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 headfirst into the ocean

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PostSubject: headfirst into the ocean   Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:27 pm

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:42 pm

2009.

One day, Sylvie's volunteering is going to end us all. Maybe not us all, but at least me, and I find that a good enough reason to worry.

It's bad enough that Clary joined in. By the end of that spiral, I ended up with a lawyer who brings homeless children home, and a pet shop employee, all under my roof. Listen, I never asked for this.

When I was buying a flat, I specifically searched for something big, but for two people. Big because I could afford it with my salary, and for two people because a man has his needs in shape of company during long nights. Not only did that backfire, but it backfired twice.

I met Sylvie in a library. It wasn't a surprise, because she was a law student and I was a philosophy major, and both those colleges fed on insomnia and baby tears apparently. We studied together, in silence, and one thing lead to another, and she moved in. Clary came afterwards, quite naturally, actually, because the our flat was above the pet shop she worked in.

But hey, more people means less chores. At least one good thing ever came out of social interaction.

Judging by what I already told you, you can guess I am not a people person. And that's why I was pissed at Sylvie.

"Syl, I can't understand what you're saying. Slow down. Meditate." I was at work, and it was just before my first class. There were some kids gathering up in the classroom, and I waved at them.

"Is our sofa free?" she narrowed her twittered speech down into something more reasonable to me.

"Why the eff do you need our sofa?" I learned to censor myself near minors. They will learn to swear when the time is right for them.

"Listen… a guy got shot, and they called me in because they don't know his name, so they can't keep him here."

"Shot?? … Wait, he doesn't know his name?"

"Piss off, Frank. He's completely out of it, they found him like passed out and he's still like that." Her voice usually gets quite pitchy when she's nervous, so I recognised that and didn't push it. However, I wasn't thrilled by the fact that a man I've never seen before is going to stay on my sofa. A man who has holes in his body.

"I'll nag you about it later, I've class… who's helping you get the guy to our flat?"

"I knew you were busy so I called up Clary, she's on her way."

"I want that guy out of my flat before I come home, mkay?"

"Ciao, Francesco."

She hung up on me, which I think it's a bit rude. I ignored it though, because I had a history lesson which I should've planned a day before, but I'm me, so that didn't happen. I'm lucky I have a class of nerds who does all my work for me.

Being a teacher is the easiest job in the world. That is, of course, if you're teaching a subject you love to children who are polite and calm, and know the subject you're teaching before you even open your mouth. That never happens, though.

I didn't wake up one day with a burning desire to show mini-humans how to do basic things in their life. Nobody I know has known what they wanted to be since they were young. Are you kidding me, nobody grows up wanting to be a lawyer. No, your parents force you into law school. Although, granted, Clary has liked animals all her life. Maybe I'm wrong. God knows that I was wrong many times throughout my life.

I couldn't concentrate the entire day because of that phonecall. It wouldn't be the first time someone spent the night in our flat, because the volounteering centre Sylvie worked for didn't have much room, and there are more and more people who needed help every day. But it would certainly be the first time anyone got shot.

I can't even imagine getting shot. Just needles terrify me, and I can't watch gory tv shows Clary and Sylvie watch every weekday from ten until they're asleep. During the day I asked Clary if they patched the guy up so I wouldn't come home to a bloody sofa, and the only answer I got was insufficient.

'If I wasn't gay, he'd be real hot', she wrote down. It's fascinating how all of my friends think that I should get laid as soon as possible, but I'm under an impression everybody gets that from their friends who are dating each other.

'That's such a nice thing to say about a guy who GOT SHOT. What's up with that, anyway?' I texted back while my pupils were working on an equation task. I don't know how it goes in the other schools, but in this one that I'm working in, private school, you had one teacher for one class, but all subjects, at least until your class is fifth grade. It pays well, so I'm not complaining.

'They don't know. Syl just said that they found him on the street after they heart a gunshot. Next to the police station. Possibly homeless.' I sighed and put down my phone. Through Sylvie I've encountered many cases like that, but it doesn't make them any less sad.

I mostly try to ignore it. It's like most people with dying, or World War Two. I know that people are working on curing illnesses and eliminating poverty, but it doesn't seem to be enough. And it's never going to be enough. But, we can still help one person at the time, like Sylvie. Or, like me, shape young minds or whatever. I'm trying, okay? I might not be the best teacher, or the best person, but I am making an effort, and I teach my pupils that trying is the most important thing. Maybe I should start listening to my own words.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:22 pm

I went home a little later than usual. This kid in my class, Georgia, has troubles with capital letters, and all of her homework assignments lOok liKE tHis. Her poor little head looked it might let out steam as I was explaining that only the first letters in sentences get the privledge of being 'big letters'. Of course, that only means that she'll write her name in lower caps, but I'll deal with that later.

Jacket on, backpack in my hand, and I'm off to catch a bus. It doesn't pay off to have a car in big city like this one, even though Sylvie really likes driving, she gets her kicks when she travels to her family first in an aeroplane, and then in a rent-a-car. Once she took Clary, and even though her family was surprisingly accepting, Clary said she is never going to be in the same car as Sylvie because she drived like a maniac all the way through France and only cooled down when they reached Italy. Maybe she was just excited to see her folks. And maybe she's just a bad driver.

I don't know. Even though I got driving licence and all that jazz, I used to want to drive a motorbike, but my family would hang me if they ever knew.

In the meantime, buses and I became… maybe not best friends, but work colleagues. I tolerate them, and they don't kill me in return. And I'd still always pick buses over walking, because what would take me two hours walking, takes half an hour by bus. And, you know, I'm lazy, so that's always a factor to consider.

And all the way home, my mind was buzzing with bullet holes and blood and ew. But Clary was just as creeped out by blood in real life, so I trusted her judgement. She would be the first one to faint, and considering she was texting me, there was no organs showing.

I arrived home around three. What's specific about my flat is that, once Sylvie and Clary began dating, we renovated the house, and now the main entry is through the pet shop. We did that because the original entry was in a dark alleyway, which was spooky for me and Sylvie, but downright dangerous for Clary. It's safer for all of us to get in on the main road.

So the procedure is: get out a huge bunch of keys with all sorts of keychains. First, you unlock the pet shop door. Then you wander through the pet shop to reach the counter, and behind the counter there are two doors. You unlock the left one, and go in. Inside, there are stairs. Go upstairs. At the top of the stairs, there's a door. Guess what, you unlock that door too. And you're in! Congrats! In all honesty, I'll pick that any day than that alleyway.

"Hey, Clary", I said when I opened that one final door. Sylvie has work until five, and Clary wasn't in the shop, so the only place where she'd be is in our flat. I'm so smart, no wonder I am a teacher.

"Hey there, pal", she greeted me from the kitchen, where she's probably cooking. Since she has the most flexible work schedule, she's the one in charge of food around here. It's probably for the best, because I wouldn't trust Sylvie with fire.

"Where's our guest?" I asked as I took my shoes and jacket off. It wasn't really that cold outside, but it's better to be safe than frozen to death.

"Right where Syl left him", she said peeking out of the kitchen. "Ya know, I was tempted to cut his hair off."

That's not a strange thing to say, at all. I made an expression which I believe showed Clary just how strange I found that sentence.

"It's ginger. I've always wanted red hair."

"And cutting his hair off will help you how…?" She shook her hair at me and opened the fridge.

"It's just a saying", she said. And then I started laughing, because she sounded like she was genuinely sure of her words.

"No… no, it's not. Clary, it's really not."

"Well, I think it is. And that's all that matters."

It was my turn to shake my head, because Clary was Clary.

You know, if the situation was different in all ways possible, I would feel envious of Sylvie for dating someone so unique and sweet. Of course, I'm not, I just said it like that, but if I was going to begin dating again, I'm definitely going to search the Clary type. For now, I'm happy that I have friends, at least. That's more than most people can say.

"What are you making, Mrs. Clarice?" I asked, as if forgetting about the man on my sofa. Sometimes a brain chooses to block out everything that isn't a part of a routine.

"Food to feed the the kingdom, sir." She closed the fridge so that she make a face at me. "After all, I have to feed an extra peasant today."

"Syl's work is going to end me, I swear." Here we go, full circle. "He's still asleep?"

"Dead as your ambitions." I shoved her playfully, careful so that she won't cut herself. "Out of my kitchen, Franklin."

I listened to her, because she had a knife.

I headed towards my room to prepare for the next day. I can't expect my pupils to know everything, now, can I? But something caught my eye. Red hair on the sofa, like Clary said.

I couldn't stop myself from gasping, because it wasn't just red hair.

"What is it, Frank?" Clary asked. "You know him?"

I know that red hair, because I used to comb through it when it was wet from the sea. I know those freckles, because I counted them once, when it was early in the morning. And I know that cut that separates the right eyebrow in half, because I was the cause of it.

"Call Sylvie", I stuttered, just like he used to. "Tell her to come home as soon as possible."

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:35 pm

I was sat down across of him, occupying Clary's chair, staring at the body of January Newton Fryeman. You either say his name as a whole, or you don't say it at all. And I haven't been saying it for a long time.

It hurts, okay? Seeing someone for the first time in years, and seeing that they haven't moved from the point where you left them hurts even more.

And I couldn't do anything until he woke up. I asked Clary if she could make me a cup of tea, and waited.

I wonder if he remembered how I drank my tea.

Sylvie came an hour later and after stealing some of the food Clary already had put on the table, she went to sit next to me.

"Hey. Clary said you knew him."

I kept quiet from the moment I saw him, sipping my tea and trying not to think about it, which was extremely hard.

"Syl, I…"

How do you explain it? I couldn't explain it to myself, let alone to anyone else.

"How bad is he hurt?" Ignore the past, concentrate on now.

"I mean, he did get shot, near his lung, but it missed it." She ruffled my hair and leaned against my shoulder. "They do have mercy, you know. They stitched him up before saying that he can't stay in the hospital. I was just visiting Krissy", a girl in her volunteering place who got a cold, "and I offered to take him to my flat. What did you say his name was again?"

"January."

She laughed, because that's what people usually did when they heard his name.

"No it's not."

"He has a sister named November and a brother named August."

"Okay… you seem really sad."

And I really didn't want to talk about it, so I got up and headed to my room. Thankfully, Sylvie knows that she shouldn't push it, so she didn't follow me.

The last time I saw January was eight years ago, when we were dumb teens, and he did something I couldn't forgive. You tend to avoid people after something like that. Parting like that left me with frayed edges, and I think that I'm still not the same as I was at eighteen. As more and more time passed, I managed to stop thinking about what could have been and what should have been, and focus on more important things

But he was so important to me. Eight years ago.

I must have spent half an hour in my room when there was a soft knock on the door. Clary, of course, because Sylvie would just come in without asking.

"Lunch", she said, softly, like she didn't want to scare me.

"I'll... I'll eat later, I'm not hungry. I'm sorry."

She kept her gaze on me, and then she came in, closing the door behind her.

"Is he an ex?"

"He's…"

Clary knew better than anybody what's it like to have a past. And she was the best shoulder to cry on. A shoulder that doesn't ask useless questions.

She crossed the room in two steps and sat next to me. Not even a second after that I melted into her, reliving images of him in my mind.

Only when Sylvie barged into my room and rolled her eyes at us, I dared to get up and face the world.

"Lunch, before I kill you for dinner."

My chair was in the perfect position to watch if January wakes up, and if the girls noticed, they didn't say a word.

They talked about ordinary things, masterfully avoiding the subject. I didn't say a word. I didn't even listen to them, and even if they tried to get me into the conversation, all their attempts failed.

Then he moved, and it felt like my heart will stop.

Sylvie immediately pushed me back in my chair, because I wanted to run to him, to shake him, to ask him why—and she could read it off my face.

"Help Clary with the dishes."

I struggled against her hand for a second and she groaned.

"Frank, listen for once."

I didn't want to, but I did anyway, because Sylvie can be scary if you oppose her, so I tried not to do that too often.

"Hey there, sleepy head", she said as she walked into the living room.

"W-where am I? …ow."

Hearing his accent and his stutter broke my heart all over again, and if Clary didn't put the plates in my hands, I would've ran after Sylvie.

Sylvie told him the whole story again, she must have gotten sick of repeating herself, and he listened carefully, without interrupting, trying to position himself so that it didn't hurt.

"Where do you live, is there anyone I can call?" she asked him, keeping careful distance, like she does. Out of all of us, she has the most tact, and she knows how to behave herself around strangers. Clary would seem assertive, and I would be ineloquent. "They didn't find a phone or a wallet on you so they didn't know what to do."

"They?" He cocked his chin to the left, like he always does when he asks questions.

"The doctors."

"And who are you?"

"I'm Sylvie, and that's my girlfriend Clary, in the kitchen, doing the dishes."

Sylvie probably pointed at the kitchen for him to look, and since Clary pushed me to the side, he couldn't see me because of the kitchen wall.

"The doctors told me you shouldn't move at all these first two days, and then as little as possible for a week. You still didn't tell me where I could take you."

Nowhere, I wanted to shout at her, because he's still in my dad's old clothes, like when I left him, and he's still the same, can't she see that the rip on both of his knees is caused by me?

