The coffee has grown cold in the time since you started the Keurig and proceeded to forget about the coffee entirely. You look down in disgust—nothing worse than cold coffee. You take a sip anyway, grimacing as it pours down your throat. If Jules were still here, she’d tell you to put a little milk, ice and vanilla in there and give it a swirl and it’d be good as new.
Jules isn’t here anymore though. You take another sip of bitter, cold coffee.
The walk from the kitchen to your computer seems even longer now that you can hear your bare feet slap against the floor. Jules always had music on, whatever “fit the vibe”. You don’t listen to any vibe-y music, you’ve discovered. The clack of your computer keys is too loud now too, echoing around the house. Everything in the duplex is too loud, too big, too empty now that Jules is gone. Even the vibration from your phone makes you jump. Its your sister, again, trying to check up on you again, trying to play mother now that yours has passed on. You appreciate the thought, you really do. You don’t respond, though. There is nothing to talk about. You’re fine. Everything is fine. You’re doing fine.
You suddenly realize it has been ten minutes and you haven’t typed a single word.
It’s relief you feel when you finish your coffee; now you get to stop drinking it. Jules would’ve said—
No. You bite your lip. What she would’ve done is irrelevant now. Besides, it’s okay. It’s been two weeks, and you’re doing fine.
As you continue working, you steel yourself against her voice in your head, like you’ve done every morning since she’s been gone. This is better anyway, you know. Your little duplex is so dinky, it was never really meant for two people. You start to type faster. Now you can shower without worrying about your long hair clogging the drain. Now you can get the cat that Jules was always too allergic for. Now you can sleep on whichever side on the bed, eat red meat, get the tapir tattoo you always wanted and—
Your phone buzzes, making you jump. Just as well, though. The last few sentences you wrote didn’t make a ton of sense anyway.
Making yourself mad doesn’t work either, it turns out. It doesn’t help at all. Not that you need any help with anything—you’re doing fine.
It’s just your sister again. This has gotta be the sixtieth message you’ve gotten from her in the two weeks since the breakup. You haven’t read any of her messages yet. You don’t have anything to talk about, after all. You’re fine. Absolutely fine. You don’t need her pity—she’s always been too emotional anyway.
A knock on the door causes you to jump again. You’ve been rather skittish lately, but this is getting ridiculous. You aren’t expecting any visitors. When you open the door, you find it’s the mailman, an older gentleman with patchy grey hair. He reminds you of Jules’ Grandpop.
“Your mail has been piling up for a few days,” he tells you, gesturing to a wad of envelopes that no longer fits in your mailbox. “Thought I’d check and see if y’all’d gone on vacation or something.”
“No, I’m here,” you say. The croak in your voice feels strange—you haven’t had the need to speak for a while.
“Alright, miss. Hope you and that roommate of yours have a nice weekend.” He hands you the wad and starts to teeter away.
“We will,” you say, instead of telling him that Jules doesn’t live here anymore. It doesn’t matter too much, you tell yourself. Then you head back inside, shuffling the built-up mail in your hands. It’s junk, mostly. A statement from Discover, a coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond. Some of it is addressed to Jules; you put those envelopes on the counter to deal with later.
You’re about to throw the rest on the couch when you notice one with no return address that’s addressed to simply “Amoret” and you frown. You flip it over—it’s been sealed in wax, with an imprinted anatomical heart. Nobody calls you Amoret, not even your siblings. Most of your closest friends don’t even know you by anything but Amy.
You break the beautiful heart seal and open the envelope, revealing a letter on aged, yellow paper.
Frowning deeper, you read it—at first the words appear to you as gibberish, but they gradually morph into English, until the flowery font clearly states “Come upstairs and open your closet for a surprise!”
You flip it over—there’s no name or signature on either side. Maybe your sister did this? You really should be getting back to work, you know, but the mystery is a happy distraction over how deafeningly lonely your home is now. It’s probably your sister, you bet, trudging up the stairs, because who else could it be? She’s still got the spare key, even though she moved across the state line last summer. Maybe that’s why she’s been texting you nonestop. A sickening thought occurs to you; what if what’s up there is alive? It’d be just like your sister to get you some flowers or a puppy or something as a surprise, and you have no idea how long that letter’s been there. With slightly more conviction, you speed walk over to your bedroom and fling open the closet door to find… nothing. You frown. Where’s the surprise?
You spin around so quickly that you fall, catching yourself on your hands right before your head smashes into the closet door.
