When I say “I wish you were here”
What I mean is
I wish I was wherever you are smiling.
It kills me you know,
Thinking of all the people who pass you in the supermarket
Or brush your shoulder on the street.
Do they know how lucky they are
To hear your laugh?
And here I am,
Some six hundred miles away
Wishing I could tell you every day
That I’m afraid of everyone but you.
A rainy spring had blossomed into a humid summer. All week the air clung like a blanket charged with static, prickling the skin.
At the sound of opening windows Simon Clayton glanced up from the anatomy book balancing on his knee.
“So? Shall we get a reprieve from this retched heat?” he asked.
“It appears a north-north-western breeze has given us her company” Archie replied with a grin, opening the last window and crossing to sit beside Clayton at the counter.
“Shall we take that as a good omen then?”
Archie shrugged. “I’ve got the dorm to myself till fall semester. That’s all the good luck I need.”
“You can still ask for a transfer. I’m sure if you explained to Keane-“
“No” Archie cut him off with a shake of his head. “You know how Jack is. Even if I did manage to get a transfer he’d find a way to make life more of a Hell than it is now.”
Clayton gave a tight nod. “Well, you’re welcome in my room should things ever get too” he cleared his throat “uh, too out of hand. I’m sure my new roommate won’t mind your company. And I certainly don’t.”
Archie gave a grateful smile. “So this new roommate of yours, what’s his name again?”
Archie gave a laugh. “Rather unfortunate for him. What’s his major then? Pre-med?”
Clayton shook his head. “No, afraid I’m still the lone pre-med student on the floor. He’s arithmetic perhaps? Something with numbers.”
“Good, maybe he can help me through Calculus. God knows why a theater major needs math credits.”
“So you can add up all the money you’re making as a waiter of course” Clayton teased.
“Now you sound like father” Archie groaned.
Gender is a confusing thing and I never know if I should identify myself as gender queer or trans* or what because like I’m super fem a lot of the time. But then there are other times where I really only feel comfortable in men’s clothing. And I almost always refer to myself in gender neutral or masculine pronouns because feminine pronouns don’t feel comfortable to me even though I’m biologically female.
I take enough pills
To be a drug store,
Wear enough fake smiles
To be a drug store magazine.
When I first met you
I knew what I was,
Not always comfortable with the pronoun she;
Shorter than 5’3;
Handing out smiles readily
To anyone passing on the street)
But not who.
My therapist said
For each environment
I put on a new identity,
(A social chameleon
Adapting to who I was expected to be)
But I was left
With no personality.
So I sat myself down
And learned how to be me.
Learned to accept the flaws,
The parts I didn’t like to see,
Until my skin fit
Like a favorite pair of jeans.
And like a favorite pair of jeans
I showed myself off to you,
The person who taught me comfortable
Was more than a word.
I told you everything about me
Until the only secret between us
Was how completely I trusted you.
So please understand,
Tonight when you said “how can you
Still look me in the eye
After everything I know about you?”
Your bladeless words
Cut deeper than any knife.
I do not know how
I still look you in the eye.
I no longer know
How I look myself in the eye.
Her Grace Lady Emily (fairest sailor of the five oceans and seven seas, both in looks and manners, if you please) was captain of the good ship Courfeyrac x Eponine. But no one, not even her first lieutenant, called her by her full name. Everyone from the ship’s crew to the East India Trading company to ships flying the Jolly Roger called her “Cap’n Chicken” or sometimes just “Cap’n”. Or, if they were on a friendly basis, “Chicken”. Ironically, Cap’n Chicken wasn’t chicken. Quite the opposite, really. It was her enemies who were chicken. Legend had it, when an enemy ship saw the Courf x ‘Ponine coming they sailed away so fast you’d think their ship had wings. Course, that was only legend. But every legend was once a story. And every story dabbles in fact. And facts are where this story begins.
Captain’s Log: 25th of April
Running dangerous low on supplies. Making sail for Gibraltar.
Clouds on SE horizon appear ominous. Could mean foul weather.
“Cap’n Chicken, ma’am” puffed a small Midshipman, knocking on the open cabin door as he spoke, “there’s been a sail sighted.”
“Friend or foe?”
“Foe ma’am, certain sure. Their flying the ‘ole Jolly.”
“Beat to quarters. I shall be up presently, thank you ma’am” Chicken replied briskly. (It should be noted that every crew member, regardless of gender, preferred to be called ma’am. They’d all seen their captain in battle and knew a ma’am was just as good with blade and pistol as any sir, thank you very much. Besides, as crewman one eyed Billy pointed out, “if ma’am’s can be called sir’s then I’d like to be a sir called a ma’am” and nobody could question that logic.)
All children visit a dreamland which they cannot seem to remember in daylight. It slips from their minds like sand in an hourglass; no matter how many times they turn it over the details always slip away. But every once in a great while, if the second star to the right is shining especially bright and the dreamer has a heart of particular innocence, a few grains of dreamland will remain in the corners of the child’s waking mind (and everyone knows corners are the first places children look when searching for wonderful, but hidden things). Archie Kennedy was one of these children. He was three the first time he remembered visiting dreamland. Of course, one must assume his first visit was, in actuality, much earlier. The minds of small children are fanciful and do not often regard exact dates as worth remembering. Dates only become important when one becomes an adult. Before such time, days pass in the span of a nap and years fly with the butterflies during an afternoon at the park. But for the sake of simplicity, we will say Archie’s first visit was when he was three. From that night onwards whenever the bedtime candle was lit Archie visited dreamland, or as the native tribe called it, “Neverland”. He found the name rather fitting, for Neverland was a place both fantastical and real. It was where things that never happen happened.
