Without you

16 year-old Eliza Roberts is from a well-known, wealthy family, but despite that, she does not fit into the local High School and keeps to herself. That changes from one day to the other when Thomas Martins begins at the school, one year above her.

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10. Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Thomas drove me home when the movie ended. I put my own clothing back on before we went. It was almost dry, so I didn’t mind too much, though I would have liked to keep that hoodie.

I went to bed early that night. I was tired from the walking and from being so nervous about what the doctors would tell me Monday. I fell asleep rather quickly, and Sunday was spent under my quilt, trying to catch up on my homework. I hadn’t missed that much, actually. And what I had missed wasn’t hard to catch up on.

Well, except for physics and math. I did so not like those subjects.

When I finished with the homework, I stayed in bed and read for the rest of the afternoon. I didn’t want to get up. I was slightly feverish, my mom told me, despite being rather cold. So I hid under my quilt, spending my last day as a normal girl reading.

 

We had been told to be at the hospital at 9 Monday morning, so I didn’t bother going to school beforehand. My mom went with me. I could sense her anxiety in the car. This was something that was far away from being in her control, and she didn’t like it the slightest.

We sat in the waiting room for a long time. There were many patients that morning, and the time seemed to drag on forever. Finally a nurse came and called my name. We followed her to the office of a doctor that had been attending to me while I was hospitalized. He shook both mine and my mother’s hands, and asked us to sit down. He drew in a deep breath and looked at us over his spectacles.

He was in his 50’s, with hair greying at the edges. He was clean-shaven, and wore a white doctor’s coat.

“I don’t really know how to tell you this, Ms Roberts. The tests we took gave us a rather clean answer of a rather rare condition. It seems like you have Persephone’s Syndrome.” He told me, looking at me sternly. That must have been something he did to keep the pain of his parents away from himself, trying to be hard and stern. It didn’t work for him now - I could hear the slight shake in his voice and I knew that what he was going to tell me now would be like having a curse put on me.

“What does that mean?” my mother asked from beside me. From that moment on, I listened very attentively, as if it was happening to someone else, not me.

“Persephone’s Syndrome is a heart disease. It causes the heart to grow weaker and weaker over time. The speed of this process varies from patient to patient. The reason why you are also experiencing difficulties with breathing, Ms Roberts,” he said, fixing his eyes on me again. “Is because when your heart goes into this state, why, I would call it a seizure, really, your body panics, and therefore your lunges goes into a sort of lockdown, where they do not use the oxygen sufficiently, which is partly why you are going to pass out. This means that you are under oxygenated, which also explains why your hands and feet are cold.”

My hands were griping the armrests or the chair so hard that my knuckles were turning white and the veins in my hands were starting to pop out. I forced myself to relax. I took a deep breath.

“And where in this process am I? How bad is it?” I asked him, my voice as cold as my body felt. It was one of those out-of-body experiences, where it doesn’t feel like you are actually in control of your own body.

The doctor leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk between us. “From what the tests and you told us, I would say that it is good that we found out now. I have signed you up in the line for receiving donated organs, but I cannot say how long it will take before I can give it to you. As it is, you will run into more and more of these seizures over the next few months. You will be hospitalized on and off, and at some point we are going to give you a little machine that will be attached to your chest and detect your heart rate at all times, and will assist your heart if you will have an actual heart attack.” He said. He stopped talking to clear his voice. I could hear my mother draw in heavy breaths, tears closing up in her throat. “I will not give you a very specific time limit. But I would say that if you’re lucky, but we do not find you a new heart, you have 2 years left.”

 

When we left the hospital, my mother clutched my hand, holding on to me while she still could. She had hugged me in the doctor’s office, but held back her tears. She still did. She was trying to be strong for me, but I didn’t need her to be just at that moment, because I didn’t yet realise that this was about me, and not somebody else. It was surreal, and by far most of my brain refused to believe a thing. But there was a little part of it that understood that dead was looming right beside me.

She insisted that we went home, but I protested. I wanted to see Thomas and tell him straight out that I would not let him be hurt by me. I didn’t tell my mom this, though. I said that I had spent the whole of yesterday at home, and there wouldn’t come any good out of me going home. Finally she gave in, and she drove me back to school, making me promise that either Thomas would drive me home, or I would call her.

I walked up the steps to the school and went inside. It was in the middle of the third lesson, and the hallways were mostly empty, so I went to the office first to hand in the formula that the doctor had given me, informing the school of my condition. It felt ridiculous, giving the school this piece of information that didn’t feel real. But as the woman at the desk read through the paper, her face grew pale and she looked up and me and told me that she was so sorry and that she would make sure that the headmaster and all of my teachers would get to know. I didn’t really want them to know, that would only make it more real.

As weird as it might sound, being in school made me realise what the doctor had said. Walking around empty halls, teenagers behind all the doors, leading a normal life, I could feel my heart beat a little faster, as if taunting me.

I went to the library to wait for the lesson to end. I pretty much just sat there, staring out the window. It was a grey, dark day, the snow dull-looking and dirty. I felt as if a dead weight was hanging around my neck, pulling me further and further down.

“you have Persephone’s Syndrome”

“I would call it a seizure, really”

“…assist your heart if you will have an actual heart attack”

“you have 2 years left”

I was going to die. The only way for me to survive was to get a new heart.

I put a hand against my chest, flat spread out. I could not feel it through all the clothing, but I knew it was there, still beating.

I was not going to turn 20. I had to grab my head with my hands. I felt like it was about to explode.

In that same moment, the bell rang for next lesson. I quickly gathered up my stuff and went to class.

That day I listened intensely during history, and participated more than I had done in all the other lessons all together. I was trying very hard to occupy my mind with something else than my scumbag heart, but it didn’t work, as much as I tried.

When the lesson ended, I left the classroom, feeling weak and defeated. Thomas was already waiting outside, and when I walked through the door, he rushed to my side and draped his arm over my shoulder, pulling me close to him.

“How are you?” he whispered at me. I shrugged a little. That was all I could manage at the moment, I could not find the ability to speak. “Do you want to tell me what the doctors said? Not here, but somewhere else.”

I nodded. “After eating.” I managed to reply. He nodded and we walked together to the canteen, me with a gigantic lump in my throat. The weight of his arm around me felt so precious, and all I wanted was to sit down and cry and have him hold me, but I would not let him be more involved. I would not hurt him. Hurting him by ending things was the lesser of two evils, and therefore the one I had chosen.

We ate in complete silence at our usual table. I felt nostalgic and sick and exhausted. We finished eating too soon, and we got up and put our jackets on.

We walked around the soccer court. The snow was hard compressed from many people walking there. I had my hands buried in my pockets and kept my distance to him. When we were a good distance from the school, Thomas stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. It burnt through my jacket.

