Mom's concave chest rose and fell as she slept, the pink hospital bedding swallowing her emaciated form. She had agreed to stay in the hospital if the doctors stopped probing her and injecting her with chemicals. I had argued against the cruelty of having to watch my mom die without even attempting to save her, despite our wealth, but dad had respected her wishes. Now, though her vitals had gotten better during the last week, she was back on the downhill slope that had consumed our lives for the past year.
I wanted to lay with her, but I knew that any movement on the bed would cause her pain. The machines beeped and whirred and gave off unknown static noises.
"Nena," dad appeared at the door with a bag that faintly smelled of Chinese takeout. His clothes looked wrinkled and his hair was ruffled from when he'd passed his fingers through it, a new nervous tick of his. I caught the rusty scent of day-old coffee on his breath even from here and I knew that he'd probably forgotten to sleep again. "You should head home."
I nodded and stood, placing a soft kiss on mom's forehead. Despite everything, she smelled like honey and the summer flowers that littered our front yard. Her fingers, long and thin, sat intertwined on her abdomen, and her eyelashes flickered as she reacted to something in her dream.
I saw them when I drove up to my house.
She had dark hair and pale skin. She was tall, pretty, exotic--everything I was not. And she was kissing Logan, like a lover would after a long, arduous war. The morning sunlight caught their encounter beautifully and haloed their show of love like a spotlight meant for my eyes only. Though I knew he'd been there for me as just a friend, the betrayal still hurt.
Betrayal of what, Lexy?
We weren't dating, we were friends. Of course, we had near-misses and stares full of longing, but perhaps my over-active imagination had driven me insane this summer. Perhaps, in all of my solidarity this past year, I clung onto the first person--boy--who would break through the walls I'd built.
But as I sat there in my parents' SUV watching Logan return the kiss, I knew that everything had been my imagination. The hand holding, the stolen moments of silence on the beach, the quiet promise of our relationship--it was all a state of bliss I'd created for my own enjoyment.
It had been my escapist fantasy, nothing more.
I slipped out of the car with my head bent and closed the door as quietly as I could. Speed-walking towards my front door, I heard Logan shout my name. I fumbled with my keys, yearning for the peace of my room; the familiar, yet ignored, click-clack of my typewriter.
I dropped my keys, grabbed at them feebly and reached for the door once more, but he was suddenly there. His breath came out in surprised spurts, his hair was wayward from his sprint over. Or, I thought fleetingly, from his encounter with his girlfriend.
"Hey," he said breathlessly, the word almost lost. For an instant I almost forgot he was a runner, but then the sight of his kissing another girl explained his lack of breath. "I'm glad I caught you."
I didn't say anything. Instead, I brushed my loose hair and let it fall over my face as I looked down at the keys. My body was rigid and I just wanted to get inside the house. Couldn't he just let me leave?
I remained quiet, but I shot a look at where the girl once was. She was now gone, probably inside his house, or, I added bitterly, on his bed.
"Was that your girlfriend?" I finally asked and his face paled. His mouth opened and closed, but no words escaped. "Did you leave her behind in Toronto?"
It was his turn to shy away, his freckles emphasized by the rising flush on his face.
"Yes," he muttered. "She was my girlfriend in Toronto."
I lingered on his word choice, but not for long. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't think it mattered," he said, then flinched when I frowned. "This summer was supposed to be a new start, but I hung onto my past because I thought I wanted to. I thought she was everything to me, but you taught me differently."
"After a month?"
"Yes, after a month." He took a step closer and placed his hands on my shoulders. "It could have been a week, a month, a year--I would still feel like this about you."
I untangled myself from his arms and glared at him. "Feel what way?"
"I love you," he said meagerly, his voice so lost that I barely heard him. "Lexy, I love you."
"No you don't," I cried, my heart begging me to say it too, but it would be too selfish. There were more important things than my desires, plus hadn't he just kissed his girlfriend only minutes before? "You don't love me because you don't know me."
Now it was his turn to frown. "Of course I know you, Lexy!"
"Really?" I challenged. "Name ten things you know about me, then!"
He stumbled over his words, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"Your girlfriend needs you Logan, not me."
"You don't love me, Logan," I said more softly and tears stung my eyes at the realization. "And I don't love you."
I didn't wait to see his reaction, nor did I let my heart take back every word.
End of Part 1.