"I'm... Homeless", he said, in another painful attempt to raise his torso so he can sit down, and it was that change of point of view that made me visible to him.

He looked me up and down, as if he thought I was a hallucination.

"Franks?"

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:57 pm

"Don't call me that", I said. I don't know whether I was angry, or sad, or a mix of two. Mostly tired.

"What are you doing here?" He still had that pause in his speech, in the middle of the sentence, the caesura he's had since he was a child and his parents tried all ways to get rid of his stutter.

"This is my flat", I looked around, because I didn't realise until now just how much I missed his red hair and the freckles on his nose, and his collarbone.

"That's a—"

"Coincidence." I wasn't going to even think about allowing him to say the word miracle. No, this was far from a miracle. My miracle happened when I was fifteen, and it disappeared when I was eighteen.

We stared at each other in silence for a couple of seconds, and then we seemingly realised there were other people in the room who were waiting for answers.

"You… live with him?" he looked first at Sylvie, she was closer, and then at Clary, who decided that she should really continue doing the dishes, because nobody else would help her.

"Yeah, not by choice, though." For once I was glad for Sylvie and her interrupting.

"It's been—"

"Eight years. I know."

Sylvie grabbed a decorative pillow from the sofa and punched me with it.

"Shut up, Frank, let the man speak! You're impossible! Clary, leave the dishes and go take him out, because he obviously can't control himself."

I wanted to protest, but when I thought about it, I needed to get out and breathe. If I stayed any longer, I would have punched him.

I can't deal with borderline emotions. When I'm angry, I'm pissed. When I'm happy, I'm ecstatic. I don't have a light feelings, because I always feel them at full strenght. Bites me in the ass more often than not.

"I was just out an hour ago", I said, but my voice wasn't convincing enough.

"Out! Otherwise I'm telling your Christian mother you live with a trans lesbian and a mafia member."

There's nothing I could say to that, so I let Clary gently drag me away.

"Eccolo. Thanks, darling." She smiled at Clary, and turned back to January. "I don't care about your issues with Frank, I just need to keep you on this sofa until your stitches heal."

But I couldn't keep my eyes off of him as Clary handed me my shoes, and he disappeared behind the wall.

"I don't work for the mafia, I'm joking", Sylvie said, and I didn't hear January's reply because the door closed.

Clary and I walked in silence until we reached the main road, and the wind blew the cold into our jackets.

"Ah, shit, I didn't… Do you have gloves or something?" she asked. It's a well known fact that I am a creature of cold, that I thrive in winter, and sit under the air conditioning in summer. I went through the pockets of my jacket anyway, and fished out a a woolly striped hat that Sylvie gave me god knows when, and handed it to Clary.

"It's your girlfriend's. Tell her to stop leaving stuff in my jacket."

"Comes in handy when it's cold. Gimme", she reached out for the hat, and I pulled it onto her head. She laughed, because I had to tiptoe up to reach her. "You're such a jerk."

"I'm a jerk? Sylvie is a jerk for leaving clothes everywhere."

"Yeah, but I can't tell her that she is a jerk, she'll kill me."

"I don't know you put up with her." I shook my head, but I think I knew the answer.

"I love her, I have no choice."

Throughout the years, I wished that I could feel the same way about somebody. One time I thought I felt it, it was a mistake.

The city was too fast for my liking. Heaps of people moving without a single direction I can fathom. I've thought about moving out into the suburbs, maybe there it would be quieter, but I never had a reason apart from the noise. Maybe, to give the lovebirds some room. Or, to make an effort of moving as far as I possibly could from January.

If I could put that one night aside, he played an incredible role. He tricked me. And I loved him. But, how hard it is for a teen to love somebody? After all, I was just a mess of hormones, I just wanted to be accepted, to have friends. I always had issues with my saviour complex, and that's probably why I'm so bitter about Sylvie now.

I can blame him just as much as I can blame myself. How can you expect someone not to take a chance you so painfully gave them? And I was stupid enough to take him in and open myself up to him. There's no use crying about it now, and it's not like I can wish that I was smarter, because I was only fifteen. Maybe I needed someone like him. Maybe I think too much.

"What are you thinking about, Franklin", Clary asked, playfully elbowing my chest. "You're unusually quiet."

"Stuff. I don't know."

Clary sat down and ordered a coffee for her and tea for me. The coffee shop was small and cozy, just the way Clary likes things. She took of the hat and stuffed it into the pocket of her coat, probably to return it to Sylvie later.

"Now." She put her hands on the table, and I knew she meant business. "We're alone now, and you can tell everything, okay? No. You must tell me everything. Only if I know everything that's happening or has happened I can help you, and pick a side, his or yours."

And I wanted to tell her everything, but I didn't know where to start, and what to tell her, and what to keep to myself. But Clary will accept me with open arms and an open heart. Right?

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:04 pm

"There's not much to say", I started, holding my tea like it could protect me from the world, and if not the world, only from the cold, which I didn't mind anyway. "We were… together, I guess, but, it was probably not real."

"It was real if you felt it", she told me, and it hit hard.

"Maybe I feel all the wrong things. It would explain a lot."

"I've known you for threeish years now, and I can tell you that you don't feel all the wrong things, but a little too much of things."

I sipped my tea and shook my head.

"Yeah, that's how I am now." Clary crossed her legs and looked at me like she knew I was hiding something from her. "He changed me."

"For the better?"

I allow myself to love him for a second, because it wasn't all bad.

"Mostly. But then he did something I can't forgive, and I haven't seen him since."

"What?"

"…I'm sorry, I can't."

She reached out and put her hand on my shoulder. Shook me a bit, to show she means no harm. And she never does, that's why I prefer talking to her. Sylvie helps more, but Clary is gentler.

"It's okay, Frank. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but it's harder if you keep it on the inside."

"Well, it's been on the inside for years, I think I can handle it."

She looked like she wasn't so sure, but she was going to let it slide anyway.

"How do I… treat him? I mean… I don't know what I mean." She laughed and moved her hair away from her face. "I'm a mess, you'll have to excuse me. I wanted to ask, what is he to you now?"

Everything and nothing at all.

"Treat him like he's my ex, I guess. He is…" I had to force myself to say it, but it came out anyway, "he's a good person with wrong morals. It's not his fault. The world shaped him." I knew it made no sense to her, but if I told her what happened, she wouldn't understand the whole situation, all the feelings and all the hormones, and the way he physically took my breath away.

"Okay. I will."

We drank quietly, with our thoughts, for a couple of minutes when Clary's phone rang.

"Hey, Syl", she answered, so I knew who she was talking with. "Yeah, he's with me. Mhm. He's calm. Yeah. Just let us finish our drinks first, okay, sweetie? Oh, fuck you." Clary hung up and downed her drink. "We 'have to get here' because she doesn't understand social interactions. C'mon."

I paid for our drinks and we were back in our flat in ten minutes.

"Now, listen." Clary stopped me before we entered. "Best behaviour, otherwise we'll be sent out again."

"I'm always on my best behaviour, I don't know what you're talking about."

She stuck her tongue out and opened the door.

"Clary hates me now", I heard Sylvie trying to keep her voice down, but she could never whisper. I only realised how loud she was when I walked away from her. But I appreciate her here. Without her, Clary and I would never get anything done.

"We're back", Clary announced. "Mr Fryeman—can I call you January?—I'll have you known that Sylvie called us back because she—"

"Shh! Clarice, I swear!"

It's nice to know some things never change.

Our flat was still the same, with the same weird hall and its two bedrooms, even though now there was someone else in it. The old sofa Sylvie brought in when she moved in had a new body laid on it. Everything is the same, but different with January.

I took off my jacket and my shoes for the second time that day and, with a deep breath, I went to the living room.

He was still on the sofa, following me with his caramel eyes.

"Hi", he said, and that was enough for me.

"Can… you two leave us alone?" I asked Clary and Sylvie, and they nodded. Once they were in their room, I sat down across him, and he turned to me wincing.

"I swear I never… meant to be here. Near you."

"I know." And silence always made me angry near him, so I kept on talking. "How did you get shot? Why."

"I don't know. I guess there was a gang fight", he moved his hair from his face, and I could see his face as a whole for the first time. I wondered if his skin would feel the same against my lips. "A stray bullet caught me, and they ran away before the ambulance came, I guess."

"So you're still on the streets."

"Where else could I go?"

He wasn't sad, like his words were. He wasn't saying that to make me feel guilty, it was just a statement.

"Couldn't you call Ember or Gus?" They're his siblings after all. He couldn't count on his parents, that I knew, but some family had to be of help.

"I didn't want to bother them. They were starting their own families and careers, they didn't need another worry on their mind. And they still don't."

"Goddamnit." I shouldn't have tried to help him, to somehow find a solution. But I did it anyway. "And a job, do you have a job?"

"With only high school finished? You tell me."

"Does nobody on this fucking world want to help you?"

"You did."

I opened my mouth to speak, but I didn't know what to say to him. Yes, I helped him. But maybe I shouldn't have.

"If you… want", I started, while most of my brain screamed 'stop', "there's a job in the school I work, I could ask them to interview you when your wound heals." His expression didn't change, but his eyes got warmer.

"Thanks." Thanks, but you've already done enough. "You're a teacher?"

"Yes."

And I already felt myself falling.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:56 pm

"I've never pictured you as a teacher", January said when I returned from the kitchen with a glass of water for him.

"You've never seen me with kids", I sat down, but this time on the on the sofa, across of him.

The sofa is actually a bed for two, when you remove the big pillows, and with him lying next to the wall, and with him being as thin as a stick, there was plenty of room for me next to him. Not touching.

There was music from Sylvie and Clary's room, and January seemed confused, but I knew the girls too well.

"Ugh", I leaned my head back in disappointment. He raised his eyebrows, and I felt a guilty kick in my stomach because of that one cut that didn't heal properly. "They think we're going to bang, and they're giving us some privacy."

But that kick was nothing compared to the breathlessness because of his quiet laughter.

"I like them, where did you find them?"

My usual response, 'I found them on the streets', wasn't appropriate for this situation.

"Sylvie I met while studying, and Clary was Sylvie's crush for an entire year before she asked her out. Been nagging me ever since."

"Do they feed you well?" He asked with a smile.

"Clary's an excellent cook. You'll exit this flat heavier than when you—"

"Were carried in?"

I folded my knee and put my chin on it, keeping my eyes on him.

"You weak shit, goin' out and gettin' yourself killed." I even nailed the accent and everything. He tried not to laugh, but he did anyway, even if just briefly because it hurt.

"I can't believe you remember that."

"How could I forget? It made my mother cry."

"Shh, Mrs Holbrook always knew there was something going on in her house."

"It seemed like that, but I don't think so."

My mother always sets me up with daughters of her church friends, so I think that she really didn't suspect a thing. I don't mind it, though. I'm a good son and go on dates with those girls, and none of them so far wanted to date me. Three out of six had boyfriends their mothers didn't know about, and one of them was a lesbian. Needless to say, we went to a gay bar and had a great time.

"Do you teach in a high school, or?"

"I teach small kids. God forbid I teach teenagers, that would require maximum effort and dealing with emo music and tantrums."

"That was just you and your era, the end of the nineties, I believe teens nowadays are into pop and electronic music, that's what's on the radio."

"At least when we listened to one CD for years, it was a quality album. God knows just how many CDs I had", I agreed.

"You still have 'em?" he asked, with something resembling hope in his voice.

"Under my desk, buried safely from the world." God forbid Sylvie went through my room to find them.

"Who'd think music like that wouldn't be popular now that we're older."

It felt like he was trying to make me talk about what happened and about us, but if I were to talk about it then, I would've yelled at him, and that's the least he deserved.

"Things… change, J.J., even though we want them to stay the same." He bit his lip to keep himself from saying anything rash. I realised, too late, what I did wrong. "Sorry. I'm sorry."

"It's just… been a while since you called me that."

"I know."

Then I got up and took the glass from him. Our fingers touched for a brief second.

"Anything else I can get you? I have to go prepare my classes for tomorrow, and get the girls some fresh air. Their room doesn't have a window."

He nodded and pulled the hand I touched closer to himself.

"Okay."

"Clary is great company. Sylvie, not so much, but she tries. You can feel free to ask them anything."

I knocked on their bedroom door, just in case. You can never be too careful around them.

"You can come out now, I checked and he doesn't bite."

"Great, thanks, great."

"Your literacy is on point." Sylvie can talk fast, but that doesn't mean that what she says is very well thought out.

I closed myself in my room and, before doing what I told January I'd do, I dug out the CDs from under my desk. All the classics were there, ranging from the 80s to the late 90s, and they were all worn, but not damaged. We took good care of those CDs, and I probably still know them by heart. To test my theory, I put one of few playlist CDs we made into my laptop, and plugged my headphones in.

I sank into the familiarity of Basket Case, and an image appeared of him, in my old bedroom, on my bed, shaking his head in the rhythm, and my vision was full of his burgundy hair and the shine of the bedlamp against his teeth.

