Evie is 14, Leo is 15
I'm sitting on the roof outside my bedroom window, staring up at the dark night sky, watching my breath plume in the cold November air. I pull the ratty pink blanket more tightly around myself and rest my head on my knees, tucked tightly to my chest. Suddenly, a small stone lands on the roof next to me and then slides back down the slight incline to the ground. I grin as I hear him begin the climb up the ramshackle trellis on the side of the house. One more pound, and that dilapidated thing won't hold him. That doesn't matter anymore though. He won't be here to climb it. My heart squeezes painfully at the thought but I school my expression as he makes it over the ledge and crawls towards me, all gangly limbs and shaggy dark blond hair. He smiles big as he sits up next to me, showing me that small gap that I love so much between his front teeth. I sway towards him and we sit forehead to forehead for several minutes, staring into each other's eyes before he sighs and sits up straight.
"I don't think I'm going to survive without you, Evie," he says, sounding like he's holding back tears.
I bump my shoulder on his, "That's a little dramatic, don't you think, Leo?" I say, trying to tease a smile out of him. It works.
But then the smile disappears and he scrubs a hand down his face. He pauses for a minute and then, "No. It's a fact."
I don't know what to say. How can I comfort him when I feel the exact same way?
He looks over at me again and we look into each other's eyes once more.
"Why are you looking at me?" I ask, using a line I know he'll understand. It was the first thing I ever said to him.
His expression doesn't change for a minute and then a slow smile spreads over his face. "Because I like your face," he says, grinning bigger now, showing me that gap again, and delivering his own line perfectly. He's skinny and scrappy and shaggy haired, and he's the most beautiful boy I've ever seen. I don't ever want to stop looking at him. I don't ever want to stop being near him. But he's moving across the country, and there's nothing we can do. We met in the first foster care home each of us were sent to and he's my best friend in the world, the boy I've grown to love intensely, the boy who makes me want to stay awake because reality is finally better than my dreams. But he's been adopted and I'm so happy for him to finally have a family because it's so rare for that to happen to teens. But at the same time, my heart feels like it's bleeding inside my chest.
He's looking at me intensely now like he can read my mind. Which of course, he can. Maybe I'm an open book, or maybe love is like a magnifying glass straight into the souls of those who own your heart.
He keeps looking at me silently for several seconds and then I can tell by his expression that he's made a decision. Before I can wonder what that is, he leans towards me and brushes his lips softly across mine. Tiny sparks seem to ignite in the air around us and I shiver slightly. He scoots closer to me, and holds my face in his hands. He looks straight into my eyes, his lips still inches from my own and whispers, "I'm going to kiss you now, Evie, and when I do, it's going to mean that you're mine. I don't care how far away from each other we are. You. Are. Mine. I'll wait for you. And I want you to wait for me. Promise me you won't let anyone else touch you. Promise me you'll save yourself for me."
The whole world has stopped and it's just us, sitting here on a roof in the middle of a November night. "Yes," I whisper back, the word reverberating through my mind, yes, yes, yes, a million times, yes.
He pauses, still staring into my eyes and I want to scream at him, "Kiss me already!" My body is heady with anticipation.
And then his lips are on mine again, and THIS is a kiss. It starts out gentle, his soft lips nibbling at mine tenderly but something inside him shifts and suddenly he is running his tongue along the seam of my lips, asking for entrance and I open to him, letting out an involuntary moan, and hearing me, he moans back. His tongue flirts with mine, caressing, gently dueling and I feel like my body is going to implode with pleasure at the taste of him. We fumble along for a few minutes, and even our inexperience is delicious in its exploration. We are learning and memorizing each other's mouths. But before long, we are like two dance partners, moving in perfect synchronicity, living out a passionate choreography of lips and tongues.
I lay back on the roof, holding him to me as we continue kissing. We kiss for hours, days, weeks, a lifetime perhaps. Our kiss is blissful oblivion. It's too much and not nearly enough.
