In the Art of Falling


a/n: THIS IS YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE. I wrote this story back in 2010, and published it originally on Fictionpress. You can find the original posting here. I love looking back at my old work, because it’s interesting to see how far I’ve come. At the time of writing, this story is now almost seven years old… That’s crazy! Hopefully my writing back then wasn’t too cringe-worthy, haha.

Also, just realized that when I wrote this story, I had yet to be in my first relationship and so had no firsthand experience to base the emotions in this story off of. But now, reading back and having gone through a handful of painful loves, I’m actually impressed with sixteen-year-old me. Gonna give myself a pat on the back for this one. Enjoy. 🙂

Disclaimer: I use some quotes from other books in this fictional piece, and didn’t want to attribute them in the body of the text because I felt it would interrupt the reading experience. So, I’ve included the sources at the bottom of the post. Also, the song mentioned in the story is My Heart by Paramore.

oh, what a full, white moon,
it rivals any midnight sun

She doesn’t realise how much she misses him until she sees him in the flesh. He notices her at the same moment.

He stares at her like a stranger, like the first time he saw her. She knows him well enough to know she’s not. You don’t kiss someone you don’t know. You just don’t.

And then his expression changes, and he’s striding forward, and she’s looking down, scared, embarrassed, and he’s pressing his fingers to her chin and she’s looking him in the eyes and time loses its vastness and everything around them falls away and it’s just him and her, her and him.

She reads his eyes like a book whose pages have met her fingers time and time again. He smiles, and she doesn’t realise that it’s because she’s smiling too.

I got your message.”

She nods, falling into those eyes. Those eyes.

You came back.” He doesn’t seem to move his lips.

It’s still him, she sings wildly in her mind. He hasn’t changed. A moment passes, and then –

Yeah, I did. And I’m not leaving.”

He smiles, grabbing her roughly to him with passion held in for much too long. She presses herself against him.

When they kiss, everyone else can’t help but look on and wish they had what they have.

several more hours to wait,
so dark around me

She sits against the wall, eyes taking in a sentence in one book before flitting to another. Their white pages are scattered all around her, and people that pass walk around her circle, annoyed, but she’s too stressed to notice.

If for every murder, there must be retaliation, the killings would never end.1

No one mentioned such things; it was not a rule, but was considered rude to call attention to things that were unsettling or different about individuals.2

Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.3

Someone hits his pens against the table, shooting out a loud beat. Her ear twitches.

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.4

Is all that we see or seem a dream within a dream?5

A woman coughs, very delicately. Tammy can almost hear it vibrate through her lungs.

Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”6

Suddenly, for no reason other than that she has none, she looks up. Her eyes land on the guy, sitting across the room. He’s staring straight at her. She looks back down.

“They’s a time of change, an’ when that comes, dyin’ is a piece of all dyin’, and bearin’ is a piece of all bearin’, an’ bearin’ an’ dyin’ is two pieces of the same thing. An’ then things ain’t so lonely anymore. An’ then a hurt don’t hurt so bad.”7

She reaches for her pencil, but her fingers grasp at air. She turns her papers over, and flips the books’ covers, and digs through her pencil case. She bites her lip.

“Try your hair,” she hears, and she looks up. The guy stares down at her, unsmiling, before pointing at her hair. He’s wearing a hoodie that says Three Days Grace. Slowly, confused, she reaches behind her. Her fingers curl around her pencil, and her mouth drops open in surprise.

“Thanks,” she starts to murmur, but he’s already walking away.

She moves to write the quote down in her notebook then, reading it again, she realises the words that spill from her pencil are anything but.

Try your hair.

She wonders how long he’s been watching her. She doesn’t mind, funnily.

i’ll continue sleeping

She kicks the ball out of the field. Her soccer mates collapse into giggles as she sighs, jogging to the basketball courts. She hates it when she kicks out of field.

She can see the soccer ball rolling to a stop in the midst of a basketball game. The boys slow down, looking around, confused.

“I’m so sorry!” Tammy calls out, reaching the edge of the basketball courts.

“You kicked that?” a brown-haired dude asks, flicking his gaze back and forth between the two.

“That was a powerful kick,” another guy states.

As she moves closer to the group, her soccer ball is picked up. She looks up and the guy looks familiar.

