“Yes.” The answer was curt but he didn’t care for as long as they kept their promise, no one could hurt Daniel. Nothing else mattered.
“We were just born on the wrong side,” Mathew hissed through his clenched teeth as he feigned indifference. He pretended he did not hurt as the man and woman they called his parents, silently sat in their seats with satisfaction. His deep brown eyes that were glazed over with sadness flickered around the interior of the car, blinking as he held back the tears that threatened to spill over. But that wasn't the only thing Mathew was trying to hold. He had his arms wrapped around his body to stop himself from falling apart. Even so, every few seconds while the car engine hummed, a tidal wave of emotions would crash into that space between his lungs and cause it to contract into a point so beyond pain it made him numb. He drew in a shaky breath as he blindly watched trees blurred past because he couldn’t see them, not with his heart. Images of Daniel flashed through his mind uninvited but still welcomed; it was the only happy place in his head.
“Shall I tell you a secret, Matt?”
The words escaped in a plume of evaporation. They were huddled together in the cold, looking out onto the streets from the window seat in Daniel’s room. The streets were covered in blankets of white that sparkled in the afternoon sun. Spring would greet them soon; flowers would soon wake from their slumber.
“What? Do you even have something that I don’t know about?”
Daniel could feel the laughter in rumbling in his ears, most likely because his head was nestled in the crook of Mathew's neck. They both couldn't see the other's eyes but Daniel knew Mathews' would be molten brown; pools of the richest hot chocolate as they always were when they lit up.
“I’ve forgotten much of my past. Somehow it all just blurs together, from foster home to foster home; there was nothing there to remember. But since the day you stretched out your hand, told me I was interesting and said ‘let’s be friends’, that fog filter in my mind just instantly disappeared. No one ever really wanted to really know me. For the first time in my life I wasn't just surviving, I was living. Life suddenly gained an appeal when you showed up. Even though I acted like I loathed your presence at first, I actually secretly enjoyed listening to you talk about what you love with that passion of yours. You taught me love, you showed me the world isn't as bleak as I thought it was. I've had a lot of first times with you. I mean, I never knew you could watch a movie from your car until that day you snuck me out at midnight. I never had a friend to text under the table during class. You changed all of that, you changed me and before you say something cheesy like 'I never wanted to change you.' I want you to know that I've learnt from you that change is always for the better. And from now, it doesn’t matter what happens in the future, I would never regret meeting you." Somewhere in the middle of his speech, the heater in the room died off and the silence in Daniel’s room never sounded as loud; never stretched out as long.
“Huh,” Mathew huffed and all the muscles in Daniel’s body tensed. “Don’t be ridiculous-”
“But-“Daniel pulled away to read his eyes. But words abandoned him for the tears in Mathews’ eyes stopped him short. It was as if his words struck a string in Mathew’s heart, leaving behind a tragic melody.
“Are you going somewhere? Is this a way to ask me to leave? Is that what you want?” Mathew seized his arms and shook him, “We’ve talked about this. Neither you nor I are going anywhere. We will grow old together and buy a penthouse in New York City so you can have your garden and we’ll never part. Stick to the plan! What happened to sticking to the plan?” He knew he was blabbering but thinking of parting with Daniel was just too much to handle.
“Matt, you’re hurting me,” Daniel croaked. His gentle voice shook up with fear broke into Mathew’s haze and he looked down to his fingers wrapped around Daniel’s delicate skin. Training all his thought into his fingers, they slowly unraveled and Mathew could see the imprints of a bruise starting to form.
“I... I’m sorry,” Mathew whispered. "Sorry I lost it. I just… I won’t ever leave you okay, Dan? I will follow you to the ends of the earth. You mean that much to me.”
Daniel pressed his forehead against Mathew’s and their eyes closed in sync.
“Forever?” he asked.
“What do you mean you don’t love me?” Daniel yelled in rage as the boy standing across him held his composure like nothing seemed amiss, “You were the one who told me about forever. You were the one who told me to believe in you and forget about guarding my heart. Did you even care about me or was this just some kind of sick game to you?”
“I was stupid to allow myself to stoop to your level. Can’t you see Dan? I… Daniel, I lose my future if I continue to play around with you. I should’ve realized you were never worth it. Don’t look for me; I don’t need a burden like you,” Mathew slung his messenger bag over his shoulder and turned to leave.
“Liar! You love me, what did your parents tell-“
With his eyes squeezed shut in pain Mathew steeled himself for the answer he was about to give. Words that if the circumstances were different, he would never use.
“I could never love a homeless bastard like you.”
That rooted Daniel in a spot. A spill of cold air ran down his spine but he couldn’t react to it. Those words were used countless of time at him but none of those moments could compare to that. He didn’t dare face reality, Daniel wanted to retreat into his memories and stay there forever. He once said he could let go but he can’t, not when he was a child given a toy and then having it taken away from him. How could he let go when as the world welcomed the spring that blossomed around him, his heart stayed frozen in the hazy shades of that last winter?
As he fell, Daniels' fingers curled into a fist and he kissed it gently as if he could hold Mathew’s calloused but gentle touch forever under his fingertips. It trembled against his lips as if his fingers knew that they could run down Mathew’s cheek all they want, he didn’t exist. Not anymore, never again in this lifetime, and all they’re caressing is the void.
As if uncaringly, there Mathew went, the back of his slender frame slowly disappearing into a black sedan.
And as if unknowingly, there went Daniel's first love, his whole universe.