Peering into the bounds that his injured hand extended to, his fingertips riddled with shallow contours that all obliged to the same general pattern, each mirroring curl bathed in a darker tone resembling the distant perimeter of a brand of spiral galaxy, Eli contemplated the many viable responses that would put Katie and him, delusionally speaking, at ease. His thoughts miles away in a far corner, his emerald green orbs still observed the wreckage that had settled into the depths of his skin, increasing each tinted crater in size with its putrid violet and sunburst hues, useless bits of skin that could no longer contribute to the healing process. Eli shook his head, a few strands and clumps of his raven hair falling from its previous compliance, streaking his vision with blurred strips, lazily drawn, of black. Blinking baroquely underneath the heavy curtain that his loose bits of hair acted as, Eli absently withdrew his hands from the couple’s joint clasp, a tangle of intermingling fingers resorting to the only company that they had left for subtle comfort—the particles floating in the air about them, twinkling beneath the few but gracious rays of sunlight that fell upon them, highlighting its everlasting, lingering nature. “It’s fine,” Eli uttered, the latter syllable in his murmured words curling upwards as he consciously took note of the loss of contact, his mouth breaking out into the slightest of frowns. The shy smiles and amiable gestures that were quickly becoming a trend for the two was all too apparent to the parties present, always settling somewhere in between too much or too little. Nothing was ever enough. There was always a far stretch of a gap in between what they wanted from the other and what they received, whether or not the other had given them all that they could, unbeknownst to the desiring. Distance was a constant, and they needed each other so much closer.
Using his free hand, pure and unscathed by his avenging efforts a few nights prior to this event, Eli cupped his scarred hunk of nearly exposed muscles and bunched skin, peeling away from any crimson tints that had invaded its resting place, using the underside of his ring-adorned thumb to brace the frozen fingers that were all within a close vicinity to one another. Eli briefly examined the damage that Katie had caught a momentary glimpse of, carefully curling his index finger in towards the center of his palm to watch the muscle hugging his split knuckles, mere blurs beneath the surface of his muddled skin, quiver beneath his criticizing gaze. Tonguing the portion of his cheek that was now bare from his nervous habit, Eli guided his hand that was violently shifting in color as time rolled onward to rest in his lap, away from where Katie could see it and give him that look of hers that he disliked. As much as he cared about Katie, and disregarding all of the blimps in their dramatically-changing timeline that he had attempted to show her that he did, the mere possibility of her returning that inner need for their counterpart to be content was almost unthinkable. Was it possible? It most likely was, but for some odd reason that Eli couldn’t pinpoint, he didn’t want Katie to care about him as much as she seemed to. Perhaps he felt that way because the concept was foreign to him, Eli always having been the one that was more when it came to his rocky relationships—he cared more, tried harder to please his counterpart, and loved more intensely—or if another deep-seeded emotional trauma was the reason behind his reluctance to savor the thought, he wasn’t sure.
Katie’s gentle voice pulling him away from his doubtful thoughts, Eli glanced up to laugh along to her gleeful tune, his crooked mouth settling into a cheery grin once the amusement her words had brought him fled his drifting attention. “It sounds like a date,” he smiled, averting his gaze to the minute wisps of steam that were still twirling out of the bounds of his coffee cup, drifting off into the sunlight’s grasp, his grin taking on a more shy turn as he took note of what had slipped from his lips yet again. If he wasn’t mentally scolding himself for inwardly referring to Katie as his girlfriend, or anything that stretched beyond a meager friend title, he was using the word ‘date’ to describe all of their future plans in brief detail. Eli took a small sip from his cup to reconstruct his typically playful demeanor in a shielded area, although it did nothing to rein back in the corners of his sheepish smile. “No promises,” he added, scrapping any further thoughts regarding their previous topic as she moved onto Zig’s condition.