“Will you please tell me what happened, Ellie?” he said, and my heart tugged a little when he said my name.

So I told him what I had been told, as much of it as I remembered, which was everything, for some reason. The words had imprinted themselves in my mind.

When I stopped talking, he was quite for a few seconds, staring at me. Then he opened his arms and moved toward me. It took everything I could muster to take a step backward instead of three forward.

Thomas looked at me in horror. He stood still as a statue, his arms outstretched toward me, and I was standing almost 2 meters from him, turning slightly away from him.

“Ellie, what’s wrong?” he said carefully. His voice shook.

I didn’t know what to say. I looked away from him, staring across the soccer court. He was silent, and at last I had to find the words, so I did.

“I don’t want to put you through this. You did not sign up for this. We’ve only known each other for 2 weeks, Thomas.” I looked at him. He looked pale, a sharp contrast to his dark hair.

“Ellie…” he started saying, but I interrupted him.

“No! No, Thomas. I cannot put you through this. It’s too much to put Arthur and my parents through it, there’s no way I will let you get involved.”

“I’m already involved!” He almost yelled back at me, his face filled with horror, confusion and frustration. ”I got involved the moment I sat down at your table. I am not going to back out now. No, I did not sign up for this, I signed up for being with you, and that is what I want to, no matter what.” He said. I felt tears brooding in my eyes and before I could stop it, they rolled down my cold cheeks, burning hot on my skin.

“Thomas, I won’t-“

“Ellie, shut up with that bullshit.” He closed the distance between us quickly and grabbed me by my upper arms. “I have never cared so much for anyone as I care for you. This is not just a fling, it’s not a crush, Ellie, I love you. I might just be a stupid teenage boy, but I know that much and I am not going to let you down now.” His face softened and I saw tears in his eyes too. “I didn’t want to tell you yet because it seemed like a lot to put on you, but if you’re about to break up with me, I need to tell you; I love you, Eliza, and I will stay with you.”

I succumbed into straight-out wailing. My chest hurt from load sobs as he pulled me into an embrace, his strong arms holding me together as I cried.

I was so, so happy that he refused to leave me. I had not dared to hope for it, but he did.

I don’t know if it was Thomas, or me, or the both of us who were the cause of the relationship and the intensity of it. We had known each other for 2 weeks, but it felt as if we had known each other for years and had just been reconciled. It was something deep and out of the ordinary, something more than what I was able to explain.

He held onto me until the sobs faded away and I was just shaking slightly. He pressed his lips to my hair.

“Thank you, Thomas.” I whispered into his coat. He squeezed me gently.

“Listen,” he said, pulling me back a bit so he could see my face. “You’re not in any position to go into a school filled with noisy teenagers right now. I’m gonna drive you home, okay? I’ll go get our bags from my locker, you go to the car and wait for me, I’ll be quick.” He said, slowly pulling away from me. I grabbed his shoulder.

“Are you going to stay with me? My mom is at work, and I don’t want to be alone right now,” I said. He smiled weakly at me.

“There’s nothing I rather would.”

 

I almost fell asleep in the car on the way home. I didn’t realise we were home until the engine stopped humming. My eyes were red and puffy, but Thomas just put his arm around me and followed me up the driveway. I unlocked the door and we went inside, shaking off our jackets and boots and went upstairs to my room. Thomas had me sit in the armchair while he pulled the cover off the bed. Then he pretty much just picked me up and tugged me underneath the quilt. He lay down beside me, on top of the quilt. I put my head on his arm and snuggled up to him. He put an arm around me and leaned his forehead against the top of my head. I closed my eyes.

“Thomas?” I whispered his name.

“Yeah?” he whispered back.

“I’m scared.” I admitted. I turned my head upwards to look at his face. He looked back at me, his face torn apart with pain.

“It’s okay to be scared,” he said, pulling me closer to him. “I’m scared too. But they will find you a new heart. The young ones are always the first ones to get the organs when they are there. You’ll be fine.” He said. He kissed me lightly on the nose. I was silent for a little while.

“I love you too, Thomas.” I whispered then, but my voice was certain and strong nonetheless.

He looked with me with those blue, blue eyes and in them I saw everything we didn’t say. That he knew that something extraordinary and stronger than us was as play here, and that we didn’t really mind.

He looked at me, his eyes filled with affection, and then leaned down and pressed his lips gently to mine. I pushed against him, and he held me to him.

I got my hands out from under the quilt to grab him and hold him. I felt something bubble in my stomach - pure joy. I was so, so happy. He held onto me, pushing against the lower of my back with his hand. Through the quilt, I could feel him all the way down my body.

He broke away and leaned his forehead against mine. My heart was beating faster than usually, but I was rather confident that it was merely because of being with Thomas, not because my heart was a scumbag.

Thomas brushed a stray strand of hair from my face and cupped my chin gently. I opened my eyes and looked at him, and kissed him gently on the tip of his nose. He broke into a smile and squeezed me gently.

“Now get some rest, my beautiful Eos,” he whispered.

 

I slept for 2 hours. When I woke up, Thomas was sitting in my armchair with a book in his lap. He was chewing his lip gently, his eyebrows a little creased above the nose. I didn’t say anything, I was just lying there for a little while, observing him silently.

When he finally looked up, he smiled at me and put the book down. Then I noticed that it was my copy of The Fault In Our Stars he had been reading.

“I thought that was a mayor girl book?” I said to him, smiling lightly. I felt better after having slept. He sat down on the edge of the bed and bent down to kiss me.

“It is. But so far, I like it. I can be a bit of a girl myself sometimes.” He said.

“Oh,” I said, raising my eyebrows at him. “A tall, muscular soccer player like you? How could you be girly?” I sat up in the bed, and we sat hip-to-hip.

“Well,” he started. “First of all, I do like sappy romance, as you might have noticed. I prefer strawberry ice cream to chocolate-“

“How does that make you girly? Not the romance-thing, but liking strawberry ice cream?” I laughed at him.

“It’s pink, you do realise that? It is not seen as very manly.” He said, laughing back and poking my nose.

“So what? It’s just food. But I agree, it is the best kind.”

“Oh, you think? I’ll remember that,” he said, pecking a quick kiss to my lips.

“That sounds good,” I said, smiling at him.

He put a hand on my lower back and pushed me to him, pressing his lips to my forehead.

“Do you want to do something?” he asked me when he pulled away. I took a deep breath and wondered a little while.

“I actually want to talk to you about something.” I said, looking at him.

“Okay. What is it?” He asked, his face calm and composed.

