The sound of a leaf blower outside the hotel room woke me up the next morning. My eyes adjusted to the light and I decided to lay there for just a moment to bask in my last few minutes of normalcy, watching as dust particles danced around in the rays of sun shining through the curtains, the delicate yellow hue settling on Jovie’s face. His eyelids blinked open, still half asleep and he realized I was watching him. I could feel the warmth of his body through the thinness of clothes and sheets and instead of pulling back from each other like usual, he turned to me with a smirk, pulling me closer. I think he knew I needed it. Or maybe he needed it- I don’t know, but his arms wrapped around me tightly and I let myself sink into his chest, listening to the sound of his heartbeat. I remembered how mad at him I was yesterday and felt the last sliver of that disappear into the comfort of being held by him. He gently rested his chin against my head and took a deep breath.
“Everything is gonna be okay,” he whispered. I didn’t know if he was saying that to me or himself.
He squeezed my shoulder before pushing the covers back and forcing his feet to the floor.
“I call first shower,” he said, rummaging through his duffel bag. “We need to be quick. The sooner you get in, the sooner you get out.”
I nodded and pulled my legs to my chest, watching him go into the bathroom. For a moment, I was alone with my thoughts and I didn’t know if I liked it. I was beginning to get nervous. I didn’t know what was about to happen, but I had an overwhelming feeling that everything was about to change. That was good though right? I wanted to see Harvey- God, don’t get me wrong- I wanted to see Harvey, but everything had happened so quickly I felt unprepared in a way. What would I say to him? How would it feel to touch him again? Would he remember me? Would he have changed like Jovie said the others did? Would this even work in the first place? I shook my head and sucked in my breath. I was going to see Harvey again and that’s all that mattered. I swung my legs over the bed and felt my bare feet hit the scratchy red carpet. My phone lit up on the bedside table and I took it in my hands, unlocking it with a yawn.
Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while? Are you okay?
Boss says you took off work this week. Is everything alright? Just checking in on my girl xx
I sighed, not really knowing what to tell them. Everything is fine!!! Just heading off to who knows where to find my dead boyfriend! That didn’t really sound right. I thought for a minute before typing something out.
i’m fine, just sick this week. i’ll see you soon; don’t worry about me. probably taking a break from my phone as well. love you!
I clicked the send button and watched as it turned into a little blue bubble delivered to Serena. I knew a simple text wouldn’t curve Sam’s suspicions and I really didn’t want her to worry, so I let my finger press her name in my phone as I sat back down on the edge of the bed. I bit my thumbnail as the line rang for what seemed like forever.
“Hello?” Same finally answered. I smiled at the familiar tone.
“God, I haven’t heard from you in days. I was beginning to get worried. What are- Milo shut the fuck up I’m on the phone with Maeve!” she shouted as I held the phone away from my ear. I could just barely hear Milo obnoxiously singing a song in the background and laughed to myself. “Anyway, are you okay?”
“Yeah, um, I’m fine,” I began.
“But? That sounded like there was going to be a but.”
“Can I say hello?” I heard a male voice whisper on the other line.
“Sure,” Sam let out an irritated sigh, but I could feel a smile creeping across her face through the phone.
“Hey, Milo,” I greeted.
“Maeve, how have you been? We really miss you. We’ve been thinking about taking a trip across the pond to see you soon,” he said.
“Really? I’d love that.”
As Milo listed all of the things he wanted to do when they visited London, I felt myself fighting unexpected tears. They cared about me. I had so many people who cared about me and I knew I was risking a lot by going off to find Harvey. Talking to Sam and Milo always reminded me of moments with him- comforting moments where I felt safe and loved. For a moment, my mind lingered on the idea of telling them, but I decided not to. It would either worry them or get them in the same situation I was in right now if I didn’t return. I was going to make it back. I had to tell myself that. For Sam. For Milo. For Serena. For Jovie. I was going to be fine. Jovie had gotten out before and I knew he could do it again. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but when it came down to it, I didn’t want to disappoint Harvey. He needed me. He was the right choice and he always would be.
“Maybe we can swing by Dublin and have a real Guinness too,” Milo continued.
“That’d be really fun,” I laughed, wiping tears from my cheeks. I loved my friends.
“Can I have the phone back now, Mi?” Sam’s voice chimed in.
“Sure, babe. It was good to talk to you, Maeve. I... I hope you’re doing well. I know it’s hard and everything, but keep your chin up. You deserve to be happy, you know?” Milo spoke softly.
