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Holly

There’s this one really good day. It’s April, and the breeze coming off the water plays with their hair and jackets, but the skies are clear and kind to Holly. Rose has stories to tell them about the city, and Roger captures in-camera the moment when the sun and wind wreathe their heads with fire.

The alt-weekly has a misprint the next day: every article replaced with Missed Connection after Missed Connection, all unique. Who were the three of you, they ask plaintively. Did you know your own beauty? Can I please, oh can I please hold hands too?

Holly

A gust through one open window, and the tarot goes whipping away out the other. Madame Zaganza yelps; Holly clears the sill like a hurdler. The scar on her hand barely bothers to ache.

She finds cards in gutters and tree branches, but a good deck is waxed to protect the inks, and these have all washed blank. She wipes wet hair from her forehead. Then she realizes what that means.

The storm pounds like the pulse of a giant, and Holly opens her arms: soaked to the skin, cold and laughing. She drinks the rain until her heart is full.

Roger

“I eat apples, most days,” says Roger, “because there is nothing more disappointing than an overripe nectarine. Half the time that’s how you get them, unless they’re underripe and hard as rubber; you have to either slice one to test every day or trust your crappy luck. You can’t tell by looking or touching, and the zone of ripeness is so small. But when you get a good one, they’re the best fruit in the world.”

Holly’s amused. “Did you have a point?”

“Is that what it’s like to like boys sometimes?”

“Well,” she says, “no.”

“I’m hungry again,” Rose mutters.

Rowan

“This crosses you,” says Rowan. “This covers you. This is beneath you, before and behind you. Hope. House. Here is your Crown. Here is your Self.”

The card is full of terror, trumpets and storm. “Gabriel,” says Holly. She touches the waxy face of Judgment and it is in that moment the most beautiful thing that anyone has made, that anyone will make.

“Yes,” says Rowan softly. “You’re the angel.”

Holly’s still caught in a stare; Rowan gathers up the rest of the tarot without looking at them. They’re both stoned anyway, and nothing good comes of reading those you love.

Holly

Holly lives, altogether, with five and a half sets of foster parents. The Kreuks count as half because they split her assistance check and lie to the caseworker, and for eight glorious months she is Rowan’s daughter.

Rowan can’t adopt Holly because she’s poor, with a history of suicidal depression and (not coincidentally) breast cancer. Holly doesn’t learn this until she goes looking. She gets extra-nice for a while, and Rowan figures it out, and they fight.

I’m not going to tell you they never get a chance to make up. They do. They make up in plenty of time.

Holly

Holly is so giddy from the night that she actually takes Mr. Porn Resort’s card and slips it down the front of her dress. Everyone’s drifting over to watch an epileptic ball descend a pole, so she takes Rose and Roger each by a hand and leads them out to the car.

The streets are empty silence and the moon’s just starting to wane. The clock in the dash says 12:02. Holly leads them again, up the steps to her apartment, where frost has paislied the sliding doors.

Holly kisses Roger. Holly kisses Rose.

Rose kisses Roger.

“Happy new,” Holly says.

Holly

Rose and Roger are deep in effusive conversation about nerd TV with the host and, as cute as it is, Holly eventually stops listening. She’s pleasantly buzzed and she feels like gliding. She glides toward the kitchen.

“You need ice skates to pull that off,” says a guy in a mottled sweater and parachute pants.

“You need a ski resort,” she retorts.

He shrugs. “I have one.”

Holly is oddly charmed by his open arrogance. “How’d you score that?” she asks. “Let me guess… dotcom. No! Record producer.”

“Specialty porn,” he says.

She laughs.

“Yeah,” he says, smiling. “But actually, though.”

Roger

The way Roger finds Holly is entirely prosaic: he googles to her barebones student profile. He gives two weeks’ notice at his old job, finds a new one, moves, and doesn’t know what to do next.

Holly finds him, in the end, when their eyes meet across the coffee shop in the Borders just off campus. This is no accident either. She thought she saw him there, in Architecture, and staked the place out five nights straight.

Rose shakes hands with reservations. “How,” she asks, “do you two know each other?”

“Remember, Roger?” asks Holly.

“You saved my life,” they say.

Holly

Holly and Roger graduate, along with twenty-two other students who weren’t at the dance. There’s news. People are vomiting money at her so she says yes to some school which, she understands, is on high ground, with trees.

She and Roger don’t speak again. She buries his corsage under the tree with her fifth-grade time capsule and plants yellow flowers on top. She sells things and packs light. She gets on a plane. At her first party she meets a girl with Rowan’s eyes: her name is Rose.

In her pockets, in her dreams, in secret, the desert waits.

Arizona

Desert towns aren’t designed around good drainage: when it rains, it floods. But it’s not supposed to flood like this. Holly leaves Roger at his house and he leaves her his truck; she drives west, toward the dance.

The gym’s on low ground and the water’s already topping the first floor. The truck stalls before she can get across the lot. There are students reaching out the upstairs windows, and–no–the stucco wall is slumping–

Holly’s driving barefoot. She gathers her ruined skirt and rolls down the window. She runs out onto the water, and reaches, and then she doubts.

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