Once the bowl was cashed, Crimson and Trinity were quick to dart off, holding hands and laughing as lovers do. My blood was boiling with bitterness, but the weed kept me calm enough to let them go.
I tried to tell myself that Crimson was my best friend. He'd stood by me for the past three years, through the worst of my addictions. Yet when I saw him with her, when I imagined his hands sliding over her body, I hated him. Oh, how I hated him.
Eventually I got it in me to get up, reveling in the delightful buzz that had taken up residence in my mind. The summer seemed so peaceful to me, all green and alive. But not me. I was bordering dead.
I trudged on aimlessly through the park, passing all sorts of people. They were barely there in my eyes. I was alone, all alone, because who could ever-
A delicate voice called out to me; I spun around in search of the speaker. And there she was. Soft eyes begging, though I wasnt sure of what she wanted. I'd done my best not to think of her too much. To make her off limits in my mind. Maybe she wasnt even there at all.
"Willow," I greeted her with a smile. "You just keep popping up, dont you?" She was so innocent to me, wearing the same white sundress she'd been in that morning. Had it only been a few hours since I'd seen her last? Already she seemed like the ghost of a memory. I hoped she couldnt tell I was ripped.
"Well, I went home for a while," she spoke in a gentle voice. A broken voice that shook me completely. "But I guess I just cant get enough sun."
I laughed a little, smiled at her. "It's a dangerous city for such a beautiful girl," I murmured. I thought I saw a blush creeping across her pallid face. "Can I walk with you?"
Something told me Willow didnt know how to respond. For several seconds she only stared at me, unmoving. She really was stunning. Maybe as breathtaking as Trinity. That thought surprised even me.
At long last she nodded, and so we fell into step together. It seemed so natural to me, moving mindlessly through the summer heat beside the pale girl. I couldnt help but steal a glance at her, and ask myself how someone so young could appear as such a phantom.
"So," I began awkwardly. "Are you from around here?" I didnt know if I meant the district or the city itself. Or something even bigger.
"Not really," Willow replied. "But I've lived here for a while now. It's almost starting to feel like home." Home. It was nice to know I wasnt the only one searching for it.
I swallowed hard, looking everywhere but at the girl. The questions I should have been asking had eluded me. Things like age or interests or why she was strolling through Central Park with a complete stranger.Why someone like her didnt have loving arms to run into.
Instead I found myself doing all the wrong things. Stopping. Reaching for her hand so she might stop too, might look me in the eyes. "Willow." Her name was the sweetest thing I'd ever spoken. What about Trinity? The voice demanded. She loved you once.
But not again, I thought firmly. Trinity had made it clear she wanted nothing to do with me. I couldnt just wither away waiting for something that would never come. Waiting for someone who was long gone.
"Yes?" The blonde was batting her eyelashes. I had to wonder if she did it on purpose, or if she was so unaware of her allure.
"Uh. I'm honestly not sure what I'm trying to say." Smooth. "Look, I know you dont know me, and if you were smart you wouldnt ever want to. Or maybe you would; maybe you can feel it too."
She wasnt frowning, wasnt backing off like I was crazy. But a sort of light had sprung up in her eyes, a glow behind the pale green surface. "Just say it," she encouraged sweetly.
I took a deep breath. "Willow, I'd really love to take you to dinner."
A bit of the innocence slipped away, replaced with a smirk and an edge of demure. "I'd really love to go." And then she leaned in, and she pressed her lips to my cheek.
I couldnt help but swallow hard. Something stirred withing me, an old emotion I thought I'd managed to bury, to nullify with the haze.
But Willow was already darting away, taking all the summer with her as she did. "Wait," I called out after her. "When should I pick you up? And where?"
She did not turn back, only glanced at me over her shoulder. "How about the Met?" She replied, her words tangled up in the wind and the overall cadence of the city. "I'll be there at seven."
For a long while, I watched her go, until she was invisible, faded into the horizon. Then I remembered all the things that went along with getting ready, all the primping and making of reservations. I would do whatever it took to make the night special. Unforgettable. To make Willow feel like the city really was home.