-August 15, 1987- eleven days remain-
The way I see it, Heaven’s not a place you go when you die. It’s a moment in your life when you actually feel alive.
With the Darkos, everything was so different. Time itself seemed to cease to exist. I’d only been with them for two days, but I felt like I’d known them forever.
Mr. and Mrs. Darko were the best parents I could have imagined. Not only did they give their children a pretty free range, but they were also loving and caring. As for the kids, Elizabeth proved in just two short days to be the greatest friend I could have imagined, despite our two-year age difference. She was everything I wished to be at her age- sophisticated and classy while still capable of having fun and being completely immature. Samantha was like the little sister I’d never had, adorable and annoying. I already felt myself growing protective of her.
And Donnie Darko, with his dark eyes and pale skin and mysterious aura. Well, I was quite sure I may have been falling in love with him.
We were going out to dinner that night, Mr. Darko’s way of celebrating that summer was coming to a close. In just three short weeks, the Darko children would be back in school.
And what of me? Did I really expect the Darkos to adopt me? I couldn’t deny that the fantasy had crossed my mind. But I knew the reality of it. They would give me some money and send me on my way. I could hardly bear to think o it.
The restaurant was called Leo’s Steakhouse. Elizabeth pulled me into her room so that I could get ready with her. I fingered her expansive collection of makeup, tempted to put some on. I’d never been one for makeup before. But then again, it was never too late to start.
“You’re going to need something to wear,” Elizabeth noted from somewhere inside her enormous walk-in closet.
I myself was perched on the stool of her vanity, staring at the girl in the mirror. Her light brown hair was hanging in loose, natural curls around her pallid face, her green eyes too wide, to dark underneath from endless nights of tormented sleep.
Elizabeth appeared behind me in the reflection, offering a broad smile. “When I’m through with you, Donnie won’t know what hit him.”
“Oh. My. God.”
I spun around and stared with shocked eyes at my reflection in the full-length mirror. I hardly even recognized myself.
My face seemed to be glowing, my green eyes piercing. Elizabeth had put my curls up in seemingly random disarray around my face. The dress she’d given me came to my knees in folds of soft purple silk, accentuating the curves of my body.
“Wow,” I breathed. I didn’t think I’d ever looked so beautiful.
Only one thing threw it all off. The numbers carved into my wrist had barely even begun to scab over. Elizabeth had surprisingly stayed calm when I’d pulled off Donnie’s sweatshirt and revealed them. Mostly she’d turned her head and pretended not to notice, no questions asked. The past was the past, she said. She didn’t care. It didn’t matter.
Still, she gave me a pair of sleek black gloves that reached my elbows and covered it all nicely. At least she was prepared for anything.
Elizabeth herself wore a tight-fitting blood-red gown that was the perfect combination of classy and sexy. Her glossy brown hair was also pulled back, though a few choice strands hung about her face.
I practically beamed at her.
She returned the smile. “Shall we?”
I let out a nervous giggle. “let’s go.”
Dinner was quite possibly the greatest thing I’d ever had in my entire life. The salad itself would have been enough to feed an entire third world country. After that it was an eight ounce steak, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus, and chocolate mousse for desert.
When we got back to the house, I politely asked if I could remain outside for a bit. It was a gorgeous night, stars littered across the expansive black skies. Mrs. Darko gave me the okay and the family shuffled inside.
I took a seat right on the step of their porch, my green eyes searching the sky. For what? Hope, maybe. Faith in a brighter tomorrow. For a better life, out there waiting for me.
I heard the door open softly, and chanced a sidelong glance at who had come to join me in all the splendors the night had to offer.
Mere seconds later, Donnie sat down beside me. “hey,” I said nervously.
Donnie’s lips curled up slightly at the edges but still he said nothing. Maybe he wasn’t very talkative. Maybe there was nothing to say. Maybe he was enjoying the silence, relishing in the enchantment of the stars and the skies and, just maybe, the presence of me. Or so I liked to believe.
I sighed. I, on the other hand, loathed it.
“Donnie,” I began, turning to face him. But not another word escaped my lips, for at that moment, Donnie reached up to cup my face in his and pressed his mouth to mine.
The kiss was soft and gentle and everything I’d ever thought it would be. His lips worked against my softly, never demanding or forceful. I slid my hands behind his head, entangling them in his hair. He slipped his own arms around my waist pulling my angled body closer to him.
HE broke away after planting one more kiss upon my lips, and we sat there with our foreheads touching ever so slightly. I struggled to regain my breathing, unable to contain the wide smile that had broken out across my face.
“I’d been meaning to do that,” Donnie whispered against my lips.
I leaned my head into his shoulder, closed my eyes, and smiled. For the first in my life I thought, I never want this moment to end