Emery Lord

When We Collided

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    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Gold melts into every color of blue where the ocean dips off into nothing. Do you believe in heaven? Vivi asked me once, and I told her the truth: that I want to. In one painting, she gave me something I’ve needed for months now: happiness even in uncertainty. What’s past that horizon line? And how many of us get our somedays? I don’t know.

    But just because I don’t know doesn’t mean it can’t be great.

    It takes me a second to notice the small letters painted in the bottom corner. But I knew they’d be there like I know they’ll be all over the world someday.

    Vivi was here.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    On the wall opposite the patio, she painted me a mural.

    My heart beats like tripping feet. I try to imagine her, balanced on a ladder all night with a sling on her arm. The patio lights are on—I never leave them on—so she must have painted by the light of them. She did this for me. How We Say Good-bye.

    The Verona Cove lighthouse is in the right foreground. Beyond it, there are ships in the harbor—seven of them—all with white sails. I’m not sure how she gave a flat wall so much movement, like each sail is flickering. I can almost hear them beating against the wind. There’s one bigger boat in the distance, sailing toward the upper left corner. The horizon, gold and blue, looks inviting and limitless. The lone boat’s sails puff out in pride, a pioneer to the unknown. The seven boats in harbor seem to be waving good-bye, cheering Bon Voyage! Vivi crammed all her vivification into this one painting, right down to the nautical flags on the biggest ship.

    I learned the letters associated with nautical flags when I was a kid. The first is a “D.” The second, blue and white: an “A.” Wait. My eyes skip down the mast. They spell out D-A-N-I-E-L-S. It strikes me like whiplash—there are also seven little ships in harbor. One for every living member of my family.

    This is not a painting about Vivi and me saying good-bye.

    The large boat sailing away for new adventures . . . it’s my dad. Oh my God. She painted a family portrait. She painted us as sailboats. I see it now—how could I have missed it at first?

    My eyes fill, hot with tears. Because, apparently, casual crying is just something that I do now. My chest caves in with missing my dad
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Dear Jonah,

    I lied. “Good-bye” is my least favorite word in my entire vocabulary, much worse than even “squish” or “protuberance,” and I just can’t say it to your handsome face. Give your family kisses from me, will you? I think I fell for all seven of you a little more every day. But mostly you, Jonah. Mostly, madly, beautifully you. Don’t tell okay? He’d be crushed.

    Maybe in my next life, I’ll be a wave in the ocean, and you’ll be a mountain, and we’ll spend years and years brushing up against each other. You’ll shift so painfully slowly, and some days I’ll crash right into you and other days I’ll approach gently, licking your sides. That sounds like us, doesn’t it?

    Or maybe we’ll meet in this same life. Maybe I’ll be working as a costume designer for a movie that’s filming in a city where you’re the chef of your own restaurant, and our eyes will lock in the middle of a busy street, and I’ll whisper, “It’s you.” Maybe I’ll sneak into your little bungalow house while your fiancée is out of town on business, and we’ll make love like we have in past lives and in this life. That doesn’t sound like something you’d do, but a girl can dream.

    Either way, Jonah, I simply cannot wait to see who you become.

    Until someday,

    Vivi

    P.S. I left something for you on the restaurant patio. Took me all night. I call it “How We Say Good-bye.”

    I blink, taking in the sharp lines of her name and, next to it, a red lip print, kissing me good-bye. Of course she’d make a dramatic exit, even without being here. We can’t keep each other—I know that. But I wanted to see her one last time. I wanted to say thank you; I wanted to make one last attempt at memorizing her.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    It comes to mind because Vivi climbed into my life with her fossil brush, and she swept away the dust. She rediscovered me under all that rubble, and that means I’ll always be a little bit hers. How am I supposed to say good-bye to someone like that?

    I’m still yards away from the park when I realize she’s not here. You can feel a girl like Vivi. She shifts the ground under your feet. And I don’t sense them, the tremors beneath me.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I shower and shave and try to make my hair look presentable. There’s a sailor’s knot in my throat. I’m supposed to walk to the park, toward Vivi, and that part’s fine. It’s the walking away from her that I can’t imagine.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Leah swings her feet below the island ledge. “I wish Vivi didn’t have to leave. It makes me sad when I think about it.”

    “Yeah,” I say. “Me too.”

    Naomi shakes her head. There’s something ironic in her smile. “You know what? Me too.”
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I already gave her one. She came over yesterday morning, and we played.”

    “Vivi came over while I was at the restaurant?”

    “Yep! We played ponies and stuff.”

    I glance at Naomi for more information. “Were you here when she came over?”

    Naomi nods, not looking up from her waffle. “We all were.”
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I texted Vivi yesterday, to see if she needed help packing. She said no. I was so disappointed that I almost went over anyway. But then she told me to meet her at the park today. Of course—it’d be a dramatic farewell, with a meeting time and anticipation. I’m half dreading it. I’m half desperate for it.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Hey,” my mom says to Leah. “No spoiling your breakfast with pure sugar, missy.”