Why is was it so easy to forget all the good things he's ever done for me? My mind immediately goes to the bad, and forgets the way he kissed my neck, that he folded my clothes and slowly unbuttoned the shirts I wore. That time he hid under my bed when my mother returned from her work early. That I folded his shirtsleeves because the shirt belonged to my father and it was too long for him. And most of all things, that one specific way he made me feel like my life was meant for something more than teenage angst.

I fell asleep, with the playlist still playing songs I could sing along to even in my dreams, where January had a starring role again, and where I never left, and he never lied. Why wasn't the world perfect like that? Or better yet, why were we so flawed?

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:03 pm

After school tomorrow, before Sylvie came home, I made some lunch (successfully), and Clary dug through some old clothes because January's shirt was bloody, and I hadn't noticed it yesterday. I eyeballed it, and he was near Clary's height. Luckily, she had clothes to spare.

"I hope you like T-shirts", I heard Clary's voice echo through the hall, "because I wore nothing else."

"I really don't mind."

Sylvie had put a blanket on the sofa for him sometime in the evening, which I appreciated, because as much as I didn't like warmth, he embraced it, almost attracted it, like a reverse sun.

He still didn't look well enough to get up, even shifting on the sofa made him exhale in pain, trying to hide it, but as soon as Clary found a shirt deemed not horrible by her, he had to maneuver his way out of his bloody shirt. And I didn't have enough strength in me not to help him.

I was sitting on my knees, unbuttoning his cuffs.

"I feel like I'm three… ow."

"Two and a half", I told him. God bless my father and his tendency to have long cuffs. I spent at least five minutes on one of the sides, touching his arm softly, and it felt like it was 1999. again.

"Should've just pulled on the collar and hoped for the best."

"Ending in suffocation." I wanted to say that I just got him back, but that wouldn't be a wise thing to say.

"Murder by death." A pause.

"Murder by killing." I had to let go of his sleeve because I was laughing so hard. "For fuck's sake", I shook my head.

"If I didn't know better", Clary entered the living room. "Here you go, all shirts I have. I'm more into dresses nowadays."

She put the shirts on the sofa, not questioning our position. To redeem myself, I unbuttoned his other sleeve in record time.

"Remind me to burn this shirt", Clary said, taking the ruined shirt and carrying it to the bathroom. "Dried blood with this fabric. Sorry, January."

"It's fine. It was old anyway."

It wasn't fine on my side. That shirt was my father's, and it was one of the few things that was his, and mine before. But I let it go and didn't say a thing.

"Hello, everybody", I heard Sylvie from the front door. "I am home and I'm hungry and I smell Frank's cooking. Clary, why must you disappoint me like this."

"I was otherwise occupied."

She approached Sylvie from the back, hugged her and planted a kiss into the skin of her neck.

"I'm still disappointed."

January fixed the shirt which, on him, looked baggy, and I went to the kitchen to finish up lunch. Sylvie let go of Clary and dropped onto the armchair, her legs dangling from the side.

"What do you want to watch, January?" she asked, making true, honest to God attempts to socialise.

"Anything's fine by me", he said, visibly confused. I didn't have the heart to tell her. Sylvie put on some police show with bones and flesh, and I frowned. I knew that she'd put something like that. She feeds off of gore like I from Ancient Greek tragedies. "But maybe something less bloody, if possible."

He never had a problem with it like me, so I looked at him, and he looked back with a faint smile.

Did no time at all pass? Do eight years mean nothing in our time? Because it seemed like I was eighteen again, and he was nineteen. Add a couple of inches in height and a couple of pounds, maybe a couple of scars and cracks on our hearts, and that's where we were standing. I then realised just how well I knew him.

"Sure. This is a rerun of a rerun", Sylvie shrugged and grabbed the remote.

Clary checked out what I was doing in the kitchen and immediately shooed me away, because I was probably going to burn everything or something, so I went to join the living room party. Since we only have that one armchair and one sofa, it was either floor or sofa, next to January's legs, so I did that

I expected some commentary from the girls, Clary kept on cooking, Sylvie kept on playing with the remote, and January didn't move an inch. Maybe he didn't notice. God knows we were big fans of casual touches back in the day, a hand on the knee, pushing shoulders against each other's, and some less decent ones.

"Did you record the series?" Sylvie asked, no one in particular. "I missed the season finale. Also, not that I'm complaining, but Mr. Guest is wearing one of your pre-transition shirts that I used to wear. I still like Ramones, you know."

"Yeah", I nodded, just when January said, "Me too."

"Late nineties, man", Clary said and plugged her phone into the speaker we have on the shelf above the tv. I Don't Want to Grow Up played. "Who'd knew that I'd be still listening to the same songs I listened to when I was a preteen."

I do have most of the CDs by the Ramones under my desk. If it was punk or hard in the nineties, I probably had it, and I probably listened to it at one point with January.

It doesn't have to be all bad with him. If I could forget our last day, and maybe the events that lead me to him, we had a good run. I was grateful for all that he had done for me. Even though it that meant that I couldn't listen to most of my favourite music without thinking about him, and the image of him forever burned into my mind was of him, was of him in my dad's old plaid shirt, with hair always a bit too long, and with freckles absolutely everywhere.

He looked at me and I think we were thinking about the same time.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:39 pm

We had a new coworker in school the next day, and of course that it was my duty, as the youngest teacher there, to show her around. I didn't mind too much. It meant staying after the work time, and I was worried that if I stayed with January any longer, I'd do something and then we'd both be as confused as I was.

She was a tall Indian woman, with big brown eyes, and a big backpack, with, I guessed paperwork.

"I'm Anjali", she said, shaking my hand.

"Frank. I've been here for fourish years, so I think you're best off with me."

She nodded, not even looking at me, and then she started going through the papers she had in her arms.

And I thought to myself, I should ask her out.

Because it's been so long since I've been with anyone, more than I could remember. After January I had some flings while in college, but they didn't carry the same depth. They didn't mean too much to me, and moving on was hard.

I remember when January and I had a talk, half-asleep on my bed, my homework nearly done on my night stand. We were discussing how attraction to different people is strange. He said that he could date all people, no matter their gender, because it didn't matter to him, while I had my doubts. There's nothing wrong with girls, I've liked and dated girls before, but there's something lacking, and I couldn't pinpoint it. It still feels like that.

But I didn't need whatever it was to date Anjali, all I needed was to ask.

And, when I set my mind to it, I realised I've never asked anyone to go out with me. It's always been other people who asked, and I would either reluctantly say yes, or no, in the same tone. And it made it harder than it should've been.

Anjali didn't say anything that didn't relate to work as long as we were in the school area while I walked her around and showed her all the places which I thought were important, but she turned out to be a real talker when we exited.

"The birds are so pretty here", she said, then explained it further, "I just moved here, and the first morning I woke up I heard the birds and I knew I had a good feeling about this town."

"Wait till you see the beaches", I said, a hundred images going through my head at once.

"Yeah, beaches, also. And people. And the kids are so much nicer here." She just seemed so happy about life, almost childlike, and it was contagious. "I love it all."

"It really is beautiful, but you might want to stray from the strict centre."

"Yessir." She kind of reminded me a girl in elementary school who drew horses and wolves, she carried the same joyous vibe.

"If you want to, I can show you around sometimes." Here we see a subtle call on a date in its natural habitat. Sometimes I manage to incredibly disappoint myself.

"That would be great if you could. I'll let you know when I unpack and settle down."

How do people do this? That sentence could mean ten different things. At least with January it means exactly what he made it up to say. Why did he enter my head all of the sudden?

I said goodbye to Anjali and headed home slowly, because I didn't want to be back in my flat, with Sylvie and Clary watching how January and I interact and realising just how close we were. It's bad enough that distance had done no damage to us, and we still talk like we used to, and I noticed he sometimes lowered his voice like he used to when my parents were home, and those little things shatter me like I'm a mirror somebody shot at.

Sadness is not my friend, and neither is memory, because past hurts like a burning needle that leaves a scar which never heals properly, and it still hurts you the same as the time you got it. And in that world of metaphores, I'm a scar and he's my damned burning needle.

And let's consider Anjali to be the temporary cure.
Ice in a thin plastic bag on a burn. Maybe it will make me feel better somehow, even if it makes no sense. If I don't try anything, I won't move forward, and honestly, I just want to leave this position I'm in.

Being with January felt lifelike, all warm and comfortable, it tasted like salt and wind and was in colours of summer. If January was my summer, then Anjali will be my spring. Second best, but good enough, at least for now.

I didn't tell Sylvie nor Clary about her. Sylvie would tell me just how wrong my choices were, and even though I was aware of that, I didn't know what else to do. I had to choose something, and between bad and heartbreaking, there's no doubt about which I'm going to pick.

He wasn't forcing anything, which I was grateful for, but he coudn't hide his eyes from me, and I could always read them so well. I pick up the blue out of his posture, out of his bare bones, and then adjust.

When you imagine something for so long, it's bound to backfire, one way or another, and I am the living example of that.

I haven't stopped listening to our music. I wiped the dust off of our CDs and I played them whenever I'm closed in my room. One time I accidentaly left the door open while playing November Rain, and he must have heard it.

But I shouldn't be apologising for the music I listen to, right? They're my songs as much as they are his. At least that's what I've been saying to myself since he arrived, and so far it's only proven to be wrong.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:47 pm

After maybe a week or so, January said that it was time for him to try to get up, maybe walk a bit. I waited for Clary to take her shift in the pet shop, so she wouldn't see him wrapping his arms around my neck to push himself back onto his feet. His mobility was fine, he told me, but bending in any way from his waist hurts more than it should.

Walking in silence wasn't something I was used to around him, but he didn't say a word, and I didn't know what to say to him after the November Rain incident. We walked through the neighbourhood I lived in, through all the dark alleyways and roads with trees on either side of them.

It was incredibly tempting to reach out for his hand. It was not even a foot away from mine. I didn't, and the foot turned into two.

When we were returning, we went through a shortcut, and I heard a small cry coming from the trash cans behind us.

"Wait!" I said and turned around, walking right into January. He jumped back a bit.

"You spooked me."

"Who even says that?" That was purely a reflex.

"Me, apparently. Why did you stop?" I walked back to the trash cans and saw a basket covered with a cloth, and the cry was coming from there. January followed me with a little bit of struggle as I knelt down and uncovered it.

In it there were four kittens, all black and white, and the one on the far right was crying out and trying to walk.

I always had a soft spot for homeless animals. Keeping it where it was would make me feel like a bigger shit than I actually am.

"Oh my God", January whispered. I reached out for the moving kitten, and it fit in my hands with ease.

"Sweet little baby", I said when the kitten started meowing and pushing his head against my thumb. "And the others?"

January shook his head and covered the basket with the cloth again.

"We can't leave him here", he said, but he probably knew I would take him home with us either way.

"We're not going to. We're bringing him to Clary, she'll know what to do."

Carrying a small animal in my hands turned out not to be hard at all, because the kitten fell asleep almost as soon as I started walking, and it started making adorable sighing noises, making my chest feel like it might explode.

When we brought it to Clary, she squeaked.

"Look at you!" she said, taking him away from me to look at the kitten better. "Where did you find him?"

"Someone left his entire litter on the streets", I told her, watching just how gentle she is with the kitten. It had paws as small as her fingertips and blue eyes bigger than the rest of its features, and she played with it using gentle touches on its legs.

"How can somebody be so heartless and just throw them out like this," she asked a rhetorical question, but January answered it anyway.

"My parents did the same thing with me."

And then utter silence until the kitten meowed.

"That's awful", Clary said, quietly, returning to petting the kitten.

"It's the harsh reality."

"Can we keep him? And, more importantly, is he going to be okay?"

Clary went to school to become a vet, and when that turned out to be too stressful for her, she left and began working where she works now. I know to always trust her with animals of any kind.

"He's really small… also not a he. Look, my cat twin," she winked at me, "she's too young to be without her mother. We have to keep her, I don't care what Sylvie says. She's too young to be alone. Also, her back leg is weird", she said, pointing at her leg, careful not to touch it. It seemed to be shorter and stiffer than the rest, and even though I'm not a vet like Clary, I can see that that's a sign of something being wrong. "But apart from that, she's surprisingly alright. A little bit hungry but that's nothing I can't deal with. We've got to name it, though."

"Spookster", I immediately said, and it got a soft laugh out of January.

"Spookie. I like it. Take her to our flat and I'll gather the stuff we need for her."

I took the little ball of fluff from Clary and walked up the stairs to our flat. Then I gave Spookie to January and unlocked the door.

We sat on the sofa and stared at the kitten, doing little else.

"She doesn't deserve to be kicked out on the streets. She did nothing wrong." My brain brakes failed me here, and I continued, "and neither did you."

"Sometimes things don't work out the way they should", he said with a blank voice.

Teens get kicked out of their houses all the time. It's all over the tv and it appeared on the tv shows so much that 'homeless teen drug addict' became a trope. But just because it's happening, it doesn't make it even a bit less tragic. When parents refuse to be parents, it pisses me off. You've made a baby, you should keep care of it then, it's as simple as that. Or don't make babies, which is a better choice for some parents.

I don't know what January would've become if I hadn't met him. Would he never hear our songs? Never kiss anybody and never go to the seaside? We can only guess circling around, but never geting to, the truth. Maybe it's for the best that we don't know. Maybe it would've been so horrible that the universe did anything to stop it from happening.

