Smoke slowly crept its way into each space and crevice of her home as booze was being poured and shared freely.
Winter break had just ended which meant returning to school to begin a new semester, but more importantly, it was a reason to invite some schoolmates over for the first party of the new year. Truthfully, Gemma didn’t care which of her classmates decided to join in on the fun, as long as Caleb came…
it was the whole reason for the party in the first place.
A party was a safe enough excuse to see him outside of school, without anyone being suspicious of her motives.
They were sitting at her kitchen table; the booze made itself a home in the bottom of her stomach, warming her body, dizzying her mind and breaking down the walls she had built so
c a r e f u l l y .
She takes another shot before moving on.
Puff, Puff, Pass.
“I’m off the grid tonight guys!”
Music was muffled by the many drunken voices, including his.
Listening to him was somehow even sweeter in this
d i s a r r a y e d state.
His voice rang deep,
each syllable like melted chocolate on the tongue.
He was completely intoxicating.
He takes out a cigarette and lighter from his pockets,
“Is it okay if I-?”
She exclaims as her friend across the table yells
She shoots Raya a warning glance,
as she was aware that she only wanted to give Caleb a hard time for the fun of it.
Raya liked to do everything simply for the fun of it…
unfortunately she didn’t care whether it was fun for anyone else.
She says before Raya follows with: “Well it bothers me.”
“Well I don’t want to be a bother.”
He begins to walk out of the room
to make his way outside and Gemma follows him.
“I’m coming with you,
so you don’t have to be alone.”
She says to him, beating him to the door.
He looks at her and smiles before they both walk out and he lights his cigarette.
She watches him carefully as he breathes in the smoke slowly before blowing it out
d e l i b e r a t e l y.
“So you really don’t feel anything?”
She pictured this conversation many times
before finally having the strength to initiate it.
She imagined herself asking the question, just as she just had. She imagined his response…something dark and witty…she imagined that she would take his hand just then before looking at him to say, “even now?” Hoping the touch would be as
e l e c t r i c
as she imagined it would. She’d thought of this since the moment he told her that he was too apathetic to feel most things.
But it did not go the way she imagined, because he’d responded with something unexpected.
“I feel sometimes…
when the circumstances are right.”
“What do you mean?”
He takes a puff of his cigarette before answering. He takes his time blowing out the smoke
slowly, staring straight at her.
“When something has enough beauty,
then I feel it.
But life’s not like that,
we can’t always have what we want.”
She shakes her head,
“That’s not true”
She tries to keep from slurring her words,
“You can always have what you want,
if you’re brave enough to ask for it.”
He looks down and shakes his head before inhaling smoke once again,
“There are certain limitations you know.”
He looks at her directly and she feels his gaze invade her
i n t i m a t e l y
and so she faces her head toward the ground so that he cannot read all of her raw emotion which she felt rise and hover over her skin.
Suddenly Lena pops her head out of the door, breaking the spell that had cast itself in the air around them. Lena has been very obviously interested in Caleb since school had begun in the fall, without having ever verbally confirmed it.
“I need to ask you something.”
She says, looking at Gemma.
Gemma knew the question before she could even ask it.
Don’t you have a boyfriend?
She waited until they were all back inside before answering the question.
Before explaining that no,
she was no longer with Joseph…
that he was finally out of town
and so she was able to finally express herself freely
without the guilt and manipulation
being directly forced on her.
She always did her breakups in person, but with Joseph, that was no longer an option. So she had
done it with a phone call instead.
He didn’t accept the breakup of course.
“We’ll work it out when I get back”
He said, and though Gemma was very adamant about their final separation, she knew it was
going to be a lot of work. But she felt different already, the air was
l i g h t e r
all around her…
she felt her own strength rise within her like a phoenix from ash and soot.
She was beginning to feel like herself again,
after years of feeling lost…
like she was finally finding her way back to herself.