This isn’t real.
This isn’t real.
This isn’t real.
Dimly, February could hear Hector trying to soothe her as she sobbed uncontrollably onto his shoulder. This isn’t real. She couldn’t believe what her father had said, couldn’t believe that January, her mom, was really just…gone. She had faithfully maintained her position as CEO of a major corporation while juggling her gardening and the housework. Martin Luther was still a teenager in high school, for crying out loud, and February hadn’t had time to make up her mind about who she should settle down with…this wasn’t real. This couldn’t be real. January had been so (distant) vibrant and full of life…this wasn’t happening. This wasn’t real. She would never see her grandchildren.
This isn’t real…
“You can’t be serious,” Tam said incredulously. For the second time in one day, he had been on the receiving end of surprising phone calls. What exactly had gotten into the normally predictable residents of Legacy Town?
“Well, no, I can’t be, because I’m Martin Luther,” Tam’s “prom date” answered calmly enough. “But my mom is dead apparently so I don’t think I should go to Prom.” For once, Tam was struck speechless. In all of his wildest dreams of orchestrating Martin Luther’s eventual humiliation at his hands, he had never even considered the possibility that Martin Luther would not actually come to the dance with him. Not that he supposed it mattered, as that Richards-Calvert goon had quite inconveniently dropped out of Tam’s plans. Still, Tam was certain he could come up with an adequate plot that he could easily enough fulfill on his own…without implicating himself, of course. However, he could do absolutely nothing unless Martin Luther agreed to come to the Prom with him.
“Martin, I’m so sorry to hear about your mother,” Tam purred smoothly. “Please, allow me to take you to the dance tonight anyway…the last thing you need is to be rattling around in that house filled with memories. I would be perfectly honored to have your company for the evening so that I might take your mind off of your sadness, even if only for a few hours.” Martin Luther was silent for so long that Tam was sure for a moment that he’d been hung up on; he only let out a long breath he hadn’t been aware of holding once he finally heard the older boy agree — albeit reluctantly — that leaving the house might not be such a bad idea, especially given that she was still around. “Although if she follows us, there could be trouble,” Martin Luther added just before disconnecting the call. “She does best where there’s not much light.”
February, grief-stricken and confused, found herself torn both with feelings of unendurable sadness and almost irresistible longing. Her mom was gone forever, but Hector was just so…nice. It felt so good being held in his arms, so different from being with Cameron…but Hector had Kurt; how could February cause someone the same sort of pain her mom had caused by getting together with her dad? Thinking of January brought February full circle; she couldn’t stand the thought of returning to the home where her mom had just died.
“Hector,” she gulped, “Would you mind terribly if I stayed here, just for tonight. I don’t think I can…” she trailed off doubtfully, wondering what Hector must think of her for even considering such a request. But Hector just smiled and wiped her tears gently away with his thumb.
“Sure!” he agreed, “What are friends for?” His use of the word “friends” put an inexplicable dagger in February’s heart.
The gymnasium was loud, dark, and crowded, much like the state of Tam’s mind. He scanned the crowd sulkily, wondering if his so-called boyfriend, Dwayne Langerak-Bunch, had really had the nerve to show up. He was still irritated about the little fit Dwayne had pitched when Tam informed him that he’d be taking Martin Luther to the Prom. Relationship status notwithstanding, Tam could take anyone he pleased anywhere he liked, and if the Langerak twit couldn’t handle it, then he was welcome to take his prehistoric misconceptions of relationships and stuff them. As if Tam even relished the idea of spending the evening in the company of the town imbecile. Tam cast a withering look in Martin Luther’s direction and frowned. Martin Luther had been unusually quiet on the ride to the school and remained rather subdued, almost austere, even in the midst of the standard juvenile frivolity present at all high school social events. In the dim lighting, his face appeared solemn and vulnerable — somehow, he appeared to be both the little boy he’d been not too long ago and the man he was soon to become. Watching him sent unfamiliar feelings rocketing through Tam’s gut, piercing his heart and clouding his intentions. Scowling, he grabbed Martin Luther’s arm.
“Would you like to dance?” Tam asked, attempting to keep his tone light. Offering a bemused smile, Martin Luther obligingly allowed Tam to escort him onto the dance floor. The music drifted into a dreamy ballad, prompting the young couples to clutch each other tighter; warily, Tam followed suit, carefully cradling Martin Luther’s body against his own. “You know,” Martin Luther began, suddenly breaking the stillness that had grown between them, “I know what you really think of me.”
“You do?” Tam replied, honestly caught off guard for once.
“Of course. I’m not stupid, you know. I hear things….I mean, outside of my head. I know you think I’m foolish and ridiculous, and you’re right. I am. But it’s only because I’m afraid.”
“Afraid? Of what?” Tam prompted, curious in spite of himself, as Martin Luther drifted once more into silence.
“Of being alone,” Martin Luther answered softly. “But…now I know. We’re all alone. Surrounded by people, we’re still alone. We live and we will die alone, and –” But Tam could bear to hear no more of Martin Luther’s words and, to stifle him, bent his head forward and crushed the boy’s lips to his own in a searing kiss.