And as I watched him look at the kitten, I saw determination in his eyes. He was going to save this kitten like I saved him many years ago.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:40 am

Clary took a pillow and some baby cat milk from the shop, and when she returned, she found January and me gathered around Spookie, while she was blissfully asleep.

"Are you starting a cult?" she asked. "Come on, Frankenstein, help me with these things."

When January began to get up, I put my hand on his shoulder to push him down.

"No, you're hurt. Clary won't have you in her kitchen when you're hurt. She'll kick you out." And my hand was on his shoulder for a second too long. I couldn't force myself to move it.

"That's very true", Clary called out from the kitchen. "You lay down, pal, I have all the man strength I need in Frank."

"You're going to disappoint yourself in me."

"You did carry me to the seaside once. That's 160 pounds over half an hour, and that's impressive", January said softly poking Spookie. The small cat let out an impressively loud purr.

"See? If you managed to do that, you'll have no problem with this", Clary winked at me handing over the milk.

"I was a shrimp, for Christ's sake", I said, "five feet five."

"Now you're five…" she eyeballed me, "ten. Impressive, if I do say so myself. Puberty hit you like a speeding train."

"Shush."

By the time we fed the kitten, Sylvie came home, and her reaction was priceless. First, a high-pitched noise, then a sneeze.

"I'm allergic but I don't care because I'd give my life for her", she said, her eyes watering, as she lifted Spookie and pet it with two fingers, because you couldn't do it any other way.

"I'll get you some meds, Syl, you'll be fine", Clary smiled while watching her, trying to get the image of her and Spookie into her mind forever.

"In all honesty", she sniffed, "I don't give a damn."

And I'll be damned if we didn't spend the next thirty minutes just staring at the kitten, all four of us, not speaking. Only when Sylvie's stomach growled she backed away and finished, or at least tried, what Clary was cooking before. But never mind. Sylvie' cooking, as well as mine, was a long and winding road of failure in equal amounts as of successes. That's how Clary started, too, but when you do a thing every day multiple times, you can't not get better at it eventually, one way or another.

So Sylvie cooked, and Clary taught January and me all about kitten anatomy and their behaviours, and I couldn't help but to think that Spookie couldn't have found a better home than herself than ours.

The pillow Clary brought up was a nearly-black shade of blue, so when Spookie lay on it, she almost disappeared, but her white spots and blue eyes stood out. It also didn't help because she slept most of the time, and you had one thing less to search for when you're trying to find a small kitten in a big flat.

Needless to say, we were head over heels for the kitten. She added a new dimension to our ever-growing household, because Sylvie wouldn't even want to hear about children until she and Clary got married. She said that her family would kill her, and honestly, I don't think that's the part she ought to worry about. Caring about something that is completely dependent on us made us more humane, I think. More aware that sometimes, we need to help each other without questioning the reasons.

Spookie slept most of the time, be it on Sylvie's chest, Clary's lap, my shoulder, or, her favourite, next to January, curled into a furry spotty circle on the sofa near his heart.

I tried not to compare him to the cat, I really did, but there were too many touching points that my brain couldn't steer away from the subject. They were both homeless when I met them, and, being me, I took them into my house and into my life. I'd sworn I'd stop doing that after January, but I couldn't help myself. By not wanting people to be unhappy, I've turned into an excellent saviour, not by choice, but by pure human instinct.

It's so hard for me to think about January, because I want to think about the bad things, to make myself see all that he's ruined for me, but then I remember a minor detail that's not even that important, and I'm done. Usually I'd think about him in the privacy of my room because if he was next to me, I would've done something I'd most definitely regret.

I don't know whether he felt the same. Apart from his eyes, I wasn't able to decipher him and his face. He could hate me an unfathomable amount, which I can completely understand, and he could love me, which I find unthinkable, because I'm not sure he ever loved me in the first place.

But he was my first everything. I gave him the power over my history and he left his mark in my brain. He defined me in a way that, whenever I kiss someone, I think about how January kissed me. My mind was stuck on an infinite loop of him and I didn't even realise just how much he modified me to fit inside my life.

Because I wasn't complete when we met, he entered the stage of my life when people around me made me into what I am today, and he was one of those people. I shouldn't have let him, because now those years feel wasted, and I feel empty. I wonder if he thinks about what he did. I wonder if he's sorry, or if he sees nothing wrong with it.

I wonder if, when he lies on my sofa at night, he thinks about me in the way that I think of him, and wishes nothing more and nothing less than precisely what I want.

Because, honestly, at that point? I would forgive everything if he just put his lips anywhere near mine.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:04 pm

Next Saturday, Clary and Sylvie decided to go to the beach for an entire day to relax, while January and I decided to stay home. Me, because I had work, and January, because, I guessed, the sea is an open wound for both of us.

My work was in shape of a child. And I promise I'm not a paedophile.

Georgia's parents asked me if I could help their daughter with her grammar and spelling, because it's nearing a point of no return. They told me that if her behaviour isn't helped right now, she will spend the rest of her life spelling her name as georgia and that is a sign of poor education, and she won't be having any of that.

Her parents texted me they were outside, so I moved Spookie from my shoulder onto January's chest and went to pick up Georgia.

"If you swear in front of the little child, I'll fuck you up." He smiled, and I walked out the flat so I wouldn't have to watch it.

A big family car was waiting outside the petshop, so I went to it and drummed my fingers against the window. Georgia's mother pressed a button and it went down.

"Good morning", I said.

"Good morning, Mr Holbrook. George, sweetie, your teacher's here." I was confused for a second, then I saw Georgia exiting the car with a notebook.

"Cute nickname, kiddo", I told her, and she pouted so hard her mouth nearly made a full circle.

"Only my mum and my neighbours call me that."

"And now me. C'mon, we've no time to waste. Goodbye, Mrs Truman."

She waved at me, blew a kiss to Georgia and left.

"You're not allergic to cats?" I asked, just in case. Kids nowadays have so many allergies they shoudn't even exit the house, because they might burst in flames.

"You have a cat?" she squeaked, the way only children can be excited about. Well, children and Anjali.

We went on a date the week before, to the zoo. We ate ice cream as she explained to me all of the different butterfly species we had. I wasn't as interested as she was, but listening to her talking about insects for a full hour was more than entertaining. I didn't tell anyone, because I was fearing the reaction I might get. I think that Clary was under impression that I was going to propose to January any day now, and I didn't know how I felt about the whole situation.

"She's a kitten actually. Just about fits in your hand."

"I want to pet it!" she said, running to the pet shop. I had to pick up my pace if I was going to catch up with her. God knows how many times I told my pupils I live inside a pet shop, if they were any older, they'd be on my door knocking and asking for booze. "Teacher, where to next?" she asked from the depths of the shop.

"Behind the counter there's a door, go through it and then straight up."

"Okay!" Kids, I swear. One of the reason I'm in this job.

I walked into the flat considerably later than her, and she was already on the armchair, cuddling the cat. January, on the other hand, looked confused.

"She didn't even say hello", he said.

"Kitty!" she replied, like it's the most normal thing in the world.

"Be polite, or else I'll tell your mother."

Georgia sighed, with such power that Spookie meowed in alarm.

"Hello", she started, looking at January. "My name is Georgia."

"I'm January. You know, I was born in Georgia."

Of course I knew. Even though he tried all ways to get rid of his accent, it still came out sometimes, and I found it immeasurably cute.

"I was born in January", Georgia said, pouting her lip in the way that only children do while thinking. "I think. Or June."

"Nice to meet you", said January, and I remembered when that smile was directed towards me. It took me a couple of seconds to regain myself, and then I sat on the sofa not looking at January.

"Now, let's do some actual work, okay?" I asked Georgia, and she moved Spookie, blissfully asleep, onto the arm rest. She opened her notebook and took a pen from our pen holder. "I was thinking I tell you what you should write, and then we later check for your mistakes, okay?"

"Okay."

"But first, I'm hungry. You play with Spooks here", I told Georgia and turned to January. This was badly planned, that meant I had to get up again. "Did the girls feed you?"

"I am capable of opening a fridge."

"Jeez, that's more than Sylvie. Kudos."

I got up and stole the rest Clary's smoothie from the countertop. She always makes them when she's going somewhere for an entire day. More often than not, I think, God bless Clary.

"Teacher, what is the story going to be about?" Georgia asked, trying to sit down so that Spookie would be comfortable, and that she can write at the same time. Good on her, I would've given up even before I'd start.

"I don't know, George, I don't know any stories. January?" I looked at him when I sat down. I offered the smoothie to him but he shook his head.

"I mean, nothing that's simple."

"Try telling her about the time we found Spookie." He nodded and pulled his knee closer to his chest. "Just use simple words and talk slowly."

Children are most often smarter than they are credited to be. They may not know how to express their ideas in a way we adults are used to, but they have uncomplicated solutions to everything as a cause of that. They just need a bit of communication to get their thoughts out.

"May I just ask something?" Georgia almost rose her hand.

"Sure, George", I said, not expecting her question

"Are you together like my neighbours?"

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:29 pm

"My mum said I shouldn't talk to our neighbours because one of them is really famous, but I saw him in a movie and wanted to say that I liked it."

"What made you think that they're together?" January must have had his mind calmer than mine, because I felt like if I opened my my mouth I would scream.

"Because when I told Mr Miller that I liked his movie and left, I heard our other neighbour say 'Mr Actor Man, I love you', and then bad words I can't repeat."

Why do we grow up? Because, if we kept the mindset Georgia had, our world would be so much easier to live in.

"And why do you think that we're together?" January asked, moving his legs from me, but I wanted him to stay close to me.

"Because you look at each other like my mum looks at my dad." She looked honest, curious, and so innocent, meaning no harm. And January's reaction made me believe that maybe one day he will kiss me like he used to.

"We are not together", I jumped in, when I decided it was safe to open my mouth. "And you're telling stories to avoid doing work, aren't you?"

She laughed and shook her head.

"No, I'm not!"

"Then how about we start writing then?"

I'll be damned if it was easy to look at him after that.

It felt like something was going to happen, and the anticipation made it hard to talk, it took hold of my throat and didn't let go. I had to watch over my every move, because my hand might instinctively reach out for his, like it was doing for years. Old habits die hard, and even harder when the situation is like it was.

Georgia was good. She listened to January's cat story and wrote it down to the best of her capability. Then I let her play with Spookie while I corrected it. I definitely made a mistake before, because everything apart from the start of the sentence and her name was lowercase. I wrote down things she should keep in mind while writing on the other page, but that was the least of her issues.

When I finished, I looked at my handwriting and stopped for a second. I saw him in my lowercase Gs and my uppercase Js, because he looped them in a way I found charming, so I started mimicking it. His Ps and Ds and their roundness. The way I strike my Fs so they look like the ones in his signature. The only way I could stop being reminded of him was to stop breathing.

"Hey, George, come here for a bit", I told her when I was done with her work. She got up, holding Spookie in her hands, and sat next to me. "Look, I don't think it's your fault you're writing like this."

"Then whose fault is it?" she asked, looking victorious. She's going to tell her parents that all her bad grades aren't on her, I knew it.

"You probably have this thing called dysgraphia. It's... A thing that holds your hands back from writing the words you see correctly in your brain." This was the best I could do without scaring her.

All the letters a word needed were there, but in a different order. Street turned into sretet, city into ctiy. I didn't see that in her homework, someone must have corrected it, but all the evidence was in the notebook.

"There's nothing wrong with you", I said, handing the notebook over to her, "but you might have to spend more time in school. I'll talk to your parents about that."

"And it's going to be okay then?" she asked.

"If you work on it, you're going to get all As in no time." She was a smart kid, but she often got bad grades in exams, as her parents told me, and all exams in the school I worked in were written, not oral. No wonder she had a rough time.

"Finally", she said laughing. "And then my mum won't be angry about my grades."

"She's not angry at you. She just knows that you can do better, but all this time she thought you weren't trying hard enough."

"But I am trying."

"I know you are, kiddo", I told her and ruffled her hair. She squeaked, left the cat on the sofa and went back to the armchair.

"And I'm going to prove it to her. I'm going to be the best one in the class, I'll be better than Tyler, he's a nerd anyway."

"Tyler reminds me of Frank", January said, and I threw a decorative pillow his way, a la Sylvie.

"This is my sofa, J.J. I can kick you out if I wish."

He smiled, and it must have felt like he won at something.

Georgia's mum came to pick her up half an hour after that, and Sylvie and Clary were going to be home soon. So I was left in the flat alone with January, and the living room was silent.

"She's incredibly sweet", January said, his voice soft and his hand petting Spookie.

"Yes, she is. I'm just glad I was able to help her."

"You're a saviour, you know that?" he asked. And I knew. I knew that very well, and that's why I felt so terrible about my life.

And his words seemed to be breaking my heart all over again.

I got up and took his face into my hand. He stared at me with his caramel eyes like he stared many times before. I did the only thing which I couldn't hold myself back from doing.

Our Miss Kiss landed on his cheek, just barely touching the corner of his lips.

