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Greta

It is pretty late when I get to our apartment and I’m not sure if Greta is home. I stand outside her door for a moment, trying to see if I can hear her breathing, or hear Amin’s voice. I’m tempted to just walk in there, but I’ve never done that before and I don’t want to see them both in there together, naked, even if it is dark. So I just go to my room instead.

It is freezing in my room, and I have things I’m supposed to do right away, but for now, all I want to do is lie down. I leave my bag on the floor and tug off my shoes before crawling into bed, shivering. I lay there, waiting for my body to warm up the sheets, but before I reach that moment, I fall asleep.

I wake up a few hours later, I’m not sure what time, but it is still dark out, and I’m now warm in bed. Someone is in my room.

I can tell it’s Greta by the smell of her perfume. This cheerful, fruity aroma that reminds me of summer lunches and brightly colored drinks. She tiptoes into my room before seeing that I’m in bed and crawls in next to me, curling up behind me, her tiny cold nose pressing into my back. Her body is cold and she is shaking so hard I can hear her teeth chatter. She wraps her body around mine, melting into me, filling up the parts of me that are empty, and there are a lot, trying to soak up my warmth. Instead of warming her up though, we both cool down, until we’re both cold and shivering, our teeth chattering.

I remember the night we decided to run away from the home when were thirteen. Greta already knew Amin then and he had agreed to help us get set up. Well, help her get set up really. I was just the stowaway that they had to entertain because Greta told them she wanted me at the last moment. The night that she told me about her plans to run away, she crawled into bed with me, just like this, her cold body grasping me like ivy, the tendrils of Greta finding their way into the most secret parts of me. And even though I’d never told Greta about the counselor and why I didn’t like to talk to people, and why sometimes I disappeared for days even as I walked around and did my chores and ate breakfast when I was supposed to, she already knew. Maybe she saw it in my face each time I came back from seeing him, or maybe she found some of the things I’d written and hidden away, but she already knew. And that night that she told me about her plans to run away and invited me to come along, whispering into my ear, she said, “We can get away from him. We can make him pay.”

And today, with her next to me, cold as a corpse in our tiny apartment, shivering and keeping us both awake, I have so much I want to say to her. So much I want to tell her about that night and all the other nights since then and about that moment in Ryan’s apartment when I thought he had woken up and about how it feels when we’re curled up in bed together and I open my mouth to do so, but just then, right as I’m about to say something, the breath to voice the words about to come out of my mouth, she takes her right arm and puts it over me and threads her fingers through mine. Her fingers are warm and strong and I grab them hard. I close my mouth. We just lay there together, holding hands, in the dark, and I listen to her breathe and I think I will tell her about this thing inside of me some other day because for now she is in my bed, next to me and she is holding my hand and I can feel her breath on my neck and for now, this is perfect, this is enough, and this is all I need.

By Anuraag Pokhrel

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