“What is it like… knowing that the people you’re calling your parents are actually not related to you? I’m sorry if you don’t like talking about it-“

“No, Ellie, it’s fine. I don’t mind,” he said, thinking for a moment. “Well, to me, they are my parents. I was only with my real parents for a year, and while I was with them, they were not good parents. My mom and dad took care of me and have been my parents since I was a year old. I don’t see them as anything different from my actual parents. Why do you ask?” he said looking at me.

“I just wanted to know how you felt about it. I figured it must be of importance to you.” I said.

“I’m happy that you think about it.” I said, smiling at him. He smiled back, and then we heard the door slam downstairs.

“Hey!” I heard Arthur yell.

“We’re upstairs, Art!” Thomas yelled back.

 

Arthur poked his head in to say hi. He didn’t ask about what I was told at the hospital. He had enough sense to wait for my mother.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Thomas asked me when Arthur left. I nodded and crawled out of bed. We went downstairs together.

 

We walked through the snow, his arm draped across my shoulder, my arm wrapped around his waist. It was so cold that we could see the light clouds of our breath in the growing darkness. We didn’t say much - it wasn’t really needed. We just needed to be close to each other, needed the comfort of our bodies pressed together.

I wasn’t really sure how I was feeling at that exact moment. I was hyperaware of everything - the heartbeat in my chest, the sounds of cars passing by us, the soft thump of Thomas’ footsteps. I was tired and filled with energy at the same time. I felt my head flying to the side every time my eye caught a motion. Restless.

When we ended up back at my house, Thomas turned toward me.

“I think I should go home.” He said. I nodded. I could use a little time alone. “Can I tell my parents about what is happening with you?”

“They don’t know?”  I asked him.

“No. My dad is in another department, and my mom doesn’t get to know unless it’s about one of her patients.” He answered.

“Sure, you can tell them. I don’t think anything else would be fair.” I said. He dragged me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I pressed my face to his jacket-covered shoulder. He let go of me and got into his car, honking lightly as he drove away. I smiled a little, and then made my way back to the door. My parents seemed to be home. When I went inside, I could hear them talk in the kitchen. I heard my name mentioned, and just went upstairs as quietly as I could. I couldn’t bear to look at my dad or Arthur or my mom just then. I knew that I was inflicting so much pain, and egoistically as it might have been, I just couldn’t bear to look at them.

I sat down in my armchair and pulled my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around myself. Now that Thomas wasn’t there, I felt colder and more alone than I ever had before. I knew that I would see him tomorrow at school and that he was going to stay by my side, but I still felt … well, broken. I wondered if I would actually live through this. I thought that even if I could, there would still be a part of me that died. Whatever was left of childhood within me would die, whether I did or not. And that scared me.

I sat like that until I heard Arthur walking up the stairs, one step at a time, much slower than normally. He stopped in front of my door and knocked lightly. I didn’t answer, but he opened the door anyway. He looked at me. I didn’t see it, but I could feel his eyes on me. I fixed my eyes on the floor. I heard his footsteps across the floor until he crouched in front of me, forcing me to look at him. He was pale and looked like he had trouble getting the words out without choking on them.

“Ellie…” he whispered. I turned my head away again. He was doing it again, the older-brother thing, despite being the younger one.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve cried enough for one day.” I said, looking away from him firmly.

“I don’t want to talk to you about it. I want to ask you if you want to watch a movie or some suck-ish TV. To get your mind elsewhere.” I said. I nodded slowly. That was probably the best thing I could do just then.

So we got out quilts and pillows and sat down in the couch in the living room, curling up together and watched movies. Mom and dad joined us and we ate dinner around the TV while the fifth Harry Potter movie was running. When that one ended, we put on the sixth.

 

I don’t really know how I got through the following week. It was hazy and dark, like I was half asleep through the next four days. I had asked Thomas for a little time for myself those days after school, and hadn’t seen him except for in English and during breaks. I hadn’t registered any weird stuff with my heart or anything, but then again, I didn’t register eating or going to the bathroom. Those few days, I was surviving, not living.

I spent the days with Arthur mostly. When he wasn’t home, I did homework, slept or read, though I had to re-read pretty much every single page.

But Friday morning Thomas said that he wanted to spend Saturday together. I agreed, because I was really missing being with him in private, with all the high school eyes staring at us in the cafeteria and hallways.

The whole week Thomas had been very calm and easy-going despite the threat looming above us. He had accepted me wanting some time alone, and just been a supporting figure when I needed something to hold on to. I felt bad for shutting him down for so long, and therefore I told him to come over for brunch Saturday, and kicked my parents and Arthur out of the house. I got up at 7:30 that morning to start preparing the food and showering. He was going to take me to the movies afterwards, at a little to 12, and I decided to not only cook nice food, but also look my best, as I had been looking the part of a depressed teenager very well for the last days. I forced my curls to come back to life and was actually feeling better, looking forward to a day with him. I really had been missing the intimacy that I had adapted to so quickly before the diagnosis, and was looking forward to long hugs and holding hands in the cinema.

I went all British for the breakfast, frying bacon, boiling, frying and scrambling eggs and small sausages. I even made baked beans and had the classic white toast. I put the table nicely with napkins and the pretty plates and crystal glasses and everything.

The doorbell rang just as I finished putting up the table. I quickly took the apron off and straightened my skirt. I was wearing the same dress and lacy leggings I had been wearing the first week we knew each other. I knew he liked me in a dress, and I knew he liked that dress especially, so it was a rather easy picking. I ran to the door and flung it open, a big smile plastered all over my face.

Thomas was looking gorgeous as ever. His black hair was shiny and messy in the cutest way. He smiled at me and stepped inside.

“Hey there,” he said, his voice low. He dragged his jacket off and put it on a hanger while I closed the door. When I turned back around, he dragged me into a tight hug and pushed his lips to mine. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him to me. He squeezed my sides with his hands and slowly pulled away. “I’ve been wanting to do that for days.” He said, smiling at me.

“Me to. I’m sorry I’ve been so distant.” I apologized. He shook his head.

“Don’t be. I get it. And I’m pretty sure that what you have prepared here will make up for it completely.” He said, sniffing the air. Then he breathed out “bacoooooon…”

I laughed at him. When he had kicked off his shoes I grabbed his hand and lead him into the dining room. He pulled the chair out for me before going to his own chair. Ever the gentleman.

“So, what movie are we going to watch?” I asked him. He grinned at me, his dimple showing.

“I’m not going to tell you. I want you to be surprised.” He said. I stuck my tongue out at him.

We ate slowly, talking all the while. He told me what he had been up to the last few days, talking about how his mom dragged him out to go shopping because “now that he had a girlfriend, he better start dressing nicely” as she had put it. I laughed at that, and he seemed to find it rather amusing himself.