He has black hair and two earrings on the rim of his right ear.

And she thinks she should remember him.

“Thanks.” She takes the ball from him and their fingers touch. Nothing special.

“Welcome,” he says, his voice low and rumbling. His lip ring moves with the word.

She suddenly remembers where she saw him.

“Hey, I saw you the other day at the library, right?” She holds the soccer ball against her stomach.

Something in his eyes changes and his lips lift into a smirk. He shrugs.

“The pencil…” she trails off, feeling stupid.

She imagines that his gaze is on her as she runs back to her team members. When she turns around though, he is looking right at her and she thinks that maybe she wasn’t imagining.

too early to wake up

Macy talks about how her nail polish is completely chipped and she can’t find her nail polish remover and she doesn’t really want to buy a new one. They sip coffee and talk about returning to college after the summer break, how it will be, how it will begin, and how everything’s not going right in the world.

Tammy wonders what she did wrong, if she ever did anything right, with him.

“Travis wants me to move in with him.”

Tammy stares down at her coffee. The topic is still touchy, even after a year. She wonders how she let it go on for so long.

“So, move in.”

“You don’t mind?”

“Nope. Why would I?” She can’t meet Macy’s eyes.

Macy looks like she wants to say some more, but gets distracted. Tammy thinks about how Travis never wanted her to stay in his apartment.

“Tam…” Macy starts off unsurely, “There’s some guy staring at you outside.”

She whirls around in her seat. The night sky is already beginning to fall, and the lamplights have been turned on even though they don’t need to be. He stands under one of them, surrounded by a group of friends, and his eyes stare right at her. She feels a shiver, because she doesn’t know if she’s sure he can’t read her soul.

“‘Cuse me.”

Macy smiles at the guy, a skater dude, standing at their booth. “Yeah?”

“My friend out there just wanted me to say hi for him. To, uh, her.” Tammy blinks as the skater points at her.

“Me?” she squeaks. She turns back to look out the window. His eyebrows are raised.

“Do you know him, Tam?” She hears Macy’s voice.

“No…” He’s still not smiling, but he’s not hostile either. He’s statuesque.

“How old is he?” Tammy asks, not removing her gaze.


Tammy smiles grimly, turning to face the skater. “Yeah, well, tell him I’m off-limits, would you?”

The skater nods, but he’s looking at Macy, who’s stirring her Expresso. “So, date?”

Tammy stamps on her friend’s foot. Macy yelps, head snapping up to look between the two. “Huh?”

“He’s asking you out,” Tammy says, smiling.

The skater has turned beet red.

Macy eyes him before smiling apologetically. “Taken.”

He leaves after that. Macy starts giggling, gushing about how he actually was kind of cute and how she should have taken up that offer just to make Travis jealous and how she couldn’t even if she didn’t have a boyfriend, because she’s too old. Tammy listens, but watches the skater dude cross over to him. He nods like he’s listening before flashing her his first smile, which steals her breath. The pack moves off.

“Tam, did you hear me?” Macy waves a hand in front of her friend’s face.

“Yeah, yeah… Travis wouldn’t have liked that.” Macy giggles.

Tammy sips her coffee, and she can’t think of anything other than that mysterious guy.

He never took his eyes off her.

slight stirring,
shift in the pale moonlight

She loves the crisp smell of the pages. She loves brushing her fingers over the white papers, perfectly rough beneath her skin. She’s surrounded by books, in this magic wonderland. He watches her, leaning against the wall, curious as to how someone can be so mesmerised by such dead things.

But, truthfully, he knows books are full of life.

He follows her steps in the parallel aisle. A title catches her eye and she reaches forward to grab it off the shelf. He mirrors her movement, letting her face slide into view. She doesn’t realise it at first. He wishes he could find his voice and ask her for her name. Goddammit, why was he such a coward around her?

She must notice the breeze playing with his fringe or his lips struggling to part because she glances up and blinks in surprise. They stare at each other. She clutches her book; he holds his breath.

“I keep seeing you around.”

It surprises him when she speaks, mostly because he expected that he’d be the one to start their first conversation. He has to force himself to answer.

“Uh – yeah.” Smooth, dude. Real smooth.

She wants to giggle at the deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression on his face. He cools his face, clearing his throat and stating more firmly, “You remember.”