It's my first kiss, and I know it's his, too. And it is perfection.
Suddenly, I feel something wet and cold hitting my cheeks and it brings me back to the here and now. I open my eyes and he does too, as we both realize that big, fluffy snowflakes are falling down around us. We both laugh with wonder. It is as if the angels arranged this show just for us, making the most memorable moment of our lives that much more magical.
He rolls off of me and I'm immediately freezing. I know I need to get inside and he needs to go back home. The realization washes over me and a lump forms in my throat. Tears begin rolling down my cheeks.
He pulls me up to him and we cling to each other for long moments, gathering the strength to say goodbye.
He pulls back and the look of torment on his face is heartbreaking. "This is not goodbye, Evie. Remember our promise. Don't ever forget our promise. I will come back for you. I'll write to you with my new address as soon as I get to San Diego and we'll stay in touch that way. I want to be able to carry your letters with me and re-read them again and again. I'll send you my phone number too just in case, but I want you to write to me, okay? Then before we know it, you'll be 18 and I'll be able to come back for you. We'll make a life together."
"Okay," I whisper, "Write to me as soon as you get there, okay?"
"I will." He pulls me against him one last time and kisses the tears off of my cheeks. Then he turns and makes his way to the trellis. As he begins the descent, he looks back at me and says quietly, "It will only ever be you, Evie."
It's the last thing he ever says to me. I never see Leo again.
8 Years Later
Someone is following me. He's been doing it for a week and a half now. He's crap at it. I marked him almost immediately and I've been watching him as he's been watching me. Clearly, he's no professional. But I can't think of one single reason why someone is following me around town. Especially someone who looks like this guy. I've heard that one of the reasons many serial killers are successful at luring victims is because they look like nice, good looking, average guys. But I still can't believe that the Adonis who is trailing me is someone to worry too much about, safety wise. Maybe I'm being naive, but it's just a gut feeling. Plus, he's more the type that you ask (maybe even beg) to pull you into a dark alleyway, than the one you mace for doing so. I've stared at him with a strategically placed compact, through a slat in my blinds, and reflected in store windows so easily, I'm almost embarrassed at his laughable stalking skills. Clearly, he wouldn't be an asset to any ninja organization anywhere, ever.
But the question remains, what does he want? I have to believe it's some kind of case of mistaken identity. Perhaps he's a really inept P.I. who has latched onto the wrong girl for one of his clients.
He's not trailing me today though, which is good because I'm going to a funeral and I'd prefer not to deal with the distraction. Willow is being buried today, beautiful Willow, named after the tree with the long branches, made to sway and bend in the wind. Only Willow hadn't bent when the cold wind blew. She broke, she shattered, she said she'd had enough and stuck a needle in her arm.
We grew up together in foster care and neither one of our lives had started out very pretty. I met her in the first house I was sent to, after a neighbor called the police because of a loud party my birth mom was having. When the police showed up, I was sitting on the couch in my pink Care Bears pajamas, a guy who smelled like tooth decay and beer had his hand up my nightgown, too wasted to move away from me quickly enough, and there were several baggies of meth on the coffee table. My birth mom sat on the couch across from me, watching disinterestedly. I don't know if she just didn't care, or was too wasted to care. I guess in the end, it doesn't really matter.
I sat unmoving as the police hauled the guy off of me. I had learned by that point that fighting was pointless. Disappearing was my best option, and if I couldn't do it in a closet or under a bed, I would disappear into my own head. I was ten.
I thought of that first foster home like a junk drawer. You know, the one you keep in your kitchen for all the little odds and ends that you don't know what else to do with, that have no home? We were all the random pieces tossed there, no relationship to anything else, save for the fact that we were all miscellaneous.
A couple days after I arrived, Willow showed up. A pretty little blond pixie with haunted eyes. She didn't talk much but that first night, she climbed into my bed, settled herself between me and the wall and curled up into a little ball. She whimpered in her sleep and begged someone to stop hurting her. I didn't have to wonder too hard about what had happened to her.
