Blue. That was the first thing I saw after waking up. An ocean of Blue that threatened to overwhelm me completely every time I peered into it. An abyss—
She flicked my forehead with one of her long, calloused fingers, looking mighty peeved, calling my attention away from her eyes.
"You're spacing off, owl-eyes." The girl that was almost straddling me snorts, perched sitting above my lap "What, did surviving a near-death experience scramble that brilliant chunk of grey matter between your eyes?"
"I..." I coughed, my voice rough "I thought you had exams to prepare for."
The girl's brows furrowed "You almost got yourself killed, and my exams are what worries you? Those dumb old fogies wouldn't be able to understand what I'd write down anyway." She smiled, showing her teeth.
Yeah, Grace was… mad. Honestly, I just felt drained. It wasn't the first time I had woken up that week, but those were short and I spent most of those crying, only enough to understand that I'd survived that .
I looked at her, really looked at her, and saw what I had missed. There were barely-concealed shadows under her eyes, red signs of dried tears and faded eyeliner along with signs of hours passed awake.
"Grace, how did you even find out…"
She smirked, the telltale sign that told me she did something cool and wrong and she really wanted to tell me. It was something I couldn't help but find attractive , the way she lit up like fireworks when she could show off.
"Well, at first you didn't show up for the night, and that got me worried. You haven't skipped a call once since I got you the webcam." she counted on her fingers, still smiling that sad smirk of hers "Then I called your school."
I would have done a double-take if being exposed to months of my girlfriend's … eccentricities hadn't desensitized me to her ever-accelerating thought patterns.
"The school told me nothing, because they're all jackasses I still can't make into napalm." She turned back to me "Can't I?"
To my dismay I did find myself considering the request. What had happened to me… no. I was better, and so is Grace. We're both better.
"We're better than that. We don't need to get to their level." I sighed into one hand, feeling just so... weak. As if my very body was no more a heavy straitjacket hanging from my bones, and so very weary of everything.
"Fine. And then I hacked the school."
I looked at her in the eyes. Beautiful, insane twin blue abysses gazed back.
"The principal, mostly. There was a lot of interesting stuff I'll go through later, but that's how I found you had your 'accident,'" she said, making air quotes, her smirk growing almost feral "and after that it was only a matter of looking at which hospital you were in."
"... Fine." I said, my voice still rough, my throat still burning and my lips still stinging " God , Grace. What am I..."
She lunged forward, taking me between her arms, long and thin but oh so much stronger and sturdier than anything in my frail, frail world "Don't worry, Taylor. I'll take care of things. Just, recover, okay?"
I nodded slowly, as her hands slowly drew circles on my back and she let me sob over her shoulder.
"... I almost died, Grace. I could feel it, I was dying, in there, and nobody heard me as I kicked and screamed..." My every breath felt heavy, and my chest as though it was being pushed together, my ribs poking until themselves.
"Shush, Taylor, love." she said, her voice the lowest I had ever heard her go, her tone almost maternal "You're safe. I'm not going anywhere. I promise, yeah?"
Her voice, normally higher than mine, sounded nothing like it usually did, there was nothing of her bluster and that made my chest feel tight in a totally different way, as if I was robbing her of something.
"Don't worry." she repeated, and again, as I once again found myself drifting.
"—begin! You have been as much of a father to her as mine was to me, and I haven't seen mine in fifteen years!" she screamed, voice hoarse.
"You have no right to say that! I've met you, what, twice!?" he rebutted, but with no real fire beneath.
"You didn't even know what was happening two months ago! You still wouldn't if I hadn't shown up, you old goat!" And she was furious, burning, always burning.
"You—" He tried, but he couldn't really burn anymore.
Grunting, I mouthed, "Can you please shut up? Trying to sleep here..."
The two turned toward me almost in sync.
Dad and Grace… well, they had a strange relationship. The fact that Grace was nineteen didn't sit well with him at all, and she didn't exactly hide the fact she disliked how he had acted towards me in the last couple years. They both had too narrow a view on the other, and yet both cared so much, so much more than I ever could.
I couldn't blame either, so I at least tried to keep them from going at each other's throats every time they saw each other.
"Taylor!" Dad exclaimed, and I could see the worry pouring out from him. He stepped forward, his arms closing around me. We hugged, and I saw Grace smile for a moment behind him before she simply sighed and returned to her mild scowl.