Her gaze darts to the ground. Because he wants to see her eyes looking into his again, he goes on quickly, hoping she’ll respond the way she wants him to. “Fate must be trying to tell us something.”

She rolls her eyes, to his relief. Grinning crookedly, he asks, “Do I win the prize for the worst pick-up line?”

“I’ve heard worse,” she assures him.

“You don’t say. Tell me.”

She smiles through the tiny frame. The light sparkles on her red hair. If he had a camera, this would be the perfect shot.

“Well, there’s the frequent ‘Honey, did it hurt? When you fell from Heaven, I mean?’ or ‘Would you like your eggs fertilised? I’ll do the honours.'” – he bursts out guffawing – “And, my personal favourite ‘If I look like shit, you have enough beauty for the both of us’.”

The sides of his eyes crinkle. “I’ll have to remember those.”

“Please don’t.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence, just, sort of, awkwardly staring at each other. After a while, her gaze falls from his, just staring in his direction.

“Want to grab a coffee?” He finds himself asking, even though he doesn’t like coffee.

She peeks up from behind her fringe, surprised, before smiling cheekily. “Another pick-up line?”

“I like you,” he says, unafraid, staring straight at her. A blush spreads over her cheeks like fire on oil.

“So, coffee?” He repeats.

She shrugs. “I’m more of a soda girl.”

He grins. “I’ll pay.”

She mock-glares at him. “I’m unavailable. Your friend told you that, right?”

He nods, licking his lips, and shrugs. “I know.”

Her lips slowly curl upwards.

in a dream

Macy notices when Tammy floats into the room, even performing a tiny spin.

“What’s got you all smiley?” she asks, chewing gum.

“Nothing,” Tammy answers giddily as she falls backwards onto her bed. Even though it’s not nothing.

“Come on, tell me!” Macy jumps up excitedly, like a dog salivating for a bone.

“It’s nothing,” Tammy states adamantly.

“Right…” Macy rolls her eyes, reluctantly going back to her work.

Tammy stares at the ceiling, remembering the way his fingers pressed against her lower back, remembering the way she let his fingers touch her. His smile, those dark blue eyes, his messy black hair… they all form so vividly in her mind. She reaches out as if to touch his face across the table, where the evening light pressed against his cheeks and cast racing shadows.

“What are you doing?” Macy stares at her friend weirdly, eying her raised arm.

Tammy shakes her head, unsuccessfully shaking away the smile. “Nothing.”

Her phone rings. Macy leans over the desk, reading the name of the caller. “Hey, it’s Mark.”

Tammy stiffens slightly. “Oh.”

“So, pick it up.” Macy raises her eyebrows in question.

For once, her arm takes a long time to cross the foot to the phone. As Mark’s voice floats over the line, his blue eyes watch her.

one star appears from behind the cloud,
and becomes two
but it skirts across the dark blanket

It’s been three weeks since their first conversation. They’ve been talking every single day, even if only for five minutes. He notices her fingers twitching by her sides as she walks up to their booth and slides in opposite him.

“Hey.” And then – “What’s wrong?”

She stares straight at him. “I’m twenty-one.”

He looks up from his coke. “I’m eighteen.”

Her lips press against each other tightly. He needs to pinch himself so he doesn’t lean over impulsively to grab her face and plant a fast one on her.

“I don’t care,” he says gently, placing a hand over hers. When she looks up from beneath her eyelashes, he pinches himself twice. “It doesn’t matter.”

They stare at each for a moment before she gulps. “I have a boyfriend.”

He’s stunned. Somehow, it never occurred to him that she’d actually be taken. All those times she told him she wasn’t available, he’d thought foolishly that she was just playing hard to get. Slowly, he removes his hand.

Of course she’d be taken. She’s fucking gorgeous and she doesn’t even know it.

“Doesn’t matter,” he lies through his teeth. “We can just be friends.”

She smiles at him sadly, cocking her head slightly. “But you don’t want that.”

He shrugs, leaning back and staring down at his coke.

Sighing, she clasps her hands together on her lap. The waitress comes over and takes her order.

Today he’s wearing glasses and it looks damn sexy on him. He can tell from the way her eyes light up when she glances at him when she doesn’t think he’s looking.