“I know,” I pulled my lip between my teeth and took a deep breath.
“He does know how to talk for ages, doesn’t he?” Sam chuckled.
“So, how are you really?”
“You know... I’m okay.”
“Are you sure? You sounded like you were going to cry a few minutes ago.”
I heard the shower turn off in the bathroom and knew I’d have to say goodbye soon. I had to tell myself that it wasn’t going to be goodbye forever.
“I’m just a little homesick I guess... but I am okay, Sam. I promise. Don’t worry about me,” I said.
“Easier said than done. I know Milo already said it, but we do miss you. I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Sammie,” I looked to the tacky red carpet under my bare feet and smiled to myself. There was a comfortable silence between the two of us before I heard Jovie shuffling around in the bathroom. “I need to get back to work. I’m going to be really busy this week so don’t worry if I don’t call. Promise you won’t worry?”
“I promise,” Sam sighed. “I’m calling you at the end of the week to check on you though. And if you don’t answer I’m getting a flight immediately.”
“Then, maybe I shouldn’t answer,” I teased. “I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Tell her I love her too!” I heard Milo shout from another room.
“Milo said he loves you too,” Sam repeated.
We laughed together and said our goodbyes before Jovie came out of the bathroom, his hair still wet and floppy, in a black sweatshirt and skinny jeans. I went over and began rummaging through my bag when something in Jovie’s duffel caught my eye. A dark metal object sat in the middle of a pile of clothes and a copy of the space book Jovie had given me for Christmas. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, the weight of an actual weapon making me realize how real this situation was.
“I wanted to make sure we stayed safe. You have no idea what these people will do, Maeve,” Jovie had caught me staring from across the room.
“I- I know, but... I guess I’ve just never seen one in real life before.”
Jovie made his way over to where I was sitting and kneeled down, carefully picking up the handheld gun and offering it to me. I must have visibly recoiled.
“It’s not loaded. I was going to wait until we got in there...” he looked down at the object in his hands. “I just wanted to protect us. I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you in there and it can get dangerous.”
“How does it work?” I asked. Jovie knitted his eyebrows together.
“You won’t have to use it, Maeve, but-”
“I want to know.”
“Okay... you just click this button, push this part back and then pull the trigger,” he explained, demonstrating all of the steps for me. He offered the gun to me again and even though it wasn’t loaded, I still held it as if it could explode in my hands. I imitated what Jovie had showed me and looked back up at him. “Yeah, that’s right... I don’t like this either, you know.”
I handed the gun back to him and silently went back to finding a sweater in my bag before going into the bathroom for a quick shower.
“You know, Jo, I think you take longer showers than I do,” I teased from inside the tiny room, drying off with a towel.
“Well at least you can’t make fun of me for smelling bad,” his voice responded.
I threw my clothes on quickly and came out to see that Jovie had already taken everything to the car and was sitting patiently for me on the edge of the bed.
“I guess it’s time to go, huh?” I asked, a knot forming in my stomach.
“If you’re absolutely su-”
Jovie pressed his lips together and sprung to his feet.
“Then we have another universe to get to, lady.”
- - - - - - -
We drove for another hour or so before Jovie looked over at me, his blue eyes asking me if I was ready. I wasn’t ready for the unknown other side, but I was ready to see Harvey. I was fucking terrified.
“We take a left right up here and then we’re in,” Jovie explained, pointing up ahead. I squinted hard, but all I saw was a large factory building on the side of the highway as the road continued straight.
“Is it farther up?” I asked.
“Nope, it’s right here,” Jovie casually explained as he increased his speed, causing me to grab onto the door handle.
“Jovie, there isn’t any road there,” I looked over at him, but he just casually continued to speed up, his eyes centered on the road.
“Trust me,” was all he said.
This was it. I was going to die. Jovie was headed straight for the side of the factory building, the concrete wall staring at us straight on. In the next few seconds, I convinced myself that he had created this master plan to kill me all along, convincing me that we’d find my dead boyfriend, but here I was about to be dead as well. I felt stupid and reckless. My heart was beating out of my chest and the air was getting harder to breathe. I looked over at Jovie and it almost looked like he was enjoying himself. As the concrete got closer, the car sped faster and I found myself closing my eyes and praying for a painless death.
“Hold on,” I heard Jovie shout above the roaring of the engine.
