She wonders sometimes. Wonders what the real world was like. The world filled with people and real life. She wonders how much it has changed since she’d been there. She wonders how long she has been here, in this endless, people-absent place. Lost in a dream she feels she will never wake from.
She stares into the endless star-filled sky, laying flat on her back as she looses herself in attempting to count the many stars. How could there be so many lights in the sky? Were there that many in the real world, or just here? She curls in the soft grass of her wonderland, alone, with only her memories and passing thoughts for company.
She is never hungry, never wanting for anything that wasn’t company, never tired. Yet, incomplete. Left unable to fill the void in her chest. That hollow space missing something important, though she doesn’t know what.
Then, she meets him.
He stumbles into her world. Literally. Tripping over his own feet and nearly falling on his face as he stumbles to a stop. Their eyes meet, and it takes a long time for either of them to look away. She breaks first, ducks her head to free herself from such intense bright green eyes and bites her lip, her heart pounding in her chest. They stare for what feels like hours, and her heart pounds at the realization that he is still here.
Usually when she catches a glance of a person, she gets no more than a few seconds to see them before they disappear. He never gets to actually see them, never has the chance to speak, but he’s still here! He isn’t disappearing! Was he like her? How long had he been here, or had he just arrived? Was he stuck here like her? So many other questions swirled in her brain, but one stuck out as the most important; could he stay with her? Even if it was only a few minutes?
Everything is happening so suddenly, that she needs a moment to collect herself. How long had it been since she’d spoken to another person? Since she’d had the chance to try? Her heart raced as she took a deep breath before turning back, words already on her tongue —
She finds only an empty space where the boy had once stood.
She closes her mouth, her hands clenching her dress in her lap. She stares down at her white knuckles, swallowing all the words she had wanted to say. She takes another deep breath and turns to focus on the serenity of her lake. She tries to forget the encounter; it hurts to think that she had missed her chance because she hadn’t been quicker. Or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway? People come and go like that here, but they had never lingered before. She tells herself that it doesn’t matter because she’ll ever see him again. People who pop in never make a return trip.
It comes as an impossibly great surprise when she meets those green eyes again.
The second time, she’s sitting in a field of flowers, a ball of white amidst the sea of pinks, purples, and yellow. She sits on her knees, weaving gold flowers carefully into a crown. So, focused on her task, she doesn’t hear the footsteps approaching her. Not until a handful of pink petals are thrust into her face. Startled, she screams, crawling rapidly backwards, leaving a small patch of trampled flora in her wake.
The boy jerks upright, green eyes wide, but he continues to hold out the flowers, his gaze locked on hers. She doesn’t know how to respond, so she stare back. His hand begins to shake the longer she stares, her flower crown crushed against her chest. She blinks, unable to speak, and glances at the sloppy bouquet. She raises a hand, gesturing to the bouquet, then to herself.
The boy nods vigorously and slowly, she stands on her trembling legs, and walks over. She pauses, then, just as slowly, as if she were reaching to touch a startled animal instead of harmless petals, she reaches out and takes the bouquet. She brings them to her face, eyes switching between them and the staring boy. She breathes deep and smiles, finally noticing they are her favorite type of flower.
She looks up and thanks him, beaming so much her face hurts. The green-eyed boy smiles brightly, blushing as he turns. He waves as he moves to leave. She reaches for his hand, misses, and asks in a small, choked voice; “Why are you leaving?”
The boy stops, turns to look back at her, and blinks. He does a lot of blinking before dropping his head. He rubs the back of his neck, mumbling; “I didn’t know if I was welcome.”
She ‘s quick to assure him that he is very welcome to stay and asks if he would like to make flower crowns with her. He blushes again and says he doesn’t know how. Without her previous hesitation, and perhaps with a bit too much enthusiasm, she offers to teach him.
They spend what seems like hours weaving crowns and other jewelry. Laughing and talking about nothing. Until she turns to gather another flower, and finds he’s disappeared once again. She sighs, but stands, dusting off her dress and moves on. She skips away from the flower field, a crudely made crown upon her head.
She doesn’t notice that the void has grown just a little bit smaller.
She doesn’t notice anything has changed at all until their seventh encounter. Where she smiles and stands just a little bit taller, walking through her endless strange world with her head high as she waits with bated breath for the next meeting. A meeting she is sure is coming, no matter what her fears whisper to her when she sits still for too long.
She dives head first into his memories when he offers. She doesn’t question how he can do that, or why she can. It doesn’t matter, not when she has someone to talk to. Someone to show her new things. Follows him on adventures to new places, meeting new and exciting people. Or well, the memory of people. She looks forward to them all, even the ones he claims are boring.
Her world grows bigger as her void grows even smaller. But there is nothing to fear from this change, which is probably why she never notices. There is so much good happening to her! So much new! She has a new friend to think about, after all. Why would she stare too long at the walls that made up her void?