The mere thought of what had transpired following his rash actions nearly sent a quaver down along the span of Eli’s spine, the familiar, unpleasant sensation of a static numbness settling into his trembling bones and aching limbs. He swallowed, attempting to rid himself of the bitter emotions and words, joined together in overwhelming bursts of sour truth, bubbling up the course of his throat, but it proved futile for the time being. The raven-haired boy was going to have to face whatever consequences that he rightfully deserved, that being a confrontation with the younger teenager following his final departure from the hospital. Although her commentary directed towards his behavior would usually have provoked him to spit something hateful in return, Eli felt an odd wave of uneasiness beginning to overwhelm his senses, coating every fiber of his being in its substance. Lowering his eyes to his lone hand settled on the edge of the polished tabletop in an identical fashion to Katie’s aversion, Eli was beginning to piece together a plausible setting that would host such a battered boy. The simple thought of blood seeping into pure whites, obscuring its once fragile whole as a hue was enough to make Eli withdraw from his current position over the table, leaned towards the girl now uneager to meet his gaze, an audible thump and the slightest screech of the wooden legs moving against the floor announcing his sudden movements. Glancing around at the particles clouding his vision, the barista’s lack of a presence behind the counter, anywhere but at Katie, Eli sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration at the muted pulsations that were slowly inching forwards towards the center of his attention and tolerance for such nuisances.
“That’s not me,” was all that he could murmur beneath his counted breaths, attempting to steer himself away from the unwanted and unnecessary anger that was slipping into his veins, a few bitter thoughts away from intoxicating him completely. As he slowly turned back to face Katie head on, Eli murmured, “That wasn’t me,” numerous times, his voice a small hitch above a meek whisper. A speck of innocent recollection held his full attention for a single, silent count, and Eli retracted his hand from his face, swallowing once more, but envisioning the white capsule settling into the depths of his tongue, gliding down the far walls of his throat upon swallowing completely. Not wanting to open his eyes to find Katie worriedly looking back at him, a constant reminder to keep his temper in check when he was around others, Eli calmed himself down within the darkness that his shut eyelids offered, the count of his breaths straying further and further away from a coherent string of numbers, a blur in the distant background of the moment. “I should’ve walked away,” Eli began blindly, his eyebrows furrowing as the pain and regret in his words became more evident. “I should’ve listened to you and walked away before I lost it. I’m so sorry…,” he continued on to verbalize the broken bits and fragments of his mind aloud, speaking more so to comfort himself than apologize to the brunette seated across from him, too far from him for his liking.
The harmonious resonance of an acoustic guitar and a pacifying voice that hummed overhead the coffee shop was the only pulsation that registered in Katie’s inclined ears. By this moment in time, the secluded area they both had inhabited picked up the faint sounds of unforced conversation of those around them—the occasional laughter and the usual drone of words being exchanged—along with the sporadic flipping of a book somewhere in the back, and the frequent clunking of the coffee blender that liberated the air with aromatic coffee beans as she noted her surroundings. The brunette inhaled and exhaled out of routine as she ornately blinked her sapphire eyes, pursing her lips as she took note of the highs and lows of the strumming of the guitar, the unfamiliar pleasant chords on repeat in her mind. The music provided a strange sense of nostalgia to Katie, as if she were pining for places she hadn’t been and people she’d never met. She furrowed her eyebrows at this fleeting reflection, lifting her chin towards Eli’s general direction, scrutinizing the abused patch of skin that assaulted the boy’s otherwise pale hand, tinged ailing purples and faded sickly yellows that streaked the crevices of his knuckles, causing basin-shaped lesions throughout his vulnerable flesh. Katie examined the dark-haired boy, who bore a somber expression—wondering what exactly coursed his mind as he witnessed the battering of his hands, swallowing as she observed for what felt to be the longest time at his knuckles; aiming not to wince. Her dark eyebrows furrowed in mute curiosity as he limply dropped his injured hand on his lap, and Katie thought he had glanced at her for a fraction of a second before he did so, but she wasn’t sure. Endeavoring not to look into the slightest sum of body movement from the boy across from her, she dispassionately ran her lithe fingers through her hair, wavy strands of brunette tresses percolating from her head, cascading down the small of her back and to the sides of her face. She clicked her tongue at his indifferent murmur, shrugging as she weakly articulated, “Doesn’t look fine, but whatever you say,” she expressed, blinking wearily. She realized that there was a palpable partition between the two, not so much in physical terms, but the fact that they didn’t quite see eye to eye on the same concepts—she wanted to scream at him irrationally; did he not recognize that it was his recklessness and animosity towards a juvenile boy that caused the grievances that discolored the very hands she wanted so badly to hold? Katie shivered at the unreasonable deliberations that scuttled through her muddled brain, the walls of her skull suffering from a faint wrench adjacent to the sides of her forehead. She exhaled heavily, trying not to dwell on such a sensitive topic as she absentmindedly drummed her fingers on the edge of the oak table, recrossing her legs as she did so, suddenly restless.
