By: Nina G. Jones

The bedroom closet door is halfway open and my eyes immediately converge on the gift bag that holds the jewelry Taylor gave me in St. Petersburg. I smile and tear up, remembering that night and the unrelieved tension of our feelings. Those things always seem so innocent in your memories. I pull the bag out from the closet floor and pull out the box, admiring the sparkling earrings that I haven’t worn since the gala. I miss him already. How was I so clueless about his feelings for me that night? The memory of seeing him with Tatyana provides a jolt of sweet pain. Then, something catches my eye peering out from the baby blue and white tissue paper in the bag: a small note card in an envelope. I didn’t notice it when I originally opened the gift. I anxiously yank it out and recognize Taylor’s handwriting:

“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”

“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.”

-R. Bradbury

There is no salutation or valediction.

I clutch the card close to my heart. The small note helps me realize that because we recognize the darkness, we also see the blinding light in one another in a way no one else can. I grab my phone to call Taylor; there has got to be a way we can fix all this. It doesn’t matter what the world might think, or who I thought I was before I met him. There is no one but us now. I won’t let the ghost of his mother, that cult, or his brother ruin us.

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”

I jump at the sound of the familiar voice and my phone slips out of my hand, onto the bed and lands on the floor out of reach.

Eric’s tall figure, his face severely bruised and swollen, leans against the threshold of my bedroom door.