No one had really expected the pandemic that wiped out the majority of the population. Least of all, me, whose biggest worry at the time had been failing my Geometry final. Within a single night, three-quarters of the population was dead.
Most would argue that I was one of the lucky ones. But being a survivor isn’t lucky. Not when everyone you ever loved isn’t one. If I had the choice, I’d rather be dead than all alone.
But fate is cruel, and the hand that was dealt to me was the one I was stuck with, so I tried to make do.
Two years later, the remaining population has condensed into a few major cities and has, for the most part, moved on. I, on the other hand, have not.
I’m stretched out on the sagging sofa of my apartment, sorting through the job listings scattered on the coffee table. My apartment isn’t much, peeling brown paint on the walls, scuffed up wood floors, sparse furniture throughout. It’s even worse thanks to the dirty clothes and dishes I haven’t bothered to clean up at all in the past month. I would’ve died a long time ago if the landlord didn’t decide to take it upon themselves to make sure I had food every week. I don’t want to continue being a burden to Maven, the sweetest landlord you’ll ever meet, so I’ve taken it upon myself to find a job.
I’d rather be dead right now, so I’m not really sure why I even care, but I do. Which means I must fill my already miserable existence with a probably equally miserable profession.
The door to the apartment creaks open, and I jerk my head around painfully. The person standing in the doorway is adorable. They’re quite short, with blonde hair in a pixie cut and bright green eyes.
“Hi there!” They greet me with a wide smile on their face. “I’m Chloe, your new roommate.”
I push myself off the couch and try to smooth down my bright blue hair. “Oh, uh Maven didn’t tell me I was getting a roommate.”
“Really?” Chloe bites their lip. “I didn’t mean to intrude, I’m so sorry.”
“You live here now too, I guess, so it’s not intruding.” I reply. I don’t know why I feel so self-conscious around Chloe, but I do. Which is kind of annoying, not gonna lie.
Choe surveys the room. “Uh, where do you want me to put my stuff?”
I gesture to one of the doors inset into the left wall. “That’s the other bedroom. The bathroom is connected to it, but also to mine, so just make sure to lock both doors when you’re in there.”
Chloe’s friendly smile returns. “Alright! I’ll go put my stuff down and then we’ll get to know each other some, okay?”
Not leaving any room for an objection, Chloe disappears into the unoccupied bedroom with their bags. I stand awkwardly in the middle of the room, waiting for their return.
“Okay, who’s ready for a get to know you game?” Chloe asks excitedly, coming out of their bedroom and plopping down on the couch. I sit across from them, my arms stretched out on the back of the couch.
“What game are we playing?” Chloe’s energy is contagious, and I can feel my mood starting to improve.
“Truth or Dare.” Chloe says. “I’ll start. Truth or Dare?”
“Uh, Truth?” I reply. Chloe scrunches up their face in concentration while they think of a question.
“Give me a short intro about you, including your name, pronouns, and favorite color.” Chloe beams.
“Tell me yours first.” I say, crossing my arms against my chest.
Chloe chuckles. “Fine. My name is Chloe, I use she/her pronouns, and my favorite color is orange.”
I smile triumphantly. “Right, so my name is Mejia, I also use she/her pronouns and I don’t really have a favorite color.”
Chloe looks appalled. “How do you now have a favorite color!?”
“I don’t know? I don’t really look at colors that much.” I shrug.
“It’s not about how the color looks. It’s about how the color makes you feel.” Chloe grins. “Like, mine is orange because it reminds me of warmth and friendship.”
“Are you like, really into colors or something?” I raise an eyebrow.
Chloe’s green eyes light up excitedly. “I’m an artist. One day I hope to create my own webcomic. What about you? What do you want to do?”
That makes me pause. I don’t know. How am I supposed to know what I want to do with my life, when I don’t even want to have a life. My mind flashes back to a cold night on the roof, just last week, when the pain of my existence flared as it does every once in a while.
“Just jump. Then you can see Mama and Daddy and Violet again. No one will miss you here anyways.” I told myself.
The cold night air blew through my hair, making it stand up in weird places. Cars drove by beneath me, their headlights paving way through the darkness. I wished the darkness would go away. The pulsing ache inside my chest that reminded me of why I should jump.
“So why don’t you?” A small voice asked in the back of my head. “Why don’t you jump?”
But I didn’t. I came back down off that roof after a while, and just went to bed. What is wrong with me? Why do I stay here, when everyone I ever love is waiting for me, and has been for two year?
“Mejia?” Chloe asks tentatively. I startle back into reality.
“Oh, uh, sorry. I zoned out. What was the question?” I ask.
