Why do you keep following her around like a kicked puppy? Books, she’s using you. She’s no good.
Funny, Zeke thinks. That’s exactly what Mylene thinks about Shao. He doesn’t try to fix them up; he knows his best friend and his true love will always be at odds. Its okay as long as he can keep 15 blocks between them. He makes music with Shao during the day, and at night, he stretches his tired limbs up the ladder of Mylene’s fire escape.
Where were you today? I needed you.
Mylene pouts and Zeke kisses her once, twice, until she’s cracked half a smile. He kisses her a third time and the smile reaches the other half of her face.
I wanted to be there, Mylene, you know that. I always want to be where you are.
Tonight she doesn’t argue with him, even if she knows it’s a lie.
Stay after I turn my light off? Papi will check on me around 10, then he’ll go to sleep for the night. Will you stay?
And who is Zeke to say no? He lays down quiet, completely still, outside her window, and watches her light go off. He hears Pastor Cruz stomp in, mutter something in gruff Spanish, a Bible verse no doubt, and after he blesses his daughter goodnight he closes her door, and Zeke sits up, peering through the dusty window until Mylene appears again. She pries it open slowly, and climbs out onto the fire escape.
You wanna go up to the roof?
Up here its just the two of them. He didn’t realize how many people he had in his life, rooting for him, supporting him, tearing him apart, until recently. Its why moments like this are so important.
She doesn’t get you, Books. She doesn’t get us, she doesn’t get The Get Down. She thinks our music is trash and she thinks you’re trash too, you just don’t want to see it.
Zeke wraps his arms around Mylene, and holds her still, while the cold wind blows around them. Its almost winter, and its going to be below freezing every night. They won’t get to have their rooftop dates anymore, and he’ll miss it, so he holds her tight.
Its maybe ten minutes before she says anything. First she sighs, her breath materializing in a little white cloud. Then she turns her head slightly, cheek pressing against his chest so he can feel the way her mouth forms her next words.
I wish it could be like this forever. You and me. Just you and me.
Me too. This is what I’ve dreamed of since we were kids. When you smiled at me, while I was playing the keys, and I saw the way you twirled in your church robes, and you gave me that look like you got a secret that nobody else knows~
She sighs again, and pulls his arms even tighter around her waist.
I do got a secret.
Zeke kisses the top of her head.
You gonna tell me what it is?
She shakes her head.
If you don’t already know, then you’ll never know.
Zeke turns her so he can see her face. He doesn’t study her long (though he could study her all night. The way her eyes glitter under the moonlight. The way her skin shines like velvet, and her hair smells like the sun) he just leans in and kisses her right. Her fingers curl into his shirt by his waist and the hairs on his neck stand up.
I love you Mylene.
I know, she says with her words, I love you too, she says with her kiss.
She’ll never love you like you love her, Shao insists. He shoves Zeke by his shoulder and starts spinning again, only half-angry, the other half, resigned. Zeke raps over his beat regardless. The two of them go well together. Like sunlight and rain. Half of them poetry, the other half pain.
I can fix you, Zeke promises, by never missing a beat. Dizzee, RaRa, and Boo chant his praises when he writes another incredible rap. Shao gives him his standard approving nod. Zeke lets the feeling fill him with glory, right to the brim, before he drops in on The Get Down. He’s never felt higher, more alive, than in that moment, when he’s with his brothers, doing the most important thing in the world.
At night, he shivers once, and Mylene skitters back down the ladder, bringing up her comforter, and throws it around both their shoulders.
Lets stay like this forever, just the two of us she says around a sigh.
Forever. Just the two of us, he agrees.
They don’t talk about Shaolin at all anymore. He thinks this is progress, but he knows what it really is; compromise. And that’s how he knows, regardless the photoshoots, the rumors, and the vitriol Shao throws at Mylene every afternoon while he spins…
There’s a secret Mylene knows, that only one other person knows. Zeke squeezes her tight, and tells her he loves her again and again, and he promises to keep her secret just between the two of them.