“I was pretty sure that was a new shirt.” I said, pointing at the button-down he was wearing. I was made from dark cowboy fabric and had a rather rough and rustic look to it. It somehow pulled out the blue colour of his eyes even more, making them astoundingly blue.

“It is,” he said, looking down at his chest. “Do you like it?”

“I do. Very much.” I said, feeling a slight blush heat up in my cheeks. He smiled at me and got up slowly and walked around the table. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up from the chair. He put his hands on my hips.

“I like you. Very much.” He said, echoing me. I smiled and laced my arms around his neck.

“I like you very much too,” I said and stood on my tiptoes to kiss him lightly. He pushed me against him and kissed me back.

“I actually have something for you,” he said, pulling his head back to look at me. I went back down on the flat of my foot. I raised my eyebrows at him.

“You’ve got something for me?” I asked him. He nodded and took a step back. He dug his hand into the pocket of his black jeans and pulled out a little square package, wrapped in white paper with a golden rope tied around it. He gave it to me. I looked up at him.

“What is this?” I asked him. He smiled tenderly down at me.

“I wanted to give you something. Something that would always remind you that I’m right here for you,” He said, gently pushing a stray curl away from my face and behind my ear. “Open it.”

I unwrapped it slowly, putting the gold rope on the table. Inside the paper, a black box appeared. When I opened it, all I registered at first was thin gold strings wrapped around each other, but when I looked closer, it turned out to resemble the stuff that hangs down from a willow. It was three strands wrapping around each other with small leaves all over.  I lifted the pillow it was wrapped around out of the box to find out that it was a bracelet. Opposite of the lock was a small heart. On it a word was engraved, and I had to lift it all the way up to my face to see what it said.

“’Beyond’?” I asked him, looking back up. He smiled at me, still with the tenderness that I had come to treasure so much. He nodded and took the bracelet from me and opened the lock.

“Yes. As in “To the end, and beyond,” he said. I stretched my arm out so that he could put it around my wrist. “Because ‘Always’ is overused, and the word ‘beyond’ sounds… well, more magical.” He said. He held my wrist gently after locking the bracelet. I looked at the bracelet in awe. It was so beautiful it made my pale skin look like it was glittering and golden. I looked back up at him.

“Thank you so much, Thomas. It’s so beautiful.” I whispered and once again I leaned in to kiss him. He folded his hand gently around my neck and wrapped his fingertips into the edge of my hair.

We moved away but he rested his forehead against mine, our eyes closed.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said.

 

On the way to the cinema, I kept touching and turning the bracelet. Its light weight around my wrist felt good, and a smile was plastered at my face.

“Please tell me what movie we’re going to watch.” I asked him for the third time. He laughed at me.

“You’re cute and all, but I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to wait.” He said, smiling at me. I was cuddled up in my winter jacket and a scarf. I pouted my mouth in dismay and heard him laugh.

The cinema in Orlay was like the ones you see in old movies, with the counter outside the building. The interior was rather modern, though. The chairs were fluffy and comfy.

Thomas bought popcorns and soda for us and we went inside. He still hadn’t let me know what movie we were watching, and by then I was getting extremely curious. We sat down inside the movie hall and he put an arm around my shoulder. I leaned in towards him.

“Please tell me what we’re watching,” I asked him. He merely smiled down at me and shook his head. “Geez, you’re boring.” I said, shaking my own head in exasperation. He laughed at me again and kissed me on my hair. People were settling in around us and after a few minutes the lights dimmed and the commercials began playing on the screen. When they ended and the lights went out completely, he leaned down to my ear and whispered the title. I didn’t recognize it, but as the movie went on I found that I quite liked it. It was this funny romantic thing, with a guy and a girl not admitting to like each other and getting in all sorts of trouble together. In the end, they ended up kissing in the rain like I had expected them to.

“Did you like it?” he asked me when we left the cinema. I nodded.

“Yeah, I did. It was really funny.” I said, smiling at him. He smiled back and squeezed the hand he was holding.

“Great. I was actually planning on taking you to some lunch now, but I don’t feel hungry whatsoever. What about you?”

“Certainly not. I ate a bunch of breakfast and then popcorn now. I’m full.” I said.

“What do you say we go shopping then?” he asked me. I lifted my eyebrow.

“Shopping, like in shopping-shopping?” He laughed at me.

“Yeah, something like that.” He said.

So we went to no less than 7 stores. Clothing stores and ended with going to a store where they sold movies. We dressed up in all sorts of clothing and laughed at each other until our stomachs started hurting. We bought a bunch of movies that we wanted to watch together, and both of us ended up with a few bags with clothing. All the while I could feel the weight of the gold bracelet around my wrist.

He brought me back to the restaurant he had brought me to a little while ago. We had the same sandwiches again.

“How are you feeling?” he asked me. His voice had changed from the chatting, playful tone he had used the last few hours to something more serious. I knew, of course, what he was asking.

“I’m okay,” I said, picking at the sandwich. “I don’t think I’ve had any problems the last few days. I haven’t noticed, anyway. I haven’t quite been myself.” I shrugged slightly.

“I have felt that,” he said, reaching across the table to grab my hands. He looked me straight in the eye. “I want you to promise me that if you will tell me if there’s anything I can do for you. Even if it’s just to take you to the movies or see some random movie at my place. I want to help you through this, Ellie. I really do.” He said. I nodded weakly.

“I know.” I said, squeezing his hands. He smiled at me and leaned back in the chair, letting go of my hands. “Do you want to go to my place on Monday after school?” I asked him. He crooked his head and looked at me.

“Sure. What for?”

“I just want to spend time with you. And also I could use some help with my math assignment.” I said, smiling at him. He started laughing and I felt a little warm inside. I was so goddamned lucky to have him.

“Good for you that your boyfriend loves math, huh?” he said, nudging my leg with his foot under the table. I nudged him back.

“Yeah. And I’m going to take full advantage of it.” I smiled at him.

“I’ll wait for you to finish gym then, and go together. I’ll pick you and Arthur up in the morning.” He said, and I felt like I was not even allowed to say anything against it, because he looked like he had already made the deal. He smiled crookedly at me and I picked my tongue at him.

When we finished eating we got up and went to Thomas’ house to watch some of the movies we had bought. We ended up watching the full series of The Pillars of the Earth before he drove me home. The whole drive back to my place we hummed (or rather, we yelled it in the same way you go “DADADAAAA-DADADADADADADADADA” to the 20th Century Fox intro) the intro. In my driveway, he stopped the car and leaned in and kissed me gently.

“I’ll see you Monday,” I said. “And don’t go home and watch all the movies by yourself now.”

