You spend the night.
The pillows are flat, stiff rectangles. There is only one blanket, which is too heavy and hot. You lie there with just the corner draped across your back to hide the body you still think he hasn’t quite got a good look at yet. Because if he had, there’d be no way.
You don’t sleep, you can’t, not until the golden glow of morning fills the tiny apartment. He rolls over and wraps his arm around you, and you think he must be awake, and so you nuzzle against his face. The next day you find out he was dead asleep, didn’t even know he did it. But in his arms, in the dawn light, your lips made small dry sounds as you smiled and drifted off.
You don’t know yet that all of this will be erased, that all of this hope will be wiped away by your tired hands, in a little over a month. Things haven’t yet spoiled, broken, rotted. So you spend the night. It’s new territory for you; you always leave, under the protection of the moon, like a naiad creeping back into her blackwater pond, leaving arms reaching out for her in dark bedrooms, stealing away from the cold, glinting fear of being asked to leave.
You never spend the night, but that night changed it. You know exactly what it was. Drunk, rose-colored, everything thrilling and dark, you sat on the couch and asked him, teasing: What animal would I be, if I was one? Ten minutes of begging and pleading finally got you your answer. He dropped his deflecting jokes. A nervous blush seeped up his throat and into his face as he said: You’d have to be something from, I don’t know, fantasy. You’re too different. You broke into a bold smile; being called different was your weakness, your favorite, your kryptonite.
I think you’d be a basilisk, he said, finally.
You were expecting unicorn or mermaid, something pretty and innocent. You hardly knew what a basilisk was, except that it’s a big, scaly thing.
You asked: Why?
His eyes latched onto yours with a sort of pleading look, an instinctive pessimism, a begging not to be left. He looked away, already embarrassed. Your veins were buzzing. He said: Because their eyes turn you to stone.
He reached for the hefty glass vodka bottle and filled both the shot glasses on the table. Huge wheels were turning inside you, grinding away their rust, shaking off their climbing vines, as you sat there listening to the echoes. It felt like something starting. He offered you the shot glass; it had lipstick stains on the rim in a color you’ve never owned. But you wiped it with your hand and took the shot. And you spent the night.
In a few weeks, he will ask you with innocent surprise: Wait, did you really think we were more than just friends? You will pack away all of your hopes and stuff your memories into ill-fitting rooms. You will try friendship out. He will continue telling you in many colorful ways that he loves you, while reminding you always that he does not. This, too, is a strange sort of kryptonite.
You spent the night, and everything went wrong, like shadows taking shape. You will spend your days performing autopsies on the past, dissecting his behavior, relabeling it as platonic, and replacing it where it belongs. That night defies you like an inoperable tumor, stubbornly rearing its pearly head. There is nowhere to put it; you cannot parcel it away; it does not fit. His words, small and quiet though they were, unlocked that part of you that had never before been accessed, the part that was brave and expansive and curious and hopeful enough to crawl into the bed and stay.
Samantha Joslin is an English undergraduate at the University of Kansas. She loves narratives, characters, people, and the moon. When she isn't reading or writing, she's sleeping under piles of blankets alongside her two cats. A published poet, this is her debut fiction publication.