if you’re leaving, then take me with you

this is lau’s prompt, blame her.

the opening refrains of the church organ fill the hall. people shuffle to stand, and the flower girls begin their duty, tossing petals every which way, and for a long, long moment. she looks up from under her veil, and time stops for the both of you.

she is beautiful, and all you’ve ever wanted was to sit beside her and hold her hand. nothing more.

you wouldn’t have dared to ask for anything more than tiffany hwang’s love in return.

and for a while she did, and the world was beautiful. the sun was bright, and the shades of blue of the sky, many-hued and saturated.

you blink, and you are taken back to a dozen places at once. the couch in her old apartment, right next to all the windows, with the sunlight shining through the translucent blinds as she pours over her homework in a comfortable cotton tee and some loose shorts, and adjusts a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to sit better on her nose. and you are upside down, slacking off with your textbook on your chest and your rainbow socked feet on her nice couch pillows because when she finds out, she’ll make you move your feet, and you’ll get to pull her attention away from some musty old books. you remember thinking her attention would be better wasted on you, than dumb history.

she takes a step down the aisle. you blink and you are on your hands and knees, trying to find and glue the remains of her pink mug back into one piece, and sticking your clumsy fingers together instead, when she walks in through the front door and starts screaming bloody murder because that was her favourite cup, you asshole. where the fuck was she gonna drink coffee from now?!

another step. your hands are cold. she is on your lap, her face tucked into the crook of your neck. her hands sitting limply in the dip between her crossed legs, and the both of you are drunk on someone’s couch and smelling like a fucking distillery, but it’s a mellow kind of drunk and she says she thinks she might love you. and when she presses a sloppy kiss to the underside of your jaw, you know that you do.

step. you think the sound of happiness is the hiss and hum of your rattling old heater, the brush of warm fuzzy socks against the couch material. and the sound of her laugh as she plays footsie with you under the blankets while you try to read.

step. the house is cold because you’ve forgotten to pay the bills again, and she isn’t at home because it’s too fucking cold to be in your shitty apartment without heat. you find her at the bar, nursing a drink, a napkin with a number clutched tightly in her hand. you don’t say anything about the napkin, just promise you can do better. and that you could pile up all the blankets and make a thick, thick mound, and it won’t be so bad if you shut the windows.

step. her dress is beautiful, her veil is beautiful, the way her eyelashes curl, frame her eyes as she blinks and takes the next step; her cherry lips parted and the hint of white teeth. all beautiful. you are in your studio, and she is sitting still for you under the sun, half dozing in a tank top and shorts while you commit her features to paper. and when your stomach growls and she blinks awake, you wish you were a better painter, better person, better provider. it’s a little hard to feed people on dreams after all.

step. she tells you she’s got a job. you cheer for her. she says it’s on the other side of the country, and you say “do you need help packing?” even when your heart is screaming don’t go, don’t go, don’t go. it’s too selfish to make her stay. not when you can’t give her any security.

step. she stops answering your messages as often, and you chalk it up to her just being very busy. because she works hard, she works hard at anything and everything she does and comes home in tatters, so you just hope that she has people to rely on while she’s there. besides, you don’t really have anything interesting to say.

step. someone buys your painting. it’s of the sea, and there’s a lonely little sailboat sitting in the sunset. you text her about it and she says she’s happy for you. you’re happy too, it’s a painting you are proud of.

step. soonkyu shows you his picture. they are leaning on each other, almost cheek to cheek, and she looks happy.

step. you call her and she doesn’t answer.

step. you text her and it goes unanswered.

step. you call her, and he answers. you hang up without saying anything.

step.

step. you call her two drinks in and the number you’ve just dialed is no longer in use.

step.

step. she walks past your aisle and she is beautiful.

step.

step. someone sees you trying to sell that painting of her, sat by the windows, and offers to buy it from you for a handsome sum. you sell it to them, because it means less than being able to comfortably make rent for the next six months.

step. you cry that night, thinking about wanting to rescind the offer. but when you wake up in the morning, you deliver the painting as promised and receive the money as promised.

step. the buyer’s friend is interested in your pieces and would like to know more.

step. you have fantastic news, and no one to share it with. you settle for calling soonkyu and yelling into the phone with her, and then going out for drinks and gopchang.

step. you make it. you make it, you make it, you made it.

step.

step. your facebook lets old friends keep track of you, and they are genially happy for your success when your exhibitor tags you in the advertisement for your gallery show opening. she likes your post two days later, and you think it’s enough.

step. she posts a picture of their socked feet peeking out from under the couch blanket, captioned with a litany of thankfulness hashtags and thesaurus words, and engagement talk. you miss it, running around attending meetings with commissioners.

step. the sound of surrender is a grey sky threatening rain, and the hiss of warm-cold, acrid exhaust as car after car drives past a motionless you waiting on a traffic light, and the creak of your mailbox opening and the sound of a wedding invitation (nice card stock) sliding out of a fancy, gilded envelope.

step. rose gold. she loved that combination.

step.

step.

they are standing at the altar, facing each other. her hands are in his, she is smiling at him, the upward turn of her crescent moon smile glittering, and she looks beautiful.

“i do,” she says.

“i do,” he says. (you mouth it along with him.)

and when they are wed, you clap with the rest of the friends and family.

she looks happy. and that is all you will ask for.

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