“I promise I won’t,” He said, laughing at me. He kissed me at the tip of my nose. Then I got out of the car and waved at him until he disappeared around the corner.

Chapter 10

Thomas drove me home when the movie ended. I put my own clothing back on before we went. It was almost dry, so I didn’t mind too much, though I would have liked to keep that hoodie.

I went to bed early that night. I was tired from the walking and from being so nervous about what the doctors would tell me Monday. I fell asleep rather quickly, and Sunday was spent under my quilt, trying to catch up on my homework. I hadn’t missed that much, actually. And what I had missed wasn’t hard to catch up on.

Well, except for physics and math. I did so not like those subjects.

When I finished with the homework, I stayed in bed and read for the rest of the afternoon. I didn’t want to get up. I was slightly feverish, my mom told me, despite being rather cold. So I hid under my quilt, spending my last day as a normal girl reading.

 

We had been told to be at the hospital at 9 Monday morning, so I didn’t bother going to school beforehand. My mom went with me. I could sense her anxiety in the car. This was something that was far away from being in her control, and she didn’t like it the slightest.

We sat in the waiting room for a long time. There were many patients that morning, and the time seemed to drag on forever. Finally a nurse came and called my name. We followed her to the office of a doctor that had been attending to me while I was hospitalized. He shook both mine and my mother’s hands, and asked us to sit down. He drew in a deep breath and looked at us over his spectacles.

He was in his 50’s, with hair greying at the edges. He was clean-shaven, and wore a white doctor’s coat.

“I don’t really know how to tell you this, Ms Roberts. The tests we took gave us a rather clean answer of a rather rare condition. It seems like you have Persephone’s Syndrome.” He told me, looking at me sternly. That must have been something he did to keep the pain of his parents away from himself, trying to be hard and stern. It didn’t work for him now - I could hear the slight shake in his voice and I knew that what he was going to tell me now would be like having a curse put on me.

“What does that mean?” my mother asked from beside me. From that moment on, I listened very attentively, as if it was happening to someone else, not me.

“Persephone’s Syndrome is a heart disease. It causes the heart to grow weaker and weaker over time. The speed of this process varies from patient to patient. The reason why you are also experiencing difficulties with breathing, Ms Roberts,” he said, fixing his eyes on me again. “Is because when your heart goes into this state, why, I would call it a seizure, really, your body panics, and therefore your lunges goes into a sort of lockdown, where they do not use the oxygen sufficiently, which is partly why you are going to pass out. This means that you are under oxygenated, which also explains why your hands and feet are cold.”

My hands were griping the armrests or the chair so hard that my knuckles were turning white and the veins in my hands were starting to pop out. I forced myself to relax. I took a deep breath.

“And where in this process am I? How bad is it?” I asked him, my voice as cold as my body felt. It was one of those out-of-body experiences, where it doesn’t feel like you are actually in control of your own body.

The doctor leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk between us. “From what the tests and you told us, I would say that it is good that we found out now. I have signed you up in the line for receiving donated organs, but I cannot say how long it will take before I can give it to you. As it is, you will run into more and more of these seizures over the next few months. You will be hospitalized on and off, and at some point we are going to give you a little machine that will be attached to your chest and detect your heart rate at all times, and will assist your heart if you will have an actual heart attack.” He said. He stopped talking to clear his voice. I could hear my mother draw in heavy breaths, tears closing up in her throat. “I will not give you a very specific time limit. But I would say that if you’re lucky, but we do not find you a new heart, you have 2 years left.”

 

When we left the hospital, my mother clutched my hand, holding on to me while she still could. She had hugged me in the doctor’s office, but held back her tears. She still did. She was trying to be strong for me, but I didn’t need her to be just at that moment, because I didn’t yet realise that this was about me, and not somebody else. It was surreal, and by far most of my brain refused to believe a thing. But there was a little part of it that understood that dead was looming right beside me.

She insisted that we went home, but I protested. I wanted to see Thomas and tell him straight out that I would not let him be hurt by me. I didn’t tell my mom this, though. I said that I had spent the whole of yesterday at home, and there wouldn’t come any good out of me going home. Finally she gave in, and she drove me back to school, making me promise that either Thomas would drive me home, or I would call her.

I walked up the steps to the school and went inside. It was in the middle of the third lesson, and the hallways were mostly empty, so I went to the office first to hand in the formula that the doctor had given me, informing the school of my condition. It felt ridiculous, giving the school this piece of information that didn’t feel real. But as the woman at the desk read through the paper, her face grew pale and she looked up and me and told me that she was so sorry and that she would make sure that the headmaster and all of my teachers would get to know. I didn’t really want them to know, that would only make it more real.

As weird as it might sound, being in school made me realise what the doctor had said. Walking around empty halls, teenagers behind all the doors, leading a normal life, I could feel my heart beat a little faster, as if taunting me.

I went to the library to wait for the lesson to end. I pretty much just sat there, staring out the window. It was a grey, dark day, the snow dull-looking and dirty. I felt as if a dead weight was hanging around my neck, pulling me further and further down.

“you have Persephone’s Syndrome”

“I would call it a seizure, really”

“…assist your heart if you will have an actual heart attack”

“you have 2 years left”

I was going to die. The only way for me to survive was to get a new heart.

I put a hand against my chest, flat spread out. I could not feel it through all the clothing, but I knew it was there, still beating.

I was not going to turn 20. I had to grab my head with my hands. I felt like it was about to explode.

In that same moment, the bell rang for next lesson. I quickly gathered up my stuff and went to class.

That day I listened intensely during history, and participated more than I had done in all the other lessons all together. I was trying very hard to occupy my mind with something else than my scumbag heart, but it didn’t work, as much as I tried.

When the lesson ended, I left the classroom, feeling weak and defeated. Thomas was already waiting outside, and when I walked through the door, he rushed to my side and draped his arm over my shoulder, pulling me close to him.

“How are you?” he whispered at me. I shrugged a little. That was all I could manage at the moment, I could not find the ability to speak. “Do you want to tell me what the doctors said? Not here, but somewhere else.”

I nodded. “After eating.” I managed to reply. He nodded and we walked together to the canteen, me with a gigantic lump in my throat. The weight of his arm around me felt so precious, and all I wanted was to sit down and cry and have him hold me, but I would not let him be more involved. I would not hurt him. Hurting him by ending things was the lesser of two evils, and therefore the one I had chosen.

We ate in complete silence at our usual table. I felt nostalgic and sick and exhausted. We finished eating too soon, and we got up and put our jackets on.

We walked around the soccer court. The snow was hard compressed from many people walking there. I had my hands buried in my pockets and kept my distance to him. When we were a good distance from the school, Thomas stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. It burnt through my jacket.