I watched out for her as much as I could after that, even though she was only a year younger than I was. Neither one of us was exactly a force to be reckoned with, two broken little girls who had already learned that trusting people was a risky business, but Willow seemed even more fragile than me, like the smallest hurt would cause her to crumble. So I took the blame and the punishment for things that were her fault. I let her sleep with me every night, telling her stories to try and soothe the demons away. I didn't have a lot of gifts in this world but I was good at telling stories and I wove tales together for her in an effort to make sense of her nightmares. Truth be told, they were as much for me as they were for her. I was trying to understand, too.
Through the years, I did what I could to love that girl. Lord knows I did. But as much as I wanted to and as hard as I tried, I couldn't save Willow. I didn't think anyone could have because the sad fact was, Willow didn't want to be saved. Early on, Willow had been taught that she was unlovable and she wove that lie into her soul until it was what she lived and breathed. It was the basis for every choice she made, and every heart she broke, including mine.
A month later, an 11 year old boy showed up in our house. A tall, skinny, angry kid named Leo who grunted yes and no answers to our foster parents and would barely look anyone in the eye. When he got there, he had one arm in a cast, and fading, yellowish bruises on his face and what looked like finger marks on his neck. It seemed like he was angry at the world and common sense told me that he had good reason for that sentiment.
Leo… Leo. But I know I can't think of him. I don't let my mind go there because it's too painful. Of all the things I've lived through, he is the one thing I can't bear to dwell on for very long. He has a place in my past, and that's where I leave him.
I snap out of my reverie as the minister signals me to the front for the eulogy. Unfortunately, Willow had never made friends with people who roll out of their own pit as early as 9 a.m. on a Sunday, so my audience is small and at least half of them look like they're hungover, if not still drunk. I stand behind the podium and face the group and that's when I see him, leaning against a tree several feet back from the rest of the gathering. I'm startled by the sight of him here. I was sure I wasn't being followed. But how and why would he be here if he hadn't trailed me? I know for a fact I had never seen him with Willow. I would have remembered this guy. I stare at my mystery stalker for a moment, and he keeps eye contact, an unreadable expression on his face. It's the first time our eyes have met. I shake my head slightly to bring myself back to the moment and begin speaking.
"Once upon a time a very special, beautiful little girl was sent to a faraway land by the angels to live an enchanted life, full of love and happiness. They called her The Glass Princess because her laugh reminded them of the tinkling, glass bells that were hung on heaven's gate and would chime each time a new soul was welcomed. But her name was also appropriate for her because she was very sensitive and loved very deeply and hers was a heart that could be easily broken.
"During the arrangement of her trip to this faraway land, one of the newer angels made a mistake and a mix up occurred, sending The Glass Princess to a place that she wasn't supposed to be, a dark, ugly area, ruled mostly by gargoyles and other evil creatures. Unfortunately, when a soul is placed in human skin, it is a permanent situation which cannot be changed, and although the angels cried in despair for the fate The Glass Princess would have to bear, there was nothing they could do, other than to watch over her and try their best to lead her in the right direction, away from the land of gargoyles and evil creatures.
"Unfortunately, very soon after The Glass Princess arrived in this land, the cruelty of the beasts around her created the first large crack in her very breakable heart. And although many other less evil creatures tried to love the princess, for she was very beautiful and very easy to love, the princesse's heart continued to crack until it crumbled completely, leaving the princess heartbroken forever.
"The princess closed her eyes for the last time, thinking of all the evil monsters who had been cruel to her and caused her heart to shatter. But, evil creatures, no matter how demented they are, never get the last word. The angels, always nearby, swooped down and carried The Glass Princess back up to heaven where they put her broken heart back together, never to be hurt again. The princess opened her eyes and smiled her beautiful smile and laughed her beautiful laugh. And it still sounded like the tinkling glass bells just as it always had. The Glass Princess was home at last."