By Rijn Collins

July 10, 2017


The bartender called me the nickname I hadn’t heard in a decade. 

‘Been a long time, hey?’ 

I frowned, waiting for my past to flood through me and wash his name into place. When it did, the glass almost slipped from my hand. 

‘About fifteen years,’ I murmured, thinking, please don’t; please. 

His voice was gentle, as though I might flee. 

‘You look wonderful…you’re a woman now.’ 

The blue of his eyes were paler than I remembered, but the huge pupils told me his demons still hadn’t been put to rest. 

‘I know we promised to keep in touch after our release, but…’ He let the breath build in his chest, then released it in one low rush of air. 

There hadn’t been many other teenagers on the ward. I’d watched the obsessive-compulsives, addicts and anorexics, admired the rainbow of pills in my palm, and listened to the speech slur from my mouth, thinking, I am not one of you. 

But I was. 

So was he. 

And there you go. 

I wanted to ask about Layla, had they kept in touch, did she have children to bounce on her hip? But I was afraid he’d ask of Callum, whose demons kicked him out of a fifth-story window one moonless night. 

He reached out suddenly, and caught my upper arm. 

‘But tell me…how are you?' 

The answer leapt from my lips. We both smiled as it soared into the air; a word of magic and truth and gold. 


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