red rose whispers
"Did I say thank you, for before?" I ask, stretching out on the mattress Levi set down for me. "Because thank you. I don't know what happened back there."
Levi laughs faintly, "Yes. A million times."
I shake my head at myself - for the buzzing inside my brain that I couldn't seem to stop, every thought highlighted so I was focussing on everything at once. Madness. "Thank you, thank you, thank you." I look up at the white ceiling, and the scattered bookshelf with only a few novels, but well-read, frequently handled ones. His room is plain, but somehow is filled with personality: light creamy woods and few possessions: a few photographs in wood frames: one of me in a lilac dress, and him in a grey jumper by the river. We're laughing like angels.
"I remember that day," I say breathlessly, like I can feel the wind tugging at my voice. "It was really cold."
"And you wore a dress, even so," Levi chuckles, "And we had an argument afterwards because you weren't ready."
I climb onto Levi's bed, and slide in beside him beneath the warm covers. I'm a bit worried in case these sheets haven't been washed in a while, but I swallow down the feeling. Since Levi moved into this flat by myself, aged eighteen, his mum has been gossiping to my mum about his cleanliness. She worries a lot. But she doesn't need to.
"Why did you become a policeman?"
Levi picks at the button of his shirt. "I don't know. It seemed like a good idea, at the time."
"Okay," I say, moving my eyes vaguely around his room. "Do you think I'm changing?"
"We all change."
"But do you think I am changing?"
Levi fiddles with his shirt button a little bit more. "I don't know, Ivory. Sometimes I think you're exactly the same. Sometimes-"
"You have no idea who I am," I sigh, letting my breathe shrivel to silence. "I know. Its when I'm alone, you know. I just change."
"Are you lonely, then?"
"No- I'm angry. And if I try to stop being angry then I'm empty. And I'm thinking."
Levi is about to say something, but I interrupt. "Its the circle. Everything happens again and again. Poppies. Sugar. Stars. Coffee. Isabela."
"What are you talking about?"
"Circles. Poppies. Smiles. Hearts. Stars."
Levi is completely still, looking at me with something that I can't comprehend - something that, if I didn't know better better, I would call fear. "Is this about Isabela?"
"No. But it feels like it is."
"Okay, stop right there. Sugar: where does that come from?"
"Sweetening my coffee."
"We all sweeten our coffee."
I shiver. "But its like a metaphor, Levi. We all sweeten our coffee."
He puts his head in his hands, and I pull my knees to my chest. "I can't help thinking about Isabela, and everything floods back and I need to know what it means. I can't think straight. I can't breathe." I cry out, anger spilling into the atmosphere like a kind of drug, like a poison. "Isabela shouldn't have died. Its driving me mad! Someone has to be to blame, can't you see?"
"We just talked about that: no-one is to blame. You just want closure, that's normal."
Levi grabs my hands, and forces me to sit down again. "Stop. This is crazy. Isabela died. Stop thinking."
My mind goes blank. "I'm trying."
"Think about something, before it all happened. Focus on that," Levi still has a painfully tight grip round my fingers. "That's what people do, sometimes. At the station, your uncle, Vince, that's what he tells people. And it works."
My blank mind wakes. A memory: find one.