It makes the hurt hurt less.

wishing on a shooting star

Mark wants her to move in with him.

When Tammy tells Macy this, Macy shrieks happily, running over to hug her.

“This is great! This is awesome! It’s getting so serious!”

Somehow, Tammy can’t share Macy’s enthusiasm.

“But I’ll have to move,” Tammy tries again, hoping her friend will get it.

“I’m moving in with Travis, remember? You’ll be all alone if you don’t leave.”

She nods as if this hadn’t occurred to her.

“It’s the perfect arrangement. And you can have hot raunchy sex every night.”

“Macy!” Tammy half-shouts, half-gasps, thoroughly admonished. Her friend shrugs, smiling.

Thirty minutes later, Tammy asks, “What if… Mark dumps me? Or I dump him? Then I’ll have to move out, and I’ll have nowhere to go in such short notice.” She doesn’t understand what she’s saying until it’s out of her mouth, and then she curses herself.

Macy stops typing on her computer. “Where… is this all coming from? Are you having problems with your relationship? Is dumping likely to happen?” She sounds worried.

“No, no,” Tammy replies hastily. “I’m just… saying.”

“Mark loves you too much,” Macy assures Tammy. “And, anyway, if that happens, you can stay with me.”

But what if… maybe… I don’t love him that much? Tammy thinks guiltily. She shuns the thought.

“And Travis?” Tammy asks, giving Macy an ‘are-you-really-serious’ look. Macy grins abashedly.

As they return to their own activities, Tammy can’t help wishing Mark had never asked her.

rolling over, drifting

Damien and Tammy are playing Pictionary when Macy stumbles in.

“I am so fucking sexy right now,” she slurs, slumping against the wall.

“That you are,” Tammy mutters under her breath, adding another line to the drawing.

“A cow?” Damien asks, distracted by the drunk girl by the front door.

“Nope.” Tammy pops the p.

Damien clears his throat, his eyes flickering away. “A giant squid.”

Tammy punches him in the arm, unable to help herself from letting her thoughts run. His biceps are so developed. “My drawing is not that horrendous!” she states indignantly, poking at the mess of lines she’s been making for the past two minutes.

Damien raises an eyebrow. She moves to hit him again but he captures her wrist and kisses her pulse. Her heart leaps.

“Shouldn’t you help your friend?” He tilts his head in her direction and Tammy’s gaze shifts to linger on Macy. She’s singing ‘Twinkle Little Star’ under her breath, eyes half-shut and glazed over.

She sighs, slipping her hand out of his loose grip and striding towards her friend. “Come on. Let’s get you to your room.”

“I don’t want to go to my room. I want Travis…” Macy mumbles weakly, still humming in between.

The old-age pang returns, just as it always does when Travis is mentioned. You can’t erase a history with someone, especially not when you loved him for three years and thought he was the one.

“Shh,” Tammy whispers, guiding Macy onto her bed. Macy snuggles into her pillow, cuddling under the sheets.

“I’m so sexy…” Tammy hears as she pats Macy’s hair gently, deciding to leave undressing her to God’s magic. When she turns around, she sees Damien standing in the doorway. She makes her way over to him.

“A donut.”

She rolls her eyes, pushing against his chest lightly. “No. It was a sock. How could you not see that?”

“You have absolutely zero artistic talent,” he jokes. As Tammy makes to deliver a cutting remark, his eyes suddenly darken and he turns serious. “I wasn’t looking at the drawing.”

Her throat suddenly seems too dry as she gets sucked into those blue, blue eyes. She doesn’t dare to let herself think about his implication.

He lifts his hand hesitantly before settling it gingerly on her cheek. She feels like closing her eyes in contentment.

He curls his hand into a fist and leaves a tingling trail of fire from her temple to her lips to her jaw with his knuckles. She can’t remember Mark ever touching her so gently before, like she could break at the slightest jab. Or disappear in the next second.

They stand like that for a long time before Damien retracts his hand and sets his jaw.

“So, who’s Travis?” he asks lightly. Is he pretending that it never happened? She wonders, but then his eyes seem to wink at her and she knows.

“Macy’s boyfriend.”

“No, I mean, to you.”

She blinks before lowering her gaze. “I don’t know what you mean.”

