Someone, I tell you, will remember us,
even in another time.
(the first time you see her, you have no names.)
There’s a hum, and your head whips towards that melodic sound. You’re not sure what it is, but it’s so pleasant and so soothing, and it feels like… it feels like a warmth blossoming in your stomach.
Your hand falters on plucking the fruit from the tree.
An impish little grin appears on the shorter woman’s face, shy as it comes, and you think you want something just beyond your grasp.
It is strange, yet not so at the same time, how you know to kiss her and how your body reacts to her hand straying between your legs.
You wait in the same spot, for the next days and weeks and months and years.
You don’t see her again.
(it won’t be the last time.)
II. around 410 BCE
You learn from an old kindly doctor named Hippocrates. You learn that your hands are made for healing, for softness — and with that, for strength.
There is so much you want to know, so much you want to help with.
You’re entranced by the effortless way the other woman glides her fingers across the lyre’s strings; the music soft and light to the ear. She’s sitting in the shade of the plane tree, the sunlight weaving through her brown hair, and you approach her like another has possessed you, the enthrallment taking hold.
“If I didn’t know better, I would think you to be Euterpe herself,” you hear yourself say.
She startles a little, but recovers well enough, settling her instrument next to her.
“Plato thinks me ignorant and unlawful to music. He would sputter, to hear you compare me to a muse.”
You laugh. “He has ideals. Let us have music and fun.”
And you do. You fill your days with learning, and crafting medicine, and diagnosing ailments.
And your nights — oh, your nights are spent with Rebekka, your fingers softly tracing her skin as the sky goes dark. Tonight, her lips are swollen from kissing you, and she is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen.
(it goes: you loved her, you love her, you will love her.
and it goes.)
III. 64 AD
You are there when your brother’s to-be bride arrives. Your father is a senator, and your brother is right behind his footsteps, and it’s a day you know is a long time coming. It’s all they will talk about; their legacies, the stories people will tell.
Your eyes meet with his bride, and your world tilts.
“Will not the gods judge?” Rebecca teases as she presses her mouth on your face, and your lips, and your neck. Your heart beats faster and you are sure she can feel it on your pulse.
Forgive me, gods, you think, you’re in love.
And the gods reply, the vengeance loud and clear:
You’re trapped, alone, with nowhere to go.
The flames engulf, the heat radiates, and the last thoughts you have are of her.
IV. 79 AD
It’s instinct, the way you follow the music. It’s not hard. This is the back of the instruments stall in the crowded market, and if you aren’t meant to hear it, then you shall make a graceful exit.
But you have known Rebecca for all of three weeks, and it feels like you have known her for longer.
Not long enough, apparently, as she grows pink in her cheeks and stops singing.
“My wares are instruments, Chloe. Is that not enough to clue you in?”
She sings, and you’re drawn to her. You spend an inordinate amount of time together with her, making her laugh with some badly delivered line from a play; feeding her grapes when no one is watching.
The earth shakes beneath you, and you shrug it off. Tremors are frequent, and nothing to worry about, you’re told. You make vials of herbs and potions, your stall next to hers, and this life is… It’s perfect.
You fall in love. Slip into it, actually, so easily, between hot kisses and your warm bodies against each other. You have never felt like this before in your entire life, and you want this to go on forever.
Mount Vesuvius awakens, and you both drown in a sea of pumice and hot ash.
They find an imprint of you and Rebecca, tightly woven in each other’s arms.
V. 1347 AD
They call it the plague.
It touches everything, ruins everything, and you have seen death too many times in your young life.
(your hands, they are made for healing.)
You have never seen her before, but you cry when she takes her last breath. You breathe out whispers of apologies and pray that she is now free of pain and suffering.
VI. 1523 AD
It isn’t every day that brings new people to the village, and the moment you see her, it feels like you have been waiting all your life for her.
You learn so much about her. Her name is Beca, and she travels with her husband.
You learn that she doesn’t love her husband. He knows it too, she tells you, and you take in a sharp intake of breath as your fingers softly graze the red, angry marks on her skin.
It’s okay, she says, her voice quiet but her eyes flash with the recognition of desire.
She kisses you. It’s tentative, but you don’t regret a thing.
She sneaks off to your house when the night is dark and the air is still. You live in between stolen moments, with kisses that can’t see broad daylight.
You love her. You really do.
Your hands are stained with blood; Beca’s blood. Your hands, (made for healing,) they'd pulled and tugged and done their best, and you couldn’t do a goddamn thing.
It’s dark red, and sticky, and it’s all over your hands.
The baby might survive; you don’t know yet. But Beca is gone, cold to the touch despite your cries and your pleas, her eyes closed like she’s still sleeping. Like she could still open them and tease you for your worry.
(you wish you could turn back time; take you back to the start.)
(you can’t turn time back. this is so much worse. you love her and you lose her.)
The baby survives. She grows bigger, and you stay close to her. Her father leaves her when she is but four months old.
There is not a single day where your heart doesn’t ache for the loss of Beca. There is not a single day when you don’t think of the way your life is hollow and the music doesn’t fill you up like they used to.