“Will you please tell me what happened, Ellie?” he said, and my heart tugged a little when he said my name.

So I told him what I had been told, as much of it as I remembered, which was everything, for some reason. The words had imprinted themselves in my mind.

When I stopped talking, he was quite for a few seconds, staring at me. Then he opened his arms and moved toward me. It took everything I could muster to take a step backward instead of three forward.

Thomas looked at me in horror. He stood still as a statue, his arms outstretched toward me, and I was standing almost 2 meters from him, turning slightly away from him.

“Ellie, what’s wrong?” he said carefully. His voice shook.

I didn’t know what to say. I looked away from him, staring across the soccer court. He was silent, and at last I had to find the words, so I did.

“I don’t want to put you through this. You did not sign up for this. We’ve only known each other for 2 weeks, Thomas.” I looked at him. He looked pale, a sharp contrast to his dark hair.

“Ellie…” he started saying, but I interrupted him.

“No! No, Thomas. I cannot put you through this. It’s too much to put Arthur and my parents through it, there’s no way I will let you get involved.”

“I’m already involved!” He almost yelled back at me, his face filled with horror, confusion and frustration. ”I got involved the moment I sat down at your table. I am not going to back out now. No, I did not sign up for this, I signed up for being with you, and that is what I want to, no matter what.” He said. I felt tears brooding in my eyes and before I could stop it, they rolled down my cold cheeks, burning hot on my skin.

“Thomas, I won’t-“

“Ellie, shut up with that bullshit.” He closed the distance between us quickly and grabbed me by my upper arms. “I have never cared so much for anyone as I care for you. This is not just a fling, it’s not a crush, Ellie, I love you. I might just be a stupid teenage boy, but I know that much and I am not going to let you down now.” His face softened and I saw tears in his eyes too. “I didn’t want to tell you yet because it seemed like a lot to put on you, but if you’re about to break up with me, I need to tell you; I love you, Eliza, and I will stay with you.”

I succumbed into straight-out wailing. My chest hurt from load sobs as he pulled me into an embrace, his strong arms holding me together as I cried.

I was so, so happy that he refused to leave me. I had not dared to hope for it, but he did.

I don’t know if it was Thomas, or me, or the both of us who were the cause of the relationship and the intensity of it. We had known each other for 2 weeks, but it felt as if we had known each other for years and had just been reconciled. It was something deep and out of the ordinary, something more than what I was able to explain.

He held onto me until the sobs faded away and I was just shaking slightly. He pressed his lips to my hair.

“Thank you, Thomas.” I whispered into his coat. He squeezed me gently.

“Listen,” he said, pulling me back a bit so he could see my face. “You’re not in any position to go into a school filled with noisy teenagers right now. I’m gonna drive you home, okay? I’ll go get our bags from my locker, you go to the car and wait for me, I’ll be quick.” He said, slowly pulling away from me. I grabbed his shoulder.

“Are you going to stay with me? My mom is at work, and I don’t want to be alone right now,” I said. He smiled weakly at me.

“There’s nothing I rather would.”

 

I almost fell asleep in the car on the way home. I didn’t realise we were home until the engine stopped humming. My eyes were red and puffy, but Thomas just put his arm around me and followed me up the driveway. I unlocked the door and we went inside, shaking off our jackets and boots and went upstairs to my room. Thomas had me sit in the armchair while he pulled the cover off the bed. Then he pretty much just picked me up and tugged me underneath the quilt. He lay down beside me, on top of the quilt. I put my head on his arm and snuggled up to him. He put an arm around me and leaned his forehead against the top of my head. I closed my eyes.

“Thomas?” I whispered his name.

“Yeah?” he whispered back.

“I’m scared.” I admitted. I turned my head upwards to look at his face. He looked back at me, his face torn apart with pain.

“It’s okay to be scared,” he said, pulling me closer to him. “I’m scared too. But they will find you a new heart. The young ones are always the first ones to get the organs when they are there. You’ll be fine.” He said. He kissed me lightly on the nose. I was silent for a little while.

“I love you too, Thomas.” I whispered then, but my voice was certain and strong nonetheless.

He looked with me with those blue, blue eyes and in them I saw everything we didn’t say. That he knew that something extraordinary and stronger than us was as play here, and that we didn’t really mind.

He looked at me, his eyes filled with affection, and then leaned down and pressed his lips gently to mine. I pushed against him, and he held me to him.

I got my hands out from under the quilt to grab him and hold him. I felt something bubble in my stomach - pure joy. I was so, so happy. He held onto me, pushing against the lower of my back with his hand. Through the quilt, I could feel him all the way down my body.

He broke away and leaned his forehead against mine. My heart was beating faster than usually, but I was rather confident that it was merely because of being with Thomas, not because my heart was a scumbag.

Thomas brushed a stray strand of hair from my face and cupped my chin gently. I opened my eyes and looked at him, and kissed him gently on the tip of his nose. He broke into a smile and squeezed me gently.

“Now get some rest, my beautiful Eos,” he whispered.

 

I slept for 2 hours. When I woke up, Thomas was sitting in my armchair with a book in his lap. He was chewing his lip gently, his eyebrows a little creased above the nose. I didn’t say anything, I was just lying there for a little while, observing him silently.

When he finally looked up, he smiled at me and put the book down. Then I noticed that it was my copy of The Fault In Our Stars he had been reading.

“I thought that was a mayor girl book?” I said to him, smiling lightly. I felt better after having slept. He sat down on the edge of the bed and bent down to kiss me.

“It is. But so far, I like it. I can be a bit of a girl myself sometimes.” He said.

“Oh,” I said, raising my eyebrows at him. “A tall, muscular soccer player like you? How could you be girly?” I sat up in the bed, and we sat hip-to-hip.

“Well,” he started. “First of all, I do like sappy romance, as you might have noticed. I prefer strawberry ice cream to chocolate-“

“How does that make you girly? Not the romance-thing, but liking strawberry ice cream?” I laughed at him.

“It’s pink, you do realise that? It is not seen as very manly.” He said, laughing back and poking my nose.

“So what? It’s just food. But I agree, it is the best kind.”

“Oh, you think? I’ll remember that,” he said, pecking a quick kiss to my lips.

“That sounds good,” I said, smiling at him.

He put a hand on my lower back and pushed me to him, pressing his lips to my forehead.

“Do you want to do something?” he asked me when he pulled away. I took a deep breath and wondered a little while.

“I actually want to talk to you about something.” I said, looking at him.

“Okay. What is it?” He asked, his face calm and composed.

