He looks like he is going to pull away.
For a brief second, her heart beats until it distorts all feeling and sound and touch. There is only him – his confused expression, his blazing eyes.
She finally pulls away, biting on her lip. “I’m – that was – sorry – ”
But she isn’t. Molly has been sorry for many things – dead butterflies and broken glass and forgotten words – but this and them was something she could never regret.
His face is unreadable. “What was that for?”
“I – “
There is a tense silence; Teddy looks stunned. Outside, the autumn gales are reaching a crescendo; leaves fly into the air in wayward spirals. The curtains flap and she watches her feet, waiting.
And finally, he speaks. “I’m not sure what to say.”
“I know you don’t feel the same way,” Molly says carefully. Her voice is tinged with disappointment – Sunday afternoons flooded with laughter, days by the lakeside, perfumed flowers – and she smiles up at him. “It’s okay.”
“It’s - not that,” he says quietly.
Her heart thuds loudly; her body reacts in an orchestra of feeling. Her head pounds, her heart beats and she can feel her pulse ticking in time with her breath.
She bursts into a wide smile, feeling as though she knows what it is for daffodils to feel sunlight and moths to feel sky. “Really?”
His expression sobers immediately. “We can’t. Imagine that we were to – you know – have a relationship – but we can’t – ”
“Why?” She cannot – will not – fathom coming this far only to fall away.
“Family,” he murmurs, looking distant, a figment of ice and marble. “Victoire.”
“Does it matter?” she says, her voice equally hushed. “Does it really matter?”
“Molly, we’re friends. I don’t know about this – “
For the first time, she finds her voice. It is music and birds chirping and flowers blooming and she finds her voice as paint finds canvas. “Do you want this?”
“I don’t know.”
She looks away, frustrated. “Try, will you?”
“Let’s try. Let’s try – this
. Whatever it is.”
“What’ll your family say?”
“Whatever they say, I’ll just take it, I suppose. But this is up to you, Teddy.”
Molly loves her family. She knows there is nothing past life than family and friends and him, which is why she knows they will one day understand.
He is silent.
“Take a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“I loved Victoire,” he says. “I always thought we would get married. Everyone said so. Even you.”
“So what happened?”
“You moved on and she moved on.”
“And I found you.”
“I – “
“I know I’m not your Victoire. I know – but – “
He says it. She waits and it comes easily, easily, like storm clouds and rain. She calls it hope and he calls it doubt, but it is the truth, fostered by the experiences of a lifetime.
“Maybe you could be.”
And there it is.
He looks at her and for the first time, she knows he sees it too. He sees twelve years of happiness and friendship and laughter, spent in the forgetfulness of childhood. He is Teddy and he had his Victoire and she is Molly and she and him were wishes waiting to breathe.
There is a pause.
Molly once meant five foot tall and flashing auburn hair and friend. Molly is now remembrance and promise and the feeling of almost having everything. She is dreams and he is desire and together, they are the essence of falling stars.
“What now?” asks Teddy.
“I guess this is like starting over,” says Molly with a nervous laugh. She feels her hands trembling slightly, but it is with a reassuring hope.
He still looks doubtful, but at catching her eyes, a small smile comes on his face. “Do I have to reintroduce myself, then?”
Molly laughs – the sound is the daydream of twelve years. Everything seems blissful and free and bubbling with potential. She marvels that in an autumn, everything has changed, but nothing really has. She is Molly and she is still timid and nervous and she still does not have a job. Her violin still creaks slightly and her sister still talks too much and Molly’s bed is still unmade.
But she is Molly and she is beginning to find herself again.
“You’re Teddy,” she says, feeling a smile form on her face, “and I’m Molly. And this was supposed to happen.”
Autumn was once listening to her mother’s battered radio sing into the niches of an empty house and watching her sister dance around in her room, her arms aloft. Autumn once meant the beginnings of drafts and wetness, orange leaves soaked to the surface and stuck to the hardening earth. Birds took flight and nests lay empty and the sky was covered with wings.
She laughs and he laughs and days slip by and weeks pass. Some days, they breathe in unison and she forgets what it is to be alone.
He is autumn now. Just as home once was a small room and no more words and empty nights, home is now the toss of an orange, sunlight flooding new walls and him. He sees the frosted ground outside their home and says that orange trees will spot the horizon one day. She sits in her room, watching the white curtains undulate with the last of autumn’s dying breaths. Rasps of wind will soon fade into sheets of fresh snow.
The skies fan out with the hundred strokes of the sunset and she awaits the nights of starlight and nebulous clouds.
She tries not to remember her cousin’s venomous face and her aunt’s angry shout. She tries not to remember how it felt to see her mother’s confused expression. He tries not to remember what the stings of first love were – the bare emotion, the hazy predictions for the future. She tries to let go that she will always be his second love – filled with the bittersweet tunes of an almost future. And together, they forget everything.
First love is as first love goes – roses, honey and twilight. She is his second love – violins and lakes and abandoned woods – but second love is as first love could have been.
She laughs and he laughs and days slip by and she forgets how to breathe when she sees his smile.
Every sunset is vivid with what it is to live and every night is painted with what it is to lose.
He peels oranges and she dances on street curbs and she is learning what it is to be him. He forgets Victoire and finally knows victory.
Autumn fades away and takes with it the sonata of their past – the tears and the laughter. She stands by her window, watching the earth fall to a gentle freeze. She closes her eyes and memorizes every crevice of the dirt, every swipe on the windowpane, every leaf on every tree.
He holds her hand as they await the coming winter.
She hears every strand of its music – trees rustling, flowers losing each petal, skies storming over. She hears the symphony of the rain, the thunderstorms, the weeds tumbling across barren grounds.
She has him and he has her and that is everything.
Through the sheets of snow and the rumbles of thunder, she laughs and he laughs and they wait for the day spring will come again.
Author's Note: And that's it, my loves! My first completed WIP! This story has run its course and come full circle. This is the first time I've ever written an ending, so I hope it proved at least a little satisfactory. :)
I started this story in March on a whim, never imagining I would ever finish it. But it's finally come and gone. I've received such a large amount of support for such a short story with such an unwritten pairing that it's truly incredible - I'm very grateful. I've never written in a WIP in present tense so this was a challenge.
Thank you to all my lovely readers and reviewers! Especially those of you who have been reviewing every single chapter - you know who you are. I'm completely in your debt for all the support. Please don't forget to review this chapter!
Lastly, if you want to see how the Molly/Teddy journey turns out in a few years, I reccommend you read my one-shot orange groves.
Again, thanks for everything! When all was written and done, it was an enjoyable journey!