T W E N T Y - T W O
There was a day, a few weeks back, when Harry had to stop and look at all that he had written. He hadn't thought it possible, you see, to be able to have written another world so incredibly flawlessly. He had heard so many times that there are other worlds, other realities, that one creates. Ones that within them live better versions of us, versions that we could only hope to be. But no world, he thought then, flipping through pages and reading word after scribbled word, could have been better than the one he had been living in at that very moment.
She wraps her arms around him, her look reflecting how immensely proud she was of him, "How long til you're done?"
"I'd say a few more chapters, love."
"So I get to read it soon?" She says, smiling expectantly.
"Mia, why are you being so impatient? I told you that you'd be the first to read it."
"I know, but when I read I usually read the last page before anything else."
"I know it's silly. But I've always done it."
"Doesn't that ruin the book?"
"I don't know...I don't think so...I mean, no matter what you do you can't change the outcome of it, right?"
Harry looked at her pensively, she was right, but it felt like such a pessimistic thing coming from Mia. "Wait, so are you saying that everything is inevitable?"
"Harry, they're created worlds. They were created with the purpose of having a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you close the book, it's over, you know?"
"But then you can read it all over again."
"Still won't change the ending."
Harry pouts, "I don't like this Mia. She's far too realistic."
Mia giggles, "I'm sorry. Would you rather I don't read the ending of your book first?"
"Why is that?"
"I don't know how our story will end."
Mia remains quiet for a second, "Then will I ever get to read the end of it?"
Harry shakes his head, "I guess not."
They say that the life of a writer is filled with many perils. While it is an exciting concept to be crafting worlds of your own, once can never forget that those worlds only exist on paper.
As Harry stared at the tiled ceiling, his head still slightly spinning, he kept thinking up endings. He keeps thinking of alternate universes where things were so much different, were things were as they should.
'Mia, Mia escapes. She runs into my arms, she smells like smoke and like fire and like everything wild. She smiles up at me, that million dollar smile as she whispers my name again, almost in disbelief of the fact that we had made it. That she had made it. We'll be rushed to the hospital, we'll be treated and held for observation. Barbra will be okay. She'll be a bit more fragile then before, unable to run the bakery, unable to put up with the task of remodeling it, so she'll give me the deed to it. Although it is ruined and it is charred beyond belief, Mia will smile at me and say
'We can do this.'
She and Niall and I will all chip in. We'll spend months rebuilding that bloody bakery, countless hours making it once more into a home. Niall will find a nice girl, one that likes to help in the kitchen. She'll ask him how his day has been, and make him hearty dinners. He'll no longer go out to drink. He'll be happy.
Mia and I will reopen the bakery, we'll open it's doors and invite everyone from town to partake in Mia's freshly picked strawberries upon the cake that Barbra had taught me how to make.
And we'll be okay.
'Tell me how our story ends.' Mia will say one night, curled up against my bare chest. I won't have the heart to tell her that I don't plan on ending my book about us.
I'll only tell her, 'It doesn't."
And she'll pout and she'll feign anger, but I'll wrap her small body into my embrace and her ocean eyes will look up at me questioningly before going to sleep, 'All stories have to end, don't they?'
'Not ours, love.' I'll say soothingly, 'Not ours.'
But it does. It fucking ends before she could flip open the book and read the ending. And Harry didn't know how to cope with the fact. He only kept thinking of all the alternate endings this story of his could have had. Anything better than what had happened.
Anything would have been better.
"What...do.... you mean she's still inside?" Harry says shakily.
Barbra coughs loudly, "Harry, she came....she came while you were gone. She tried to save you."
"Save me? But...But..."
"Harry she's still inside!" Barbra says, obviously using every ounce of strength to get Harry into motion.
But Harry can't move. He feels his heart stop, his body go cold, and before the rush of adrenaline he needs to push him back into the burning inferno to save Mia reaches him, he passes out into the depths of the darkness.