“What is it like… knowing that the people you’re calling your parents are actually not related to you? I’m sorry if you don’t like talking about it-“

“No, Ellie, it’s fine. I don’t mind,” he said, thinking for a moment. “Well, to me, they are my parents. I was only with my real parents for a year, and while I was with them, they were not good parents. My mom and dad took care of me and have been my parents since I was a year old. I don’t see them as anything different from my actual parents. Why do you ask?” he said looking at me.

“I just wanted to know how you felt about it. I figured it must be of importance to you.” I said.

“I’m happy that you think about it.” I said, smiling at him. He smiled back, and then we heard the door slam downstairs.

“Hey!” I heard Arthur yell.

“We’re upstairs, Art!” Thomas yelled back.

 

Arthur poked his head in to say hi. He didn’t ask about what I was told at the hospital. He had enough sense to wait for my mother.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Thomas asked me when Arthur left. I nodded and crawled out of bed. We went downstairs together.

 

We walked through the snow, his arm draped across my shoulder, my arm wrapped around his waist. It was so cold that we could see the light clouds of our breath in the growing darkness. We didn’t say much - it wasn’t really needed. We just needed to be close to each other, needed the comfort of our bodies pressed together.

I wasn’t really sure how I was feeling at that exact moment. I was hyperaware of everything - the heartbeat in my chest, the sounds of cars passing by us, the soft thump of Thomas’ footsteps. I was tired and filled with energy at the same time. I felt my head flying to the side every time my eye caught a motion. Restless.

When we ended up back at my house, Thomas turned toward me.

“I think I should go home.” He said. I nodded. I could use a little time alone. “Can I tell my parents about what is happening with you?”

“They don’t know?”  I asked him.

“No. My dad is in another department, and my mom doesn’t get to know unless it’s about one of her patients.” He answered.

“Sure, you can tell them. I don’t think anything else would be fair.” I said. He dragged me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I pressed my face to his jacket-covered shoulder. He let go of me and got into his car, honking lightly as he drove away. I smiled a little, and then made my way back to the door. My parents seemed to be home. When I went inside, I could hear them talk in the kitchen. I heard my name mentioned, and just went upstairs as quietly as I could. I couldn’t bear to look at my dad or Arthur or my mom just then. I knew that I was inflicting so much pain, and egoistically as it might have been, I just couldn’t bear to look at them.

I sat down in my armchair and pulled my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around myself. Now that Thomas wasn’t there, I felt colder and more alone than I ever had before. I knew that I would see him tomorrow at school and that he was going to stay by my side, but I still felt … well, broken. I wondered if I would actually live through this. I thought that even if I could, there would still be a part of me that died. Whatever was left of childhood within me would die, whether I did or not. And that scared me.

I sat like that until I heard Arthur walking up the stairs, one step at a time, much slower than normally. He stopped in front of my door and knocked lightly. I didn’t answer, but he opened the door anyway. He looked at me. I didn’t see it, but I could feel his eyes on me. I fixed my eyes on the floor. I heard his footsteps across the floor until he crouched in front of me, forcing me to look at him. He was pale and looked like he had trouble getting the words out without choking on them.

“Ellie…” he whispered. I turned my head away again. He was doing it again, the older-brother thing, despite being the younger one.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve cried enough for one day.” I said, looking away from him firmly.

“I don’t want to talk to you about it. I want to ask you if you want to watch a movie or some suck-ish TV. To get your mind elsewhere.” I said. I nodded slowly. That was probably the best thing I could do just then.

So we got out quilts and pillows and sat down in the couch in the living room, curling up together and watched movies. Mom and dad joined us and we ate dinner around the TV while the fifth Harry Potter movie was running. When that one ended, we put on the sixth.

 

I don’t really know how I got through the following week. It was hazy and dark, like I was half asleep through the next four days. I had asked Thomas for a little time for myself those days after school, and hadn’t seen him except for in English and during breaks. I hadn’t registered any weird stuff with my heart or anything, but then again, I didn’t register eating or going to the bathroom. Those few days, I was surviving, not living.

I spent the days with Arthur mostly. When he wasn’t home, I did homework, slept or read, though I had to re-read pretty much every single page.

But Friday morning Thomas said that he wanted to spend Saturday together. I agreed, because I was really missing being with him in private, with all the high school eyes staring at us in the cafeteria and hallways.

The whole week Thomas had been very calm and easy-going despite the threat looming above us. He had accepted me wanting some time alone, and just been a supporting figure when I needed something to hold on to. I felt bad for shutting him down for so long, and therefore I told him to come over for brunch Saturday, and kicked my parents and Arthur out of the house. I got up at 7:30 that morning to start preparing the food and showering. He was going to take me to the movies afterwards, at a little to 12, and I decided to not only cook nice food, but also look my best, as I had been looking the part of a depressed teenager very well for the last days. I forced my curls to come back to life and was actually feeling better, looking forward to a day with him. I really had been missing the intimacy that I had adapted to so quickly before the diagnosis, and was looking forward to long hugs and holding hands in the cinema.

I went all British for the breakfast, frying bacon, boiling, frying and scrambling eggs and small sausages. I even made baked beans and had the classic white toast. I put the table nicely with napkins and the pretty plates and crystal glasses and everything.

The doorbell rang just as I finished putting up the table. I quickly took the apron off and straightened my skirt. I was wearing the same dress and lacy leggings I had been wearing the first week we knew each other. I knew he liked me in a dress, and I knew he liked that dress especially, so it was a rather easy picking. I ran to the door and flung it open, a big smile plastered all over my face.

Thomas was looking gorgeous as ever. His black hair was shiny and messy in the cutest way. He smiled at me and stepped inside.

“Hey there,” he said, his voice low. He dragged his jacket off and put it on a hanger while I closed the door. When I turned back around, he dragged me into a tight hug and pushed his lips to mine. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him to me. He squeezed my sides with his hands and slowly pulled away. “I’ve been wanting to do that for days.” He said, smiling at me.

“Me to. I’m sorry I’ve been so distant.” I apologized. He shook his head.

“Don’t be. I get it. And I’m pretty sure that what you have prepared here will make up for it completely.” He said, sniffing the air. Then he breathed out “bacoooooon…”

I laughed at him. When he had kicked off his shoes I grabbed his hand and lead him into the dining room. He pulled the chair out for me before going to his own chair. Ever the gentleman.

“So, what movie are we going to watch?” I asked him. He grinned at me, his dimple showing.

“I’m not going to tell you. I want you to be surprised.” He said. I stuck my tongue out at him.

We ate slowly, talking all the while. He told me what he had been up to the last few days, talking about how his mom dragged him out to go shopping because “now that he had a girlfriend, he better start dressing nicely” as she had put it. I laughed at that, and he seemed to find it rather amusing himself.

