she misses colin the most at night, when, waking from nightmares, her hand reaches out into the darkness for someone who is no longer there.
an unexpected message flares briefly on her screen, long enough for her heart to drop into her stomach in surpriseher ex-boyfriend's little sister's ex-boyfriend? sighing, she types a hello and strains her memory to recall what she knows of this boy from their one brief meeting. his name is aaron. tall. shaggy bed-head hair. sleepy hazel eyes. she lightly touches the keyboard, entertaining the notion that other people might feel as lonely at night as she does.
"tell me a secret," she types to him.
"why should I put my trust in you?" he asks, surprised.
"who better to trust than a stranger?"
so he does.
a five minute secret turns into an hour long story, then a night-long conversation.
the next morning, after telling this boy how colin broke her, she wakes to a message in her inbox:
The world is yours.
Boys are stupid.
Forget their nonsense.
it hurts a little less, that day.
a few weeks later colin finally agrees to see her. she is quiet and hopeful and sick with wanting, but when he unexpectedly grabs her and kisses her she can't bring herself to feel anything but nauseated. in a fit of helplessness she messages aaron.
"he kissed me. ever since he broke up with me i've waited for this, and now that it's happened i don't know what to do. i need a hug."
she's only half surprised when aaron shows up in her driveway.
she doesn't even have time to doubt herself before he pulls her into a hug. it's too painfully familiar and she feels herself shying away from the contact but he pulls her tight against him. his arms are longer than colin's and his warm shoulders are higher, but these differences make him safe.
she cries into this stranger's chest and lets him kiss the top of her head as he tells her he will take her away from everything that hurts.
it's almost midnight now. he swings her up and into his arms in the middle of the parking lot, twirling her around and laughing. a truck idles nearby, and a man peers at them curiously from the half-opened window. they giggle and slide into aaron's car, cold-cheeked and tangled by their need for this strange companionship.
"you can take me home whenever you want," she tells him, afraid to let it go on too long. she keeps reminding herself that he is a stranger, that this is the first time she has ever touched him in person. she doesn't know him at all.
"is that what you want?" he asks her. his smile is sad.
"i want whatever you want, i suppose."
'is that a fact?" he says quietly, and she is confused. it's late and the stars make her giddy.
"good," he says, and leans over and kisses her. the moon shines through the mist on the windshield, casts stream shadows across his face. like tears. .
he punches the car into drive and tears out of the parking lot, neither of them speaking. at the light she offers no direction, so he veers to the left and drives for miles, finally pulling off the road in the middle of a strange yard. they don't say anything, don't look at each other, just exist together.
"look," he says, and pauses, obviously stumped for what to say. "don't be afraid."
"i'm not," she mumbles.
"good," he says, and leans over to kiss her again. "because i am."
she loses track of time and lets herself be warmed for weeks by aaron's love despite knowing she will break his heart. "i am in love with colin," she reminds herself as she traces aaron's eyebrows with a fingertip. "i have to get colin back."
but colin never sang in the car as unselfconsciously as aaron. he never smiled as readily.
this boy is too beautiful for his own good. she cannot let herself have him. colin has proved to her that men are sharp, broken things, so why should aaron be any different? he doesn't even know that her favourite colour is green. he probably couldn't even guess it if he tried.
"i love you."
"no you don't."
"i love you."
"i love you."
in the dark, secret recesses of her heart's ventricles, a dam breaks.
she writes "i love aaron" on her hand, almost without thinking. when she notices she panics and tries to smudge the ink with her thumb to make the evidence illegible. it won't budge.
that night as she sleeps, sweaty and unsettled, the words transfer to her neck. they are blurry and blue and perfect.
she finally tells him the next night, in the arms of a fig tree. although she doesn't believe in god, this boy, her own personal adam, clothed and glorious, tucks her hair behind the curve of her ear and takes her back into paradise.
the sunlight inside aaron's car is heavy with dust motes and his eyelashes are the most entrancing thing she has ever seen.
real life has written her a boy better than any poem.
he is lost in thought as he drives and she is afraid to speak in case she breaks his concentration. she settles for stealing glances at him, bursting with love and other unnameable feelings.
"what's your favourite colour?" he asks offhandedly, and she thinks of colin and the colour red and of letting go.
"green," she finally tells him. his smile is so wide it spans the length of the sky.
"green is my favourite colour, too."