I snapped my eyes open with a scream to see the solid concrete turn into a completely different scene within seconds. My hands grasped my chest as I heaved thankful sighs, taking in as much oxygen as I could because a few seconds ago I felt like I was going to run out. As far as I knew, I was not dead yet. I snapped my head to Jovie who was dying of laughter in the driver’s seat.
“Did the fact that we would be driving straight into a wall happen to slip your mind?” I sputtered, air still struggling to make it into my lungs.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Jovie’s laughter turned into him looking genuinely guilty for a moment. “I thought if I told you, you’d try to stop me because driving straight into a solid wall doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
I rolled my eyes and ran my fingers through my hair before checking my pulse to make sure I was still alive one more time.
“I feel like I just stepped out of a roller coaster that went upside down a hundred times,” I commented, gathering myself and finally taking in my surroundings. For lack of better words, it was absolutely breathtaking.
One side of the highway spilled an expansive sea, the waves crashing peacefully against the immaculately white sand. The beach was completely empty other than a few birds and a little house that sat far back from the sea. There was no sign of people- the sandy beach sat untouched without a single footprint- only the darkness from where the water washed up to kiss the shore marked any form of movement. On the other side of the road was a forest, filled with every kind of tree and plant you could imagine. Flowers poured out of the forest and onto the side of the road, a rainbow of color marking the path we were to follow. As I rolled the window down to listen to the ocean waves and get my bearings, I noticed a sign farther down the road. Jovie noticed it too and slowed the car down to get a better look.
“That wasn’t there before,” he murmured.
There on the side of the road looking out over the salty waters, a very obviously hand made sign was nailed to a piece of driftwood that had been shoved into the ground. It looked like it was about to fall over into the road, but had stayed upright just so we would notice it.
NO LAND QUITE LIKE IT
I’d heard Jovie mention the word earlier, but didn’t know what it meant or what it’s significance was to have named the place after it... or why there was a sign that was about to fall apart marking it on the side of the road. As soon as I read it, it was behind us and I turned to focus on the ocean again, but Jovie began to slow down even more. I noticed his eyes staring at something in the woods.
“Jo, what are you looking at?”
And then I saw it- him I mean- a nerdy looking guy around our age. He was tall and lanky, looking like he didn’t quite feel comfortable anywhere, but in an endearing way. He wasn’t looking back at us though. He was frantically darting in and out of the trees like he was trying to find something. He was calling out, but my ears couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. It was an odd scene that didn’t quite make sense. I looked to Jovie, who had tears swimming in his bright blue eyes. I immediately knew this had to be one of his friends because he looked like he had seen a ghost as he slowly brought the car to a stop on the side of the road.
“Should we be stopping?” I asked, but Jovie didn’t seem to hear a word I said. “Jovie, you said they were dangerous. Is this a good idea?”
“Cal?” Jovie said under his breath, completely ignoring me.
Before I knew it, he’d stepped out of the car and I was calling after him to stop. He made his way across the road as if in a trance, calling after who I assumed was his friend. I quickly unbuckled my seatbelt and hesitantly grabbed Jovie’s duffel bag from the back seat, shuffling through the contents until my hand felt the cold metal of the gun I’d just been introduced to earlier. I shoved it into the back of my pants just in case, pulling my sweater down to conceal it, before stepping out of the car to follow Jovie. Knowing I had a weapon on me made me nervous and I began to feel a tinge of nausea creeping into my body- or maybe it was just the universe jumping that did that.
“Cal!” I heard Jovie yell at his friend. There was no way this guy couldn’t hear him at this point, but he continued to ignore Jovie and frantically search the tree line. “Cal, what are you doing? It’s me, Jovie.”
His voice broke and I felt my heart break along with it as I realized something here was very wrong. There was a dirt path worn into the ground where Cal walked, like he’d been walking it over and over again for a long time. I wasn’t given much time to figure it out because I began to feel another presence behind me.
“He can’t hear you,” a cold voice said, uncomfortably close behind me.
I whipped around to face a beautiful red headed woman dressed in a black dress that delicately dragged against the asphalt road. The sea breeze tossed her hair around and somehow she looked like she didn’t belong anywhere but this place, this world.
“Oh, Jovie, she’s just as I expected,” she commented.
She moved closer and I backed up to Jovie, the gun in my waistband growing heavier with each step.
“Who is she?” I whispered to Jovie, but he just stared ahead, his eyes filled with a fury I’d never seen before.