    “Swrry,” Leah says, with her cheeks puffed out. She’s clearly not sorry
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    My family is everywhere, busy with individual tasks and reaching over one another. But, somehow, doing it all together. It’s such a familiar scene that part of me expects to turn the corner and see my dad. I know he won’t be there. But it feels like he’s in the kitchen all the same—in Naomi’s determination and Silas’s easy humor and Bekah’s sensitivity and Isaac’s precociousness and Leah’s everyday excitement. In my . . . well, I don’t know what. But I hope something. Something good.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Your hair looks nice.”

    “Thanks.” Leah’s hands move to the ends of her braids. They’re the fancy kind. I can’t even fathom how to bend hair like that. “Mom did it.”
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I was up till sunrise with Vivi two nights ago, and I’ve had a pounding headache since
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    But Jonah’s lips are warm on mine, and so I savor this kiss like the last bite. That’s the thing they never tell you about love stories: just because one ends, that doesn’t mean it failed. A cherry pie isn’t a failure just because you eat it all. It’s perfect for what it is, and then it’s gone. And exchanging the truest parts of yourself—all the things you are—with someone? What a slice of life. One I’ll carry with me into every single someday.

    I lie down in the cool grass beside him as planets collide above us, and we stay like this for a long time, down to every last crumb. My cheeks are wet, but oh, my heart—it is so full
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    nyatis open with possibility, a meditative space
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I can’t quite articulate what bipolar disorder is for me, exactly, but I can articulate who he is to me, and so I take a deep breath.

    “I want you to know that I wouldn’t have done anything differently this summer. Well, that’s not true, obviously.” I give a breathy laugh, and I let myself start over. “That first night we went to the beach, I wore my nightgown because why not? That’s me. But the day before I crashed the Vespa, I wore that nightgown all over town without even caring that everyone could see . . . and well, I wouldn’t have done that. But there still would have been picnics and writing plays and making scavenger hunts. I would have loved you the same.”

    “I know that,” he says. But he closes his eyes for a split second—relief that he can’t hide from me. His hand is on my cheek, looking at me so admiringly that I almost can’t believe I’ll walk away from this. “It doesn’t change anything for me either, Viv. You know that, right?”

    My own eyes blink closed. Yes. I already knew that, but I treasure the words.

    “And thank you for the pie, Jonah,” I whisper, even as the first tear rolls hot down my face. “I’ll never forget it.”

    “Me neither, Viv.” God knows—and so does Jonah Daniels—that I don’t just mean the pie. We know there are three little words branded inside my heart: Jonah was here.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    These days, I’ve started to daydream of the permanent relationships I want to have. Friends who stay in my life forever. People who I trust to love me even if I’m wobbling—the way I trust Jonah. And if that’s what I want, then I have scorched earth to till and replant. I love Ruby and Amala too much to not try.

    I have a Japanese maple seedling, and I have seen how beautiful a rooted life can be. But I have miles to go before I decide where to plant us.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Jonah tucks a lock of wild hair behind my ear. His smile doesn’t hide his own aching chest—I can feel it. “Can we say ‘someday’?”

    I lean in, touching my lips against his. He smells like him, like shampoo and oregano and everything I want to keep even though I know I can’t right now. “Someday, Jonah. Someday.”

    When I sit back, we stay there with our foreheads pressed together. Jonah Daniels, my sweet boy with his rumpled hair and khakis and heart, handed me so many things that I needed. And his beautiful, boisterous family, they gave me something I’ve never held before in my life: the desire for that kind of love. Maybe I’ll grow up and fall in love and have half a dozen kids. Or maybe I’ll buy a little house with a big dining room table and a deck, and I’ll have a group of friends who come over all the time to drink wine and laugh our way even through the hard times.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    Maybe we were dying planets, Jonah, being drawn into the darkness.” I hold my right palm against his cheek, and I wish I could touch him with both my hands. “When we collided, we bounced each other back into orbit. And now we have to do that—we have to return to our own paths because that’s what we gave each other.”
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I’m settled, I stare right into those brown eyes of his, and they almost liquefy my resolve. The coastal wind whips our hair, a chill rushing through me. I imagine what we must look like from a distance—two little specks interlocking, sitting on a cliff over the seas with a backdrop of ocean and stars. What I mean is, there are worse places to break someone else’s heart. And your own.

    But finding each other was celestial, and this is how it must be.
    marti leonhas quoted10 months ago
    I want him for myself, but I want adventure for him, too—and for me.

    And heaven knows texting wouldn’t be enough. “Oh, Jonah. You’re the roots, darling. I’m the clouds. Our love will always be from afar.”

    I expect him to smile, but he looks so stricken
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