Four months ago, in the early breath of summer, Harry was sitting in a cafe reading You Get So Alone at Times It Just Makes Sense. He remembered this vividly as if it were one of the most important days of his life. He had found such a comfort within that book, such solace in the fact that in Bukowski's world he belonged. He knew that at least within those pages he belonged.
But then he remembered the fact that he had been questioning his life then, that he had been questioning the sincerity of his smile, of his emotions, of his very life.
And it was then when it started, he realized. It was then that he had realized that nothing had really been looking up for him. He was so numbed by it all that he hadn't even been sure if his smile was sincere.
He expressed this to Mia one day, her own nose in a harlequin romance novel. She simply looked up at him smiled, "What a dork."
"Are you saying that when you smile now, it's sincere?"
Harry nods, "Well, I sure don't question it anymore."
"I did that?"
"Yes." He says, leaning over and planting a kiss upon her forehead.
"This is totally and completely mad."
"What is, love?"
"Us. This. Everything." She puts her book down and slips into his lap. She wraps her arms around his neck and wave after wave rolls over him as her eyes lock onto his.
She shakes her head, "No it's not. Not at all." She looks at him pensively, "Isn't it scary? It feels like it's right. I think there's a Bukowski quote for what I'm feeling right now."
"You've read Bukowski?"
"You don't have to be a pretentious douche to know Bukowski." She says with a playful smirk.
He pokes her rib cage and she laughs wildly, "Hey now, I still haven't forgiven you for calling me that."
"Are we already remembering the beginning?" She says after taking a breath.
"No. No. Let's not do that." Harry says seriously.
He holds Mia close to him, suddenly remembering something Gemma had told him long ago when she had broken up with her first boyfriend, "When you start to remember the beginning, it means the end is near."
"That's bloody ridiculous." Mia says rolling her eyes. "Wait. I have a question for you."
"What do you think about the story of your life so far?"
Harry stays quiet for a moment before answering, "It hasn't quite ended yet."
"I said so far."
He shrugs, "I certainly have hired better writers."
"Ah, yes. You're no longer looking anything like Luzhin."
"Am I close to being a Mr. Darcy?"
"Don't push your luck."
They both laugh loudly, lingering within memories of their first conversation. He had never imagined then that she would be his. He thought her much too perfect for him. But now, now he realizes that she was not perfect. She was everything but. She left rings upon his wooden table, she took too long to get dressed, she left lipstick on his shirts and everywhere she went she had to have a book with her. She was a bit neurotic, a bit insecure, a bit too flighty, and much too indecisive. But it was those very things that mad him fall in love with her. She was not a dream, she was not a girl he had imagined. She was very much real.
She was very much everything he had ever wanted.
Harry counted those tiles above him, once, twice, three times. For each tile he gave a memory of his strawberry girl. He could not yet write. He was not allowed to move. He was under close watch after having been given the news.
Niall stared at him from across the room, sad eyes watching as Harry tried so hard to escape the reality in which he was in. He didn't want to live in a world without Mia. He wanted her to be beside him, to chide him for being so careless, to tell him this whole thing was not his fault.
"Grease fire." Niall had said earlier that afternoon, "It wasn't your fault. The oven was old, and you cleaning it made it spread the grease even more."
But no matter what Niall had said, Harry only looked at him with a passive indifference. His mother had come in earlier with Gemma, Niall not wanting to have been the one to have told him. He himself was far too distraught, not in the right mind.
"Baby." His mother said, running a hand through his hair.
He woke up then, he was asleep before his mother came. They had put him to sleep to be able to calm him. He didn't recall anything that had happened then, but what he had remembered was that Mia was still inside the bakery.
"Where is she!?" He yells, snapping up from the bed. Gemma had to restrain him, her eyes so teary and so incredibly red, that Harry knew he didn't have to ask.
"All stories have to end, don't they?" Harry asks, his voice catching, his eyes flooding. "They all fucking end."