warning: coarse language, mild sexual references, and themes of death, violence, + self harm. i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality.
The winter is strangely tender tonight, coaxing the city back into glittering life under a intoxicating sheen of rain. Date night, for Luc and I, when we are free to explore the heart of Bridgeport together, shimmering with neon and breathless laughter and wicked smoke of a city in feverish half-sleep. Not my scene, I suppose, but there is a temptation in wandering through the dizzying lights, walking the edge of losing myself in the drunken tide that pulls so many others under, just anchored by the weight of Luc’s hand. It must be almost midnight when we leave the cinema — a romantic comedy this time — and stumble happily into a late night diner, sliding into an empty booth. Cracked linoleum, burger grease, an echo of a time gone. The diner itself is quiet, save for the crackling of popcorn and neon signs, the latter of which douses the place in red and blue.
I hum over the menu before ordering a strawberry milkshake and fries, while Luc asks for a glass of water. “Don’t you want any food? You didn’t eat anything for dinner.” I tip my head at him curiously, but Luc just raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you noticed.” “Or lunch. Are you okay?” “I’m fine, Cherry. Just not hungry.” He shrugs, a careless jerk of his shoulders. The order arrives before long, and I smile at the cherry and pocky sticks on the milkshake. “Look, it’s a cat!” I turn the glass towards my boyfriend, who doesn’t respond. His gaze is turned away from me, watching the rain drip down the glass. Spacing out again. I can tell he is pulling at his sleeves, steadily fraying the hems; an odd habit that has been confusing me for the past couple weeks. “Luc.” “Hm? Oh, cute.” He gives me a faint smile. I have learned to predict Luc’s tempers over time, like the tides, but this is new. Not his sharp-tongued arrogance, or mellow kindness, but something else entirely, a quiet that barely flickers with life.
Ever since Ebony had stumbled across us — if a woman like her could stumble — under the fairy-light trees, Luc has been different. His presence not quite here. As if… he is pulling away from me, slowly, subtly. This thought flits anxiously around my head, and no matter how many times I try to reassure myself, that he still kisses me with that same love, I can’t help but worry. For myself, yes, but mostly for him; now, as I nibble on fries, Luc doesn’t spark the flow of conversation that used to be so easy for us. There are shadows underneath his eyes. “You look exhausted,” I point out in concern. “I told you I’m fine,” Luc suddenly snaps, and I blink in surprise, the rough edge of his words startling when I have gotten used to his soft-spoken sweetness. The last time he spoke to me this harshly feels like ages ago, but I can remember the cigarette and tense muscles and me sleepily thinking something was wrong. Regret flashes across Luc’s face a moment later. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I say quietly. “No, it’s not. Sorry. I’ve been so out of it.” He takes my hand after that, his thumb softly tracing my knuckles, and focuses his attention back on me with a smile. The rain has eased to a whisper once I finish the fries, with the begrudging help of Luc, and we finally begin our walk back home. This district is a sort of artsy gathering of shops which come alive at night, tattoo parlours and music stores and stranger things, casting a electrifying cocktail of colours. I think the tattoo shop Raphael works is along this lane, and I smile to myself, suspecting where the inspiration for his dyed hair comes from. I almost don’t notice the familiar tall figure sweeping past me. “Oh, James! Hi…” I trail off when Lilith’s boyfriend passes by me in silence, just with the swish of his black coat. Perhaps he didn’t notice.