But I'm in Love With You

If I could burn my memories, I would. If I could take a lighter to a series of photographs and words and music and everything I associate with him, I would. And if I could show you everything I’ve seen, you’d burn them too.

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2. #2

Scarlett

 

I landed this gig on a Tuesday in January. It was raining, and I walked home in the sheeting downpour with the letter folded in my jacket pocket.
My mother had smiled after a long period of not, and she pulled me into a gripping hug - for her to grip was odd. After all, she was dying, and those that were dying rarely had a grip on anything. 'You knock 'em dead.'
Adjusting the fluid pipe that sat between her and the hanging bag, I smile briefly. 'You're going to be okay without me?'
'I'll be just fine,' she replied, scanning the magazine once more - she seemed to have developed a tad of a fetish with Vogue and sparkling shoes, glimmering dresses and shining shades of lipsticks since being hospitalised. But who could blame her, right? Because who wanted to lie in a bed with sheets that had sat beneath hundreds, listen to the drip of the fluid seep from the bag and into her veins, to the retching coughs and gurgles of neighbouring patients?
Squeezing her hand, I lean over and gently kiss her cheek before standing. I was suddenly very aware of the bulging bones stretching the skin with frightening transparency, and I let her fingers slip from mine. She didn't look up as I left, even though I wanted her to.
Whenever I leave for a tour, a three-day whirlwind of a trek across Europe, a day-trip to Scotland or Ireland or London for a signing - I can't help but think she might fade just a little more than if I'd been there, so that one day she'll fade altogether. I didn't have siblings and my father had left the moment my mother had been diagnosed - therefore, when she inevitably faded I would be left alone. All alone.
This is what I think as I sit curled on the window seat in my hotel room, staring into the blaring lights of the New York street below. I hold my phone in my hand, counting down the minutes until I can call without disturbing the early hours of home. It hits midnight and I dial the memorised number.
'Mum?' I say after the hospital nurse on secretarial duty has put me through to her room. She mumbles something incoherent, and I can tell today was going to be a bad one. 'Have you eaten anything?'
She mumbles again before sighing loudly. 'How's New York?'
'Pretty at midnight,' I smile, and she scolds me half-heartedly for staying up to call. 'Have you eaten anything?' I repeat.
'The food tastes like cardboard,' she says moodily, 'and I'm not that inclined to cardboard.'
'Eat it,' I say, 'it'll help.'
'It doesn't feel like it helps,' she mumbles. There is a moment of pause. 'When do you come home, Scar?' The last word cracks.
I swallow hard. 'I'll be home in a week - but I'll call everyday before that,' I say softly, 'I promise.'
'They didn't buy my Vogue yesterday,' she murmurs.
'Didn't they?' I say, forcing a note of shock - not playing along wasn't an option on the bad days. Not when that bad day could be her last day. 'I'll talk to the nurse.'
'I'd hoped so,' she says, before releasing another deep sigh. 'I'm going now, Scarlett.'
'Alright, mum,' I say, mock-chirpy, 'I'll talk to them about the Vogue.'
'Okay, speak to you soon,' she mutters.
'I love you,' I say, the receiver pushed close to my mouth so that the cold plastic brushes my lips.
'Love you too,' she murmurs, and then the line goes dead for a moment, leaving me in silence. When the nurse finally picks up once more, I tell her about Vogue and she says she will get a copy for my mother. I hang up.
Zayn picks up on the fifth ring. 'Yo,' he mumbles into the receiver, his voice thick with sleep.
'Can I talk to you?' I ask quietly.
'What about?' he asks tiredly.
'Anything,' I breathe. My voice must have hit a note of some sort because there is a crackle and shift of movement before his voice is back, and this time the thickness of fatigue has decreased.
'You know what I said about that Elvis song?' he says, and I smile - he knows me so well it scares me. No questions, no bother. He didn't know about my mother, and that's how I intended it to stay. Not because he'd become uncomfortable because I was so sure he wouldn't, but because it wasn't his predicament to carry.
'Yeah?' I say.
'Well, I was listening to it and now it doesn't seem so bad,' he explains.
'Right,' I say.
'It’s on the playlist for tomorrow's car ride,' he yawns. He then starts to recount lyrics, and I listen to his voice with a smile on my mouth.
And, with that, the darkness of sorrow leaked away just a little bit.

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