He stares her at silently before she mutters, feeling compelled to, “Ex-boyfriend.”

“You still love him?”

“No,” she laughs, nervously.

“It hurts, doesn’t it?”

“I have my present boyfriend now. And I’m very happy.” She tries to conjure up Mark’s face but she can’t, and she doesn’t feel any affection or burst of passion.


She is suddenly arrested by such powerful anger that she almost screams. But before she can, he interrupts.

“But I get it. And I’m here.”

She opens her mouth but nothing comes out. What can she say?

He strides forward and envelopes her in his arms. Without thinking, just instinctively, she leans into him, clutching his shirt for dear life and, without a beginning, sobs. He presses her tighter against him and she sobs harder and he rubs her hair and her shoulders and it starts to hurt less and he just makes everything feel so much better.

i’ll wake up soon
just five more minutes

“Summer’s over.”

Silence. His mind is noisy.

“You don’t live here, do you?”

She shakes her head.


“In five days.”

The rain splatters against the window.

“Will I see you again?”

“When I visit. You know, family and friends.”

The beats pick up rhythm.

“Are you going back to… him?”

She can’t look at him.

It’s raining cats and mice, cats and mice, cats and mice. They beat the cold glass.

the sun’s too bright

Mark greets her with a hug and a kiss to the temple at the airport.

“How was your summer? I missed you.”

No ‘I love you’s?

“Wonderful.” She smiles with her eyes.

high noon

It’s always him calling.

He calls once a day, never failing. Usually at night, but sometimes in the early morning when she still has bad breath and a sticky neck.

It’s been three months. She talks to him normally, but sometimes she wishes that he would just give up. It’s been three months. It’s not the same anymore. It’s hard. She’s afraid. She kind of, sort of, maybe, wants to move on, live and forget.

Kind of.

too early for truths

2 October 2009, 0307 hours, from T:i remember how we 1st met. Do u?

2 October 2009, 0309 hours, from D:of course i do

2 October 2009, 0315 hours, from T:just checkin’ 🙂

2 October 2009, 0316 hours, from D: i remember the time i spilt slurpy all over your t-shirt. ;P do you?

2 October 2009, 0320 hours, from T: oh my gawd, yeahh. N i was wearin’ a white tee… *groans*

2 October 2009, 0320 hours, from D: just checking. 🙂

2 October 2009, 0321 hours, from D: i liked your bra.

2 October 2009, 0324 hours, from T: no comment, u perv.

2 October 2009, 0325 hours, from D: you still love me. 😀

2 October 2009, 0333 hours, from T: yeah, i do. i don’t noe Y.

2 October 2009, 0334 hours, from D: just not the way i love you.

D has logged off on 2 October 2009, 0503 hours.

2 October 2009, 0504 hours, from T: yeah.

2 October 2009, 0602 hours, from T: i wish i did.

2 October 2009, 0758 hours, from T: i do. but i can’t.

D has signed in on 2 October 2009, 0901 hours.

2 October 2009, 0902 hours, from D: Tammy…

T has logged off on 2 October 2009, 0902 hours.

baking sun

And then, suddenly, one day, he doesn’t call.

drowning in the light

Mark swivels in his intimidating, smart-looking black swivel chair. Tammy lies on her stomach, looking bored. She is bored.

She studies the glasses he wears as he types, that occasionally slide down the bridge of his nose.

It’s not the same.

Mark has blonde hair. Somehow, it’s just not a turn on anymore. Black hair is so much sexier.

Mark has green eyes. Just before she falls asleep, she thinks of this pair of dark, dark blue eyes.

Mark is sort of skinny and a know-it-all. She learns something new in every conversation, usually about astronomy or physics, which she really has no interest in.

Damien was strong and muscular. He made her feel safe. She re-learnt everything when he talked and she talked, usually about love and life and him and herself.

“What are you thinking of?” Mark asks while not removing his gaze from the computer screen.

Damien; her lips nearly betray her. “Nothing.”

But it’s not. It’s make a whole chasm of difference.

Mark nods. “You shouldn’t waste your time.”

with the sun hot on her shoulders

One day turns into a week, and then a month and a couple of days.

She finds herself staring at the phone for long periods of time. Mark asks her why she’s so distracted ‘all the time’. She shrugs when she really does know the answer.

