“He didn’t give me flowers or candy. He gave me the moon and the stars. Infinity
“Maybe that was how it was with all first loves. They own a little piece of your heart, always.”
“He came up and kissed me on my forehead, and before he stepped away, I closed my eyes and tried hard to memorize this moment. I wanted to remember him exactly as he was right then, how his arms looked brown against his white shirt, the way his hair was cut a little too short in the front. Even the bruise, there because of me.
Then he was gone.
Just for that moment, the thought that I might never see him again… it felt worse than death. I wanted to
run after him. Tell him anything, everything. Just don’t go. Please just never go. Please just always be near me, so I can at least see you.
Because it felt final. I always believed that we would find our way back to each other every time. That no matter what, we would be connected—by our history, by this house. But this time, this last time, it felt final. Like I would never see him again, or that when I did, it would be different, there would be a mountain between us.
I knew it in my bones. That this time was it. I had finally made my choice, and so had he. He let me go. I was relieved, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was to feel so much grief.
Bye bye, Birdie.”
“But just because you bury something, that doesn’t mean it stops existing. Those feelings, they’d been there all along. All that time. I had to face it. He was part of my DNA. I had brown hair and I had freckles and I would always have Conrad in my heart.”
“He was marrying my girl, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I just had to watch it happen, because he was my brother, because I promised. Take care of him, Connie. I’m counting on you .”
“I love Jere more than anybody. He’s my brother, my family. I hate myself for doing this. But when I see you two together, I hate him too.” His voice broke.
“Don’t marry him. Don’t be with him. Be with me.”
“But just because you bury something, that doesn’t mean it stops existing.”
“I’ve only ever loved two boys—both of them with the last name Fisher. Conrad was first, and I loved him in a way that you can really only do the first time around. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t know better and doesn’t want to—it’s dizzy and foolish and fierce. That kind of love is really a one-time-only thing.”
“There hadn’t been one specific moment. It was like gradualy waking up. You go from being asleep to the space between dreaming and awake and then into consciousness. It’s a slow process, but when you’re awake, there’s no mistaking it. There was no mistaking that it had been love.”
“I’m sorry for screwing everything up. I hurt you again, and for that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t want to do that anymore. So … I’m not going to stay
for the wedding. I’m just going to take off now. I won’t see you again, not for a long time. Probably for the best. Being near you like this, it hurts. And
Jere”—Conrad cleared his throat and stepped backward, making space between us—“he’s the one who needs you.”
Hoarsely, he said, “I need you to know that no matter what happens, it was worth it to me. Being with you, loving you. It was all worth it”
“A fight is like a fire. You think you have it under control, you think you can stop it whenever you want, but before you know it, it’s living, breathing thing and there’s no controlling it and you were a fool to think you could.”
“It’s a known fact that in life, you can’t have everything. In my heart I knew I loved them both, as much as possible to love two people at the same time. Conrad and I were linked, we would always be linked. That wasn’t something I could do away with. I knew that now—that love wasn’t something you could erase, no matter how hard you tried.”
“Don’t marry him. Don’t be with him. Be with me.”
“I laid myself fucking bare last night! I put it all out there, and you shut me down. Rightfully so. I get that I shouldn’t have said any of that stuff to you. But now here I am trying to find a way to come out of this with just a little fragment of pride so I can look you in the eye when this is all over, and you won’t even let me have that. You broke my heart last night, all right? Is that what you want to hear?”
“I knew I had to be careful. I had to keep my distance. If she knew how much I still cared, it was all over. I wouldn’t be able to walk away again. The first time was hard enough.”
“There are moments in every girls life that are bigger than we know at the time. when you look back, you say that was one of those life-changing fork in the road moments and I didn't see it coming and then there are the moments that you know are big that whatever you do next there will be an impact. Your life could go one of two directions, DO or DIE
- Belly Conklin”
“Do you remember infinity?”
Slowly, I turned around. “What about it?”
Tossing something toward me, he said, “Catch.”
I reached out and caught it in the air. A silver necklace. I held it up and examined it. The infinity necklace.