Katie leaned back in her chair as the taciturn ambiance settled between her and Eli, though she made no effort to change the silence that ostensibly drove them apart; she figured that a few moments of stillness wouldn’t hurt. As time progressed, Katie couldn’t help but to be more aware of how much faster instances seem to evolve as she was with Eli—she deduced that it been more or less over an hour since they had both arrived at the coffee shop, as there were different faces and dissimilar notable conversation that had littered the exterior of the milieu, a more apparent aroma of coffee settling into the background. As the immobility loomed above the two from the tabletop, each entity presumably occupied with their own engaging thoughts, the brunette opened her mouth to say something, anything—but Eli had beat her to it; his dismal tone fading into a poignant hum caused Katie to glance up at him with worried eyes, though she didn’t meet his emerald orbs. Instead, he had purposely averted his gaze away from her, and once she knitted her eyebrows in concern, her azure eyes caught sight of his jade ones, a troubled expression dawning on his face. Katie grit her teeth, pushing her body towards the table that served as a divide between the two and leaned against the oak structure, parting the fold of her lips slightly to say something, though words wouldn’t come. She swallowed as she gazed at him helplessly, the jagged perimeter of her nails digging into her flesh as she clenched her hands heatedly under the table, though the pain scarcely registered in her mind. Eli’s raven-haired locks clouded a good portion of his face as he secured the lids of his eyes; shielding the emerald hues of his orbs that Katie had sought solace in as he murmured words that didn’t record in the brunette’s mind—the only facet of the event that did had only just made sense to Katie was that Eli was upset—and she was helpless to cure him of such distress.
Casting away any sense of despair that had managed to bleed into Katie’s already anxious intellect, she instinctively reached her hands across the table, and paused, noiselessly plunging her willowy hands on the bare tabletop, not wanting to provoke Eli by touching him. Instead, she murmured soothingly, “Hey…hey…” she began, her voice a few octaves subordinate than her usual tone, “I know that’s not you,” she reassured, frowning at the fact that his eyes were still closed and her face had washed out of any color, any previous blush that had colored her face had dissipated almost immediately. Katie had pondered the extent of his words; of his expression at Degrassi’s Winter Dance and him now— reconciling the fact that the two articles in both memories were fragmented—there was no way that the malevolent boy she witnessed at the dance—the one that had no mercy—could ever be the boy that held his head feebly in his bruised hands right now. She forestalled her eyes to the spotless linoleum floor, the beige tiles failing to provide any distraction from her current deliberation. Katie groaned inwardly, frustrated with herself that she couldn’t make better the situation—after all; it was her fault that Eli had any role in Zig’s residency at the hospital—perhaps if the brunette hadn’t pushed the niner, Eli wouldn’t have been provoked to do what he did. Katie’s bombarding thoughts wandered to their special night after Frostival, reliving the all-too-careful way Eli’s hands had held the small of Katie’s back with such tenderness, the approach in which his lips had found hers in the dark under the illuminating crescent moon with ease and quietness induced her to believe that he was a good person, despite his inner turmoil and previous actions. Softening her expression in relation to her thoughts, she murmured, “I know that’s not you,” she repeated unwaveringly, as if convincing herself rather than the boy across from her. “I know.” Katie had compressed her fists into a ball on the table as she exhaled, her agile chest rising and falling with every uneven breath. “Don’t be sorry,” she articulated, her eyebrows uniting in a single line, “He shouldn’t have pushed me—and you shouldn’t have reacted as irresponsibly as you did,” she began, not knowing where exactly her train of thought was leading, but felt like she voice her thoughts, regardless. Katie liked to believe that her voice had endowed Eli with a sense of comfort, although she wasn’t sure if she was making a fool of herself or if she had honestly alleviated his anguish. “But know that I’ll always be on your side from now on,” she concluded, her sapphire eyes blinking ornately as she wanted to be so much closer to him—emotionally as well as physically. The twinge in Katie’s chest became more and more conspicuous as she bit the inside of her cheek, her lips yearning to kiss him, to console him. The cavity that existed in the hollow of her chest had expanded considerably, the pious and common longing for another soul to amalgamate with hers felt strange and startling to say the least, though she had never felt more alive or groundlessly sure of anything else in her life. “Always,” she had repeated; her tone more concrete and definite than it was previously. There was a minor change in mood between the two, and while it was infinitesimal, she took the opportunity to lighten the conversation as best she could. Katie had caught Eli’s emerald gaze and ignored the thudding of her heart as he did so, giving him a charming grin in return.
