snakes that tempt the apple.
au. future harper
Justin seeks out Harper after things change from the future he found out from 'Future Harper'.
Justin thinks about butterflies and downward rain when he sees her.
Her face isn't the same as it was. (Might have been.)
It's shallow in the cheeks but the baby curves linger even years later.
She's reading something worn and dog-eared. She's tiny even now and her skin glows in the yellow.
Her unmistakably hair is tucked under a yellow rosed hat.
He thinks about telling her about that other Harper, with a live fish on her head and laugh lines that drew her face into glee.
He wanders to her from a different time.
The book is Peter Pan and he can see Neverland from her eyes.
"What are you doing all the way out here?" Her too short nails bend the corner back, he doesn't reach his hand to hers.
He shrugs and tries to think of anything to say.
(You wrote a book about us, about her. You grew old and turned to dust. You gave me a mission.onceandthenandalwaysbuteverythin
He settles for, "Business."
"It's been a long time."
He tries to think of how everything ended up here. With her Holly Golightly eyes and her skinny arms. (It was something about lies or meanness. Something about her parents and feeling alone. Maybe it was all about turning to the ash she was.)
The moment he cared or the second it began to matter. (The last words of her last novel. Charmed and Dangerous, Miles kissed the girl. Or the girl won. He won. But his hands [heart] are empty.)
But all he can see is a Harper from years ago, with missions and paint a plates and the flow of her words.
It isn't the same.
"Yeah. To long, right. You still like silent movies?" He'd long out grown stumbling words but tonight, for this second, he wants it like it was. (Should have been.)
When she looks at him the parantheses highlight her smile. (He remembers clearly that she kissed him goodbye but there was college and parents and he missed her years later. Sometimes he thinks it never would have become this. He falls asleep mouthing the words happily ever after.)
"Always." He laugh is still the same. But her eyes aren't the right shade. (Are they?)
"There's one playing tomorrow night, on James and Tulalitn."
"By the thrift store?"
"Okay." He ignores how easy it seems.
Alex calls him at ten.
She sounds old.
He wishes it were years or days ago, before the end. Or was this the prologue of something so much more.
"Justin, I think it's a terrible idea. She left for a reason. It all happened for a reason."
"I think we ruined it. Shouldn't we try and-"
But it doesn't stop the rush of doing it anyway.
"No. Look, Justin. She doesn't remember. You know, it didn't happen to her. Or you. Or me. Even Max-"
"We owe her-" Alex's voice cuts him off.
"The right to live her life." The silence makes his skin itch, but what else can he say. How can he explain the dreams, her kiss the one he never got, the pale dip of her hip that he never tasted. What about him, what he's owed. The life that he should be living.
"Justin, look, I know it's been hard for you-"
He doesn't talk and she doesn't say.
"I've got to go, Alex."
"It didn't happen, Justin. It didn't. And I don't know why, but you can't fix it now."
"You could, use your powers-"
"I ruined my friendship with Harper over magic. I won't do it again."
"You could have her back."
He's left with dial tone.
In his dream, she comes to him with a smile.
He's nineteen and impossibly young.
She's about to head off to some arts college in the west.
There's an apple on her sleeve, it looks as alive as a heart.
"I just wanted you to know. That you know..." Her fingers wind around themselves and years haven't changed her.
"Harper, look we're friends, there's no need to make this akward."
She nods and turns but suddenly her lips are over his. The slight wince as her teeth graze his mouth.
"It's you." She says, her breath is warm and she tastes of lukewarm beer.
She doesn't stay and he doesn't go.
But he wonders.
The movie is everything it's always been.
Her eyes aglow with mirth and he wishes for something he can't name.
Something that's never been.
He asks her out again and she nods. Slow.
He doesn't kiss her at her door and she stays standing in the porchlight till he's sure she's all he'll ever see.
She's waiting for him in the twilight.
He's older and wiser and she's back home for a holiday.
He kisses her first this time, under a piece of lettace, that he pretends is misletoe.
"Sorry." He says. But he it's about how long it took.
She knows and nods and kisses him outside. Her breath is white and frozen and he's so happy he wakes up smiling.
It takes him a cold floor and hotel sheets to remember.
Alex flies in on Tuesday.
"I think I'm seeing what happened."
Alex stares as she chews.
"But it didn't."
"I know that."
"Maybe it's just something you wish did happen."
"I know it's real."
"But it isn't."
She sighs and leans toward him. "It isn't real, Justin. She's not her. You're not him."
"But somewhere we are."
"When did you become this?"
"I grew up. I...Magic is a respon-"
"The Alex I knew-"
"One of us has to be logical about this whole thing. God, Justin. You've gone crazy, you're stalking a girl you haven't seen in years and you're-"
"I have to know."
"That this is the way it has to be."
"When do you have to go home?"
Her face is alive in the candle light and he remembers (in a mind that is not his) something about a ring and a question and maybe even a happily ever after.
"Because my business isn't-"
"No, why did you look me up, ask me out. Why now? Out of the blue and all. I mean you were freaked about me when we did know each other."
You haunt me is hanging between his teeth.
He shakes his head. "I saw you. I remembered you and I wanted-"
She takes his hand and sweeps her thumb over his. "Are you ever going to kiss me?"
Later, under the porch light, he does.
It feels right.
But not like he remembered.
She grins when his eyes open.
"Was it worth the wait?"
He nods and kisses her again.
It's almost enough.
"Is it what you thought?"
He doesn't answer her.
"Justin." Alex's dark eyes burn but he isn't sorry.
He still dreams.
With warm air and hands.
He loves her.
When he wakes he's still alive, but the ache lingers.
She's her and he's him.
Even if it's different.
Even if the future and the past are lost.
It's almost enough that she's his.