But, for all the escapades Neverland provided, his favorite part of the adventure was when he awoke in the morning light and mother smoothed back his golden hair, kissed his forehead, and held him in her arm while he recounted his adventures. She was the only adult he knew who still had youth hidden in her eyes, and his stories always seemed to find it, tug it to the surface, make it sparkle and dance. One morning, after a particularly thrilling tale of how he had chased a rainbow all the way out to sea (having sailed on a raft made of tree bark), her eyes sparkled so brightly it made her whole face glow.
“Dearest,” she had said, wearing the kind of smile reserved for one struck by wonder, “I do believe you have the loveliest of minds.”
Archie hadn’t quite understood the meaning of this. “But mother,” he asked with all the naivety of a child, “doesn’t everyone have a lovely mind?”
“Oh yes, most certainly dear one. But yours is particularly lovely.”
What she had meant, of course, was that Archie’s imagination was a spectacular thing to behold. Of the six Kennedy children Archie was by far the most endowed when it came to vividness of one’s inner mind and Mrs. Kennedy was perfectly aware of this. She cultivated it like a rare and beautiful flower; brought it to full bloom with storybooks read aloud and day trips to Drury Lane. As Archie grew so did his mind, until it was a garden of rosebud thoughts and lavender dreams, all sweetness and bursting with life. Everyone who visited Kennedy Manor said there must never be a cloudy day within the wall of the Estate, for Archie shone like a sunbeam that brightens and warms everything within reach.
But reality does not stay kind and happy forever (for if it did we would have no need for fantasy). Archie learned this in the tenth year of his life on the day the first snowflake of the year fell. He knew something was very wrong, even before they told him so, because father was crying. The children were taken aside and it was gently explained that they now had a new baby sister, but no longer had a mother. Archie didn’t cry. He hurt too much to cry. There is sometimes a hurt so deep that it worms into ones bones and becomes a part of you. A hurt that steals into your chest and takes something you didn’t know you could lose away, leaving behind an emptiness that makes itself know only by its achingly complete void. This is the hurt that lay claim to Archie. His sunny demeanor faded, dimmed to cloudy grey. And flowers do not survive long without sunlight. The thoughts that once were fragrant and flourishing now withered under death’s icy gaze. Days passed in a haze. Sometimes Archie didn’t speak for weeks at a time. As one might imagine, this was all very worrisome for Mr. Kennedy. But he had his own grief to cope with, so he let the boy grieve as he saw fit. Only when Archie began to refuse meals did Mr. Kennedy intervene.
Horatio had been working at the Indie-fatigable for near on two weeks before he noticed him. In retrospect, he wasn’t sure how he’d escaped his attention for that long. Everything about him caught the eye, from the strands of hair that flitted between golden and light brown, to his smile that shamed the sunlight. One thing was quite certain, now that Horatio’s eye had been caught he was finding it remarkably difficult to retract his gaze.
“You could say hello, you know” Bush had teased when he noticed where Horatio’s idle eyes seemed to drift.
“I- I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about William” Horatio spluttered, but his cheeks had turned pinker than the chalkboard flowers Kitty had drawn that morning.
Bush gave a knowing smirk, but let the topic drop.
Bush nudged him, inclining his head towards the entrance. Archie was standing in the doorway, a worried expression on his face.
‘No,’ Horatio thought, ‘not worried exactly. More like panicked.’ His stomach tightened painfully.
“I believe I’d like to take that break now, William.”
“You shouldn’t get involved with me.” Horatio might have thought Archie was joking, so sudden was this change of decision. “Trouble follows me, Horatio. I don’t want trouble to find you.”
“Archie, what on Earth are you talking about? Thinking upon these last months, trouble would not be how I would define them. That is, unless you do not feel the same?”
“No, of course I feel the same! Horatio, my time with you, it’s been… happy.” He paused for a moment, then repeated, a smile on his lips, “It’s been happy. Really, really happy.”
“Then I fail to under-“
“Don’t you see Horatio?” his voice rose with mounting hysteria. “I’m happy with you! That means there’s something he can take away, something he can use against me.” He stopped suddenly, voice dropping to barely above a whisper. “It’s been such a long time since I had anything left to lose.”
Horatio’s went so cold the light summer breeze almost burned. “Archie, what do you mean ‘he’?”
Archie ducked his head, refusing to meet Horatio’s concerned eyes. Gazing instead at the cracks in the sidewalk he began with a shaky, but determined voice “There was a boy at my last school. He- well he was damn terrible, Horatio. A right Shakespearian villain. I told you I transferred from The University of London. But I never told you why. He was why. I applied for undergraduate housing late. Got put up in College Hall, but couldn’t get a single study. Had to settle for a double room. He was my roommate.” Archie gave an involuntary shudder, but pressed on. “We, uh, we didn’t get on.” He gave a mirthless laugh. “I suppose I should say I didn’t get on with him. He, uh…he rather took a liking to me.”