“I was pretty sure that was a new shirt.” I said, pointing at the button-down he was wearing. I was made from dark cowboy fabric and had a rather rough and rustic look to it. It somehow pulled out the blue colour of his eyes even more, making them astoundingly blue.

“It is,” he said, looking down at his chest. “Do you like it?”

“I do. Very much.” I said, feeling a slight blush heat up in my cheeks. He smiled at me and got up slowly and walked around the table. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up from the chair. He put his hands on my hips.

“I like you. Very much.” He said, echoing me. I smiled and laced my arms around his neck.

“I like you very much too,” I said and stood on my tiptoes to kiss him lightly. He pushed me against him and kissed me back.

“I actually have something for you,” he said, pulling his head back to look at me. I went back down on the flat of my foot. I raised my eyebrows at him.

“You’ve got something for me?” I asked him. He nodded and took a step back. He dug his hand into the pocket of his black jeans and pulled out a little square package, wrapped in white paper with a golden rope tied around it. He gave it to me. I looked up at him.

“What is this?” I asked him. He smiled tenderly down at me.

“I wanted to give you something. Something that would always remind you that I’m right here for you,” He said, gently pushing a stray curl away from my face and behind my ear. “Open it.”

I unwrapped it slowly, putting the gold rope on the table. Inside the paper, a black box appeared. When I opened it, all I registered at first was thin gold strings wrapped around each other, but when I looked closer, it turned out to resemble the stuff that hangs down from a willow. It was three strands wrapping around each other with small leaves all over.  I lifted the pillow it was wrapped around out of the box to find out that it was a bracelet. Opposite of the lock was a small heart. On it a word was engraved, and I had to lift it all the way up to my face to see what it said.

“’Beyond’?” I asked him, looking back up. He smiled at me, still with the tenderness that I had come to treasure so much. He nodded and took the bracelet from me and opened the lock.

“Yes. As in “To the end, and beyond,” he said. I stretched my arm out so that he could put it around my wrist. “Because ‘Always’ is overused, and the word ‘beyond’ sounds… well, more magical.” He said. He held my wrist gently after locking the bracelet. I looked at the bracelet in awe. It was so beautiful it made my pale skin look like it was glittering and golden. I looked back up at him.

“Thank you so much, Thomas. It’s so beautiful.” I whispered and once again I leaned in to kiss him. He folded his hand gently around my neck and wrapped his fingertips into the edge of my hair.

We moved away but he rested his forehead against mine, our eyes closed.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said.

 

On the way to the cinema, I kept touching and turning the bracelet. Its light weight around my wrist felt good, and a smile was plastered at my face.

“Please tell me what movie we’re going to watch.” I asked him for the third time. He laughed at me.

“You’re cute and all, but I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to wait.” He said, smiling at me. I was cuddled up in my winter jacket and a scarf. I pouted my mouth in dismay and heard him laugh.

The cinema in Orlay was like the ones you see in old movies, with the counter outside the building. The interior was rather modern, though. The chairs were fluffy and comfy.

Thomas bought popcorns and soda for us and we went inside. He still hadn’t let me know what movie we were watching, and by then I was getting extremely curious. We sat down inside the movie hall and he put an arm around my shoulder. I leaned in towards him.

“Please tell me what we’re watching,” I asked him. He merely smiled down at me and shook his head. “Geez, you’re boring.” I said, shaking my own head in exasperation. He laughed at me again and kissed me on my hair. People were settling in around us and after a few minutes the lights dimmed and the commercials began playing on the screen. When they ended and the lights went out completely, he leaned down to my ear and whispered the title. I didn’t recognize it, but as the movie went on I found that I quite liked it. It was this funny romantic thing, with a guy and a girl not admitting to like each other and getting in all sorts of trouble together. In the end, they ended up kissing in the rain like I had expected them to.

“Did you like it?” he asked me when we left the cinema. I nodded.

“Yeah, I did. It was really funny.” I said, smiling at him. He smiled back and squeezed the hand he was holding.

“Great. I was actually planning on taking you to some lunch now, but I don’t feel hungry whatsoever. What about you?”

“Certainly not. I ate a bunch of breakfast and then popcorn now. I’m full.” I said.

“What do you say we go shopping then?” he asked me. I lifted my eyebrow.

“Shopping, like in shopping-shopping?” He laughed at me.

“Yeah, something like that.” He said.

So we went to no less than 7 stores. Clothing stores and ended with going to a store where they sold movies. We dressed up in all sorts of clothing and laughed at each other until our stomachs started hurting. We bought a bunch of movies that we wanted to watch together, and both of us ended up with a few bags with clothing. All the while I could feel the weight of the gold bracelet around my wrist.

He brought me back to the restaurant he had brought me to a little while ago. We had the same sandwiches again.

“How are you feeling?” he asked me. His voice had changed from the chatting, playful tone he had used the last few hours to something more serious. I knew, of course, what he was asking.

“I’m okay,” I said, picking at the sandwich. “I don’t think I’ve had any problems the last few days. I haven’t noticed, anyway. I haven’t quite been myself.” I shrugged slightly.

“I have felt that,” he said, reaching across the table to grab my hands. He looked me straight in the eye. “I want you to promise me that if you will tell me if there’s anything I can do for you. Even if it’s just to take you to the movies or see some random movie at my place. I want to help you through this, Ellie. I really do.” He said. I nodded weakly.

“I know.” I said, squeezing his hands. He smiled at me and leaned back in the chair, letting go of my hands. “Do you want to go to my place on Monday after school?” I asked him. He crooked his head and looked at me.

“Sure. What for?”

“I just want to spend time with you. And also I could use some help with my math assignment.” I said, smiling at him. He started laughing and I felt a little warm inside. I was so goddamned lucky to have him.

“Good for you that your boyfriend loves math, huh?” he said, nudging my leg with his foot under the table. I nudged him back.

“Yeah. And I’m going to take full advantage of it.” I smiled at him.

“I’ll wait for you to finish gym then, and go together. I’ll pick you and Arthur up in the morning.” He said, and I felt like I was not even allowed to say anything against it, because he looked like he had already made the deal. He smiled crookedly at me and I picked my tongue at him.

When we finished eating we got up and went to Thomas’ house to watch some of the movies we had bought. We ended up watching the full series of The Pillars of the Earth before he drove me home. The whole drive back to my place we hummed (or rather, we yelled it in the same way you go “DADADAAAA-DADADADADADADADADA” to the 20th Century Fox intro) the intro. In my driveway, he stopped the car and leaned in and kissed me gently.

“I’ll see you Monday,” I said. “And don’t go home and watch all the movies by yourself now.”

“I promise I won’t,” He said, laughing at me. He kissed me at the tip of my nose. Then I got out of the car and waved at him until he disappeared around the corner.

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