She thought she could forget. She can’t.

Just pick up the damn phone, Tammy.

what time is it?

“I am such a bitch.”

“Why?” Macy asks, flouncing onto Tammy’s bed and fingering the bedspread.

“Because I am.”

“That’s not a valid reasoning,” Macy points out.

“Because of him.”

It’s his fault. Because if she’d never met him, she wouldn’t be acting like this.

“Who’s him?”

Tammy can feel Macy’s gaze on her as she stares off, thinking. “Him. You know.”

“No, I don’t know,” Macy says quietly.

return rays

On the third ring, he picks up.

“I’m sorry,” she stutters. It’s silent on the other end.

“I know I should have called. A long time ago. It was always you that called me and I took that for granted. I took you for granted. Truth is, I was afraid. Afraid that you wouldn’t answer. Afraid that things wouldn’t be the same. I’m such a bad, bad friend. I don’t expect you to forgive me.”

She can only hear her racing thoughts, muffled by her heavy breathing. “Say something,” she gasps and suddenly everything’s blurring and when she touches her cheeks, they’re wet.

“I was waiting for this call. Never knew it would take fifty-four days.” He sounds bitter.

“I’m sorry.”

“You can’t just say those two words and expect me to forgive you.”

“What if I mean it?” Her heart jumps.

“I didn’t call because I wanted to have you call. Just once.”

“I’m sorry.” She feels like she’s running on repeat.

He’s silent for a long time.

“It’s not the same, you know,” Tammy says, just to break the silence. “Talking to you on the phone is not the same as seeing you face to face.”

“But it’s all we’ve got,” Damien counters.

“Yeah,” Tammy sighs regretfully. She takes a shuddering breath and tries to convey all her feelings into three words.

I’m so sorry.” Her voice breaks.

She sniffles.

“So…” A bit of white noise echoes over the line. She hears a sigh. She crosses her fingers. “How was your day?”

Tammy beams until her cheeks hurt, with a good pain.

dusk arrives

She calls twice a day now. Sometimes, when she does forget (rarely) or when she’s super busy (a lot of the time), he calls.

Three times a day.

And she loves it.

But she wishes that they didn’t have to call at all. That they could just walk five minutes and meet halfway.

How deep are those blue eyes again? How much taller is he exactly?

it blinds her

The clock reads 2.36 am.

She thinks about how Mark would tell her to go to sleep if she were talking to him then. In fact, her replies would be loud snores.

“There is nothing more fun than playing basketball,” he says. She can hear the excitement in his voice, even over fifty states. “I swear, the other team never had a chance! We knew we were going to win right from the start, the first few minutes into the game. It was too easy.” She smiles at the image of him shooting a basket.

There is a pause. Then – “Well, I knew we were going to win the game the moment I stepped onto court.”

She laughs out loud, and imagines the neighbours banging on her front door, shouting at her to keep quiet.

“Egotistical much?” She’s still laughing, and it feels good.

“You know it.”

She listens to the phone’s hollow whistle in their comfortable silence. He speaks again just as she’s pouring milk into a bowl.

“Do you still run every day?” He’s whispering, and it’s real.

She stares at the ceiling. “No. Not every day. Most days.”

“Why’d you stop?”

“It wasn’t the same.”

He breathes noisily into the receiver, and she imagines she’s breathing next to him.

“Do you still eat oreo cereal?” She stares down at her bowl full of oreos and milk and grins wider than when Mark proposed to her.

“Yeah. I do.”

She eats her oreo cereal as she waits for his next question.

“Do you… still stick out your tongue to catch the snowflakes?”


“Double-click the mouse when you click on Internet Explorer?”


“Listen to that horrid Taylor Swift?”

She giggles a little. “Yes.”

He pretends to swear and she nearly chokes on her cereal.

“Did you just squirt milk out your nose?”

She never got how he did it. “No…” She wipes her nose and cleans the milk off her palm.

“Don’t lie.”

She never gets how he does it. “Fine. I did. But don’t laugh.”

He laughs, and she can’t stop the smile.

“So, how’s the band going?”

He tells her how James nearly broke his third finger playing the guitar, how Nick accidentally threw his drumstick across the room and broke his mom’s favourite vase, which he hated anyway, and how Aaron tried to play the keyboard with his toes. Tammy laughs and she can’t stop laughing.