“Now, wipe away your drama queen tears,” she mused, a slight jovial expression toying on her lips as she did so. “You’re not as endearing when you’re brooding, believe me,” she teased, her hands unclenching leisurely on the table as she took a quick sip of her coffee, her body more at ease as there was a steady source of caffeine to ease her agitation. Katie returned her hands to the crown of the table, her fingers idly interlacing with one another as she smirked at the boy across from her, hoping she had at least lightened the conversation to the best of her ability.
Eli shrugged at her playful inquiry, his bones practically trembling audibly within him as he did so, an amorous grin plucking at the far ends of his mouth. Whenever there was an apparent break within the conversation, Eli found himself retreating as his role as a counterpart to the current conversation to take note of the many ways in which Katie looked at him, usually with a hint of faux, dramatized distaste for the boy ways away from her, yet still painfully near to her on society’s terms, or with a simple adoring look stretching out across the span of her facial features. She was committing every minute detail of his outward appearance just as he was regarding her, though both pushed their conversation forward amidst their silent endeavors with laggard strokes of glances, human curiosity receiving the more attentive portion of them.
“If I’m lucky,” Eli answered, his glittering, emerald green orbs still far from her own sapphire pair, opting for a much more contoured scene. Running his thumb along the protruding spine of his cup, the jagged, splitting edges of his fingernail spotted with numerous streaks, overlapping and not, penned by a black permanent marker barely grazed the smooth surface of the material, leaving the slightest of shadows behind the swaying pollex to recall his presence by. Eli offered Katie a grin before removing his eyes from her own to take in the muffled scene relaying before a translucent surface. That particular section of the city that they were currently settled into, steaming cups of coffee in hand, was slowly picking up its lazy pace to welcome a few unfamiliar faces that dotted almost every corner, every turn of the street. If you listened closely, you could make out the sound of a busy, populated backdrop to the couple’s plans, speckled with lone rays of light in every shade and hue that solely served to drown out their friendly words and ignite their interest in one another, or so it seemed. Before Eli could comment on the looks they were exchanging, as harmless as any of their other means of affection, Katie was edging across the span of the glossy tabletop to interweave their fingers into a joined clasp, one of the most endearing smiles he had ever seen cross her face only pushing him into a deeper state of pining. Watching her grin evolve as she tampered with the orientation of their hands, examining the underside of his palm through the slight parts in her slender fingers, Eli shook his head slightly, though a grin was still ticking his lips. “You’re going to be the death of me, I swear,” he admitted with a sheepish expression painted across his features, the corners of his mouth curled upwards and all.
Figuring it was his turn to explore the depths of her skin, Eli countered her gentle strokes with his own, absently watching their delicate fingers twirl about in their joined clasp’s bounds as she spoke. Lifting his eyes from their intermingling hands to watch the frown stretch across her lips, replacing her once gleeful appearance, a distinct addition that hummed along to the same tune as her pained words, Eli felt his grin shift into an amused brand of smile, the already crooked nature of his lips only serving to make his secondhand entertainment regarding her personal ordeal far more obvious. “And here I thought I was the expert on all things dramatic,” he commented, rolling his eyes. “It’s probably not as much of a deal as you’re making it out to be. You’ll be back out on the field in no time given that you stop working yourself so hard about petty things,” he verbalized his thoughts aloud, absently reaching out with his injured hand to bring his coffee to his lips once more, but jerking away instead the moment his fingers curled around the surface of the cup, jagged streaks of pain shooting out from where his fingers sprouted from his hand. “Damn it,” Eli hissed underneath his breath, although he was thankful that he hadn’t knocked over his coffee in the process. His knuckles weren’t in as bad of a shape as others thought it ought to have been in, though plagued with distorted hues that would unsettle most, the pain that they provided him with on a regular basis wasn’t anything that he couldn’t grin and bear.