“What profession do you want to pursue?” Chloe tilts her head inquisitively in a way that reminds me of a little bird.
“I haven’t really thought about that.” I say, growing increasingly uncomfortable. “I should probably go finish that uh-thing, I was working on earlier.”
I get up hastily and go into my room. I try to ignore Chloe’s hurt expression as I close the door to my bedroom and slide down against it.
The next morning, I find Chloe has cleaned up the entire apartment and even made breakfast for the two of us.
“A peace offering.” She says when I emerge from my bedroom. “I’m sorry if I offended you yesterday.”
I offer what I hope is a reassuring smile. “It’s fine.”
Once we’re both sitting down on the couch with a plate of pancakes, Chloe points to the job ads I was sorting through yesterday.
“I saw you were looking for work so I got you an interview for a job at a computer company just a few blocks away.” Chloe smiles proudly.
“How did you know I’m into tech? I never told you,” I ask curiously, swallowing a bite of pancake that is drenched in syrup.
“I talked to Maven.” Chloe replies sheepishly.
“Wow, thank you. This is a great help.” I reply, a genuine smile on my face. Something about Chloe just makes me want to smile.
“You’d better hurry and get dressed though, you have half an hour.” Chloe adds.
I jump up. “I should get going.”
Chloe nods, laughing. “Yeah, probably.”
“See you when I get back?” I ask.
“I’ll be here.” Chloe replies.
I burst into the apartment, a big grin on my face.
“I got the job!” I say excitedly.
Chloe looks up from her sketchbook and beams. “Mejia, that’s amazing! Let’s go down to that one place and get milkshakes to celebrate!”
We decide to take our milkshakes to the park, where we sip them side by side on top of a hill. We sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Chloe turns to me.
“I’ve been wanting to ask you something.”
“Mmm?” I say, take a sip of my oreo milkshake.
Chloe twists the many rings on her fingers. “Your family, where are they?”
I swallow hard. “The virus took them. My mom, dad, and little sister.”
“Oh, Mejia, I’m so sorry.” Chloe wraps one of her arms around me.
“What about your family?” I inquire, trying to get the attention off me.
Chloe takes a sip of her strawberry milkshake. "I never knew them. I grew up in an orphanage."
I run a hand through my bright blue undercut. "That’s terrible, Chloe. I’m really sorry."
Chloe smiles sadly. "It's okay. I try not to feel too bad about it."
Without thinking, I grab Chloe's hand. "And you shouldn't feel bad about it. Your parents, wherever they are, missed out on getting to raise a beautiful and strong young woman."
Chloe blushes, and I realize that we’re holding hands.
"Thank you." Chloe kisses my cheek playfully, causing me to turn bright red.
I sit there, blushing like an idiot, and not saying anything.
Chloe grins. "You're cute when you're flustered."
“Huh?” Chloe gives me an innocent look. “Hey, let’s head back to the apartment so we can watch a movie.”
Just then, a tall brunette walks up to us, interrupting Chloe. “Wow, Chlo, I really thought you had better taste than this.”
Chloe turns bright red. “I’m not- we’re not- she’s nobody.”
That hurts more than I thought it would’ve. I really thought Chloe and I had something special. I was even hoping that we could eventually grow into something more. I guess not.
Without waiting to see where their conversation goes, I stand up, leaving my milkshake and run. The tears are falling before I even make it down the hill.
“Mejia! Wait!” Chloe calls after me.
I ignore her, and don’t stop running until I reach the roof of the apartment building.
I close my eyes, taking a deep breath of the night air. I think I’ve finally figured out why I didn’t jump all those times before. Because some part of me was still waiting, hoping that I’d find love. Someone who’d help ease the pain. And I didn’t want to miss that person. So I stuck around for two years before I finally realized the truth.
No one is coming. No one will love me ever again. The only people who did are gone, and waiting for me to join them.
Smiling, I take a step off the ledge. “I’m coming,”
“MEJIA! DON’T!” Chloe’s voice screams from behind me. I’m enveloped in her arms as she pulls me back from the ledge.
Tears are streaming down her face as she drags me down to sit on the cold concrete beneath us. Her arms are still wrapped around me as she sobs into the back of my shirt.
“I’m so sorry, Mejia. Please don’t leave me.” Chloe sniffles. “I love you.”
Those three words. Those were all I needed to hear.
“Just stay with me, okay?”
I turn my head and kiss her. Long and hard. Our lips fit together perfectly, as though it’s meant to be. I don’t know when I realized I loved her, but at some point I did. And I want to keep loving her for a long time. My hope is that this kiss is the first of many.
I know what my favorite color is now. The bright startling green of her eyes.
We pull apart and I whisper, “As long as you stay with me.”