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爱不释手 (can't tear myself away)

As she’s seated by the shoreline, her ankles tickled by the tides, it dawns on her that she’s going to miss this.

Her stomach is in knots and there’s an uncomfortable heat in her chest that seems to crawl to every inch of her body, but the fury of her emotions coupled with the particularly troubled mood of the ocean, she doesn’t feel good. She doesn’t think she can feel good about this, even if she tried, because she looks at Hua who’s lying on the sand beside her, and she doesn’t think there’s anything to love about losing.

Mei looks down at her hands, unfolds her fingers to reveal her palms. She looks at them and the memories etched into the lines sprawled across her skin. She still remembers the feel of the felt tip when a pen was pressed down against it during lessons they were supposed to be writing on paper and not each other, drawings and notes and things as silly as ‘do you want to meet after school?’ and ‘look at the way he’s looking at her!’ She remembers the memories she held in her hands—the first birthday gift she received from Hua, the first time she held Hua’s hand, the first time she held Hua’s face in her hands.

She closes her hand again, and balls it into a fist. She watches as the sand she’d been holding onto squeezes out from between her fingers and pour back onto the ground beneath her. Her heart throbs with the ache of knowing that there’s no future beyond them and tomorrow, but she can’t falter—not now. Not now that they’re here, after fighting so hard to be.

Her memories wash over his mind like seafoam does on the ocean’s surface, and his eyes cloud with the familiar sensation of nostalgia. She looks at Hua, consumed by guilt and she closes her eyes. She dabs her hand against the rims of her eyes, though it doesn’t ease the sting of tears. “I don’t know why you came out here,” Hua says beside her, like she’s aware—aware that they haven’t been silent even whilst being quiet. Their minds have been speaking for a while. Mei’s eyes have been crying. “I don’t know why you brought me here.”

“I had nothing to say,” she answers. “I just wanted to be with you.”

Hua purses her lips. She has something to say, but she doesn’t. She chooses to look instead, with her hazel eyes that carry so much within them. Looking into them, Mei thinks she might miss them the most—the way they look like liquid honey under the sun, the way they look more like charred wood when they’re sad, the way they look like a milky way of their own under the stars. “No you didn’t,” Hua frowns, looking away. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

Mei doesn’t respond. “It’s not that,” she mumbles, insincere, and doesn’t elaborate.

“Don’t lie to me, Mei,” Hua sighs, holding herself up with her elbows kneading into the soil. She doesn’t turn to look, and instead keeps her eyes on the water. Her dull hair’s speckled with sand in a way that looks like a blanket of stars tucked between gaps in a void, and her face bears a delicate glow that even the sun envies. “We’ve come too far to lie.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Mei replies, looking down at her fingers. She fidgets with them, and there’s a tension in her chest that feels like a string stretched beyond its limit. “There’s no us after tomorrow.”

“It matters to me,” Hua retorts. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“Why? Does it matter to you where I go?” Mei asks, loosening her collar. She lies down against the ground then, spreading her arms out against the sand. Her arms leave an imprint like angel’s wings there. There’s a wanderlust in her eyes that seems to challenge every force in the world, and it’s obvious in the way her lips pull into a smirk that he plans on making a life out of places far, far away from here. “Oh, don’t look at me with those eyes,” she says, and buries the twinge of pain where she won’t find it.

Hua doesn’t smile. Her face doesn’t move at all.

“With what eyes?” she asks.

Mei laughs, blowing sand in her face. “You know we can’t be together forever,” she recalls, looking up at the sky. There’s still a smile playing on her lips, though it doesn’t seem nearly as genuine as it was before—perhaps it’s a show. Nothing has been easy about loving each other, and they’ve already lost too much to be a version of each other that isn’t real. And they know, as much as they know each other, that this isn’t real—this denial. “It doesn’t matter where I go anyway.”

Hua’s frown deepens, and there’s a crease on her forehead where her eyebrows are folded. “Why?”

“What do you mean?” she laughs in reply. “Two girls could never last; not even because we’re girls, but because we’re us.” She thinks about it, looking at the way Hua’s face settles with a gradual look of realisation, it hits her too that there’s no future for them. There’s no life, or love for girls like them—girls who love each other—and Mei has learned that the only way she can love is by letting go.

Hua clenches her jaw, and holds her silence.

And Mei thinks she could die like this. She wouldn’t mind, because every muscle in her body knows that she’s meant for Hua, that she can’t live without her. Every fibre, every breath, every tear, every desire has only ever been Hua’s and she doesn’t know how her heart will live without yearning. She stares at Hua, and thinks about how much she wants to hold her slouched body. She wants to pull her in by the face, and kiss her for the first and last time, wants to lie with her stomach on her torso, and run her fingers through her hair.

She wants to love Hua, and do nothing but that.

“I’ll think about you,” Mei adds, even if she knows it won’t heal their bruises. “A lot.”

“And you,” Hua exhales. “You’ll be my everyday.”

Mei looks at her, her eyes shining with tears. She crawls closer, climbing over Hua. She undoes the ribbon on her neck, then the trail of buttons of her uniform’s blouse. She doesn’t meet her eyes, because she knows, if she looks at love in them, they’ll lose everything. Mei presses her heart over Hua’s heart, and tucks her chin in the nape of her neck, eyes closed in the greedy indulgence of something they can’t have. “My Hua,” she whispers, rocking their bodies. “I hope you forget me.”

Hua doesn’t respond to her. They lie in silence, their bare bodies pressed against each other.

The tide kept rising, and Mei hoped the world would end before they did.


Editors: Amber T.

Image source: Unsplash


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