It isn’t until the thirty-first that she notices that she herself has changed. They’re chasing each other through the rain, down a darkened street she can’t remember the name of, from a memory he seems to cherish, when she catches her reflection in an empty window. She stops and pauses, touching her face and running her hands down her chest. He comes up behind her, laughing as the rain drenches them both. He asks her what she’s doing. She says, curious and concerned;
He places his hands on her shoulders, and she leans back against him immediately, soaking in his strength and warmth. She stares at her strange new reflection, noticing how much he’d changed as well. When had that happened? Was that supposed to happen?
She gets distracted from her thoughts by his voice. He tells her she isn’t old, that she’s just as beautiful as the day they met. He tells her, with that blinding smile, that her life has only just begun. A smile breaks out on her face, nearly as bright as his and she playfully shoves him away, bolting ahead and calling back that he should catch her before she’s too old for him. He chases after her, his laughter echoing down the empty road.
She learns more and more about him as the meetings drag on. She learns more about herself too, learns to love the little things, learns what makes her happy. She learn to accept her flaws because they matter so much to him. He builds her up, and she does her best to make her void a little more like a home for the both of them.
After the eighty-sixth, they end up laying next to each other, he’s playing with her hair, she finally notices. Her void is gone.
Instead, the space she has called home for so long is filled to the brim with the memories they’ve made together. Doorways to places she loves, whether they are bitter or sweet. She smiles and presses herself closer, drifting into a daze as she listens to his heart. A sound she has come to cherish above all others.
She tells him she loves him. And then, he says it back. They say those three words they’ve made important back and forth for what seems like hours. For a long while, even when he’s not there with her, she’s the happiest she’s ever been. The happiest she thinks she will ever be. She is in love, and her beautiful green-eyed boy loves her back!
And then it all comes crashing down.
When she wakes – When had she fallen asleep? She didn’t know she could have slept. – she finds herself on the cold hard ground. She stands, dizzy, her legs trembling, threatening to send her back down. She preservers, mostly because she doesn’t know if she can muster the strength to stand again if she falls. Her head hurts, and when she brushes her fingers across her temple, they come away wet. Her heart stops, even as her pulse rings like a terrible tolling bell in her ears as she gazes down at her crimson stained fingertips.
Someone screams, and she whips her head back up. The motions makes her vison waver, colors swirling together, and she nearly sends herself to her knees, but she is stubborn. She remains upright, blinking away the darkness that swims in her vision.
She blinks, horrified and confused. She sees herself. Lying awkwardly in the middle of a rain-soaked road, lit by headlights, blood pooling around her. She blinks, eyes hot, as she watches as he moves to her. Those hands she knows so well tremble as they hover, unsure of what he can touch, of how he can help. He screams into a phone for an ambulance, tears streaming down his face. The phone falls to the asphalt, and she stumbles closer. She watches, her chest hollow, as he whispers ragged promises of never leaving her into her counterparts bloody hair.
She watches, shaking her whirling head as the her in the road closes familiar eyes. She screams as she’s ripped away from the vison, from him. She spits curses he would be horrified to hear fall from her lips as she’s thrown into darkness, tears blurring her vision while sobs choke her lungs. She feels numb, and so falls to her knees, screaming and weeping. She wants to go back. She wants her friend. She wants the man she loves.
Raising her head, she spots him, her beloved green-eyed boy, standing a few feet away, his back to her. She calls out his name, but he doesn’t seem to hear her. She stumbles to her feet just as light bursts behind her, she jerks to a halt, looking back at the strangely comforting light. A light so similar to her once wonderful void. She turns her gaze back at him, her heart pounding as she watches him walk away. A voice, much like his tells her she must make a choice. Quickly.
It is not a difficult choice.
She opens her eyes to a bright light, and for a second she thinks her choice hadn’t mattered. Se blinks, wincing, then she shuts her eyes, trying again a moment later. She blinks away the creeping darkness as she adjusts, and she finds herself stares up at a white tile ceiling. A hospital ceiling if the smell of antiseptic and the beeping of nearby machines meant anything. She takes a deep breath, tense and painful as something shifts to her right. She moves her head slowly, for it is heavy and full of cotton. She blinks one last time and meets a familiar green gaze.
Her husband –her beloved husband, how could she have ever forgotten her perfect husband— smiles at her through shadowed and red-ringed eyes. She smiles back as best she can, tears gathering in her burning eyes. He grabs her hand and kisses it gently, as if she were more fragile than glass. She squeezes back with all her strength, trying to pour everything she has into the gesture, praying he hears her. Vaguely she hears a nurse rush in, hears voices calling for a doctor, but her eyes never leave his.
She smiles and weeps as the men and women in white coats ask her questions and prod her. They tell her how long she’d been asleep, how lucky she is to be alive, and what she’ll still have to go through. They tell her of her long sleep, of nearly loosing her, of all the things she’ll have to do and take to live a long healthy life.
They hold hands through it all, her and her green-eyed boy, and she swears to her soul, and whoever might be listening from that strange light, she’ll never let him go. She made the right choice. As if there had been any other.