Still eying his wincing knuckles, fresh bursts of vibrant color inching its way to the surface of the ruptured and neglected portions of the skin surrounding his knuckles, Eli relaxed his posture in his seat, shifting against the material until he was comfortable. “They just told me to stop lingering around outside in the cold before going back to bed,” he shrugged, not able to recall much of anything following Katie’s departure. As foolish as it sounded, his conventional sense of time was quickly deteriorating upon opening up his life to the girl he was lost in. He was constantly finding himself counting the days and nights by the quiet moments that they shared, loving glances and all, and the plans that they made. Eli lightly sighed at his own naivety, refusing to ever admit to such a thing out loud, but figuring that Katie had already grasped the main concept that all of his affection-related habits were based upon. “You know,” Eli began suddenly, inspired by the positive aura that radiated out from his reckless thoughts, “We never went on that picnic you were talking about. Before all of that Zig business, I mean,” he quickly clarified. Savoring the remnants of his words that still graced his tongue, formulated in the back of his will to talk about the dark-haired boy, Eli instinctively narrowed his emerald orbs, lowering them to the blurred space of a tabletop surrounding their joined hands. “How is he?” He asked quietly, his voice a mere murmur compared to the previous one that he had possessed. He had never been quite sure of where his distaste for the particular character had begun, but considering the recent events that had left their mark on all of the teenagers in some way, the hatred seemed to be inescapable.
Eli’s hands felt rough and callous against her supple skin, the warm flesh a few tones darker than the ivory tinge that intertwined with hers, and Katie noticed the ebony coating of his nails, a stark contrast the plain coating of her perfectly rounded ones, the white crescents at the peak of her hands forming a rounded arch. She sucked in air as she licked the shell of her pearly teeth, tasting almost at once the caffeine that she had consumed just before a few moments prior. Katie’s thoughts were teeming whenever she looked away from the raven-haired boy across from her, and she was almost certain that he was gazing at her, his liquid pools of emerald green searching her face for nothing in particular. Katie glanced at the framework of the undersized coffee shop and noticed the fracture of murmurs and giggles that had substantially increased from when they had entered. There was a fissure of light that had penetrated a nearby window adjacent to their table; petite, diminutive specks hovering in space with no particular beginning point or destination—there was an uncanny serenity that had taken over Katie’s mindset, but she was half-aware it was most likely because she was in Eli’s presence. The light had created a slit in the window, the illumination that had managed to escape from the outside world producing curvatures of light in the otherwise dim coffee shop.
The faint hum of Eli’s voice pulled Katie from her reverie and she lifted her head towards the voice, his jade eyes timid and conservative, causing her lips to pull in a teasing smile, her eyes narrowing playfully, resembling a cat’s. As if reassuring herself that the moment they were both sharing was real—the subtle smiles and flesh against flesh was indeed a palpable moment—she squeezed his hand slightly without really thinking about it. “As long as I’m the reason of your death, I’m perfectly fine with that,” she mused jokingly, silently, her eyes tracing the border of his jawline.. Katie wasn’t quite sure of the sway she had against Eli, but she had a feeling it was more than she caught on. As if affixing to this fleeting thought, she blinked her eyes elaborately, the dark tresses of her eyelashes acting as an elegant curtain above her azure orbs.
The brunette absently beamed as he spoke, their hands interlacing in the air, his limbs raised with no effort as her slender fingers laced with his; sinew, muscle, and vein having no conclusion as they explored innocently each other’s flesh with curious eyes and careful hands. She nodded in agreement towards his comment about working herself so hard—oddly enough, everything seemed to be put in perspective whenever words escaped his lips, though she was acutely aware that it was easier said than done. The brunette had been working twice as hard this year, only to barely make it up to par with her own expectations and the nearly impossible prospect that her family and those around her had put over her head. “I have two term papers due, a math project I haven’t started on, and a science fair project that needs to win first place to do over break,” she articulated aloud, shaking her head wearily so that her brunette waves coiled at the sides of her face, cascading freely down her back. She suddenly felt the pressure of stress that scampered through her already bombarded mind, her free hand gripping the edge of the oak table before her, and then began to incessantly tap her willowy fingers on the brim table, her lips curved into an apprehensive frown. “There are too many things to do, and not enough time to do them,” she pondered, knitting her dark eyebrows together. She exhaled air and glanced at Elijah, her words appearing to extend farther than the realms of just homework. The brunette contemplated the fleeting concept of time, and rationalized that she had two to three weeks of break, Christmas, then it was back to school for another semester to do it all over again.