"I'm sorry", I said and I went to my room.

"Franks", he called after me, and I couldn't face him, because if I did, something more than a Miss Kiss would happen, and I won't be able to look at myself in the mirror anymore.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:30 pm

Luckily, the next day was Sunday, because I didn't feel like getting up that day. I texted Sylvie to make us some hot chocolate and join me in an hour long silence, so she appeared in my room with a mug of hot water and a tea bag, telling me about Clary and her's day out.

"The beach is lovely, I mean, the sea is still cold but it's bearable. Can't wait for the summer. Why are you not leaving your room?" she handed me the mug. "Was it something we did or something you did?"

"I messed up, but that doesn't matter. I'm the problem, and I can fix myself so that's what I'm doing now."

She nodded and sat next to me.

"Do you want to tell me about it or can I tell you something?" she asked, more timid than I was used from her, and of course I nudged her to keep on talking. "I want to marry her."

I know it should've surprised me, but, honestly? Clary had been mentioning it ever since we got Spookie, making comments about how they're starting a family already and more. I was just glad that Sylvie was on the same page, otherwise nobody would want to see such a couple separate. I know I wouldn't.

"Are you going to propose?" I asked watching my tea.

"I guess. She hasn't, so it's on me."

"But that's good."

"Yes", she nodded, with a smile on her face that resembled January's in its faintness. "I do love her. I just feel like I shouldn't be the one propose, because I'm not romantic, she would do a ten times better job."

"Do it", I told her, sipping my tea, "because if you won't, she won't, and then you'll exist on that crossroad for years."

She considered that for a couple of seconds, then shrugged.

"I do have a ring, though, might as well just do it." I didn't know how to respond to that. "No, I didn't exclude you from the decision-making, I've had that ring for a while now because I saw it and it reminded me of her and yeah."

"How do you expect that she proposes, and you've got the ring? Otherwise there'd be two rings in the whole story."

She frowned in a way which I found endlessly amusing, but I didn't laugh in case she decided to spill my tea on me. Sometimes her practical jokes hurt.

"To be frank with you, that hasn't crossed my mind. Hehe. Frank." I'm immediately shoved into the past, to the many times January used my name for puns.

I allowed myself to allow only him in my life. If I had had more friends throughout high school, I wouldn't need his company. If I had had more friends in college, it would be easier to forget him. But I didn't want anyone in the small hole he made for himself in my heart. That part of my heart was, and seemingly will always be, his. And I am torn.

"Hey", Sylvie noticed and pushed my shoulder a bit. "What's on your mind?"

"… January."

"Oh." She was silent for a second or two, and I didn't blame her. I didn't know what to do in my situation, let alone hers. "What about him? Where does your train of thoughts travel to?"

"I'm angry. Mostly at myself, but because of him."

"I'm a smart cookie, but that don't make sense to me."

"Neither."

She laughed and went for the door.

"Okay, Frank, you figure out your sorry life on your own, and come out for breakfast when you feel like it, mkay? Mkay." She exited and I did begin to figure out my sorry life.

The Miss Kiss was our thing, one of many things he left as a legacy and a constant reminder. Not quite on the lips, just a bit to the side, sometimes anywhere on the face. We 'coined the phrase' back in the early days of our relationship, when we were both barely teens and kisses were something kind of scary, something only adults did, and the Miss Kiss was easing us into the whole idea of physical contact.

I'm glad I had someone to go with me through all of the firsts. I got the 'experience' I needed and I ditched my never-been-kissed status early in the game. And that's okay, because people who value virginity are telling bullshit. You're worth the same if you've never seen anyone else naked and if you fucked half of your class. When we die and turn into ash, somebody's virgin ashes will be exactly the same as my non-virgin ashes. But that's a rant for a different audience and a different time.

I had no reason to be mad at him except for that one thing which I refuse to think about. He didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't do in his situation.

Here's how I see it. If a dog finds a bone, he will take it, and later if it turns out to be a bone a cat put away for winter and the cat dies, the dog wouldn't know and or care about that. In the end, the cat shouldn't have left her bone on such a visible place. Or something like that, they didn't teach us comparisons in school. Basically, January is the dog, I am the cat, and the bone is my bed, in every single metaphorical way you can think of. Home, safety, relationship, and the general togetherness.

By then I needed a pill for my headache and a psychologist for my brain. And, possibly, for the truth to go away for maybe a week so I can love him again without regrets and hating myself whenever his hand escapes from mine. Because it all comes down to that I love him and I shouldn't because he's not what my brain says he is.

But, god, I would like that, wouldn't I? Just so I turn out to be the Good Guy in the end and that it was all a misunderstanding and everything is perfect. I needed a Sylvie-esque reality check and icy cold water spilt on my head.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:31 pm

I did come out of the room eventually, for lunch. January is an amazing actor, I'll give him that, because nothing on his face gave away that I was anything more to him than, say, Clary was. At that moment, my hate for myself was equal to the love I felt for him.

"So, how did you spend your day? Listening to blink-182 and petting lil baby Spookie?" Clary asked as she slurped her spaghetti in a particular way that Sylvie found the funniest thing in the world, so she kept on watching her, in amusement. "Cuz, I mean, that's would I would do."

"That's a great idea, we'll do that the next time", January said. At that point both he and I were watching Sylvie watch Clary, and I had a feeling that she was thinking about making a big move in her life, especially if we consider the conversation that morning.

"No, I helped one of my pupils. Poor kid has dysgraphia and no one noticed so I'm going to have to organise a study group for her. Probably someone else will turn out to have dyslexia and then we'll have the full set", I said, slowly but surely bracing myself. Sylvie had something box-shaped in the pocket of her hoodie which wasn't there before she entered the room, and either it was a miniature book or something that will change the way my mother sees me and my living with two girls. I bet you she thought I was a womanizer.

"Aw, poor kid. It must be awful to have a hard life when you don't know better and nobody can help you", Clary said as she tried to lick the sauce of her lip, but in the end she gave up and just used her finger. "My girlfriend is second-generation Italian and I can't eat pasta like a normal human being. That's the same thing as when you're a basketball fan and your partner is a world-class footballer, I'm such a disappointment." She shook her head and laughed.

"I don't think she minds. Her grandma will teach you anyway", I said. Sylvie had one of those hardcore Italian grandmas you hear about in books and cooking shows. You'd think that it's a stereotype, but most of Italian grandmas are just like that. Chubby with huge smiles on their faces, always filling up your plate, scolding your taste in men and promising to teach you how to make proper Italian dishes because 'ay, those Americans and their greasy pizza, not good'. I've been to Sylvie's grandma once, when Sylvie told her family about Clary, and I felt like nothing less than a cousin.

"Her grandma loves me. She always complained how her granddaughter wasn't femine enough, and then she got me. She even gave me a pretty floral dress. I think that's compensating for Syl's grunge era."

"Most definitely", I nodded, "none of us saw her in high school but I bet you she looked punk as hell."

"I know she did, I saw the pictures…. Hey, Sylvie", Clary just then noticed that her girlfriend had been staring at her for no less than five solid minutes. "Are you okay?"

"Marry me."

"What?"

And from that moment forward, January and I stayed silent, trying not to react prematurely.

"That's not an answer. But, again, I didn't ask any questions."

"Well, okay then."

Sylvie sighed and took out the ring box, slamming it against the kitchen table.

"I was hoping for something more, 'Yes, of course, my only and true love', but if it's a yes, I don't mind either way."

"You bought a ring?!"

There we go.

I started laughing and pushed Clary's shoulder a bit, so she started laughing as well.

"I mean, give me a freakin' heads up or something!" she said, taking the box into her hands. "If your intention was to make my heart stop, you're on the right track."

"No, my intention is purely selfish. I want presents", Sylvie said, but behind the sarcasm I could see that she was thrilled like a small child. "Is it the right size", she asked, as the last attempt to hide her smile. Clary put the ring on her finger and pulled Sylvie into a hug.

"I love you, even though you're a twat, are you aware of that?"

"I hate to interrupt, but no one informed me this would be happening, otherwise I would've bought confetti", I said. I began taking the dishes to the sink because, if I didn't, nobody would, and then Clary would complain.

"Congrats, you two", January smiled. Why is his smile always sad? It drove me insane, because it always felt like I caused it, it was always my fault. I just wanted to throw a plate into his head, maybe that would make me less guilty.

"I feel so grown up right now, you don't have a clue. Old lady with a cat and a wife."

"Soon to be wife", Sylvie said. "We might all die, like, tomorrow."

Yeah, we might die. And I'll die with regrets as big as the freaking moon, because I am a coward, and I have my fears, some logical and most not. Change most things and it could have been us, proposing and getting married. But no. I'm me, and January's January, and it feels like we're circling, never on the same page and always hidden from each other.

In college we learned that people tend to forget the memories they have until they're abstract colours and feelings. Not me, apparently. I felt his every touch resonating in my bones like it was yesterday. I could recreate his kisses one movement of tongue at the time. His words are like my favourite book, and I could quote paragraphs from memory.

I could feel myself burst at the seams, the stitches that held me were giving up. But I had a plan. That Monday I was going to find a job for January, probably as the leader of the study group I had mentioned. I was going to ask Anjali on another date. I was going to bring my life back on track, without him.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:31 pm

I left the house early, in case I stumbled upon Anjali. She was always in the school early, in the garden, doodling on her school files and listening to the birds. If I caught her on a good day, I'd learn about different bird types.

A word or two on Anjali and our relationship. I consider that, if you go out on a date with someone, you're dating that person. Very oldfashioned, but that's what I'm used to. And considering Anjali and I went on a date, I guess I could call her my girlfriend. It's such a loose term in my mind. Sylvie and Clary rarely use it, mostly as a joke, and I never got the full power of the word.

A completely different thing happened with January. I couldn't find a word which described what he was to me. I immediately ditched those which were too light, like partner, boyfriend, lover. These were the last words which I'd use when talking about him, because they mostly focused on the physical. I mean, fuck the physical, you can't love someone from a kiss or a night while drunk. That sort of connection runs shallow. What you can, however, is build from that foundation.

Whilst January was indescribable, Anjali was my girlfriend. Nothing more, probably a little bit less.

I was right, I found her in the school yard, and she greeted me with a short and smiley 'hi'.

"Hey, how are you?" I asked, expecting a picturesque answer she always responds with when asking that question.

"I'm happy because the birds here like me and I don't have a lot of work today. Also, I wanted to ask you, it might be a bit rash." She was going to ask me anyway, but I'm glad she stopped for a second to let me reply.

"Go ahead, I don't mind."

"Do you want to meet my parents? I told them about you and they immediately invited you to dinner this Friday."

And didn't that hit like a ton of bricks.

"Um… okay?"

"Honestly", she smiled, and it instantly felt easier to breathe, "they're just pushy. All they do is ask about who I'm dating, and now that I have someone, they went insane. I know we still haven't established the whole relationship thing, but just pretend you're my boyfriend for three hours. I'll owe you one exam grading."

"Sure, I'll go."

It took me nearly half a day to recover from that surprise.

Because it always felt like I was cheating on January with Anjali, and now it turns out to be the exact opposite, even though everything that happened with January was either back in the nineties or in the future. It would've been so much easier had I asked someone to help me, but I tend to be stubborn when it comes to figuring things out. I want to prove that I'm smart enough to do it on my own, and sometimes, I am, but this is most definitely not that time.

When I felt like I was functioning like I should, I went to have a little chat about Georgia with my boss and a possibility to open a workplace to help pupils who have any sort of learning disorder, just to make their lives a bit easier, and ultimately, if it works out, organise groups for all kids who want to know more about certain subjects, because you wouldn't believe just how interested the kids get in certain subjects, especially Chemistry and Geography. We can teach the entire world, if only we stop shoving knowledge down its throat, and start feeding it with a teaspoon.

My boss was in a great mood. He asked me why I was asking about a workplace, and I ended up telling him about January and his situation. He said that he would think it through, which is a better answer than none, and he told me about a housing solution in the city which gets young homeless people of the street and gives them a permanent place to stay, so I decided to check it out. Anything to get him out of my mind before I did anything I might regret, but I knew that it was going to happen anyway.

It's like you know you're going to die doing it, but eating that red mushroom seemed like a great idea at the time. All you do is just hurt yourself for the sake of some brief satisfaction, because humans are animals, apparently, and we can't fight our urges.

Why him, though? It's like the universe specifically picked one thing that kept on hurting me, and then made it irresistible to me. I can't keep on ignoring it, even though I swear by god, I will try.

Maybe it isn't even the universe, maybe it's nowhere near that complicated. It's probably just the 'grass is always greener' type issue, and that's so desperately human. We are a flawed species and I can't help but wonder how we managed to survive all these years with all the wars and the global warming we're causing.

Clary made cake to celebrate the engagement, so I had cake for lunch, dinner and breakfast for the next day, because four people and a cat can't possibly finish a cake that size. I'm not even complaining, Clary's mum is a baker by hobby and her cakes are nearly as good as her mum's.

Sylvie was holding up her 'I'm cool, I don't care' facade for the shortest amount of time because, as soon as she saw the ring on Clary's finger, she melted like ice cream under the sun. As for January, he seemed to be fitting more and more into our whole flat dynamics. We were always going to circle back to me, right?