“- and then, Aaron’s in the middle of playing ‘apologise’ with his nose when the keyboard just crashes to the ground; it shocked all of us –”

She laughs so hard she’s afraid her eyes might drop out.

Shouldn’t love be like this? She wonders. Where you try to stop laughing and when you do you start laughing all over again?

Mark makes watching turtles travel five miles on land exciting.

He sighs contentedly and she manages to calm down just as he tells her that he misses her laugh.

“I miss you.”

She answers immediately. “I miss you too.”

“Are you visiting for Christmas?”

She wishes so badly she didn’t have to pause before answering.

“Mark wants me to visit his family…”

There is silence on the other end. “Oh.”

“I do want to visit…” she sighs, “I miss you… so much.”

She knows he’ll forgive her and she wishes she could forgive herself.

“Me too,” she catches his words, “me too.”

She can hear the clock ticking, and when he speaks next, she feels like curling up on her bed and crying into the night.

“I love you.”

Later, after they hang up, she checks her monthly phone bill. There are twenty-four two hours long calls, all of them to the same person. She smiles so hard she feels like she’s frowning.

time to say

“Turn around…”

Damien blinks comically as Tammy jumps him. “Woah –”

“Surprise!” He hears it both from her and through the phone. They laugh. Damien wraps his arms around her, grasping her tightly. He can’t believe his eyes.

“I was supposed to go with Mark to visit his parents but I just couldn’t stay away from you.”

He looks down at her, amazed, devouring her features again, for the first time in months, and committing them to perfect memory.

She smiles gently up at him, playing with his hair. “We’ve got two weeks. Let’s make the most of it.”

He buries his head into her hair.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

She kisses his neck in reply. She can feel his pulse beneath her lips. She remembers a line from a song.

This heart, it beats, beats for only you

breaking the rules of time

When she wakes up, nothing’s in focus. She can’t really remember what happened last night; but she knows it was hot. Very hot.

Someone brushes hair off her face. “Tammy…”

She murmurs, drifting back to sleep again. He rubs her naked back, watching her breathe in and out. As he studies the curve of her lips, the softness of her hair, the smoothness of her skin, the scars on her bare shoulders, he forgets all about time.

The more he looks, the more it hurts. Because she’s not his.

When she wakes up again, three hours later, he watches her stretch, yawn, and roll over to face him. Her eyes open, blinking. In any other case, it would be comical. But it’s not any other case.

“Hi,” she says sleepily, slipping her fingers into his hair. He smiles, rubbing his thumb gently into her waist.


They stare at each other for another long moment. Her gaze drifts away and her hands drop. In a strange effort, he reaches forward, leaning over her. She makes a tiny sound, almost like a gasp.

“I love you,” he whispers, kissing her knuckles. She stares at her branded hands; they shake. It takes her a moment to register his next words; “Be my girlfriend.” Out of nowhere, his free hand cups her cheek.

“Leave Mark. For me.”

He says the second part like a question. And then everything starts to rush back to her.

She’s not supposed to be lying in this bed, not with him. The horror of the last night slams into her full force, knocking the breath out of her mouth.

“I –”

“Age never mattered,” he states firmly.

She looks at him, and he sees the ocean swimming in her eyes. He watches her swallow, somehow knowing that what she’s going to say next is going to break his heart. But he still clings to her every word, to this only hope.

“Please,” he whispers.

Her voice breaks. “I can’t.” She starts sobbing and gasping. The sight of her hurting like this hurts him, strangely, more than his own pain. But it’s nothing compared to what she says next. He cups her face in his large hands and –

“Last night… was a… mistake.”

They drop.

“Mark asked me to marry him.”

darkness drowns
midnight floats on a boat
coming down the river that flows in her

Macy rushes in, armed with twenty boxes of tissues, an entire collection of comedies and four tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

“I figured that we might as well kill the Earth some more in our mourning,” Macy blabbers, shoving a fistful of tissues into Tammy’s shaking hands. “You got me so worried. What happened?”

Tammy squeezes her eyes shut, trying to grab the sob that’s wreaking a war path up her throat. She fails, and buries her face into the tissues.

