
"I'll try to give us more time. Next time I'll give us a better chance." He tilted my chin up and planted a firm lingering kiss on my mouth.
The first tear escaped, cascading down my face; I now wore them as a testament to exactly what was happening on the inside. Internally caving, I was falling apart, in every single place that mattered.
With every pound of my heart, it served as a stark reminder that, come the morning, it would stop beating for the very first time in my life. Tomorrow will be my eighteenth birthday, and death incarnate would be paying me a visit.
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~ Sarah xx