It’s not love, is the thing. Simmers down to a summer fling.

All scaling begonia tangled trellises and twining fingers in silky sheets. Swimming in the lake and bruises mottling the insides of thighs. Summer sticky nights comprised of kiss bitten lips; hearts like soda cans stuttering on the pavement.

It’s a summer fling and he’s falling in love.

Drawers stuffed with love letters that were never sent and mouths full of confessions that were never said.

But the summer’s coming to an end.

Trysts complicated by trunks spilling their contents on his floor and tentative conversations about just what is going to happen once they’ve gone back to school. Her mouth twisting into a thin, frayed frown. Him pressing his face against the pillow because he likes her, loves her, maybe, and all they are right now is tied up in knots.

She’s quick fire funny; with laughs like syrup and a smile like a spell. The type of girl to strike a box of matches and watch as the whole world burns.

Whose heart is a charcoal, melting kind of thing.

He thinks that he loves her regardless.

She’s a temporary fix. Stitches over the gaping, bloody wound that his father had left and leaving third degree burns down his throat like whiskey.

It’s a summer fling, she says.

He had never really thought it would stay that way.


The school year begins in a gust of snow; smoke from the train crowding around their feet. Scarves are fluttering and hearts are thrumming and he meets her eyes from across the platform.

Allows a second to pass before tilting his lips into a smile – small and secret and solely for her.

She’s clutching the coat of her collar. Breaking away from a too-weepy family and offering the sort of smile that she’s given him with her hair strewn across the pillow and sunlight seeping in.

He wonders, for a moment, just how things are going to work now. Pictures hands clasped in hallways, lipstick a cloud around his mouth in student-devoid classrooms and dusty, ramshackle broom closets. Weekend trips to the city, replete with candy striped tongues and nights spent cocooned in emerald green sheets with the lake burgeoning at the windows. He thinks of nights spent on the grass, with kisses like constellations scattered across his neck.

Things would be different with her, he thinks.

Better and brighter and bereft of the weight that’s crushing his shoulders, crushing his spine; turning him bitter and brittle till he thinks that he might crack –

He won’t.

And he’s catching her in an empty compartment; threading fingers around her wrist and pulling her close, close, until he can see sunlit fractals blown wide in her eyes.

She says his name.

And it’s strangled. Choked. Forced out of her windpipe like something crackling against her ribs.

‘’I can’t.’’

The air is fraught with tension. A live wire humming and snapping and he doesn’t, didn’t quite comprehend what she said.

His breath is a tangled thing, gnarled and ensnared around the delicate meat of his lungs. The air’s been knocked out of him. A sucker punch to the gut.

‘’What do you mean, you can’t?’’ his words are glued to the roof of his mouth. Unwilling and unwitting to do what he commands.

‘’I can’t,’’ she repeats.

And the world –

It splinters a little.


He loves her, is the thing.

Loves her so much.


It doesn’t end there; in the mildew scented compartment, silver dipped sunlight catching dust particles in the air.

Because he’s always been particularly good at getting what he wants.

There are open wound letters, ink blotched and perennially crumpled at the edges when returned. Rejected invitations to dinner and personal effects that have been returned. There’s ‘’we’re done’’ and ‘’it was just for the summer’’ and his feelings are taut, twisted, turned up inside his chest.

He loves her, is the thing.

She just doesn’t love him back.