“Oh, honey, we’ve got facial towels for that,” Macy sighs, gently patting her friend’s shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong.”


“Honey, I can’t speak Greek.” Macy pushes a tub of ice cream into Tammy lap. “Ben and Jerry were the world’s two best men. Enjoy.”

Tammy sobs harder.

“Oh gosh, I’m not making this better.” She rubs a hand over her tired face. “Okay, just sob it out. I’m here.”

Tammy suddenly remembers a certain someone else saying the same thing. ‘I’m here.’ She curls up into a ball, falling sideways onto her bed.

Macy listens to her cry for another fifteen minutes before gently pulling Tammy up into a sitting position.

“Okay, does it have something to do with Mark?”

Tammy nods wildly, still buried under her tissues.

“Did he break up with you?”

She shakes her head, letting out a ripping shriek.

“Did he… cheat on you?”

Tammy finally musters enough strength to sob ‘No’.

“Then what happened?” Macy asks, utterly confused. “Did… you break up with him?”

Tammy nods and, suddenly so tired, removes the tissues and rubs her eyes, still crying but quietly now.

“Why?” It’s a whisper.

“What’s love?” Tammy asks hollowly, a minute later.

Macy’s eyes get a light in them, understanding registering. She sighs, puffing her cheeks out slightly as she gives Tammy a sympathetic smile. “Well,” she starts softly, “love is when you can’t live without him. It’s when just his smile makes you smile and… it’s when you hang on tightly even when it hurts too much. You love him despite his imperfections, even because of his imperfections.”

Tammy laughs, but nothing’s funny. “I don’t love Mark.”

“Who then?”

Tammy sighs. “Damien.”

Please don’t go.”

Tammy wraps her arms around herself, her chest, holding the suddenly burning hurt inside of her. She can’t stand to look at him, see the inevitable fury in his eyes, but she can’t imagine him leaving. “Please… don’t.”

From the corner of her eyes, she can see his stiff frame. When she’s brave enough to peek, she sees how white his fists are.

Slowly, he turns towards her. She flinches, afraid he’s going to hit her, but stills and relaxes as he gathers her into his arms, onto his lap. He presses her tightly to his bare chest, resting his chin on her head, and sighs. She buries her head into his neck, wrapping her arms around his torso. His skin feels so warm…

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he mutters huskily, pained.

She looks up once and the cold fury in his eyes scares her. Somehow, though, she knows it’s not directed at her, though it should be. Irrelevantly, she thinks he’s glorious in his fury.

I’m sorry.” Her hot breath fans his skin, making it tingle.

They lapse into silence for a long while.

Sorry’s not going to make it all better,” he whispers. She glances up at him.

Unshed tears cling to his eyes as he gazes brokenly down at her. She can’t fix him.

“Why were you crying?” Macy asks.

Tammy’s head shoots up like a gunshot to give Tammy an incredulous look. Wasn’t it obvious?

“Wha –” And then it dawns on her.

Why, in all of mystical heaven, was she sad? Maybe she needed to cry, because whatever it was she and Mark had was over. There was a time when she loved him. But that time was over and the world marched on. Maybe it was for closure, because she felt she had to. But it was the guilt talking, and taking.

“I don’t know.”

And then, she knows what she has to.

“I need to go back.”

“Back where?” Macy asks, furrowing her eyebrows.

“Back to whom I belong.”

She remembers the next line of the song. This heart, it beats, beats for only you.

My heart is yours.

the clock struck midnight and–

Please leave a message after the tone. Beep.

“Damien, I have to talk to you! I broke things off with Mark! It’s over. Nothing’s going to stop me from getting to you. Us. We can be together! The night was never a mistake. It was the best moment of my life, waking up to your arms. I want that, every morning. I don’t care that I’m older than you. I love you. I really, really love you. I don’t know how or why I didn’t figure this out earlier. Listen, I’m boarding a plane right now, and I’m going to see you soon. My heart is–” Beep.

You have gone over your minutes.


1 Adapted from Hamlet, Shakespeare.

2 From The Giver, Lois Lowry.

3 A quote of Hugh Latimer, taken from Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.

4 Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde.

5 From A Dream Within a Dream, Edgar Allan Poe. This is one of my most favourite poems ever.

6 From Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

7 From Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck.




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