-August 24, 1987- one day remains-
Donnie and I slept almost straight through the day, getting up only for brief periods to eat and spontaneously make out a little.
It was nearing two in the afternoon the next day when we officially got up. Mr. and Mrs. Darko let us be; probably assuming we were still grieving. Which, don’t get me wrong, we were. But I think Donnie had already begun to accept that death was a part of life. He would miss her, naturally, but he knew that Elizabeth wouldn’t have wanted him to sulk about. He said that my presence made things easier.
There was a constant somber tone that day, and despite how much I loved the Darkos, I found myself longing to escape.
I passed Rose once on my way down the stairs. I found it nearly impossible to look at her. She’d been crying for two days straight. She’d taken to sleeping in Elizabeth’s room, coming out only when absolutely necessary.
Turning my gaze downward, I pressed onward to the kitchen. As I knew I would, I found Donnie there, picking at a bowl of bright green grapes. Hesitantly I went to stand across from him, the island between us. It felt more an entire universe.
“Talk to me,” I said quietly. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
Donnie let out a great sigh. “I dunno. I just… I miss her, you know? Me and Elizabeth were really close. She was like my best friend. I guess I never thought I’d lose her.”
I went around the counter and put my arms around him from behind. “You haven’t lost her,” I whispered in his ear. “She lives on within you. Your memories keep her alive.”
Donnie dropped his grape into the bowl and spun around to face me. “I’ve seen the Lion King, thank you very much,” he teased. “And I know you’re right. It’s still hard, though. I’d give anything in the world just to see her again.”
If you’ve ever had an out of body experience you’ll understand what I’ m about to say. It was almost as though someone else had stepped inside of me and controlled the next words that left my lips. All of a sudden their feelings, emotions, thoughts became mine.
And everything the fairy queen had said fell into place. It all made sense.
I knew what I had to do.
I sighed, leaning my head closer into Donnie’s chest. Here I felt warm and secure. I was safe from the threats of life. I was damaged already.
But the thing about damaged people is that we know we can survive. It makes us a lot more likely to do dangerous things.
I tilted back my head, kissing Donnie softly upon the lips. “What if… what if there was a way to bring Elizabeth back?” I whispered. I couldn’t stop my voice from breaking under the weight of the emotion my words bore.
Donnie frowned down at me. Fear and confusion glimmered in his blue eyes.
But there was something else there as well. There was some hope.
“That’s impossible,’ he said hesitantly. His own voice was still maddeningly filled with despair. It only made it all that much clearer.
I shook my head a little. “Tonight,” I told him. “Tonight I will explain everything to you.”
If Donnie was unnerved in the least, he did a good job of containing it. “I know just the place,’ he said. To my surprise he even allowed a tight smile. “We’ll leave at twilight.”
I don’t know why I did it.
Maybe it was because I knew it was almost over. But just before I was about to leave, I shed my clothes and slipped into the dress Elizabeth had bought me.
I wished she was there. I longed for her to brush up my curls and brush some powder across my cheeks. Or at the very least to see me and tell me I looked beautiful even though I knew it was a lie. I looked like a scrawny little runaway who had donned a rich kid’s clothes.
But she wasn’t. She was gone.
She was dead.
I didn’t bring anything with me- well, except the bracelet from Donnie, which hadn’t left my wrist anyway. Then I descended the stairs for the last time.
When I saw Donnie waiting at the bottom of the stairs, leaning against the wall by the white front door, I couldn’t stop a few stray tears from spilling over. I forced them away. The last thing I needed was for Donnie to see me crying.
His wistful smile made my heart ache in my chest. Oh, how I longed for a full-blown smile to grace his lips once again. It nothing else, then I hoped I would at least get to see him smile again before I left him forever.
Donnie reached out to take my hand. His own was warm around mine, sending chills up my spine. “You look beautiful,” he whispered.
Together we walked out the door and into the darkness of the night beyond. The stars were out in full, creating a guiding light in absence of the moon, which was at the peak of its wane. I trailed behind Donnie, letting him pull me along wherever he would.
