July 23rd, 2016.
Kal kisses me the second I open the door, taking me aback slightly. The second I grasp reality, I kiss him back. I have to stop myself from falling behind. I’m surprised at how enthusiastic he is, despite everything.
“I missed you,” he whispers. “I thought I’d come and visit. Just hopped on the train. Thank God you gave me your real address and didn’t lead me to some drug den,” he chuckles.
He smells so good. He feels soft too - I don’t know how he’s supposed to feel, but I like it anyway. His hair is curlier than ever, and the summer sun has kissed his skin into a natural dark gold tan. I’ve missed him too – I really have.
“Where are your parents?” he asks.
“Visiting my sister.” I say, which is luckily true.
“I missed you.” He says again, this time louder. “I missed you and I couldn’t care less about anything else. I shut off the TV when they talk about you. I avoid it when people try to bring you up in conversation. You’re not just a hot topic for me, Annie. You’re way, way more. I’ve thought about this long and hard; I’m not just saying all of this for fun. And the train tickets were a fortune to get here,” he smirks.
“I’m so relieved,” I smile, burying my head into his shoulder. “I’m so happy you don’t hate me or find me weird.”
“I couldn’t. Not if I sat there and tried real hard. We’ve had too many conversations for me to throw it out of the window over some sensationalised bullshit. For lack of better wording. You’re just a girl, Anne. A cute one, at that.”
I kiss him again, before letting go and skipping through into the kitchen, pulling him along with me. On this hot August afternoon, the sun burns through the atmosphere, turning the air outside into a sun bed; turning the indoors into a greenhouse.
“So are you.” I tell him, hoping I sound sincere. I hop onto the island counter, pulling the shoulder strap of my playsuit as it falls off. I see that Kal notices, and I know what he’s thinking. My stomach fills with butterflies and the back of my neck heats up. “Let’s make a smoothie,” I tell him. “I have fruits. I have a blender. I have ice. Teach me your ways.”
He grins. “Alright then. Let’s go. But it’s pretty simple, you know. Not much to it.”
“But you add the magic touch!” I half joke, half tell the truth. “I’ll never get over it.”
He rolls his eyes. “We’ll start with the oranges.”
We lounge outside in the backyard, slurping our drinks. They’re not as good as the ones at the bar, but I won’t complain. Kal is here with me. That’s all that I really care about for the meantime.
We cloud-watch for a while in the silence of the afternoon. The camera men have stopped bugging us now, but we still get constant calls from people asking for interviews. They do offer a large amount of money, so it’s quite tempting. But I’m still not sure I want to go down that route - at least not yet.
“So you don’t feel the slightest bit weirded out by me? I ask him.
“No. Jesus, Anne. I don’t care.” He reaches out for my hand, holding it over the grass. “Don’t be so self-conscious. I never even knew… Jennifer-Rose-”
“One,” I interrupt. “I call her One. I’m Two. That’s how I see it.”
“See? You think too much about it. I can tell that you spend a lot of time and effort on it. Don’t let it define you. You’re no number Two.” He breaks into a chuckle instantly. “Well… not in that way, anyway. You’re no replacement. You’re something fresh, something new. You’re fascinating because you are. Not because you’re anybody. Just because you’re here.”
“You’re gonna make me cry,” I tell him. “Stop that.”
“I’ve been told I’m good at warming hearts.” He smiles.
“Listen, Kal,” I look him right in the eyes. “I love you. I love you because I forced myself to think of myself as Two. I’ve played this narrative in my head over and over, for years; but you don’t make me feel like Two. You make me feel like Anne, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to feel. Like Annie!”
“I’m glad I could do that.” He grips my hand tighter. I stare at his arm tattoo, gazing into the detail as we fall back into silence.
Kal lies next to me, holding my head in his hands. He slides lower down to my chest. He narrows his eyes a little, and I notice. I don’t say anything. I know what he’s thinking. I keep quiet and hold tighter onto him. I don’t want to be scared, so I get as close as possible to him, which is pretty hard – we’re practically glued together. I don’t want to be scared, so I pretend he didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.
I stroke his hair until he falls asleep.
March 18th, 1999
Bret lies next to Rose, holding her head in his hands. He slides lower down to her chest, listening out for her heartbeat. He frowns a little when he hears it. “Hmm.”
“What is it?” Rose asks, looking down at him.
“Uhh… nothing.” He lies, listening to her chest tap softly - a little too softly - too slow. He looks up at her. “I’m just thinking out loud… kinda.”
“Nothing.” He says again. He’s too scared to alarm her. She seems blissfully oblivious, and maybe it should stay that way.
He falls asleep, listening to her lulling, soft heartbeat.