This is a story I wrote last year and that I have been working on since. It's very short, and the first time I've tried this style.
Do you want to play dolls, she said. She laughed and something in her hair winked at me in the sun. A butterfly clip catching the light, purple, metal, glittery. You can be the teddy, she said. She handed me a bear, stained and fraying. Its left eye was a button.
What do we do now, I asked.
Clink clink, we’re drinking tea, she said. We drank away the afternoon, sun and lemon in our tea.
Won’t you kiss me, now, she said. I know you want to.
I’m too old for you, I said. Have you gotten your shots yet?
I’m fifteen, she said. I’m old enough. She leaned in close. I started to fade.
Please, just get your shots, I said. It really isn’t safe. I could bring something back.
I know you want to kiss me, she said.
It really isn’t safe, I said. But she was gone and so was I and the man on the corner eyed me as I walked past. I dug around in my pocket for change and the edge of the envelope cut my finger.
What’s this, she asked. Her eyes glinted like that clip in the sun. I can’t take this. What did you do.
You need it, I said, just take it. Please.
I can’t take this, she said, I don’t want to know how you got it. I’m not a charity case. I have a job, you know. I’m not a silly young girl anymore. You can’t keep trying to take care of me. She paused. I have a husband now.
I watched her twirl the metal band around her skinny finger. I put my hand in my pocket and worried at the softening envelope.
You should probably go, she said.
You didn’t move out, I said. You’re still in this same house. I was starting to fade. She looked down. The gray threads were barely visible in her light hair.
I didn’t want to leave and have you not find me again, she said. It was hard enough the first time. I kept waiting and waiting and you never came back.
I tried, I said. I tried to come back to you. I reached out but she wasn’t there anymore and my hand brushed brick instead. Around me, bombs crashed and dust filled the air and it stuck in my throat and choked me.
It’s you. You do exist. I can’t believe it, he said.
Who are you, I said. I stepped back off the stoop.
She’s gone. They moved, the whole family, he said. Wait right there, she left something for you. He turned around and went deep into the house. Wait right there.
He came running back and his shoes squeaked on the hardwood and I was almost to the gate and he came tripping out over the thin lip on the uneven sidewalk. Damn, he muttered, I’m still not used to that. Here, he said.
My name was scrawled in crayon on the front of the envelope and it was sealed with fuzzy scented stickers. Her address was inside, neatly written in her mother’s hand and then signed clumsily at the bottom in the same crayon as on the front.
She said you’d come back for it, he said. I gotta admit, I thought you weren’t real, like an imaginary friend or something, you know, when she talked about “the pretty lady” who would pop up out of nowhere.
Thank you, I said, I have to go.
I got my vaccines, she said. The university paid for them. She rolled up her shirtsleeves and poked at the tiny Band-Aids.
That’s all you have to say, I said. She stopped and blinked at me.
What do you mean, she said.
I found you, I said. It took me years, but I found you. I followed your address here. I pulled the yellow, wrinkled envelope from my pocket. The stickers weren’t fuzzy anymore and they’d lost their smell and the creases in the paper were white and soft. She took it from me and traced the tattered edges.
I can’t believe you still have this. I mean, it’s been years for me, so how long has it been for you, she said.
Sometimes it’s been decades, sometimes just yesterday, sometimes it hasn’t even happened yet. I paused. You had a husband, I said.
She looked up at me. Her eyes glinted and blue spilled over and trickled down her cheek.
You never kissed me, she said. I have my vaccines now, won’t you kiss me.
You had a husband and a family and a life, I said. You could still have all of that. She shook her head.
No, she said, I wouldn’t do that. I’ve only ever wanted you. You’re the only one, she said, don’t you want me too.
Yes, I said. Yes.
Then stay with me, she said. Stay with me.
I can’t, I said. I was fading away. But she grabbed my hand and pulled me back and I stayed.
You can, she said. For me, you can.
I never felt lips so soft.