Katie flinched abruptly and almost jerked her hand away from Eli’s but managed not to, blinking her eyes in alarm as he wrenched his hands away from the coffee that had been laying harmlessly on the table, an immediate blur of his hands scarcely visible as he did so. He muttered something underneath his breath and she arched her back towards him, her eyes searching his face for some type of reassurance that he was going to be okay. Katie was tempted to tell him that everything was going to be fine, that everything was going to be alright, but in that instant, the words wouldn’t come and sounded peculiarly false. She bit back a response and caught sight of faint purple and yellow hues that had discolored his injured hand, narrowing her eyes—a wave of worry had washed over her, a pang striking her chest as she saw the breaks in skin, the tarnished streaks blemishing his flesh. “You should get that bandaged,” she commented, her heart racing. “Or put antiseptic or something—it’s going to get infected,” she murmured.
She bit the bottom tissue of her lips and squeezed Eli’s uninjured hand a little tighter for a little moment longer, savoring the way his warm flesh felt so real in her hands, how she felt a little less lonely. Katie gazed the marble face that feigned indifference at his injured hand, but she knew better; she traced the outline of his lips and the lines on his face when he winced and didn’t feel the longing in her as strong as she did now. Shrugging and idly toying with a stray curl of hair beside her face, she perked at the mention of a picnic and replied, “We have time to do so,” she mused, glad they were forming plans to meet again when their first one wasn’t over yet—this was a good sign, yes? Her lips curved into an effortless smile and added, “When you’re back from your break, of course. Try not to miss me?” She blinked innocently and pondered her family plans and what she’d do during her break and exhaled at the thought. The brunette widened her eyes slightly at the mention of Zig and glanced furtively at the discolored skin on Eli’s injured hand, then back at his face. She didn’t know how to react to his inquiry about the freshman boy, except that she didn’t want to open the conversation, for fear that she’d say something wrong. Shaking her head jadedly and choosing her words precisely, she responded, “Last I visited him,” she began, ignoring her memories of the dark-haired boy helpless on a makeshift hospital bed with cuts and bruises on his face, “He was as sarcastic and confused as ever,” she replied, averting her eyes downwards, realizing that the hands that had caused such havoc on Zig’s face were now artlessly intertwined with hers. She knitted her eyebrows together and glanced at the crevice of light that had illuminated from the window, the bright rays of sunlight hitting the interior of the coffee shop with mute brilliance.
“Confused meaning half out of his mind,” she murmured softly, not sure if he could hear her and continued, “The medication he’s on makes him loopy.” The brunette took a quick sip of the caffeine her coffee had wrought and traced Eli’s thumb with her forefinger.
The algid temperature that radiated out from the narrowest part of the door knob chilled his palms, glazed over in a subtle layer of anxious perspiration, the slight gusts of winter winds rushing past his conserved appendages sinking into the shallow depths of every contour lining his skin. Eli’s sturdy knuckles still poised around the metal knob, he peered through one of the glass windows that lined the establishment curiously, searching for any minute trace of her. The coffee shop appeared to be the most vacuous that Eli had ever seen it before, the lone barista with her back turned to the serving counter, attending to one of a few of the messes that her fellow employees had carelessly wrought. Although the wooden chairs had been taken down from their resting place upon the polished tabletops earlier in the day, they hadn’t been graced with another’s presence, catching dust underneath the heavy glow that prodding rays of sunlight casted down upon them. Still searching for her, Eli twisted the knob and pulled the front door open, instinctively eying the space above him for some kind of bell that would announce his presence, but coming across nothing except the tiny particulars floating in the space above his head, shining as bright as the early afternoon sunlight.
The endearing aroma of fresh coffee delighted his senses, and inhaling a prolonged breath in appreciation for his surroundings, Eli caught a glimpse of the brunette girl he had been looking for, distractedly typing away at her phone. Not wanting to disrupt her peaceful, lone aura just yet, Eli silently admired her as he was known to when she removed her gaze from his own. Katie’s simple stature and her composed nature, even to an untrained eye, were thought-provoking. To think that the girl a few casual strides away from him was the same one that he had been holding in his arms the previous night, exchanging gentle kisses and existing upon the same lone breath for the time that they were allowed to linger together was almost a dizzying proposal of a concept. Trading nightly shadows for sun-kissed curves and contours, she was a completely different person, but she still belonged to him in some way. Didn’t she? Tucking his left hand into his pant pocket, curling and uncurling his fingers within the pouch of fabric until he was comfortable, Eli slowly approached Katie, the sound of his sneakers hitting the floorboards almost inaudible, but it was the shadows eternally veiling his figure that give his presence away. His narrow gaze still tracing the sharp lines that her facial features settled into, the curve of her mouth, Eli offered her a polite grin, though the happiness that he would inevitably harbor due to being near her was quickly filling his veins, intoxicating him.
