/ This is set in a world that was created by my friend Rei. If for some strange reason you’ve been paying close attention to the other things I post here, you may notice that the three characters in this piece have turned up before, but in a different world. They are also in a polyamorous relationship but I’ve never really hid that. Here, it’s fairly overt. /
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Even as the warmth from her body seeped through his clothes and touched his skin, he was unable to shake off the feeling of being incomplete. “Missed you, Soph.” He traced the frame of her spectacles, nail briefly snagging on the crack that marred the clear glass just below her left eye. She managed a wan smile as she mirrored the path of his finger, touching not the surface of glass but the crumpled edges of the scar that ran over his eyelid and ended just above his cheekbone. He winked at her with the dead eye and it was a familiar, playful gesture that was ill-suited to their present situation.
“I miss him,” she whispered, and her voice trembled as the last leaves of autumn had; he’d seen them drift off on the wind on the long journey back. Then Sophia, remembering that she still had a part of their incomplete whole, pressed a kiss to his forehead. “And you. I missed you too.”
It had been three weeks since he’d gone missing — the understated light of their lives, the only person July had ever met who hadn’t asked about or mocked his name. Curtis was gone. Even now, it was getting difficult to recall his face without the help of the only picture they had of him. His features flickered and blurred in July’s mind as he shifted under Sophia to extract the grubby polaroid from the pocket of his black windcheater.
The three of them, a couple of summers ago. It would have been a rather naughty picture had Sophia not been wearing that striped bikini top and the backdrop something other than rolling foam-topped waves that one could only find at the beach. Sticky-sweet popsicles (home-made) that dripped down their chins, and looks of disgust from utter strangers. Entertainment was a wholly seedy business now, and frivolous activities were frowned upon. They’d played tag, chasing each other till a hunched old hag with the stench of decay and rotting staggered out of her tent and spat at their feet. The beach, unlike the ones in the hotel brochures preserved from an age long before they’d been born, was the territory of the dying and the destitute.
Inseparable, they’d always been bold.
They lived in a world that was eating itself from the inside out, but within that another world had been created. By the three of them, and only for the three of them. A world in which they could laugh freely, released from the guilt that crept into each individual consciousness when they encountered those daily reminders that a losing battle was being fought. Each day, more would fall, taken by the darkness.
They would huddle under the covers together like lost children. Curtis would always be in the middle, and Sophia’s favourite way to fall asleep was with her cheek resting against the dip just under his shoulder, content with the secret thought that that spot existed just for her. July couldn’t fall asleep without his back against another’s warmth, and Curtis had never held it against him. It was everything, to fall asleep with his spine in alignment with Curtis’ arm.
Awake, they were a walking enigma in three parts. If asked, July would shrug, unable to explain how they fit together. They just did. He was sure that Sophia had the answer but he never requested to hear it, sure that no matter how beautiful it was at its core, she would tarnish it with that particular brand of cynicism that was unique to her. He loved her for it, in a way that twisted his heart the same way he twisted hers when he spent far too long cuddling with Curtis, hogging what rightfully belongs to me too, she would say with a sour expression on her face. He would make it up to her with kisses that tasted of coffee and cigarettes, himself and Curtis.
“God, I miss him.” The polaroid went back into his pocket. He thought of getting a little frame for it. Already, there were tiny scratches across the surface of the photograph. Countless times, he’d taken it out of his pocket to show it to people, hoping to get a lead.
Have you seen this man? Does he look familiar to you? At all? …Even just a little?
July had even made his way down to the States, travelling by plane and bus and taxi till he’d reached the dingy apartment that Curtis’ mother had been living in for the last thirty years.
So… has he been by lately? His expression had given him away; the tired-looking widow had tried to shut the door in his face like he was an omen of ill luck. He’d felt like a crow, bringing misfortune to her doorstep, tucked away in his tailfeathers. She relented a couple of seconds later, her change of heart bringing him a plate of stale, hard cookies and a glass of lukewarm milk. He sat at her stained kitchen table and talked to her about her son, staring at the carton of milk. With his mind wandering, only half-listening to her talk of her son’s high school years and beyond, he could only see, under bold text that asked ‘HAVE YOU SEEN ME?’, a picture of a poor, missing stranger. His lover.
“Tell me when he comes home, will you?” She’d asked it of him, and when she closed the door after him, he thought he heard a muffled sob. Home, he realised only later, was nowhere in that tiny apartment or in that city.
Home for Curtis was with him, July. And with Sophie.