My hands shook at the thought of her. Claire, my beautiful scarlet-haired angel. I wondered where she was, what she was doing right that moment. Had she found someone to love her right? To be there for her the way she needed someone to be there for her?
My heart felt too big for the cavity in which it existed these days, as though it had swelled from the pain of losing Claire, then losing Daniel, too. It was hard to breathe sometimes, and I often wondered what would happen if I just tried to kill myself like any other human being. Would wounds randomly patch themselves on my skin? Would drugs mysteriously slip through my veins without taking my life? Would my breath pass through things like pillows and plastic wrap? Would my lungs magically breathe water?
It was seven o'clock at night when I realized I couldn't handle the claustrophobia of the apartment any longer and I stumbled into the hall. A girl that lived across the hall was just coming in with her laundry, "Oh hey Nick," she said, smiling, her eyes twinkling, "How are you?"
"Fine," I answered dully, my voice monotone.
"I'm throwing a party later," she said, "You wanna come by?"
"No it's okay, thanks for the invite, though. I'm going for a walk down to Battery, though." I motioned toward the door.
She smiled, "Well if you change your mind... it's an open door party, so you can just walk in. Hey on your way out can you prop the hall door open with that brick for me, too? Thanks."
I trotted down the stairs, propped the door like she'd asked, and broke into the street. I headed south east along Fifth Avenue, toward the pier that overlooked the Hudson. The sun was setting behind the city, casting long shadows from the skylines of Manhattan and Newark in the distance, turning the surface of the bay into liquid gold and Pepto Bismol.
Battery Park was beautiful all year 'round, but the Summer was its best. The long cherry tree branches were covered with little pink flowers that fell off and their petals blew about the bricked walkways like tiny ships. I sat on one of the wrought iron benches at the utmost point of the park, the only thing between me and the water was the rungs of the railings. A few feet away stood one of those silver metal view finder things, and in the far distance, across the glass sheen of the water, was Lady Liberty, her crown and torch a glow.
I'd been there awhile before I heard footsteps coming up behind me. The sun had set almost completely, the sky was now livid pink and deep, deep hues of lavender. The water had gone dark, and only the street lamps illuminated me and the windblown flower petals. I didn't look around as the footsteps neared, I didn't really care who it was. After all, there wasn't much they could do to me.
I blinked in surprise, my body tense, not daring to believe my ears or to turn around, certain that it was a ghost.
A ghost with a really beautiful voice.
"Is that you?"
I turned, slowly. Each twist in my muscle seemed to take a lifetime. My eyes locked on hers, those unmistakable green eyes.
"Oh my God, it is you."
I stood up, and suddenly she was on me, her arms stretched up, hands cupping my face, mouth ravenous against mine. I kissed her back, my hands on her hips, still waiting for her to disappear.
"I can't believe I found you," she whispered.
"Claire?" I asked, feeling my mouth drying as I realized she was not a figment of my imagination. "Claire? You came?"
"Of course I came," she said, tears filling her eyes, "Why on earth wouldn't I come?"
"It's been a year..." I whispered. "I thought..I- I thought you-"
Claire shook her head, "It could've been a hundred years, Nick... I never would've given up."
My heart slammed in my chest, "But... Claire, in five years, when- when I change..."
"We'll figure it out," she promised, "I don't care if you change. I don't care what happens, as long as it happens while we're together. I can't live apart from you, Nick, I just can't." She clutched my hands, "Please, don't ask me to."
I clutched her to me. "Oh Claire," I whispered, "You silly, silly woman..."
"I love you," she breathed into my chest, inhaling me.
I inhaled her, too. "And I you, my Love."