Alyssa Murphy: You Slow It Down
He’s got a voice like her mother used to say angels had (back way before things got dark), deep and clear and comforting and a new sort of something-else that makes warmth pool somewhere south of her stomach. She can barely notice how pretty he is, there’s just his voice and his fingers across the guitar and there’s nothing else in the world but this.
Evie is still new at this normal-world thing, even halfway through her second semester of college. She’s doing well on the academic side of things, but being in the same geographic location as approximately eleven thousand other people, most of them around her age, is… overwhelming, to say the least.
She tries, she really tries, but she’s inexperienced and she learned most of what she does know about human interaction from watching TV and that’s not exactly working out in her favor. It’d be a little different if she could explain herself, but she doesn’t know where to begin with her origins and so she doesn’t say anything at all.
But standing here, in a particularly vacant corner of the library basement, she’s wanting more than anything else to change that.
She wandered down here to cry, because the one useful thing she learned as a child was how to find good hiding places and she highly doubted anyone would need to go through the archives of every publication ever printed during the college’s seventy-year history, but apparently someone else had the same idea as she did.
Except he’s not breaking down, not like she still wants to. He’s singing some love song she feels like she ought to know, back towards her, oblivious to the watcher and probably happier that way.
She plans to leave as soon as he finishes the one song, but then he fluidly goes into something else, and it’s like she’s glued to the floor, standing there with her back against a wall and her eyes locked on this magnificent person who’s probably going to freak out when he sees her. When. The word sounds nice, solid, makes her feel better, makes her feel ---.
All of a sudden, he stops and turns towards her and gods it figures he’s beautiful too. Warm sad eyes, the rest of him like a statue, face blank as he takes her in and tries to make a choice. Oh now she’s gone and done it, finally found someone who’ll tear her apart somehow, finally ---.
“How long?” he asks, even and neutral as a person could ever be.
“Couple minutes. I didn’t think anyone else would be down here and---.”
Her voice cuts off, her body overwhelmed again by the need to break down and this, this is how she convinces this glorious good person that she’s a train wreck. Never does seem to take much, and at least this is a new way, at least---.
“Are you okay?” He sounds worried now, and worried is a good sound for him. “Do you need to talk?”
“Like you care,” she mutters, trying to channel her heart towards anger instead of sadness. Easier that way, better a bitch than a victim, better ---.
“I get it. This is a good hiding place.”
“Yeah, and I can’t even get that right.”
He takes a step forward, staring holes into thirty-year-old carpet instead of the girl opposite her. “I can leave, if that’s what you want.”
She shakes her head. “Don’t. I heard you and… for the first time in my life I felt real.”
Hell with this, she thinks, as everything shatters around her. Hell with this, she thinks as she falls to the floor and she can’t stop feeling and her range is reduced to sobs and gasps. Hell with this.
“Do you want me to call someone?” the boy asks, somehow getting through her fog.
“N-no. I’ll be okay.” She’s not actually so sure about that, but she’s not dragging anyone else into her flares. Bad enough that her roommate knows; pulling someone else down is unthinkable. But if they come willingly….
“What do you want me to do?” he asks, and she’s vaguely aware that he’s kneeling beside her now, and that’s not the panic-inducing action it would’ve been a few minutes ago. “Talk to me. Please.”
“Go away,” she growls.
When she comes back down, he’s still there, arm’s length away and the most sympathetic look she’s ever seen on his face. “You didn’t run,” she breathes, trying and failing to hide her shock.
“Wasn’t the first time I’ve seen someone episode,” he replies, and there’s a sadness in him now that makes her wonder if he’s been through it himself. “Did I do anything to set you off?”
“No. It was gonna happen regardless. I just thought, down here… I thought I could work through it on my own.”
“You didn’t do anything. You really didn’t.” She forces a smile, begins to piece herself together again. “Sorry you had to see that, but… you could’ve walked.”
“No,” he counters. “Wouldn’t be right.”
“Thank you,” she says, pushing herself upright again.
“Are you going to be okay getting back to---.”
“I was hoping you’d let me stay? I don’t know anything about music, but your voice is beautiful and… it makes me feel better, if that doesn’t sound weird?”
He smiles, actually genuinely smiles and it makes her heart melt. “Fine by me.”
“You don’t have to-”
“It’s actually nice having someone down here with me. Roommate this year is pre-med so I’ve basically been banned from the dorm and… I’m down here a lot. If you ever need someone.”
“Why are you being so nice? You don’t know me, and I’m not that pretty, and---.”
“I know how it feels to be alone,” he replies, glancing away for a heartbeat. “I’m not much of a people person, but… sometimes it gets bad. And if you need to talk-”
“Talking is not the problem,” she interjects.
“It’s an option.”
Later, they will cross that bridge. Later, she will learn that his name is Luke and he’s a junior and a graphic design major and took a year off after his freshman year to get his shit together.
Later, he will learn which of her moods can be brought down with chocolate and which require physical affection. Later, he’ll kiss her in the safety of their hideaway. later, she’ll trust him with the best part of her heart and take the same from him in return.
For now, though, they’re a boy and a girl trying to ignore the weight of the world. For now, she sits on the floor and watches him lose himself in his music and it’s so cliché it hurts, but she loves it all the same. And when he finally reaches a song she knows, she looks up at him and joins in. DSS
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