"Dad." I breathed out, as I felt the tension in both of us leak away "I'm..."
"Don't worry about it." he said "We'll fix it. You're fine."
I bit my lip at that, and I could hear Grace scoff. I wasn't fine. I wasn't... good. I felt tired, and broken and obsolete.
And he wouldn't be able to fix it. Even after I told him, and even after he went to school, had them promise... nothing changed. At least for the better, instead, it got worse. I almost died.
I almost died, and I wouldn't have been able to say goodbye to anyone. Him. And Grace, who I had only kissed once and yet meant so damn much to me. And I wouldn't have been able to tell Mom about her like I wanted to do. I wouldn't have been able to do so much.
The thought was just too much.
It was Grace speaking up that broke me up from my reverie "You can't so long as she stays in that school. And fine, you can't afford the others here. That's why she should come to New York with me."
Graveyards, well, city graveyards, aren't as silent as movies make them look like. More often than not, the bluster and chaos of the city is just one step removed through not-too-tall walls.
Dad didn't come. He just… I don't think he'd have the heart to come and keep going with everything else after. The temptation, I think, would be too strong.
A glance at what had been my shadow since the day I left the hospital shows me Grace's jittery shape, clad into a jacket with a furred collar and high-riding jeans. The apparent quiet seemed to disagree with the energetic soul of the woman, and that made my heart clench in my chest, more wounds that I was inflicting on what I loved. Grace gave me a small smile.
"Are you sure?" she asked once more, and I nodded, smoothing my black dress, the same one I wore here two years ago, with the only difference being that instead of my ankles it reached my knees now.
"... I need to do this. Before I move away."
Grace seemed a bit lost, never the type to lose herself in the more melancholic emotions, but when she stepped and ran an hand on my cheek, I knew that she had my back.
"I'll be here, okay? Right behind you."
I didn't trust myself to speak at that moment, so I merely caught her hand in mine and turned around, moving on the curated grass among slabs of grey and statues in white.
Mom's grave wasn't an expensive one, or a large one. Dad had… a complementary plot drawn out, set up for the day I would ultimately be alone. But for now, all that was there was a small monument in black with a plaque. She taught something precious to each of us .
"… Hi, mom."
It wasn't the first time I came to talk to her like this. I visited last summer, when I dreaded the future and this speaking to ghosts and messaging Grace were the only things keeping me afloat in the spleen of the August heat.
"I'm sorry I haven't visited much. It's… not likely to change. Me and Grace… I mentioned her last time. She's…" I felt myself flush like every time I said it aloud "She's my girlfriend. She's great. She lives in Ithaca, at Cornell and I can't… can't live here anymore."
Grace's hand tightened around mine, her heat funneling into me through our skin contact.
"Dad's… he's not happy about that. But I know… I know you'd protest. I know you'd fight and appeal to reason. But I also know… you'd do the same thing. You'd understand."
My breath had become heavy, and eyes teary.
"I'm leaving, and I didn't want to do it without saying goodbye and, um, introduce Grace."
"… Hey. Uh, I'm Grace Wang. I'm dating Taylor. Happy to… be here, Mrs. Hebert." Grace played along, somewhat embarrassed.
"Thank you." I whispered to her, leaning into her shoulder.
"… You really loved her, uh? Kinda wish I could've met her."
I smiled "She would have loved you."
Two weeks were all it took to completely uproot my existence from Brockton Bay, and by January 23rd, Grace and I were riding in her black SUV, emotionally exhausted. I was feeling… bad, but more because I felt defeated than because of any other action I'd taken or decision I had made.
I had to do something, aside from being swept by the winds of my existence, to make something of myself.
"Taylor, what do you want to eat tonight?" Grace asked, as she looked at the landscape speeding behind us "We'll stop near Boston, and there's all kinds of restaurants around here."
I smiled placidly, noting Grace's fast tapping of the wheel "You grew up in Boston, right? Anything you recommend?"
Grace smirked "Well, I was more of a city girl, but I do know a fusion place in the area—"
Before she could finish the phrase, I saw her hands clutch the steering wheel and turned it all the way to the left, the car swiveling as she slammed the gas, right before everything went to hell.