“Ooh, watch yourself! I did warn you there’d be a surprise.” Perched on your bed is a figure with long black robes and absolutely no discernible features peers down at you. One second, their hair is blond, then brown, then black—their face keeps morphing too, masculine to feminine, long and narrow to short and square, sallowed to pale and rosy-cheeked to deep brown. They’re quite beautiful in every form though. “Don’t wanna hit your head!”
You’re not entirely sure you haven’t. This must be a hallucination, right? You actually did hit your head and passed out and now you’re dreaming this instead. The morphing being’s eyes meet yours and they offer you a hand that you gingerly take. “Come on now, up you pop, Amoret.” Your full name startles you and they take note. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” you say, surprised your voice still works. “It’s just, everyone calls me Amy, is all.”
“Oh, but Kim gave you such a lovely name!” The being pouts, their eyes a shade of warm honey.
“Kim? My mother? You knew Mom?”
The being smiles, flashing rows and rows of unsettlingly sharp teeth. “Oh, yes! Your mother and I go way back. That’s why I’m here, actually. She always did such a nice job of honoring us old gods that when she passed, we decided to honor her back and watch over her kids. I’m Love, by the way.”
That last sentence was such a roller coaster that you’re now sure you knocked yourself out. “Uh huh.”
“And that’s why I’ve come to you, here, now, in your time of need! Seems you need a little Love in your life.”
Your chest clenches, but you brush it off. You’ve been doing fine with the sadness. Besides, you’ve got bigger problems. Love is on your bed.
Love smiles sadly at you, as if they can read your thoughts. “So, you wanna tell me about Jules?”
You put your hand on your hip. If this is your hallucination, it is not going to go like this. “We broke up. We saw different futures. Irreconcilable differences. I’m fine now though.”
“Then what’s that box I saw in the closet?”
You swallow, hard, as Love fixes you in your mother’s steely blue gaze. “It’s just a box of junk.”
“Why is such a pretty sweater junk?”
The answer, of course, is that Jules was there when you bought it, but the reason you threw it in there is unclear even to you. The breakup was mutual, amicable, mature, and you’re fine. “It’s old,” you say instead.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not. I really am fine.”
“I didn’t ask you if you were fine.”
“Well, I am.” This is turning out to be a pretty crappy hallucination, you think.
You’re starting to get frustrating, because your mother’s eyes won’t stop staring and the lump in your throat won’t go away this time. “I’m doing fine. It’s been two weeks. I’m fine.”
“You’re not,” Love says, and now it’s Jules’ nose, Jules’ mouth, Jules’ piercing black eyes. “You’re not fine. You’re not fine, Amoret, dear.”
“Well, what do you know anyway?” You spit at Love. It’s hard to get sound over that lump in your throat without shouting. “You’re Love, right? This, what I’m feeling, isn’t love. Its not even lack of love. It’s nothing. I feel nothing. I’m fine, and I don’t need you.”
Jules’ head cocks on Love’s slender neck and suddenly there is no pretense, you are shouting and you are loud and you yell “Stop that! Look like something else!”
“I can’t,” Jules’ mouth says, not in any cruel way. Love reaches out a hand again, but you won’t take it. “I look like Love to you, and Love is Jules.”
“No, it’s not. Not anymore.”
“Still, even if you do not wish it. You cannot fool Love, nor hide from it.”
“I feel nothing,” you squawk, and your voice cracks, right down the middle, right to your bones the crack reaches, right into your sternum and through every single one of your ribs and you break again, just like when she closed the front door, just like when she put her toothbrush into her purse because she’d forgotten to grab it when she’d packed everything else, just like when she said that she couldn’t stay with you any longer and just like when you’d realized it yourself, you break in two and Love watches you and waits and says nothing, just continues to offer a hand you cannot take.
“This is stupid,” you say to them, finally, after how quiet the bedroom is becomes too much to take. Love does not breathe, it seems. “I screwed up and,” you whisper, and something in your chest pops back into place, “and Jules doesn’t love me anymore and it’s not fine at all.”
You don’t cry, even after that, but you deflate, and Love reaches out with arms that are no longer Jules’ and touches your hand gently. The energy is drained from your body now, from every cell. Your outburst feels foolish now. “Sorry,” you mutter to the old god.
Love does not respond or argue. When you look at them, though, their eyes change into your eyes, and their nose into your nose, and the hands atop your own are the same rough and calloused hands that you’d know anywhere.
“I’m here," they say, and suddenly you jump—your phone is buzzing. You pull your hands away from Love to pull your phone out of your back pocket and look down to see your sisters’ face light up the screen—she called you this time instead of simply texting. When you look back up, Love is no longer in your bedroom.
You know that you should really try to process what just happened, but instead, this time, you pick up the phone.