Mo is waiting, just like she always is, by that same alley outside the school gates. this week the tips of her hair are red; i let some of them slip through my fingers as i bend to kiss her. she half-smiles, my lips moving with hers as she laughs. that kind of laugh is my favourite, that quiet, shy kind of laugh that tells me i've caught her off guard but she doesn't mind.
hey, she whispers, my lips catching each word as she shapes it with hers.
hey? i say back, pulling back as her hands find mine.
hey, she laughs again. someone's happy.
you could say that, i reply, my gaze dropping to the floor. we begin to walk, our feet hitting the pavement in a perfect rhythm.
so, she tilts her head to glance at me. how was your monday? did anyone get married? any adorable kitten adoptions i should know of?
this time it's my turn to laugh. unfortunately, no. i answer. it was pretty uneventful.
so you're just happy to see me, she says, scuffing her ancient doc martens on the cracks in the ground as we walk. she must get told off every day for those at school, but i think they're part of her. i remember how lucky i am then, yet again, to have some parts of such a wonderful person. it's like she shows me reflections of herself, glimpses, and i cut them up and keep them like glittering shards of crystal. i would hold those shards so closely to me if it meant i could have her forever. i would hold them even if it meant cutting myself on the pieces.
i am always happy to see you. i say firmly, hoping she understands just how truthful i am.
then what? Mo smiles.
my gaze drops to the ground; i hide an expression not unlike hers. i told miss mirlott about all we have is now.
you see, Mo and i don't know know what we believe in. we don't know if there's a something or a someone or a somehow that is the answer to everything, or if there is even a question in the first place. and while we embrace the not knowing, it doesn't mean we can't do a little bit of exploring - Mo taught me that. we haven't got much to go on, and our answers and our questions change as quickly as we do, but over time we've become settled on one idea: the idea that all we have is now. it's something we share and something that helps us to help each other, and something that helps us keep going. it keeps us grounded to do what's right, but lets us drift just far enough to touch the clouds with our fingertips and to know when we can take risks.
you told your guidance counsellor? Mo asks with a grin.
yeah. yeah, i did. i say slowly. i don't know why, and i don't know how, but... this all feels like such bullshit, you know? revising and revising and revising until the word loses all meaning and meaning loses all meaning and all that is inside your head is the facts and the figures that will do nothing but help you pass an exam. i don't want to be defined, you know? and i told her that, miss mirlott. i told her. well, kind of.
you're right, Mo says after a while. a long while. i just - i'm torn between doing what i need to do and doing what i want to do; there's never any time to do both. i want to do well and i try so goddamn hard - but when i step back and look at it all i just can't see the point. all we have is now, but right now is too important to throw away, even though my now is not what i want it to be. i want it to be more. does that make sense?
i nod. yes, i say, yes, that makes sense. it is all getting too much. but it still means too much to throw away. i can't not work for my future even though i think my present is more important. time is fragile. we just don't know.
Mo leans her head on my shoulder as we walk, her hair tickling my cheek. our fingers tangle together in the silence.
do you want to talk about it? i say quietly. in the distance i see the burnt out concrete of her apartment block. i slow my footsteps, wishing reality didn't catch up with us so quickly.
she shakes her head. you know what? you talk. talk to me. about anything. everything. just not about school.
and there it is. the one thing i cannot begin to fathom. i cannot talk about anything, or everything, or whatever is in between. Mo is my everything. she is in everything i think about and everything i am, but i still cannot find the words to tell her that. and somehow in whatever i say i always find my way back to her; she is the one beautiful thing from which i cannot escape. not that i would ever want to escape from her.
so i tell her about the one thing that is as significant to me as she is: space.
i have been fascinated with space for a long time. the enormity of it, the sheer scale of everything around us, something so big that it starts to feel small. when you look up at that one patch of sky above your house, you don't see the truth of it: you don't see the millions and millions of stars and galaxies and planets. and because you don't see it, you think that what you see is all there is. but i don't see it that way. i see it in a way that is so big that it makes me feel small. i am small and quiet and so very insignificant compared to the sky stretching out above me, and that's the way i like it. i like to observe, and i like to imagine, and i like to explore.
and so i walk hand in hand with Mo and i tell her stories of black holes and hidden galaxies and supernovas. stars are brightest when they explode, i tell her. don't you think that's a metaphor? about how something is always more beautiful before it fades. you notice the star, and then you look away; you close your eyes and go to sleep and it is gone. and maybe the next night you'll see another star, and it won't be the same, but you'll just keep on pretending that it is because you only love a beautiful thing because it is beautiful, and its loss means nothing in the end.
yeah, Mo says softly, with her head bent, hazel eyes dark and fixed and full of thought. i think maybe it's like that with love, she says. you find someone, and then they leave you, and you find another person just to replace the hole inside you. and even though you know that hole can never really mend, you keep finding other people to try and fit inside it, because you think that maybe if you pull them close enough to you then your loss will be forgotten. but it never is. your stars explode and you love them just enough to see them leave, and you love them even more when they are gone. it never ends.
it never ends. i look up to see the familiar row of concrete and glass that make up Mo's apartment. i crane my neck to catch sight of the window with strings of lights and garlands spilling over the ledge; the window that belongs to Mo. this is the end. for now. until tomorrow.
my head is bent to hers, my fingers splayed against the back of her neck as we kiss. she is gentle, her lips exploring mine briefly and softly; it is harder for her to give in. i give in every time i lay eyes on her.
her fingers brush my cheek; my hands slide down to her waist. i press myself closer her to her and she doesn't resist. i gather her up in my arms and she lets me; i know how she wants to be held but our minds are no longer in control. our lips fill the spaces where words once were and i need this, she needs it, every inch of me is screaming for every inch of her and i am wondering how on earth the world around us is still silent because the voices in my head are so loud. i always thought the demons in my head would stay forever but somehow with Mo i manage to forget.
charlie, she speaks my name breathlessly, like it has been pushed from somewhere inside of her. she gazes at me, wide-eyed, her hands resting on my shoulders, her cheeks dusted crimson. i didn't want you to leave before, she mutters. but now tomorrow seems even more further away.
i tear my eyes away from hers for just a second to glance over my shoulder at the deserted street. tomorrow is much too far away, i say quietly.
we stand, arms still tangled, lips still craving more. until:
we could just walk, she says.
anywhere. she says. aimlessly. for a while.
i meet her gaze again. because all we have is now. i continue. right?
right, she answers. all we have is now.
she drops my hand, as if in a moment of hesitation. and then she is running, and i am following her, and the sky is darkening and pages of schoolwork lie untouched at home but where she goes i can only follow, and for me that is as good an excuse as any. Mo makes my now so much more wonderful, and i hope i do the same with her. she is the best escape: she is a living, breathing hideout from the things i don't want to face. we are each a temporary paradise, until real life sets in and time speeds up again and we are hit with the crushing realisation that we can't use a good thing to get away from the bad things, no matter how good the good thing is or how bad the bad things are. but we can make ourselves believe, if only for a little while, that the bad things aren't really as bad as we think they are if we can only convince ourselves that the good things are better than we imagine.