“How fitting,” Eli murmured in half-hearted agreement with her reiterating thoughts, referring back to a comment that he had made regarding his own caffeine preferences some time ago. His fingers curling into the gleaming tabletop as he moved forward towards her, decorating the surface in dark stretches of crescent-shaped shadows, Eli pressed his lips to her cheek in the form of a chaste, but considerate kiss, not thinking anything of his autonomous actions. Though he would like to believe that he was conscious of every suggesting glance exchanged between the two, the shy smiles, it was already becoming a second nature to the raven-haired boy. Fueled by his premature adoration for the brunette blushing beneath his mouth, every kiss was slowly evolving into a commonly-used phrase, word, or a vowel that you couldn’t converse without. Everything was customary, necessary even.
Maneuvering away from Katie’s end of the table and claiming the seat across from her, Eli smiled, an effortless task, the corners of his mouth curling upwards into a cheery grin. “More than I’d like to admit, but yes,” he replied, taking a small sip of his coffee, shaking his head slightly the moment that the comfortingly bitter yet sweet liquid hit his tongue. Of course she would remember his comment about black coffee and his soul. “I hope you realize that I plan on buying next time,” he added a few moments later, the smile still tickling his lips. “How has your day been so far? Good, I hope.”
The blush that broadened athwart the rims of Katie’s ivory painted cheeks occurred almost instantaneously, and she had half a mind to lean in for her to kiss him again, but he had spoken already and she was too reticent. The kiss was swift and subtle; nevertheless, the brunette could tell that though there were no words spoken in the gesture, the gentleness of his soft lips against her cheek elucidated enough so that no expression in any language could articulate such passion so sweetly. For a second, Katie blinked her azure eyes in mute surprise, though it was more of an amused astonishment directed at the natural spontaneity that had developed between the two, and she thought of the thread that she believed wove between them so effortlessly—no matter what had happened between the two or what words were said, they had always found a way back to each other—and that was all that mattered; right? She was too busy gazing absentmindedly at Elijah’s lips as he spoke that she almost missed what he had said whilst under the warm cast of the lights above the both of them. In response to his statement, Kate lifted her eyebrows questioningly, challenging him, the marble features of her face relaying an expression of speechless mockery. “So there’s a next time?” She angled her head to the side, a coy smile painted in the edges of her lips playfully.
Katie ran dawdling fingers through her cascading waves that inched towards the sides of her face and down her back—her brunette locks culminating in large curls at the bottom of her hair, above her lithe chest. She took another quick sip of her coffee, wincing as the scalding liquid made contact with her tongue, and pondered getting another packet of sugar to rid the bitterness of the ground coffee, but decided she would live without it. Swirling the light russet liquid in the plastic cup held in her hands, she chewed on the base of the mouthpiece of the cup before setting it down, pursing her lips. Katie straightened her back as she readjusted her bag that hung over her chair and extended her arm across the span of the table, towards Eli. With a fleet movement, her hands clench and unclenched, the whites of her undulating knuckles surfacing as she curled her hands, opening them once again only to find Eli’s rough palms on the table. She lifted her head slightly as she realized she was directing her attention to her coffee cup, a shy smile toying on her lips, a blush slightly visible as she did so. Biting her lips, she lifted his palms so that they were lifted towards hers, and she intertwined their fingers with each other on the glossy table, their hands so entwined within each other that it was difficult to decipher where her hands started and where his ended. With a beam painted on her lips and an endearing expression evident on her delicate facial features, she gave him a reassuring squeeze of his hand as she took a nonchalant sip of her coffee. The two sat in silence for a few moments as she stole a subtle-not-so-subtle glance at the raven-haired boy across from her, making it no secret that she toggled gazes between his emerald orbs and his amiable lips.
Katie pursed her lips, shrugging as she replied courteously, “I had the full intention of going for a morning run today, but instead of my knee discouraging me,” she began, groaning, “I discouraged myself,” she shook her head, her free hand instinctively massaging the globe of her joint, where sinew met muscle and she winced, exhaling air. “Soccer has been my entire life, ever since I was ten,” she confessed, biting the inside of her cheek. “Ever since my injury, I’ve been terrified to try anything with it. Without soccer, I’m nothing,” she distressed, “I might as well take up—“she paused, “—knitting.” She concluded, exasperated and frustrated with her own trepidation.
