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"Put me down!" My own shrieks passed through the television screen, a soft melody playing in the background as the anniversary video began. ”I mean it, Zayn!”
My head started spinning the moment his face appeared.
"Tell them your name," I spoke behind the camera, a quiet giggle escaping.
He looked down at the ground, then back up, raising an eyebrow. The corner of his mouth lifted up into his signature smile, and I watched, memorizing the way his lips moved. "My name is Zayn Malik."
"And I love you."
“I already know that. You’re supposed to tell them about yourself!”
“Well, I’m telling you again. And you are all anyone needs to know about me.”
“Well aren’t you sweet.” He looked back at me expectantly and I gave in. “Fine, I love you, too.”
A thoughtful look crept onto his face as he looked off into the distance and said with a smile, “‘I love you more than words can wield the matter, dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty.’” He looked over at me and chuckled at my silence. “Shakespeare, babe.”
“Wow, Shakespeare, huh? Thank you for that, Professor Malik,” I teased.
“I like the sound of that.”
His laughter consumed the whole room, echoing off the walls and parading in and out of my ears. Happiness filled every inch of his face as it moved up close to the camera, his eyes crinkling lightly at the corners. The video played on. Scene after scene of our laughing faces and the autumn breeze traveling through our hair.
The quiet melody of our song faded out the video and the screen went black. My thoughts pulled themselves back to where I was sitting when I realized the room had gone silent. The video was over.
Suddenly, I noticed an unfamiliar face in the screen. Heavy bags surrounding her hollow, dark eyes told a sleepless story. Her hair was a mess - strands of dark brown stuck out of a messy ponytail, throwing themselves at the empty air. She wore nothing but a large Guns N’ Roses T-Shirt that covered the skin of her body from her thighs up. I started to reach my hand out but jerked it back when I saw her do the same. I blinked, she blinked. Slowly it dawned on me that the girl in the screen…was me. Before I had the chance to process my reflection, the phone rang. I stared at it from afar, the red light blinking repeatedly. I let it go to messages.
"Hey! This is Kate. Sorry I can’t get to the phone right now, but leave a message after the beep and I’ll get back to you soon. Thanks!"
"Katie? It’s Harry. The boys and I wanted to check up on you ‘cause today’s…you know. We were going to drop by but the storm doesn’t seem to be letting up. I’m on my way and I’ll try to see if I can get through it." There was a pause, and I heard him clear his voice. When it came back, it was quiet and shaky. "I…we miss you, Kate. It’s been weeks. Please call us when you get this. Be safe." A beep signaled the end of the message. I didn’t move.
Two months. It had been two months since I last saw his face, and two months since I last heard his voice.
Two months of empty silence echoing off the walls of our house, nothing but the occasional ringing of the phone and my quiet footsteps on the hard ground. Two months of loneliness and pain and guilt slowly eating me away, numbing me in every possible way.
I refused to let my brain replay the memory. I refused to relive the gut-wrenching images of him struggling in the hands of water, the rough waves crashing over his body again and again. But the memories came flooding back in seconds. The sound of his voice calling out to me with harsh and tired breaths came back ringing in my ears. The frantic moments of panic returned to the blood in my veins and the taste of the salty ocean filled my mouth. I remembered the way he looked as I swam toward his sinking, almost limp body, the way his face looked in its last few moments of consciousness. I remembered how I couldn’t save him, how my legs gave in too soon and Liam dove into the water to bring me back up. I remembered Harry finally dragging Zayn onto the shore and the blurred images of his hands on Zayn’s chest, his futile attempts at saving him. I remembered how I struggled to speak as I coughed up the water that had made it into my lungs, how the long, bleeding gash on the side of my leg made my head spin and stomach turn. I remembered that it didn’t matter at that moment in time, that all that did matter was slowly and quietly slipping out of my hands.
I remembered Liam holding me back as I screamed Zayn’s name over and over again, my entire body soaked from head to toe in the freezing cold water. I remembered almost tripping over the sand to get to him when I finally broke away from Liam’s grip, and how cold and lifeless his hand was when I intertwined it with my own. I remembered how unbelievably peaceful he looked, as if he were simply sleeping, or how I told myself that he’d wake up any moment and laugh like it was all a joke.
But it wasn’t. And it was much too late for resisting against my own mind. It was much too late for telling myself the same lies for days on end, and it was much too late to try and change the past of what had already been painfully written into the collected memories in my mind. Too late, too late. Everything was too late.
Suddenly I heard glass shattering and felt a pain shoot up my arm.
Blood trickled down the side of my hand. I hadn’t been aware of my own actions, my own rash movement of grabbing the nearest thing next to me and throwing it at the ground. The pieces of a broken flower vase lay littered on the floor. I let my hand bleed. I let it bleed because maybe with the moist red, the pain and anger and sadness would bleed out too. Maybe the more I hurt myself, the less it’d hurt to remember. The less I’d owe to him.
The thunder roared outside; I could hear the rain starting to pour even harder now, hitting the roof in quick, heavy splashes. The pain in my hand and arm subsided, and I felt numb again. I felt the corner of my mouth twitch up as a small feeling of satisfaction washed over my bones. I grabbed an empty glass picture frame and smashed it against the table. Another crack of thunder shook the house. I took a sharp, triangular-shaped piece of glass from the broken frame into my hand. A smear of red blood covered half of the shard of glass. The rain outside seemed to grow heavier upon the roof. “This is for you, baby.” More thunder. I raised the my right hand over my left wrist. I saw a flash of lightning pass on the shadow of the window. “For you.” Closing my eyes, I prepared for the shock of pain that would hit my body in a matter of seconds. More thunder, more rain. “You, Zayn…” My voice faded into nothingness and I cleared my head, shaking all feeling from my body. The blade just reached the thin layer of my skin when I was suddenly shoved roughly onto the ground. The glass went flying across the hard floor, stopping several feet away with a small clink. A strong arm wrapped around the side of my waist as I hit the ground.
I started to say something but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I couldn’t hear anything but the rain and thunder. I felt his breath on my neck, though. He was shaking me, and the sound came back. I couldn’t understand the words that were coming out of his mouth, his screaming voice still incomparable to the roaring noises coming from just outside the door, which was now swinging open on the hinges.
I turned my head back a little, still too stunned to move any further. I blinked slowly, unable to recognize the face staring back at mine. His lips continued moving, and things slowly began to come back into focus. It was Harry.
“KATIE! KATE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! ARE YOU OKAY? KATE, TALK TO ME!” I heard him now, but I couldn’t process what he was saying. What was he saying?
What was he saying?
What was he saying?
He spoke again, calmer now, but his eyes were still a mixture of panic and concern. “Kate, say something.”
I understood this time, and responded by collapsing into his chest. I tasted my own tears as they fell down my face. My sobs fell in time with the deafening storm outside, my own body heaving up and down. Harry just sat there, holding me, whispering bits of quiet comfort into my ears. “It’s okay, Katie, it’s okay. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s okay.” He continued like this for some time, never moving, allowing his shirt to be soaked with my tears. But when I had run out of tears and he had gone silent, I realized he was crying.
Then I knew.
I knew that he knew it wasn’t okay. That he understood, too. He understood the pain and anger and regret that continued to thrive, feeding on our own guilt, heartache, and fear.
He understood, because he loved him, too.
We stayed like that for the rest of the night, our bones too weak to move, our minds too sick to fall asleep.
Anger, Pain, Sadness, Death. Dried tears and lost love. A beautiful soul taken too soon.
I miss you.