Marwa Kazi Mohammed
She’s pacing around the room, but her footsteps are cautious to not make noise like she always does when she’s worried. Even in the dead of night, the light of the moon is bright enough for me to see the curl of her lips from the windowsill, which is apart as she takes short breaths to get a grip on her anxiety.
It takes her a moment to see me here, and when she finally does, I can feel her take the breath she was holding inside as she says exasperatedly, “What took you so long?”
“You know what,” I hate myself for saying this. I can see the shadow of guilt covering her beautiful bright eyes.
“I’m sorry Lily, that’s not what I meant,” I try for the sake of trying, knowing full well it won’t make a difference.
She sits down beside me. The moonlight forms her shadow beside mine on the wall in front of us while she stares at it in silence.
“I’m sorry. Can I start over? Please?”
“How do you make your voice so soft when you say sorry?” she turns to sit facing me, her gaze fixed on me while the breeze dances in her soft locks.
“How was your day?”
She looks away, “You know, the usual. A breakfast I didn’t want, my parents forcing conversation, a long day at the hospital, some more forced conversation, and then waiting for the night to fall for the rest of the evening.”
“But you got the meds, right? That’s not usual”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I know, just let me have this.”
She looks outside, as if away from what is here. I try to follow her gaze but it leads to nowhere. The silence between us trembles to the sound of our breathing.
“Nurse Juliet went blonde. Hah,” Lily’s familiar smirk returns as her eyes sparkle with a hint of pride.
She chuckles, “Told you I can get her to do it.”
“Damn damn damn, she couldn’t do it tomorrow? At least I wouldn’t have to lose a bet “
Her eyes narrow, “Don’t try to be funny.”
“Don’t be cocky then, this is the only bet I’ve lost from like, a hundred.”
“You kept a count?”
“Duh, it’s like you don’t even know me”
“You’re unbelievably competitive”
She smiles and shrugs, “Just part of the charm”
“Can I see?”
“No! Why so you could rub your 26 wins in my face?”
“Come on, I’ll never ask again.”
Lily’s brows furrow, “You don’t have to drag the same thing for everything. It’s not funny.”
I know it’s not funny, I know she doesn’t like it. But I want her to be comfortable with it, the truth that she has to live with.
She returns with her leather-bound diary, bookmarked at a page listing all 27 of our bets.
27 isn’t a big number of bets to have, but it’s a big number if you consider it all took place in the span of 3 months.
It’s almost as if the bets are an inventory of our relationship, like the bet about who will fall asleep first when we spent our first night together. She did, I won that bet. And the time when we were slow dancing, staring into each other’s eyes, and I stopped blinking. She smirked and said, “you’re on.” She would have won that bet if I didn’t tickle her. I had to. Everything’s fair in love and war.
“Which one’s your favorite? Mine’s obviously the last one,” she asks as she leans against the window frame.
“The first one.”
Her face softens, her smirk cushions into a shy grin, “Of course it is.”
The first bet we had was one I made. I told her that she was going to fall in love with me in a week. She said I was arrogant and overconfident, I called myself a hopeless romantic.
“Rich of you to call me cocky when you’re the one who’s been cocky since day 1,” Lily’s snide commentary breaks my chain of thought.
“Hmm. I guess it’s part of my charm,” her hand reaches out to put a harmless smack on my head at my little callback. I grab her hand and hold it in between my paIms.I’m irretrievably in love with her.
Her gaze holds mine, matching the longing I know is blatantly visible in my eyes. I can feel my insides warming up because she just put my heart on fire. My eyes lower down to her lips as I feel my part.
She takes her hand away from mine as she looks away, “Tell me something.”
“Why were you so sure? How did you know?”
“About the bet?”
I try to choose my words carefully, spin them around so that I can tell the truth without hurting her. How do I tell her that I’ve spent every conscious moment knowing that I was supposed to be hers, and she mine? What other way is there to say that for the entirety of my existence, my only purpose was to love her? How do I tell her that now that I have to stop, my existence is ceasing to exist? That there is no point, no meaning to my life without loving her?
What I desperately didn’t want starts to form a lump in my throat. I don’t want this, I don’t, I don’t. But the lump reaches all the way to my eyes and streams down uncontrollably.
The next couple of minutes are a haze. When I finally gain consciousness, I find myself sitting on the floor in Lily’s arm, my head resting on her shoulders, sobbing into her neck, her arms holding me tighter than usual. I don’t know how long has passed but hair is damp from Lily’s tears, so I’m guessing a lot.
I am supposed to be her rock, I’m supposed to be the one holding her tight. I need to get my composure back. I try to lift my head up, but feel her hands resisting. And then in the softest voice, I’ve ever heard from her, she whispers into my ears, “I got you. Let me, just this once.”
I don’t know what came into me, but this opened up everything I promised I would keep to myself. My sobs grew stronger, with it the strength of her arms. As if holding me tighter would somehow keep me here with her.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Lily,” I don’t know what I’m saying, ” All I ever knew is that I was made for you. Every story you have to tell, I want to be there to listen. But the truth is that-” my sobs cut off my words, it’s getting harder to speak, “It doesn’t matter what I feel. Because our love is a ghost and I need to go so that you can be safe, and happy and healthy and that’s the truth. The rest of it is not even real. I’m not real. Our love isn’t real-“
“No please no, stop, please.”
I can feel her arms going really tight around me, and then giving up, in acceptance of the truth.
And it is breaking my heart.
“When you danced for me in the empty aisles of the store while I picked up groceries when you held my hand in the pouring rain when you sang me to sleep the night I couldn’t calm down, that was real for me. Everything I felt in those moments was real for me. Sometimes what I feel for you is the only real thing I feel,” she says in a tired whisper, “This might not be real, but you’re my favorite reality.”
I finally manage to lift my head up, ” I like how you’re still doubting whether this is real or not as if you haven’t been getting help for the past month”
She laughs a little, followed by a heavy sigh.
Her eyes refuse to meet mine. I move my fingers down her neck, my thumb lifting her chin up, ” This isn’t your fault. None of this is.”
The waterfall from her eyes shimmer in the silver of the moon, ” I’m so sorry,” her trembling lips utter, ” I will never stop loving you.”
Her tears dampen my cheeks as my lips crash onto hers; tender yet desperate.
“Can we sleep on the floor by the window, like our first night together?” she makes the final request she’s ever going to make to me.
We lay down together, her head on my chest, my fingers tangled in her hair. It’s a beautiful, starry night to have as the last one.
Ms. Lily Robinson, 26, woke up the next morning unable to remember why she slept on the floor. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia a month ago. She finally agreed to take medication, starting from last night.