I wish I could stop seeing myself as the centre of the world and start paying attention to other people's problems, but I am selfish and overwhelmed and I really wanted to rest for a while at that point.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:32 pm

Dinner at Anjali's parents was a strange experience. First we had to travel two hours by train, during which we talked about school and animals and barely anything else. It felt like she was one of those high school friends who were overly enthusiastic about book report and later they became writers. The only thing which was different from her and bird watchers was that she didn't have binoculars.

I didn't particularly like her parents. They kept on asking about our relationship as if we were getting married. Maybe they were convinced that once you date someone, it's endgame, because that's how it happened for them. Well, I'm sorry to inform them that, even though that sometimes happens, it is definitely not the case every time. Being with Anjali seemed acceptable only as long as January is around, to show both him and myself that I moved on. Isn't that just going to bite me in the ass.

Since I already made my mind up, I decided to take January to the beach. I haven't been to the beach ever since we parted, so it felt like a good idea to come clean, and tomorrow being Saturday, it will just feel like repeating Sylvie and Clary's adventure, nothing too suspicious about it. First, did a bit of internet searching to figure out how long bullet wounds heal, and judging by the fact that he could walk properly and the site I found, he was clear to go.

Sylvie and Clary later told me that they were going to stay at Sylvie's parents to celebrate with food, because that's what you do, apparently, and that worked for me. Sylvie's dad came to pick them up, and I had the whole weekend to try to figure out things with January.

Saturday morning, and I lost all my confidence to ask him to go with me, because I kept on saying I was going to ask him tomorrow, no, the day after, day after that, and when the perfect time had appeared, I became afraid.

We mainly watched tv and I graded some Maths exams and made lunch. There was some talking involved, but nothing too personal. I remembered the time when we used to spend whole weekends just rambling on and on about silly things, and that thought made me break in the end.

"J.J.", I said, interrupting a news programme. "Do you think you're completely recovered?"

"If this is about me leaving, I can go whenever you—"

"No, it's not that." It hurt me, to think that he thinks I want him away from me. "I want to take you somewhere."

"Okay."

It must have been six or seven in the evening at that point, the sun was preparing to set, and he never questioned me, not even once.

I took the keys to Sylvie's car and we were out.

"Is this your car?" January asked when we were all set in the car.

"Sylvie's", I said as I went through the music. "You can tell. If it was either Clary's or mine, it would've been The Offspring or Rancid or something. No, it's Foo Fighters and… Pearl Jam."

He nodded.

"So, grunge?"

"So, plaid and glasses and military boots and a bad attitude. Nothing has changed."

"Things rarely change", January said, taking over the music as I drove. "Except music, music has gone to shit. Oh, she has Interstate, I love this song." He pressed play and the song started.

"I actually haven't heard that one", I said. There are not a lot of alternative songs from the nineties I haven't heard either back in the day, or in later searches for 'new' music to listen to, but in all honesty, grunge was never my first choice. A bit too dirty and all over the place. But the song January played was less grunge and more general Nirvana-esque rebeliousness, so I liked it.

When I listened to the words, though, I couldn't help but compare them to our situation. Was it possible he picked this song to tell me something? I immediately scrapped that thought, because that was a bit too extreme. Not everything has hidden meaning in life, sometimes things just are what they are.

When I turned to the beach, he went pale.

"What are— Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am."

"Franks", he said, for no reason at all. It sounded like a plea.

I didn't respond, I just pulled over and got out of the car, and he followed my example.

The beach was the place we used to go to every now and then, mainly, but not limited to summer holidays, because let's not forget the time we froze our asses off in the middle of a particular November. This beach was almost always empty because people gathered on a much bigger, nicer beach two kilometres south, but that's one of a couple of reasons we chose this one over that one.

As expected, there was nobody on the beach, and the sun wasn't even beginning to set, but it just might, making his eyes even lighter than they are as he stared into the sky. His freckles started grouping into constellations, and his face had a permanent grin. Or maybe that's just how I imagined it. I also imagined tangling my fingers through his hair made out of red waves. I didn't do any that, I settled with just reaching for his hand.

When his fingers tangled with mine, my breath caught. I'd sooner expect that he ran away, but he stayed.

"What—"

"Don't. Let's pretend this never happened. From this point onward."

"But…" his grip on my hand loosened, "it happened. And I will know it did."

And then something amazing happened. He let go of my hand and looked at me with one the brightest smiles I've seen from him in probably ever. I returned it, not quite knowing what we were smiling about, but it didn't matter because he was here next to me.

"Race me."

And, by god, did I race after him, running right into the ocean.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:33 pm

I'm not going to say that it was the worst idea ever, but it was cold. What's to expect from a body of water that large, with waves taller than I was?

He didn't mind, for once. Or at least he didn't show he did. It's a memory which we had to relive, if only just this one time.

"Remember when we first went to the beach?" This evening, I decided I wouldn't regret talking about the past.

"It was not this cold, Christ", he shook his head, and just because he said that, I jumped on him, pulling both of us beneath the water. And I held him when we resurfaced, because he was shivering and I didn't mind the cold.

A moment of silence interrupted only by waves splashing against the rocks later and chattering teeth, and his lips are near mine, hesitant, with no intention to miss this time.

For a second I thought that he will back away from me and leave the first thing in the morning, so I wrapped my arms around him tighter, afraid of him leaving.

He doesn't leave. He never really left.

When he kissed me, I felt fifteen again, with the whole world still in front of me, just waiting to be discovered.

It was so easy, to forget everything, when he made me believe I loved him.

"It's still cold", he said, as softly as the wind in his hair.

"I'm warm", I told him. This was an open imitation to not let go of, if possible, ever.

Because I said that I'll let myself go this weekend. I'll have no regrets, because it never happened, as far as anyone is concerned.

I kissed him for a while. I kissed him until I felt numb, the salt got into my clothes, and the sun touched the water.

Then we stopped and, without a word, headed towards the beach, his hand not leaving mine as I tugged on it, guiding him.

When we sat down, digging ourselves in the sand, we watched the sunset.

"It's been a while since I've been to this beach", he noticed. His fingers were absentmindedly stroking the inside of my hand.

"We used to go almost every day."

"At night, alone."

"Obviously."

I started laughing.

"If seventeen-year-old me had Google", I said as I tried to catch up with my breathing, "the most compromising thing in my search history would be, 'is it safe to have sex in the sea?'" Then he started laughing as well.

"Safe or not", he ran his fingers through his hair and ruffled it to get rid of water, "we did it anyway."

"Eh, it's only water after all."

I pulled my legs closer to me so I can lean my head on his shoulder.

It felt easier than it probably should have. Almost stupidly natural. He made it so easy for me, to forget.

We enjoyed the sun until it disappeared and we were dry. This time the car drive was filled with our music and laughter and how could I hate something so good? Because it wasn't real. But it didn't matter that day.

"Why does Sylvie have Backstreet Boys in her music folder?" January asked, still going through the songs.

"What? A boy band? Doesn't sound like her at all." I stopped in front of the pet shop and we were out. "And then again, people do a lot of things I would never think that they'd do, so maybe that's the case here."

"Maybe."

This time there had to be some hidden meaning. I thought it through, over and over again, until we were in the flat, and I wasn't ready to let go of him just yet.

"My room? I have our CDs there." And I tried to convince myself that that's the only reason I wanted him in my room. I really tried. It was his turn to reach out for my hand, and I held it tight so he can't let go.

On my desk there were the CDs, almost carelessly thrown. I was actually going through them the other day, trying to find a song which I forgot the name of. I didn't find it in the end, and I felt disappointed in myself, like I forgot a vital part of my life. I pressed play on my computer, so a random, generic punk song played.

"Sit down", I told him, and sat next to him. In my head I had a vague idea of talking, discussing the subject of us, asking for an apology, but even though I had the best intention to do so, it all flew out of the window when he kissed me again, which was the second best thing.

Words escaped me, and I was left with pictures. An image of my hands in his hair, keeping him close. His hand on my upper thigh, the other one on my jawline. Those were not new things, but because of the time between them, they felt electric.

When he started tugging at my shirt, and I figured out the rocket science of the buttons on his jeans, I felt his words in my mouth.

"What are we doing?"

The button I was playing with gave in.

"I don't know, but don't stop now, J.J., please don't…"

He laughed, and it tasted sweet in my mouth. Reminded me of our first time, and that memory never fails to make me smile.

"I'm not going to."

I knew all the sounds he made. I knew the soft whistle of air when he moves for another kiss, the sounds that escape him when my hand follows the path his jaw makes. The absolutely devastating moan he makes whevever my teeth graze against his lower lip. And the sound I knew best. The final one, which reminds me of gasping for air after diving out of the ocean.

He didn't stop kissing me for a long time. When we were both too exhausted, he dropped off to the side, nuzzling into the crook of my neck.

If it was only that simple.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:33 pm

I woke up and all I could concentrate on were his arm and leg around me. What else could I do apart from the thing I always did?

I counted the freckles on the top of his arm and a bit of his shoulderblade. I was quiet and tried not to move, because I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could, and if he woke up, I'd remember that things were different now.

I reached 178 when he started shuffling, and I knew he was awake.

He lifted his head so he could press a kiss against my neck, and there was a storm raging in my head.

I wanted him to kiss me, and he did so, shifting so he could hover above me.

I could've just let it happen, but it was just not worth it.

"Wait, wait, no, stop." Our lips separated with a sharp smack as he moved his head, but his nose still touched mine. His eyes were sleepy, but already almost overtaken by black. "I'm sorry."

"What did I do?"

I put my palms against his chest and gently pushed him away.

"No, just no. I can't do this. I value my mental health." This was a monolog meant for my head rather than the reality. He sat back, so I got up past him and headed out of the room.

Once the bathroom door was locked, I slid onto the tiles and let out a sob I'd held back for a long time.

I wanted to be with him. I wanted his silly sentences and off-pitch singing and his Miss Kisses and kisses which don't miss. Maybe not him. A person who has his personality and his damned face, but not his past and not his morals.

I'm not claiming love is ever easy, but it really doesn't have to be migraine-inducing. How is it possible to love someone this much, and hate in equal amount? It doesn't make sense to me, and throughout college I examined a lot of literature. I never came across something like this, to compare it.

First, shower. Fifteen minutes under a cold stream hitting my head hurt just enough so I could just feel stinging for a while and nothing else. Not think, not feel, and definitely not want to return to my bed, into his arms.

The next step was clothes. When I went out of the bathroom, I saw him back on the sofa, fully clothed, with the tv on, but he wasn't watching it. He had Spookie in his lap, asleep and purring. My off-the-streets duo, all wrapped up with a pretty bow on top.

I went to my room and picked up my clothes off the floor. In the past I learned that the ocean around this part of the world doesn't do anything to jeans and dark shirts, so I felt comfortable with wearing it again. What doesn't kill you only ensures that you'll smell like salt for a week.

When I got out, I headed straight to the kitchen, avoiding his gaze.

If I felt like shit, I can only imagine how he felt. Maybe he finally regretted something, anything at all.

I made coffee for him and tea for me. At least there was something I could do, something normal, and completely unrelated to us. He let go of the cat so he could take the mug from me.

"Thanks", he said. I knew he was a great actor to begin with, but this was out the ordinary good. In all honesty, I wanted to scream at him, but I didn't know what. A single vowel sounded good to me, but I didn't do it. I'd only scare the cat and damage my vocal chords. Screaming couldn't change the past, neither the one eight years ago, nor the one from the night before.

"Yeah."

Would you believe me if I said we didn't say another word to one another until Sylvie and Clary came back? Not a single word.

"Heya, pals!" I heard Clary, and I ran. Before they even took off their jackets, I pulled them out and closed the door. Clary seemed like she knew what I was about to do, but Sylvie was confused.

"What— Is that Clary's Ramones shirt?"

"No. Maybe. Probably. I really don't know", I said and closed the door behind them. "I need someone to talk me down mercilessly, I have a problem."

"Involving January? What did he do?" Sylvie asked. "Also, I'm asking for no particular reason, but why are you wearing the shirt that Clary gave to January, and why do you smell like the beach?"

"Let's go somewhere else. Anywhere that isn't here."

We ended up in a coffee shop on the corner of our street, because if I walked any farther, I would lose my sanity somewhere along the way.

Both of them ordered coffee, and when the waitress asked for my order, Sylvie told her to bring me water, because she's nice like that.

"Okay, I'll go broke on these coffee shop trips. Speak up or forever live in silence", Sylvie said.

"I've had a damn good time these eight years. In silence."

Clary, bless her soul, didn't say a word.

"I'm sensing a secret I'm not part of", Sylvie leaned forward, interested, but at the same time offended that she isn't fully informed about us.

I hate to keep stuff away from Sylvie, because she most often knew best how to react in certain situation, which words fit which conversation, but she can be quite rough when it comes to delivery. We don't need the two of us fighting and Clary deciding to leave. Took her long enough anyway.

I thought about the look in January's eyes when I pushed him away. He was confused, and I don't know why. It's called regret, he must recognise it. When someone hurts you like that, you can't expect to come running into their arms again. And again, that's exactly what I did.