The brunette tenderly traced the perimeter of Elijah’s thumb in idle thought as she pursed her lips, shaking her head. Despite herself, she mocked, “Give me a knitting stick,” she explained, not knowing what the correct terminology was, “And some yarn, because I might as well get a head start on my new profession,” she jokingly hurrahed. With a mute groan inwardly, she asked on a tangent, “How did your parents take your going to sleep so late?” She mused, half-curious. She knitted her eyebrows in sudden concern and added, “I don’t like keeping you up,” a frown apparent on her facial features.
“Thank you,” Katie articulated politely, her lips pulling into a crooked smile as her hands gripped the two cups of coffee, nodding to the bartender across the marble counter of the local coffee shop. Tranquil music played overhead, and she could distinguish the soft acoustic strumming of a guitar, the melodic beat looming in and out of the coffee shop. Her azure eyes caught sight of a painting that hung behind the barista’s counter used with a glossy acrylic coat; pale greens and blues merged with the nude colors that illustrated a naked woman with long blonde hair, defined eyebrows, and a distressed expression that highlighted her bony features. Katie eyed the painting for a little while longer in wonder as she shrugged, turning around to an otherwise vacant coffee shop—she was surprised that no one would indulge in caffeine fix at 11am (rather, 10:45—Katie enjoyed being punctual), though this coffee shop wasn’t known by many.
Readjusting the ornately patterned bag hanging loosely on her shoulders whilst being attentive of the coffee balanced in her willowy hands, she chose a table in the right corner of the shop and leisurely took a seat, placing the two cups of coffee on the oak table before her. Katie ran her fingers through her tousled brunette waves, pursing her lips as she crossed her legs in idle thought. Though her newfound friendship (or whatever they defined it) with Elijah had recently been rekindled, she was cautious that she would somehow mess it up, and he would change his mind—didn’t everyone, when it came to the case of Katie Matlin? She furrowed her eyes as she debated texting Marisol as she scrolled distractedly through her contacts of her cell phone, but decided against it. She figured she didn’t owe Marisol an explanation—her best friend rarely bothered to make an effort to renew their friendship, so why should she contribute in the slightest?
Katie lifted her eyebrows as if giving it careful deliberation, the illuminated screen casting a light glow upon the delicate panes of her face and shook her head, placing the sleek phone on the edge of the table, sighing. As of late, Katie had found it more and more difficult to keep her old friendships and make new ones; Elijah being the one exception, and Maya being her blood and inherit sibling—didn’t count much in her book. Cursing her predisposition of making firsthand judgments upon meeting many, and giving herself a reason not to befriend them for such a reason, she bit the bottom tissue of her lip in rapid apprehension—if those at school wouldn’t give her the time of day, and vice versa—what chances did she have with Eli at having a genuine friendship? Katie’s thoughts strayed to Marisol and back to the dark-haired boy and deduced that the two were completely different entities, and juxtaposing the both wouldn’t be fair. The brunette arched her head back in her chair as she held the plastic coffee in her hands, taking a quick sip and blinking in relief as the caffeine flooded her mouth.
The dim lighting overhead Katie was swiftly shrouded by a figure that casted a silhouette of a figure on the table, causing her to lift her head in question, a recognizable mass of dark hair covering a pale face with two liquid pools of green eyes standing with his hands in his pockets, eyeing her curiously. Her lips parted with the clear intention of saying something witty, but she merely blinked at him, the apples of her cheeks befalling to a light rosy color as she traced the line of his jaw, to his collarbone, and back to his ears, to the panes of his distinct face. His inky hair under the diffused lighting in the coffee shop somehow made it a few shades darker than its usual tone. Eli was dressed typically in how he always was—black. Black shirt, black pants, scuffed shoes, and rings that adorned his rough hands, she noted, as she mentally registered his appearance within the first few moments that he stood. Katie squirmed in her seat, apprehensively pulling the edge of her dark blue jacket that covered a light colored cardigan and colored t-shirt as she pursed her lips, rolling her eyes as she reminded herself that this was Eli of all people—there was no reason to overanalyze the situation in every possible light.
Narrowing her eyes as if secretly challenging him, Katie encouraged, “Sit, please,” and continued, taking another sip of her coffee, “I got you some coffee,” she smiled, the corners of her lips curving into an effortless beam. “Black, yes? Just like your soul—I thought it was fitting,” she mused, leaning at the back of her chair as she curiously noted his facial expressions as he sat down. “Did you miss me?”