No one really remembered a time when they weren’t together.
No one but them.
North could remember crying herself to sleep on cold nights, Everest remembered walking with his head down and earbuds in. They remembered the hushed whispers and short notes, ripped pages, and dead flowers. Flushed cheeks and rainy nights, candlelit reading sessions, and cold hands.
On the contrary, everyone but them could see when they started to fall apart.
When their synchronized steps fell out of beat, when they stopped holding hands and stepped on each other’s feet. When North stopped talking and Everest started fidgeting and everyone was sure the apocalypse might’ve been nearing.
It was only when Silver stopped Everest on his way to get coffee and told him in her soft voice and her sweet way with words that swirled like sugar that something was wrong did he realize something was wrong. And even with Silver’s cotton candy words, a large stone settled in his stomach.
Arrow was the one who told North, in his much deeper and huskier voice but calming nonetheless, like a meditation instructor, stretching his words and taking the right amount of pauses in between. North’s eyebrows had creased, and she had clasped her hands together, staring at the ring on her finger.
“You just have to remember why you love him.” Arrow’s words nearly echoed through the empty coffee shop. North tried to focus somewhere other than his dark brown eyes because she knew they would be sad. She settled for a small part of the wall.
“So it’s a me problem?” North’s voice didn’t waver or crack, but her heart did. It was all her fault? Should she leave him for the better?
She thought they were two halves of a heart coming together to form an almost perfect whole, but what if she was a crumb of a different cookie, constantly rubbing against him and forcing him to crumble too?
She didn’t like that.
“It’s not a you problem. In fact, I’d hardly call it a problem. I mean, has anything really changed?”
North thought long and hard. Considering she didn’t even notice there was anything wrong before Arrow told her, she supposed nothing was different.
Was she falling out of love?
She would refuse to believe that she had wasted years of her life laughing and touching and feeling with someone who wasn’t her soulmate.
So she’d remember, even if it hurt, even if it seemed like she hadn’t forgotten, she’d try to do something-anything- different than what she was already doing.
Silver’s hair flowed down her back in a long, white braid as she sat with Everest, whose own hair was a mess of tangles on his head.
Silver sat with her therapist hat, her legs crossed, and her eyes clouded. Everest shivered as he thought of the bleakness of his life before he had met North. At the bleakness of his life when he thought about if it was over.
“What should I do?” His voice was dry. North usually reminded him to drink water, but she hadn’t that morning. She had looked distanced and sad and had mumbled that she was going to get coffee.
Was that supposed to be some sort of hint?
“Maybe you’re spending too much time apart. Maybe you need to do something special, just the two of you. Maybe it’s nothing?” Everest didn’t like the word maybe. It was unsure and confusing and it wasn’t direct. Everest liked direct.
“Something special like what?” He struggled to keep his voice even. His hands clenched the cushion he was sitting on tightly and he just wanted to disappear.
“A dinner. Take her out somewhere nice.” Silver smiled, getting out of her chair. She placed her warm hands on Everest’s knee comfortingly.
Everest just wished it were North instead.
Everest held on North’s wrist as she was walking out of the bedroom. She stopped and turned to him, hope and maybe a little uncertainty in her eyes.
“I was thinking. Maybe we could go to that restaurant?”
Arrow’s words bounced around in North’s mind.
Would that be good?
“Okay.” She smiled with what she hoped looked more certain than she felt. “Okay,” she spoke again to solidify it. She spoke again because she realized he hadn’t heard her the first time, because she had whispered it ever so quiet, maybe afraid he would hear.
He let go of her hand and left her to dress. North hovered her finger beside the faded wallpaper as she walked, wobbling slightly on her feet.
She never did like clothing.
She settled for a sundress and comfortable shoes because comfort went before anything else. She found Everest at the door with his heavy winter coat and hat, his cheeks already red, the edges of his boots already laced with snow.
North pulled her coat on and motioned to his shoes with her head, question in her eyes.
“I got you a flower.” Everest pulled his hand from behind his back.
It was an iris.
A lovely purple color, unlike any flower North had ever seen.
And she knew her flowers.
She curtsied and took the flower delicately from his large hands.
“Thank you. I like it.”
She buttoned up her coat and imagined she was buttoning up her doubt. Everest held the door as she walked out into the snow, held her shoulders as she nearly slipped into the ice.
Their breaths were visible in the cold and North flexed her fingers one by one, wishing she’d brought her gloves.
She tucked the iris behind her own ear as they walked almost side by side to the car. Everest walked fast. He hated the cold and wanted to be in the heated car faster than his awkward feet could take him. North walked slow, letting the cold air freshen her lungs.
Everest stopped, letting North catch up, and offered her his hand.
“We’re right by the car, Casanova.” Even so, she gave him her hand and he pressed cold lips on the back of her fingers gently letting it fall.
Her ring glittered like the snow and though it was freezing, Everest didn't mind anymore as they made their way inside the small car they bought together.
“I love the snow.” North’s voice came out in wispy smoke from her mouth as Everest turned the key in the ignition.
And they drove.
The waitress was a nice lady with the kind of eyes that told stories and the kind of grey hair wound into a bun that made North think of her grandparents.
When they ordered light meals each, she looked at them each in turn but scribbled down their words hastily, because young people weren’t her business anymore and they were harder to understand than google translate.
“I’m sorry.” North untucked the iris and set it down on the too-perfect red tablecloth and Everest shook the snow off his hat on the too-perfect tile.
“It seemed like the right thing to say.”
Everet dropped his hat on the table and reached his hands out, clasping North’s tightly.
“No. Don’t be sorry. I love you.”
North didn’t know why but tiny teardrops poked the edges of her eyes and instead of wiping them away, she squeezed Everest’s hands tighter.
“I love you too.”
And they did love each other.
And even if sometimes they may forget to tell each other, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Because they do. Because they care so much, too much.
Because that’s what love is.