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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?

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.

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.

Holly

They gave her a towel, but her hair is still stiff, her face tight. Crackly.

“Shouldn’t you be fucking Rose?” she says when Roger opens the door.

Concern in his big brown eyes–she shoves past him, pulls off her shirt. “Want to fuck this instead?” she asks. “I won’t even watch.”

“Holly, I’m going to call someone–”

“God dammit!” she screams. “Why won’t you judge me!”

“Never learned how,” he says, and leaves.

Holly puts her open hand through a pane in the glass door, then wraps it in a towel. Her hair is so matted. She grabs the scissors.

Holly

“Please, sit down,” croons Madam Zaganza, Personal Readings.

Holly stands. Her hand’s still bandaged. “My friend Rowan,” she says, “she did this.”

“Good! Then you know to shuffle–”

“I caused the drought,” Holly blurts. “I killed all those people.”

“Oh, honey,” says Zaganza. She pulls off the turban and becomes a tired man in lipstick. “Sit down. You know how many people have told me that?”

“I’m different,” Holly whispers. “I was–Rose and Roger–and the rain doesn’t fall–”

“It falls on the just and the unjust.” Zaganza smiles sadly. “You don’t change the weather, honey. The weather changes you.”

Holly

Holly drove his truck in heels, but now she’s barefoot, red dust on her hose and the hem of her dress.

“So many things in the way,” she says, absently. “I can’t. Roger, there’s something I’m supposed to–” She stops and tangles her hair through her fingers, undoing someone’s careful hour.

“Rowan would know,” she mumbles.

Roger pitches a rock out and away. Holly looks back, startled, then grabs her own rock. They throw again, and keep throwing, wild, off-balance, a stone rain on the desert. Finally they stumble and fall, gasping, and she rolls over and kisses his mouth.

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