Later, once he’d eaten his food and slipped bliss into his veins, Casper laid on his bed with the streetlight casting soft amber light through his thin curtains. Witching hour. The world lay near silent around him, and the dim spark of his life spun through the universe like a speck of dust swirling in the sea. The galaxies strewn across his ceiling in luminescent paint struggled against the dim light and surrounded by the piles of clothes on his box-room floor and the dirty plates coating the sides, tears spilt from his eyes and trickled over his cheeks and into his hair.
He’d forgotten how much crying hurt your eyes.
Casper cleared his throat. In the dark, alone, his voice came smaller than ever. Just a scratch out of the silence.
“I met someone today, mum,” he whispered. “I—I don’t have … I don’t have anyone to tell but … there was … there was this man. I’d seen him once before and … and it was like fate meeting him again.
“I didn’t think anyone could ever care about me so much. I’ll never know if you would have, but … he’s so beautiful. His smile… His eyes… The way he talks is so lovely, it’s so charming and he—he keeps making me laugh and he likes Star Trek and—and the Culture and I bet he likes X-Files and thinks aliens are real but I forgot to ask. I bet he hates the city too and wants to see the world and run away from this prison. I ... I barely know him, but he’s been so, so kind to me and I can’t—” His voice choked off and he swallowed, hard. “I don’t deserve it. If he knew me, he’d feel sick touching my skin. But he—he looks at me like I’m not. Like I’m—Like I’m the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen and it’s terrifying.
“He wants me. All of this, it’s all him looking at me like I’m the answer to all his prayers but—but what if it’s—
“We’ve got a date next week. I’m—I’m going to go, I can’t—I want to run away but I can’t. Like—Like I don’t want him to be sad because I don’t go, so I’m going to try and maybe when he really sees me, I won’t make—I won’t make him sick. Maybe he’ll still want me.
“Just let it all be real,” Casper whispered. “Please let it all be real.”