"I met someone," Bryant says.
“I’ve met a lot of people too,” says Brigid. “Doesn’t mean it had anything to do with romance.”
They’re walking. It’s always the same story with them. He likes it that way, having lived for way too long skipping from bookshelf to bookshelf. And she, well, she’s always been one for rereading.
They’re past the point where they’re worried about what their words mean. Their words aren’t for anyone, no one but them, and they’re good enough, thank you. He holds her hand because he’s a boy like himself and she’s her. It’s not that she needs it, it’s just that the ocean is black at this hour of the night and there’s salt in the breeze and the mist is just beginning to glaze the tips of her fingers…
It would all be so confusing, if either if them thought about it more. That’s why they don’t.
“I know that,” he says. “I know you. And you know me. And you know what I mean…”
She smiles in the dark, and he feels it in her wrists.
“I know. And I’m happy for you.”
“You don’t have to say that if it isn’t true,” he says.
“Stop worrying about me,” she says. “I’ve made it through all the unhappiness I’ve ever had before, haven’t I? I’ll try this out.”
She tosses her head back in a soundless laugh. “So what if I need to try a little to feel a little? Better than the alternative, dad…”
The nickname makes him smile now too. She’s trying so hard, he can hear it, he can feel it, dripping from her voice, ghosting past her stride… But she’s here, and she’s listening.
He tells her about the boy that he met; that’s what he calls him, the boy. It’s more enchanting, or something. It’d be wrong to use his name. He realizes he might be afraid that she’ll see right through him.
She likes his story, though. She even smiles at all the appropriate bits, though she still nods sometimes when it isn’t merited. He won’t correct her. For all her talk, she hates constructive criticism. She wants to figure things out her way, herself, that way she can feel them sting like they were meant to.
“So what do you think this is?” she asks. She hates that word, the one with the l, she’s trying to get him to use right now. It’s a game, almost.
“He and I,” he says.
She bites her lip. “I can handle it, you know. All I can’t do is feel it.” “
Well,” he says. “You don’t need it… you haven’t got to sound so morose about it…”
“You’re in love,” she sings.
“And you’re jealous,” he says.
Her cadence is his, and his rigidness, hers.
She’s not jealous of the boy, of course. It wouldn’t, couldn’t be, it isn’t like that. She just wishes, in an empty corner that hurts like the sharp edges of a plastic bag, that she could understand for him. In a way maybe that’s enough. It always has been to him…