“I guess I should say you’re just as I expected too. Haven’t changed a bit. I knew putting Cal here would get you to stop, but you really did the work of locating you for me. I could hear you yelling from across the whole forest.”
“Lilah, please. We just need something- someone. Just one. Please,” Jovie’s voice shook as he spoke and I felt his hand around my waist.
“You know that’s not how it works.”
“We can figure something out,” Jovie nervously offered. I didn’t know what his something was, but I kept my mouth shut and went along with it.
“I’ve already figured something out,” the redhead tossed curls over her shoulder and crossed her arms, a soft gaze falling into her green eyes as they laid their sights on Jovie. “You... and only you. Come with me.”
Jovie placed his hand tightly around my shoulder as he glared ahead at the woman beckoning him away from me. I wanted to knock the smile right off of her pretty face. I couldn’t lose someone again. I wasn’t the kind of person to get into a fight, but I was ready to take this woman down right now. She was not taking Jovie with her. I felt his body begin to move towards her and words spilled out of my mouth without a second thought.
“No,” I said in a demanding tone that surprised even my own ears. “He stays with me.”
Lilah looked past me and continued to focus on Jovie. Something in her eyes I could only describe as pity lingered as she began to look between us.
“You know what has to happen,” she said through gritted teeth, aiming pointed words at Jovie.
I felt his movement freeze behind me, his heart beating so quickly in his chest I could feel it myself. His feet stayed planted in the same place from either fear or uncertainty. I guess they’re both the same anyway. I turned to him and placed my hand on top of his own.
“You don’t know that yet, Lilah,” he spoke firmly.
“It’s going to happen now or later, Jovie... that choice is yours to make, but you and I both know the consequences.”
Lilah’s words were only directed to Jovie because I did not understand what she was talking about and held the familiar feeling of being a third wheel. There was foreboding feeling behind her soft speech, but she didn’t move any closer to us. In fact, she went away as quickly as she came as if carried away by the ocean breeze. I turned to Jovie to see him exhale, clenching his hand to his chest, the air already lighter in her absence. I let him have a moment to process everything and watched silent inner conflict happen behind his eyes.
“Are you okay?” I asked him.
He nodded unconvincingly and sighed, running his hands through messy brown hair, causing pieces to stick up in different directions.
“Let’s get back on the road. Don’t let me stop again, Maeve.”
“Okay, I won’t.”
“I mean, do not physically let me pull that car over again until we absolutely have to. Until someone can be on the lookout, do you understand? Hold that gun to my head if you have to,” his voice lowered, shaking at the possibility of what could have happened.
“Promise me you won’t let me stop until we find him,” he turned to me, eyes begging me to agree.
“What-” I began to question him about why he was being so persistent about this, but the intensity behind the look he was giving me made my curiosity soften. “Okay... I promise.”
“Thank you,” he sniffed, turning back to the vehicle.
I pulled the passenger door open and shifted into the seat next to Jovie, pulling the gun out of my waistband and returning it to his bag before zipping it up and carefully placing it in the back seat. He raised his eyebrows at me, probably surprised that I’d had the guts to grab it in the first place.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he smiled, shaking his head. He put the key in and the engine turned underneath us, our wheels finding the asphalt highway once again. “We’re going to find him. We get him and get out of here, okay?”
“Okay,” I replied.
For a while, we pushed on towards the horizon, following the coastline with windows rolled down and comfortable conversation mingling along with the balmy ocean air. The sun hung suspended in the sky, refusing to grow closer to the earth but rather basking in the between, spreading pink and purple hues across the water. She didn’t dare dive into the reckless ocean beneath for fear that she would get tossed within the waves and lose herself. She would get tangled in the seaweed and driftwood only to be spat back on the shore, forgetting the light she once held from her place in the sky. But she didn’t ascend back into the clouds either. It was familiar to her there and she knew it all too well, but the beautiful new colors she’d found along her recent journey would not be able to find the eyes of the sea from so high. So she found herself hanging from an invisible string, hovering over what could be and what was. The middle was comfortable somehow. And she wanted to stay in the purple twilight for just a little longer.
I held my hand out the window, tracing the waves emerging from the water with my finger as Jovie watched the road. His hands gripped the steering wheel, the numbers tattooed on his knuckles in view. I smiled to myself, enjoying his silent company along with the beauty of everything around us. If we were in any other situation, this would be calming. I let myself be distracted by his hair blowing in the wind and the smile creeping onto his face as he realized I was staring at him. His warmth diverted my attention from the fact that the air outside was getting colder by the second. Eventually, I was unable to ignore it as the comfortable breeze turned into a sharp wind outside.