You hold on, if only for the child.
Years pass. One day, you cough into your hand. It’s dark red, it’s sticky.
You know what will come next, and you welcome it.
Your child buries you next to her mother.
VII. 1692 AD
You can see the grin on her face, even with the dim moonlight over you. Oh, you are in trouble, you think.
“This isn’t right,” you tell her, your heart pounding against your ribs even as your hands roam; down her arms, then onto her waist. You feel drunk with desire.
“Tell me to stop, and I shall,” she whispers in your ear. Your breath quickens, and you don’t stop her. You never want her to.
Your father is the pastor, and that just makes your sins bigger. You know this is wrong, but how can it be wrong when it feels so right?
You turn to the Bible. It offers you no solace.
But you don’t stop.
You love her.
(you loved her, you will love her.)
There is a blight in the farms all across the town, and the villagers are hurting and desperate for answers. They beg for forgiveness, beg for God to grant them blessings, but the crops are rotten and the people will grow hungry.
Whispers only grow: It must be a witch, doing the devil’s bidding.
When Beca comes by, you are quiet. She hums a soft song, and stops when she realizes you are not responding like you always do.
“Is it us? Did we cause this?” You whisper, not daring to be loud enough to put it out there. She shakes her head vehemently.
But the guilt, it envelopes you.
The accusations, oh, they’re terrible and unfounded. No one is spared, the paranoia thick in the air. It finally gets to you, and you have no defense.
For the horrible crime of witchcraft perpetrated upon the town, they say, the punishment is death by burning.
The flames, they lick your skin, and you scream.
Your only sin was loving her. You know it was not a sin to love her.
My name is Chloe, and I’m 11. I love dolls and swords and playing pretend with my older brother. I want to help people when I grow up! I don’t know if I want to be a doctor or a vet (they are animal doctors). I think I shall have to choose when I’m older, but my father says girls can’t be doctors or vets, and that perhaps I shall be a nurse. How about you?
Oh, gosh, I forgot to say, I found your pen pal ad on Highlights, in the September 1954 issue! I also really really really love music and singing, and that’s why your ad immediately jumped at me! We have just gotten a television, though I still love listening to the radio. The last song I heard and loved singing is “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”. I wish to go there one day.
I hope I hear from you soon.
My best regards,
I can hardly believe we have been pen pals for six long years now. Soon, we will graduate from high school. Who knows what the future holds for us? I’m so stoked that we will finally get to meet soon, as soon as we can. It feels like I have known you forever.
I do wonder — would I reach you first, or would this letter? A race against time itself, I must say! And that’s not even the most exciting part. I can’t wait to finally be able to hug you. We’ll cause quite a stir in San Francisco, I’d think. Just think — this time next week, we will be together!
It feels so very strange writing this to you, as you continue to sleep right next to me. It is August of 1967, and I’m not sure when you will read this. The world’s up in flames — oh, yes, I’m being a tad dramatic, but how can I not be? My brother’s in Vietnam, fighting for a war he doesn’t personally believe in. We are being harassed in our own neighborhood just for being who we are. I know that I can never come out to my family. Everything is just a huge mess.
And yet, I’m happy. You do make me so happy. We are spending our lives together, and I love you with every fiber of my being. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Yours faithfully and everlasting,
“Oh, what about her?”
There’s a pull to that voice singing in the shower stall, and you can’t help yourself.
“I’m so glad that I met you. I think we’re gonna be really fast friends.”
You wrap the bandage around her fist. Her knuckles are red and tender, (and you want to kiss it better,) and Beca hisses as you fasten it.
“Jesus, ow. You sure you’ve done this before?”
A smile curves at your mouth lightly as you hold her hand. There’s a look on your face that’s challenging her to loosen her grip, and to tell you to go away.
You spend the night cuddled up in her bed.
It goes like… well, it goes.
You love and you love hard and you love fierce, but you know Beca sees you as her best friend. It’s not only, because you hold on to the affection that Beca knows to give; so tightly, so closely to your heart.
It’s not nothing.
There’s an explosion—
(—the flames engulf—
—drown in a sea of pumice and hot ash—
—lick your skin—)
—and for a moment you think you’ve lost Beca; to the flames, amidst the debris, in the freezing ocean.
When she comes up for air, you gasp like you can finally breathe too.
You’re both wrapped up in blankets, just the two of you, just the way the rest of the girls have always let you be.
She kisses you.
“Do you believe in soulmates?” You ask her, some years later after the tour, and she lets out an amused huff of laughter, a smirk growing on her face.
You give her an exasperated sigh. “I’m serious. Plato believed that our ancestors had two heads, four arms and legs, and one soul. One day they offended a god, so they got punished by being split down the middle, and humans are condemned to spend our lives searching for our other half.”
“Is this what they teach in Philosophy classes at Barden? I definitely missed out on all that,” Beca teases.
You don’t even get mad because she distracts you with pressed kisses on your face, and your lips, and your neck. You feel that warmth blossoming in your stomach.
(you loved her, you love her, you will love her—
and she did, she does, she will.)