Only once did I dare to ask where we were going, and Donnie’s only reply had been a hushing noise, and so the rest of the walk had been carried out in silence.
When at long last we came to a stop I let out an audible gasp.
There before us stood the abandoned house, the one from my dream of the fairy queen.
The one that had burned down.
Impulsively I shook my head. “This house… Didn’t it burn down?”
Donnie looked at me as though I was an animal in a cage. “No… this house has been here for over a hundred years. It’s just been abandoned for about five.”
I silenced anything I could have possibly said, told myself it had all been a dream. Clearly the house hadn’t burned down. It must have been a dream.
But I knew that it was lie. I had seen myself the news. This house had burnt to the ground.
Donnie led me forward into the house, our hands still interlocked, fingers still woven together. The silence that filled the air sent shivers down my spine, broken only by the echoing of our footsteps.
Predictably, the steps creaked as we ascended into the house. Then Donnie pulled open the door, and together we stepped inside.
The house itself was almost beautiful, and certainly captivating. Except for needing an exceedingly decent cleaning, it was actually in half-way decent shape. The walls of the foyer were painted a deep burgundy that reminded me of blood; the floors were walnut. The smoothness of the wood had been worn away by dozens of feet traipsing across it.
“I used to sneak in here to draw,” Donnie told me. “Because I could just feel it, you know? I could feel the madness and chaos moving though the air. That made it all the more enchanting.”
I nodded numbly. Most of my fears had subsided, though of course I could still feel them in the pit of my stomach, twisting and turning.
Donnie’s hands suddenly upon my waist caused me to jump a little, spinning around to face him. So perfect, so beautiful. both things I would never be, no matter what clothes of Elizabeth’s I slipped into.
“What was it you wanted to tell me?” Donnie asked quietly. Fire was ablaze between us.
I sighed a little, turning my head to the side so that my loose brown hair formed a veil, shielding me from Donnie’s eyes. Where to begin, even?
“Donnie…I, uh… look, there’s something wrong with me.” There. Bluntness. There was little point in beating around the bush or sugarcoating it.
Donnie was quiet for a moment, contemplative. When he did speak, his words were low. “There’s something wrong with all of us,” he replied. There’s certainly something wrong with me. But love isn’t about finding someone perfect. It’s about over-looking the imperfections.”
I smiled up at him, but it faded quickly. Love didn’t exist, not really. And Donnie deserved better.
In one quick breath, I told him everything that he should have known right from the beginning, before we fell into this tangled mess of lies and love and everything in between.
Donnie listened without really showing that he was listening. His eyes were always elsewhere. His face was expressionless.
At long last, he spoke. “You’re saying that because of this dream you had, you thing that the world is going to end tomorrow?”
All my hopes that he would believe me or at the very least understand came crashing down. I should have known that he wouldn’t. now he really did believe that there was something wrong with me.
“She told me I had to stop it,” I whispered. “And I think I know how.”
I didn’t respond to that, for speaking the words would finalize them. Instead I stepped forward, stood up on my toes, and pressed my lips to his. This one last kiss was long and slow and sweet. Every part of my body craved more as I pressed myself closer and closer to him, until I was certain we couldn’t have been any closer without moving through each other.
Donnie lowered me to the floor gently, carefully, all without breaking our kiss. And then it was all a blur, moving and touching, and the only thing I was aware of was Donnie’s hands upon me and the warm tears falling down my pale cheeks, glistening like diamonds as they dripped onto the floor, creating tiny rivulets through the dust.
There would be no passionate pleasure, no aggressive waves of ecstasy. No, each touch, each breath was laced with mourning, with whispering pain and love all entwined.
After, I fell asleep in his arms, and when I awoke my cheeks were still damp with tears. The sun was streaking through the uncovered window at the far end of the room.
I removed myself from Donnie’s grasp and went to find a clock. I wound up in the kitchen, where the clock above the stove read 5:13 am.