“God, is it freezing to you all of a sudden?” I rolled the window up and wrapped my arms around my body.
“Yeah, could you pass me my jacket?” Jovie asked.
I turned to the back seat, opening his bag and feeling around for his coat. I pulled it out and handed it to him, but just as I began to turn back around, my eyes fell on the space book again- the book his mother had gotten him when he was little.
“Jo, why did you bring this along?” I tugged it out of the bag, amused as I flipped through the pages I had already familiarized myself with.
“I thought it was heavy enough to throw at someone. It was my first weapon of choice,” he joked, crinkles forming by his eyes as he chuckled at his own words.
“Ah, yes, the gun was just backup,” I commented.
“I guess it’s just comforting to me. I’ve always had it around and it reminds me of my mum. She used to have to fight me before school to get it out of my hands. I’d get in trouble for reading it in class,” Jovie’s face glowed as he reminisced.
“That’s cute,” I grinned.
“I feel weird when it’s not with me. I know it seems like just a stupid book, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Jovie and I talked about the planets and stars, allowing everything to seem just like normal again. I don’t know how long we’d been driving, but it seemed like a whole day could have passed without the sun going down and my body began to get tired again. The cold air outside began to creep into the comfort of our little bubble so Jovie turned the heater on. Something about the sweetness of his voice and the cozy temperature lulled me to sleep for just a moment.
I wasn’t sure if I had drifted off for a few minutes or had been knocked out for hours, but the feeling of the car slowing down made my eyes snap open quickly.
“I’m awake,” I announced, sitting up in the seat and stretching. The back of my neck hurt which was a sign that perhaps I was out for more than a few minutes and I suddenly felt bad for leaving Jovie and the road alone. I told myself I’d offer to drive soon for compensation.
“Welcome back, sleepyhead,” Jovie teased me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” I yawned. “Why are we stopping? You said no stopping.”
Jovie pointed ahead and my tired eyes squinted to see that the black asphalt had turned into a dirt trail and there were footprints were worn perfectly in the red dust creating a path that someone had taken over and over again, like the path that Cal had taken around the trees. It was a sign of another human life. I sucked in a breath, realizing that I could be closer to Harvey than I thought. The car pulled up to the top of the hill and I brought myself closer to the windshield as the scene next to us changed from a green forrest to a vibrant field of wildflowers. My mind immediately thought of Harvey. My intuition was telling me that he had to be here.
“Stop the car,” I said.
“Are you sure?”
“This has to be it.”
I felt the car come to a complete rest and the engine silenced itself, but instead of stepping out into the field, I sat motionless, staring at the dashboard. Jovie gently placed his hand on my knee in wordless affirmation. I took a deep breath and held it in. I was terrified again. My palms began to sweat and my head spun, tears already filling up my eyes. The moment I thought I would never see was right in front of me. Why was I not running towards it at full speed ahead?
“You alright?” Jovie whispered.
I nodded and turned to him, taking in every inch of his face for the last few seconds. I knew that my normal was about to change- whatever that was or if I’d even had a normal in the first place. Everything was about to be so different and I didn’t know what to expect. My main fear was that Harvey had changed. I forced the passenger door open and my feet hit the dirt road with anticipation. There was an incline on the side of the road that lead to a full view of the expanse of meadow and I pushed my feet against the grass, feeling Jovie close behind me.
When I reached the top, a familiar scene lay out on the stretch of land- a scene I’d seen dozens of times in my dreams. Harvey Davis sat, frantically writing something in a notebook like usual and in that moment, every fear I’d had about change and who he was evaporated. Suddenly, the only fear I had now was that I wouldn’t get to touch him again- that he would vanish right in front of me. At first, I stepped carefully through tulips and dandelions, but the pressure in my chest rose, my heart pounding in my ears and the vines beneath me tore at my jeans as I broke into a run. I didn’t care about anything but getting to him.
“Harvey!” I called, but he didn’t seem to hear me. “Harvey!”
I kept screaming his name, choking on tears and fighting to breathe but he didn’t noticed until the sixth time.
He slowly turned around, placing his pen and paper on the ground, allowing my eyes to finally meet his own. A green that had been burnt into my mind since I met him. A green I hadn’t seen in years.