"Okay", I said, trying to find words to express the storm in my head.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:34 pm

"I…" The best way to solve things is to be as blunt and as simple as possible. "I slept with someone yesterday."

"Good on you, me too." Clary and I glared at Sylvie in a very similar way. "I have a feeling that that was not a proper response."

Clary theatrically took off her ring and put it in front of Sylvie.

"That's it, you and me are done."

Then the two of them started laughing, and I was shocked by their bullshit.

"Out of my flat, both of you."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'll behave", Sylvie said, and as Clary was putting on her ring again, the waitress came with our drinks. After some slight shuffling with the coffees, Sylvie returned her gaze to mine. "Let me take a wild guess about your partner of choice for yesterday.

"Please do."

"It was that Singh girl who works with you now, wasn't it."

"Anjali?" She would've been more wrong only if her guess was the current pope.

"Yeah, that's her. A girl at my work told me you two were together."

"We are, but…" I shook my head. I didn't even think that Anjali wanted anything like that. Judging by the fact that we're both adults, in a relationship, there was bound to be some kissing involved, but there wasn't. How was I to comprehend that?

Sylvie looked down at my shirt and opened her mouth as if to say something. A couple of seconds passed and she closed it again.

"Well", she coughed. "Remind me to never bring people to stay in our flat again, because Frank's probably going to sleep with them."

"It's… it's not like that."

"I don't think it ever is."

Then I slammed my head against the table and gave up.

Clary gently pulled her sleeve and told Sylvie what I had told her some months back. Hearing it from Clary's mouth made it seem so much simpler than it actually was. I didn't tell her even half of the story.

"I don't get it", Sylvie said when Clary finished.

"Of course you don't", I noticed.

"No, but why did you leave? And even more, why did you sleep with him?" she asked, and I can't say she didn't have a point. "If you had a fight, then you wouldn't be fuckin' around with him, you know what I'm saying?"

"I'm a human being made up of testosterone and I don't have any will-power not to kiss him back."

"That's suggesting he kissed you first", Clary had to point out, and I lost all my will to continue this subject.

"How's the wedding planning going on?"

"Avoiding is your strong suit, I see", Sylvie didn't look fooled, but she liked talking about herself more than she liked listening to my sad life story. "First thing my mum asked was whether I was pregnant."

"To which I promptly cracked my knuckles and said 'soon', and nobody got the joke." Clary shook her head, seemingly disappointed.

"I don't think I want to get it."

"Shut up, Frank. Kids sound nice though, right?"

An image of a small baby girl in my flat filled my mind, and I made a decision.

"I want to move out."

"What?" Sylvie asked. "It's your flat, you can't move out."

"I can if I leave you two in it. Plus the cat and the kid."

"Where would you go? And… January?" Count on Clary to always be gentle. And count on Sylvie to ruin it all.

"Off of the sofa." But I ignored it, because I didn't need her negativity at that point in time.

"I found a place for him to stay if he wants. As for me, no idea. Anywhere."

"Doesn't…" Clary nudged Sylvie and she nearly spilt her coffee. "Don't your parents have a flat they wanted to give you, but Frank's flat was closer to your work? I don't know, I don't know the whole story, but I remember that you told me about something like that."

"Yeah, they do."

"I'm in if you are."

Sylvie threw me a suspicious glance.

"The flat's in the centre, I don't think you're going to like it."

"It's fine, anything's fine." I just wanted away from January, and away from the girls so they can have a normal family life. Just because I'm single, it doesn't mean that I have to constantly third-wheel behind then.

"We should have these coffee talks more often", Clary told me, "we are extremely productive."

It felt like it was going too fast, but I'm the one who started an avalanche, they were just bits of snow who decided to roll along.

"My parents want a spring wedding", Sylvie shrugged, "in case you want to plan ahead."

"It feels like we're finally adults, right?" Clary said.

I didn't agree with her. I felt like an adult until this point, and then he appeared again and I became a teen. Cue all the hormones and the messy, messy emotions which resurfaced.

And I hated every bit of it. I'd rather he never returned at all, because I already lost him, and losing him all over again meant twice the pain. I'd give up all memories I had of that period, no matter how much it shaped me. Hell, I'd rather be a completely different person than leave and watch him leave again.

But I know that I will manage to move on, like I did. Now I'm older and should probably know better, but I don't. If nothing, I've been through a lot and I know how to deal with this. Or at least that's what I've been telling myself as I was packing my clothes to leave the flat.

I used to believe that I liked settling down and not moving, having constants in my life. But I don't. I run whenever things get out of my comfort zone, or take a turn I didn't accept.

To say that I don't love him would be a lie. But to say that I wanted to be with him? Biggest lie I kept on telling myself.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:35 pm

2010.

It was around one in the morning when most of the family left, Anjali with them, and the DJ started playing some slower songs.

Sylvie and Clary put together a wedding in record time of seven months, partly because Clary took the whole pregnancy thing to the heart, and partly because they didn't want to wait. Sylvie specifically said that the period of engagement was sort of useless and boring.

January was on his side of the room. Clary and Sylvie organised that he sat near us, but I steered clear from him as much as I could. I didn't talk to him about us still. The only conversation we had was about him moving to the housing facility, and he did, eventually, but I had a feeling he didn't even care anymore. Maybe it was my fault.

I was still with Anjali, still only formally. She never showed any interests in even as much as holding hands with me, and I was not willing to make any move at all. It sort of felt like we were each other's beard, but for no reason at all. Sylvie said that our relationship was weird to her, and she was as right as ever.

It's for the best. I was obviously not getting over January, and I needed a taste of what relationships looked like when the person you're dating doesn't know your every move, or the way you curve your letters, or the words you like to repeat, or the pair of socks you love more than others. The little details are the final pieces which always destroy me.

And as he was sitting there, the DJ played That Song, and I instinctively looked at him, but he was already looking back.

Let's not pretend that, when Clary asked for good wedding songs, he and I said Kokomo at the same time, because we used to say it would be the song we dance to on a wedding. I couldn't look him in the eyes after that.

This could be closure, I thought. This could be my end of an era. Sylvie and Clary were sorting through some parking issues, nobody on the dancefloor knew us, and it was the right time. So I got up and walked to his table.

"Dance?" I asked, wanting more than anything to hold him. He nodded and got up, and suddenly my wish came true.

When I said I wanted to dance to Kokomo on a wedding, I didn't mean it like that.

My arms were thrown over his shoulders, his around my waist. I buried my face in his neck, and the side of his head was tilted against mine.

The song lasted for a century, maybe more. I'm willing to bet that Clary told the DJ to play it as long as he could without making people suspicious.

We still didn't speak, but even if we did, I wouldn't know what to tell him, and that would mean walking away from this dance. The last dance, I decided. The last last I have with him. From then on, I'll dance with someone else.

I was thinking that maybe I should say something. Explain to him that this was the end, that I'm going to try to move on, to erase the memories I have of us, but I didn't dare to let go of him, because closure scared me.

The song faded into another soft song, slower than the one before, and I moved my head back so I can face him.

"I'm sorry", I said. I was sorry for leading him on, because I was incapable of letting a love die.

He didn't reply with words, but he pressed his forehead against mine, and I knew what he was going to do.

If we're going through our lasts, this was our last kiss. Soft, closed-mouthed, and achingly loud with intention.

I can't change the past. It was the only thing keeping me from being with him, and there was nothing I could do to erase it from my mind. Sometimes I doubted myself, but I know what I saw and what he did. There's no mistaking what happened.

Is it possible to love someone, but not the things they do? Because what he was and what he did were two separate things, and I couldn't force them into the same person, no matter how hard I tried.

We separated, our foreheads still together, just staring at each other, because neither of us dared to say a word.

"Okay... Okay."

I let go of him. It should feel familiar to us by now.

As I was walking away, I saw Clary and Sylvie near the door, just in time to see the whole affair, so I headed towards them with what must have been a guilty look on my face, because Sylvie stopped me by putting her hand on my shoulder.

"Did you mess up again?" Sylvie asked. I avoid the answer by looking at Clary's dress and her shirt and comparing their matching colours for a second or two. Anything but him.

"Frank, you need to stop hurting yourself like this", Clary said, pulling both of us so we'd sit down. "You know that if you keep on picking at a wound, it's going to bleed again."

I don't think I ever stopped bleeding.

"I can't force myself. I can't just forget."

"We're not saying you should forget", Sylvie said, looking at January, who was alone again, slightly more red in the face and endlessly more fidgety. "We're saying you should move on."

"How, when all I see is parts of him in everybody else?"

They didn't have a response to that, and I didn't think I wanted to say anything more.

We're going to be okay, he said to me once, during the period when the worst thing in my life was a D in an exam. We're going to endure through the good and the bad.

I guess we're not, but it's probably for the best.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:36 pm

1998.

I was walking from school again. It seemed to be one of three states in my life. Walking to and from school, being in school, and doing homework or watching tv. There was nothing more to it. All the friends I had and our comminucation were limited to the school area. The friendships we had reminded me of the friendships formed in a hospital. You have nowhere else to go, might as well make your stay comfortable.

My parents always told me to bring some of my friends home so they can meet them, but I always found it unnecessary. Those weren't the people I'd spend my life with, in fact, I didn't plan on talking to them after I got to college. Those were frail relationships, and they meant nothing to me.

As a teenager, you want to belong. To have a place, a set position in space and time which belongs to you. You want to have people who enjoy being at your side, and you want to laugh. It's really not that complicated.

Then something shifted, and I wanted everything and nothing more than what I had.

To get to my house from my school meant going through a bunch of alleyways and jumping over fences and other such things which meant I ripped my jeans approximately once in two months, but at the time it didn't matter much anyway. My bones still hurt from my rapid growth spurt, and all long-sleeved shirts I had reached a couple of inches behind my wrists. It was nearing summer, and I was looking forward to throwing them all away.

Two streets from my house was an older building, with orange red bricks which they were a contrast against the grey trashcans and metal staircases. And against the figure covered in a black jacket, leaned against one of the staircases.

As a child I used to carry stray cats and dogs home, everybody in the neighbourhood knew that. I couldn't stand seeing the animals hurt and cold, that was one of the worst things I could imagine.

And I found him alone, in the cold.

"Hey", I called out, kneeling down. "Are you okay?"

The jacket shuffled, but didn't show any sign of waking, so I stretched out my hand out and placed it onto what looked like a shoulder and shook it a little.

"Hm?" I heard in a male voice, and the jacket was shaken off of him. "What?"

"I asked if you were okay."

"A bit cold."

"Why are you out here then?"

"There's nowhere else I can go."

Our eyes met, and I knew I was going to help him. Because he had that same look of 'lost' like a stray dog, and in the end, all humans are animals.

"I'm Frank, do you need help?"

"Um…" he looked at me in disbelief, like I was there to trick him, and I hated being thought of in that way. I haven't done anything to deserve that, but god knows what people had done to him in his life.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just trying to help."

He seemed like he still doubted me, but he didn't have the strength to fight anymore.

"Okay?" He got up and shook the dust off his jacket. "The weather report said it was going to be really cold tonight. Spring making a final statement before summer and shit."

"I'd freeze", he said.

"No, you wouldn't. Not if you don't have to, I mean."

He looked confused. I guess he had a reason to. People don't usually do the things I did, but I couldn't fight it. Even if helping only one person didn't seem like much of a change, it meant that there was one person less on the streets that night.

"Thanks", he stuttered, "but…"

"No buts. You wouldn't want to end up in the newspaper tomorrow, right?"

"Why would I end up in a newspaper?" he asked, and I headed home. He tagged along.

"I don't know…" I stopped to think about it, and at the same time I said "Murder by—" he said "Death?", and I bit my lip.

"No, no, I don't—" he tried to defend his case, but he was fighting an already lost battle.

"I meant murder by cold, but I guess that murder by death works as well." We started laughing.

"I didn't—"

"I know, I know."

"That's like saying murder by killing", he said. "It is technically true, but wrong. It's like an overload of information."

"Like saying that the sea is blue." I liked the slight drag his accent had on his words, and a thought of him reading something to me appeared in my mind. Not a strange thing at all, right?

"No, the sea is obviously blood red. How can you even think that the sea is blue?" There was just a hint of sarcasm scattered in his words. Nothing I couldn't work with.

"Of course, silly me. I failed kindergarten, you see."

"I do, but you apparently don't."

I groaned at loud while he snickered at his stupid wordplay. It was worse that Dad jokes, and Lord knows I had had too many of those in my life.

"That's so awful. Like, awful squared."

"Could be worse."

I raised an eyebrow.

"Awful cubed." And then I'm done. I punch his shoulder lightly, his chest still shaking in laughter.

"I'm so sad right now. Jokes like these make me sad."

"Hey, Sad, I'm—"

"Don't you dare."

It felt like a click in my head. He appeared like rain after a draught, the final puzzle piece that I'd been seeking for years. I didn't mind his silly jokes because I liked the way his laughter travelled to my ears. It made me happy in a way that was unfamiliar to me. Airy, bubbly, but somehow still as permanent as stone. It felt like a puppeteer tugging at the strings that held my heart and my hopes, and pulling them up. And I was floating.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:37 pm

2016.