It didn’t shine the way it used to; it looked a bit coppery now. But I recognized it. Of course I recognized it.
“What is this?” I asked.
“You know what it is,” he said.
I shrugged. “Nope, sorry.”
I could see that he was both hurt and angry. “Okay, then. You don’t remember it. I’ll remind you. I bought
you that necklace for your birthday.”
It had to have been for my sixteenth birthday. It was the only year he ever forgot to buy me a birthday
present—the last summer we’d all been together at the beach house, when Susannah was still alive.”
“I might have been a fuckup and a failure and a disappointment, but I wasn’t a liar.
I did lie to Belly, though. Just that one time in that crappy motel. I did it to protect her. That’s what I kept telling myself. Still, if there was one moment in my life I could redo, one moment out of all the shitty moments, that was the one I’d pick. When I thought back to the look on her face—the way it just crumpled, how she’d sucked in her lips and wrinkled her nose to keep the hurt from showing—it killed me. God, if I could, I’d go back to that moment and say all the right things, I’d tell her I loved her, I’d make it so that she never look that way again.”
“Sometimes I think I’ll never trust another girl the way I trust you.”
“I never once cheated on you. I never even looked at another girl when we were together.”
“Sometimes it hurts to look at you,” I said. I loved that I could say that and he knew exactly what I meant.”
“I spun away from him. I didn’t need his pity.
I started walking in the opposite direction of the house. I didn’t know where I was going, I just wanted to get away from him.
He called out, “I still love you.”
I froze. And then slowly,
I turned around to look at him. “Don’t say that”
“I go wherever you go,' he says, launching us into the water.
This is our start. This is the moment it becomes real. We are married. We are infinite. Me and Conrad. The first boy I ever slow danced with, ever cried over. Ever loved.”
“You Are The Milk To My Shake, forever and ever. Love, J”
“My two great loves. I think I always knew I would be Belly Fisher one day. I just didn't know it was going to happen like this.”
“I don’t just want a part of you. I want all of you
“Lying here and looking up at the stars like this, it makes me feel like I’m lying on a planet. It’s so wide. So infinite
“I finally said it. The actual words, out loud, to her face. It was a relief, not carrying it around anymore, and it was a rush, actually telling her. I was in an elated sort of daze, on a high. She loved me. I didn’t need to hear her say it out loud, I knew it innately in the way she looked at me just then.
“I would rather have had someone shoot me in the head with a nail gun, repeatedly, than have to watch the two of them cuddling on the couch together all night. --Conrad”
“Oh, that flipped my bitch switch from meh to pure “I’m going to cut a bitch” rage.”
“I don't know what I was hoping for. Some small praise, I guess. A bit of encouragement. I didn't get it. Miss Parrish took me aside one day after school let out. She said she'd read my stories and found them morbid and dispiriting. She said literature was meant to uplift the heart and that a young woman such as myself ought to turn her mind to topics more cheerful and inspiring than lonely hermits and dead children.
"Look around yourself, Mathilda," she said. "At the magnificence of nature. It should inspire joy and awe. Reverence. Respect. Beautiful thoughts and fine words."
I had looked around. I'd seen all the things she'd spoken of and more besides. I'd seen a bear cub lift it's face to the drenching spring rains. And the sliver moon of winter, so high and blinding. I'd seen the crimson glory of a stand of sugar maples in autumn and the unspeakable stillness of a mountain lake at dawn. I'd seen them and loved them. But I'd also seen the dark of things. The starved carcasses of winter deer. The driving fury of a blizzard wind. And the gloom that broods under the pines always. Even on the brightest days.”
“We have made the world dance as we sang for three thousand years. That is difficult habit to break, as I have learned while dancing to your song. You must dance free, and even the best intentioned of my sisters may well try to guide your steps as I once did.”
“But I should be false in the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.”
“He was raw and sharp and rich and throbbing with life. He was sweet blood after a long hunt. How could she have mistaken Aiden's kisses for this? They had been delicious and smooth like the brief comfort of chocolate, but they had never been enough.”
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