An excerpt from a novel idea I had with a friend called "The End of Days".
|When I was a child, I fell in love with night. I sat on my roof after my mother had gone to bed but when the city was still alive with lights. Of course, my sector’s lights got turned off past ten but that’s how I liked it. Better to see the stars.
I fell in love every night as if I hadn’t done it the night before. I lay sprawled on the cold cement of the roof with my arms tucked under my head and just gazed. There was no magic ritual or special enchantment. I just watched the stars. And it left me with this feeling that I only felt in certain places and not very often.
To me, looking at the night sky was like holding my baby sister the day she was born. Her holding my finger and staring up at me with wide brown eyes. It was my mother holding me after a nightmare and the rough hands of my father teaching me how to shoot for the first time. It was the warm lights of the center of the city and the feeling right before you fall asleep when you’re nestled in the covers and your eyes are too tired to stay open. I was sure, at the age of seven, that that was what love was.
The tradition continued for years. Night after night, in rain or snow, I was always out on that roof. Some nights I was there longer than others. A couple nights I didn’t even bother going to bed. No one knew, not my mother or my sister. Nobody.
That was until Thalia.
I had known her for a couple years then. We had gone to school together and she took a particular interest in me although that interest mainly consisted of her beating my ass in training. She was terrifying even at the age of ten, with sharp eyes and quick hands. We all knew that she had a place in this world, even if we didn’t.
One night, I was on the roof as usual. It was a clear night after a week of nonstop rain. I was surprised I hadn’t gotten sick because of it. I was lost in thought when I finally noticed the noise. It sounded like claws on brick, scrabbling and scraping. Monsters weren’t uncommon in these parts, but rarely did they dare bother anyone. Not after the war.
I pulled my dagger from my belt, palming it in my little ten year old hand, and stepped to the edge of the building. I nearly screamed when I looked down and saw Thalia, only a few feet down from the edge of the roof, scaling the building with just her hands and feet. She had this wicked grin on her face like she had been waiting for me. When she was close enough I pulled her up onto the roof and from there I didn’t know what to do. But as usual, she did.
Thalia stalked across the expanse of roof and collapsed to where I had been laying before she had interrupted me. She put her hands behind her hand and stared up at the sky like I always did. After a minute of me standing uselessly, she looked over and asked what the hell I was doing. I laid beside her.
“What are you doing here?” I had asked quietly, keeping my eyes on the stars. I wanted them to calm me but there was too much in my head to concentrate. My stomach was twisting in knots.
“I see you come up here every night.” Thalia had replied coolly, brushing her dark hair out of her face. “I live in the inner city, far away from here. But not too far. Close enough to see someone on this roof every night.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“I have my ways.” Even as a child she was cryptic. Later on she told me she had stalked me on my way home before. It should’ve been creepy but after that first night, Thalia wasn’t the same person.
We laid in silence for a while and my heart finally started to slow down. I never thought I could share the sky with someone else but it felt good to have Thalia there. It felt good to feel her bony shoulder poke into mine and to know she was there. To know that she understood whether she said so or not.
“I’m sorry.” Thalia said suddenly, finally turning her head to look at me. I open my mouth to ask why but she touched my face before I could. She ran her thumb over the bruise on my cheek, one she had given me in training two days before. I wasn’t new to injuries in the least, but that one had hurt. It felt personal.
“I’m not very good at making friends. I sort of just hit them and hope they’ll stick around.”
“That’s why you hit me? Because you want to be my friend?” It sounded ridiculous but under the night sky anything seemed possible
“And also you weren’t blocking your face.”
Her hand was still on my face and I could feel the callouses of a thousand training sessions on her skin. Her hand was warm and comforting and in that moment things seemed to work. Thalia straightened out in my mind like the stars in the sky. Everything had a place and when it was set it shone bright and fierce.
“I’ll be your friend.” I had whispered. And looking into her dark eyes I realized that Thalia was night. Every night from then on I fell in love with the black sheet above me and shadowy girl beside me.
It was cloudy. I couldn’t even see the moon beyond the gray puffs. It was irritating. I lay on my back, eight years older now. Things were much different then when I had been ten but ironically I still had a bruise on my face. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only similarity. Thalia hadn’t sat on the roof with me in six months.
Which was why I was surprised when I heard her climbing the wall. For years I had urged her to use my front door but Thalia always liked a challenge, and scaling building was an activity she never got sick of.
I didn’t bother getting up a shse slammed onto the roof, her boots kicking up dust. She was different from when we were ten too. She was still terrifying but in a beautiful way now. She had grown into her long arms and legs and she moved with the kind of grace most of our people wished for. She was like a war goddess or something. It took me a few years to notice but now it was impossible not to.
She sprawled next to me without a word and I didn’t try to look at her no matter how much I wanted to. I could feel her completely, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. She was always warm even on the coldest of nights. That night was no different.
I wanted to hate her. I wanted to be furious at her for blowing me off, for not seeing me in six months. Since she had gotten taken from school and into private lessons with her father I saw her less and less. In the past six months I had only seen her in passing. I couldn’t even remember the last conversation we had had. Yet, I felt a sort of relief to know she was there beside me. To know that she hadn’t gone away completely.
“I’m sorry.” She said, turning her head to look at me. Just like that first night. I looked at her like I had done then and she traced the bruise on my cheek. I closed my eyes.
“At least i didn’t hit you this time.” She muttered, pressing lightly on the bruise, making me wince. “Have you been fighting?”
“I wouldn’t say it was me fighting.” I replied quietly, opening my eyes. She was close, examining the bruise in the way she analyzed a battlefield or an opponent. When she met my eyes again they softened.
“Why do you let them hit you? I know you can beat all of those idiots.”
“Maybe I can’t.”
“Don’t be dense.”
Thalia sighed, withdrawing her hand and placing it on her stomach instead. I felt a jolt of disappointment. I ignored it.
“I’m sorry for not coming sooner. I’ve been busy.”
I felt Thalia watching me but I kept my eyes on the sky. There were no stars to be seen.
“I missed you a lot.” She continued. “I have so much I’ve wanted to tell you.”
I took in a breath but didn’t say anything. What did you say to your best friend who you hadn’t seen in months? It wasn’t her fault but how could I pretend none of it had ever happened?
“We don’t have to pick up where we left off.” Thalia said after a minute of tense silence as if reading my mind. “We can start over if that’s what you want to do. You can even hit me if it’ll make you feel better. I deserve it honestly.”
I thought about the months I had spent alone on this roof. There was something so lonely about it that I hadn’t noticed when I was a kid. Being without Thalia was like being without a right hand. I felt lost and uncomfortable and useless. She was night and I was day. We were partners. And you always forgave your partner.
I laced my hand into hers and I heard her release a breath. Her head leaned into her shoulder and I let my chin rest on her hair. Even without stars, things seemed to fall back into place once more. I fell in love all over again.