"I've developed a nervous tick whenever I hear a baby cry", Clary says playing with a thick, blue notebook and taking out random pens and scribbling on the back of a notebook. "Because I think that I need to help the baby. I'm traumatised."

"That's not nice, mum." Marc shakes his head and takes the pens fron Clary's hands. "I have homework."

"And I'm hungry", I complain. "Sylvie has been over that stove for five minutes and I already smell burning."

"Don't come to our house then", Sylvie scoffs.

It's a loud Thursday morning in my old flat, and my class is out on a field trip. Anjali is with her class, and I can't be bothered to cook, so I called the girls and announced my presence. Sylvie swore my entire family tree up to my ancestors who actually lived in Africa and Clary said to come soon because she hasn't seen me in a while, so I got more than a couple of mixed messages. To appeal to Sylvie meant doing exactly the opposite of what she tells me, so I did that.

"I like uncle Frank", I hear from Marc, and there's an aww sound from Clary.

"Lil baby Marc", she squeaks.

Marco was nearly seven, and he absolutely hated that nickname we crowned him with when he was tiny, but it stuck. I think that when he'll be forty, we'll still call him that.

Every time I walked into my old flat, it felt nostalgic. I didn't spend a long time in it, probably less than the time I spent out of it, but I can't fight it. The past always has a way of coming back to me in painful ways.

"Mum", Marc groans, and I ruffle his brown hair, exactly the same shade as Sylvie's.

"We know what's best for you", Sylvie walks away from the stove and puts her arms around Clary's waist. "It's best that you get used to mean nicknames soon. Life isn't fair." She lifts her head and presses a kiss against Clary's temple. "Cook, bella. So Frank won't complain."

"Frank will still complain", I notice.

"I don't understand you", Marc shakes his head, and at least he's honest, unlike me. The true reason of my visit is so that I won't have to visit on Sunday, because on Sunday Sylvie and Clary invite the entire former flat crew for lunch, and I wanted to avoid it. They mostly do it because of January and his underwhelming social life. Since he moved into the dorm-like housing building, and even before, I've never seen him try to communicate or make friends in any way. He's polite with the people from the school, sure, but there's never anything more.

I wonder if, when he goes out of the building (once in a year) to a bar of sorts, people flirt with him, and, if they do, if he's reminded of me.

It is done between us. I locked all my CDs away and locked all the files on my laptop which still had some of our music. I don't think about him 'in that way', or any way, if I can avoid it, except when it's a lonely night, and I need to get all my emotions out.

And I still hope, do you believe me? I still hope that he will travel back in time and redo it, and I won't have a wall separating me from him. I may be selfish, but at least I'm aware of it. At least there's nothing I can do about it.

Because if there was, you can be sure I'd orbit around him, because that's who I am. I'll keep on going at it until all of the possibilities fade out.

It's even harder to ignore when he exists like a shadow clipped to mine. Sylvie and Clary have to have the Sunday lunches, and my boss had to give him a job so close to me. It was my own fucking idea in the first place.

The look on his face on that Sunday lunch when I told them I was moving in with Anjali is something that feels like it's stamped into my mind with fire.

It was more of a convenience, really. Anjali's place became too loud for her and one day she asked me if it was a big deal if we moved in together. It would've been, if we were in a physical relationship. When it was like this, it was as emotional as moving in with Sylvie, meaning not at all.

People keep asking us whether we'd get married. Even though I intend to keep this facade for a long time, this is not a step I'm willing to make. The only person I ever considered marrying was him.

It is done between us, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way. I think it would be best to say that I've come to terms with it.

Every once in a while I need to give him some papers for his group, and I allow myself to appear on the doorstep of his flat.

We're all humans, after all. And if being human is measured by mistakes I make, I'd be the best out of the lot. Because the people there knew me by the name after the fourth time I visited, and I actually considered them friends now. God knows I have none apart from them and the aforementioned old married couple.

It's not like I'm not trying, but the relationship I have with Anjali messed me up. I can't talk to anyone without wondering if I'm cheating on her. She's made me oversensitive, and the line between friends and lovers has been obscured into nothingness.

I think that I should stop even thinking about it. If I give it any more thought than I already have, I think I'm going to spiral into an abyss and I've been there, it's not very nice. Maybe I should take the advice Sylvie and Clary gave me years ago, when I was too stubborn to listen.

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:39 pm

1998.

He seemed uneasy, sitting on a sofa and holding a glass in his hand. I would be too, if I was in a stranger's house, but I had my mind set on making him trust me. The fact that my parents weren't home only made things harder for me.

"You live alone?" he asked, as if that was possible.

"Mum and dad work from eight to three at night", I told him, "so I'm basically alone most of the time." There was a suspicious look on his face, but he didn't say anything. "I didn't kill them, if that's what you're thinking."

"So they're not locked up in a basement somewhere?" he asked.

"Not a basement. An attic", I reply and sit next to him. "Why were you on the street?"

"Already told you. I have nowhere else to go."

"Yeah, but why?"

"It's a long story."

"I literally have all night."

He sighed in a way that made me think he was going to start a story. And he was.

"My parents didn't want kids in the first place. They even let their hippie neighbour stoner to name me and my siblings. He came up with a great idea to name us after months; named me January because I appeared 'cold' to him, my brother August because he appeared 'warm', and my sister November because her hair was red, which made him think of leaves falling. That's how little they cared. I sometimes slept in the school because I didn't want to go home. It's not that they did anything, they just didn't care, they pretended we didn't exist. Ember and Gus pissed off early in the game. They're older than me, and they left the house a couple of years ago, when Gus was nineteen and Ember was nearly twenty-one. I don't blame them. If I could, I would've done the same. Then skip a year, and I'm starting high school, and my parents decide that they really don't want to pay for my food or have me hanging around the house, so they pack my clothes one day while I'm coming home from school, and I'm out. That wouldn't've been a problem if I had a place to stay, but I didn't. I went to talk to Ember, but she had a small flat as is, sharing with some of her college friends, and with her student loans, I didn't want to bother her anymore. Gus arranged that I went to this city, he transferred me to this school, and supposedly his friend's mother lives here and I was going to stay at her place, but I couldn't find her anywhere. So now I'm here."

I stared at him for a beat before realising that I should probably say something.

"I'm sorry", is the smartest thing I could muster out in a fragment of a second. He shrugged, looking half emotionless, and half in pain. "You go to Oaktree High School?" I asked, because that's where I went.

"No, the other one. The small one near the firefighters."

"Oh."

Another beat, as ideas form in my mind.

"If you want, you can stay here until you find your brother's friend's mother." It sounded sketchy even to me, but I decided not to comment. It was not my decision.

"I don't want to—"

"Intrude? There's literally no one here most of the time. I could use some company."

I smiled at him and he smiled back, however small that smile was.

He then frowned, as if thinking about something he finds unacceptable.

"Um", he started, stopped for a second, shook his head and continued, "thanks. I guess."

"It's okay. I like being the hero of the story", I joked.

"And I am a damsel in distress?" he looked at me innocently, and I started laughing. I searched through my brain for something clever to say, and all I could think of is the book we were reading for English.

"I'll be the Hamlet if you be my Ophelia. That means you have to find a lake to drown in."

"Oh no, for I am a helpless reneissance woman", he put his hand over his forehead.

"I swear, a couple of girls in our class will start rioting against our teacher for giving us such patriarchal books."

"Great class", he noticed. "Mine are passive pretty much always. I've been in it for two weeks now and nobody came to say even hi."

"If they're like that, you don't want them as friends."

He simply shrugged and put the glass on the table.

"I don't know. My sister always told me I was introverted."

"Theres a line between being introverted and a loner."

"How many friends do you have?" he asked, as if he knew the answer already. I faked coughing.

"That's completely irrelevant. And off topic."

"Is the number smaller than five?"

"Maybe."

"Two?"

"Could be."

"One?"

"Warmer."

"Zero?"

"I can't have minus one friends, January", I pointed out.

I got a full smile out of him, and I felt as if I accomplished something. The smile got a little bit tender, and he looked away. I then wondered if I did anything wrong.

"Good thinking", he said, distracted.

We sat in silence for a couple of seconds, and I got tired of it, so I got up. He looked at me with an eyebrow raised, and for a moment or two I forgot what I was going to say.

"I'm hungry", I said, cursing my lack of eloquence. "And my dad made dinner. Care to join me?" I asked.

"Um… Okay." He had a strange pause in his speech, and I decided to ask him later about it. If we ever got to later. Tomorrow.

I had no idea how this would end up, and it didn't scare me as much as I thought it would. I needed to get out of my shell anyway, the thing I said about friends was true. Project 'opening myself up to society', let's call it. A little bit scary, but I thought I was on the right track .

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PostSubject: Re: headfirst into the ocean   Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:40 pm

2016.

I have the papers in my hand as I'm walking to the other side of the city, trying to convince myself I'm not going only because of the papers. Not because of him.

It's been some seven years I've been making my monthly visits to January's building, and it only now hits me how long of a time that is. I remember the first conversation I had with Sacha, who lives one flat/room away from January.

We were out on the balcony, she had a cigarette between her lips and my jacket on her shoulders because she was cold.

"So, what should I know about Jan?" she said. Her parents opened the housing facility, and she was using it because it was convenient. "Drugs, hookers, alcohol? Murder? We've had it all."

"None", I told her. "Just some bad choices."

"Nice. Finally someone smart enough not to commit antisocial behaviour." An image of him, shirtless, clinging onto a tree outside my family house appeared in my head, and I tried to shake it off, without much success.

"Why are you here then?" I dared to ask, and she playfully pushed my shoulder.

"Not because of what I did, I assure you. Although I myself am quite a troublemaker. You wanna hear the story of my life while you wait for Jan?"

I had no reason not to, and she seemed excited enough about telling me about herself, so I encouraged her to go ahead.

"My life started when I was 21 and discovered alcohol", she started, leaving me surprised and interested to hear more. January could wait, he was always somewhere around me anyway. I almost doubted him to be my shadow. "Actually, I'm lying, I drank before, but that's illegal in America, I think."

"I'm not here to arrest you", I told her. She just shook her head and flicked some ashes off her cigarette onto people walking on the street, I guessed.

"Good. I don't want to be returned to Canada. Shipped back with the mail. So get this. I'm twenty one and I'm celebrating my birthday in Vegas with couple of my girlfriends. And we get shitfaced. Never have I gotten so drunk before, and sure as hell never after that. But drunk me thinks she's the best fucking dancer Vegas has ever seen, and she starts dancing on tables. In heels. To this very day I regret not having it on tape. So get this, I start taking my clothes off."

"Get out", I comment. The look she gives me is the one of amusement, sprinkled with a little bit of 'don't interrupt my story'.

"So my stage name was born. Flacha. If you think more about it, you see that it's very sad, but at the time I found it fucking hilarious, and so did Ezra. You met Ezra?" she asks and I shake my head. "You will, soon enough. So Ezra and I dance for about an hour, me with my shirt around my waist and he, on a winner high because he won a game of poker or something. Then I was forced into my shirt and had a little stand-up and song show because there was an open mic, okay. Then Ezra and I got married, you know, like drunk people do in Vegas. After that I guess I spent my night hugging the toilet." She fixes the ring on her finger. "Imagine waking up to some random Japanese guy in Vegas and realising that you're married to him. And the only memory you had of him was a karaoke duet of that one Queen song nobody knows, but us." I get the feeling that she's done, and I'm allowed to comment.

"And how did that work out?" I ask, trying to keep my facial expression in check, because I found that story hilarious but I didn't know if laughing was okay or not.

"My mother didn't give birth to no quitter", she says, and I lose it. I'm pretty relieved that she laughed as well, because she did look like the killing type. "But, I mean. Marriage is not only about love, it's about learning to work with what you have, and I have a tone-deaf architect who will win in every single card game you can make up. Ain't that right?" Her next sentence is louder, and I hear a door opening. "Give me a second", and she walks away, giving me a second to think.

That's why I didn't want to dig further when it comes to January. Because I don't think that I can trust him. Yes, it's been some fifteen years since that happened, and maybe he's different, but do I really want him to be different? I don't know what I want so I don't have a goal to work towards and I'm stuck.

"This is my husband, the shitstain on my shoe", Sacha breaks my short-lived train of thoughts as she walks back to the balcony, holding (what I guess to be) Ezra's hand.

"You talk to me as if we met yesterday", he says with a half grin.

"Don't flatter yourself, you're difficult", she moved her dark bangs from her eyes. "Oh, yeah, January's here. You can give him those papers now."

I thanked Sacha and Ezra and head towards January's room.

I'm surrounded by so many different humans who have their own way of dealing with life, and yet I can't learn some details from them to make my life easier. I see Sylvie and Clary, even though I saw how hard it was for them to raise a child, they did it, without losing faith in one another and without any doubt. Ezra and Sacha had split personalities; one which was loud and insulted, and the other one which was tame and gentle. And what am I? What is January, who completely occupied me all these years later, as if he was my heart, making all my blood his. What am I, if he's still making me?

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