The End of The World -
The day had been hell. They’d had five fussy clients in and out of the office all day and, to top it all off, Harlan St. James, president of the company was out sick so she’d been forced to play apologetic hostess all day.
She was bone-tired and her face hurt from smiling. All she wanted was to go home.
It was still such a strange idea to her.
Her mother had been a professor of evolutionary psychology, who—no matter how hard she tried—just couldn’t quite make tenure. So they’d constantly been moving about from college to college, trying to make her positions stick.
Growing up in temporary, month-to-month apartments—and then finally her own college dorm rooms followed by her own cheap efficiency apartment—Ivy had never really had a real home until she’d moved into Marcus Ramirez’s house.
But it’d felt like home since the first time she stepped foot in it. As if she and the space recognized the other’s soul. It looked like the sitcom houses she’d stared at with such fascinated longing when she was young. It was a tall, if narrow, brown Victorian, sandwiched between identical blue and brick-colored ones. Comfortable. Settled. With steepled towers and patterned clay tiled roofs. It even had a white picket fence encircling it. It was what she’d always dreamed of as a child, every time she’d had to pack and unpack her life into as many cardboard boxes as their small, fuel-efficient car could hold.
It was Marcus’s dream house too, she knew. Having been shuffled around the foster system his whole life, Marcus understood Ivy’s desire—her driving need—for a home. He had it too. He’d once told her that he’d bought this house almost before he’d been able to afford it, often choosing mortgage over food because while he could survive a day—even a week—off just scraps and leftovers, he just couldn’t survive losing this house. His home.
Maybe that was why—that strained, awkward night three months into their relationship—when she’d told him her most guarded, rarely spoken secret as they sat in front of the fireplace in his perfect house, he hadn’t looked at her like she were crazy. Hadn’t looked at her—like so many others had—as if she were damaged.
She remembered that thoughtful look on his face, the quiet strength of him filling the room, right before he’d smiled, sat her on his lap, and agreed to be her Daddy. Her Papi.
Ivy looked out the window of the bus at the passing scenery, seeing that her stop was quickly approaching. She sat up straighter. She needed to get ready.
Reaching up to her bound hair, she deftly unpinned the blond curls, letting the spiraled curls fall to brush her shoulders in springy ringlets. She tucked the pins inside her handbag before taking out her disposable makeup removers.
Carefully, she wiped the oil-soaked pads across her face, wiping away her foundation, powder, and blush. Her stress, her worries, and the toll of years. She could feel herself getting lighter, younger, as the weight of the world was wiped away.
Once clean-faced, she felt freer. Felt a smile creep across her face. Not the coy, reserved, proper one she’d been using all day to placate demanding clients. But the smile of a child. Unburdened by worries of crow’s feet or laugh lines. Not mentally measuring the proportion of lips to teeth to gums, aiming for that winning smile practiced to perfection in mirrors. Hers was a smile that spoke purely of joy.
It was magic, that smile. The way it spread through her, changing the way she held herself. The way she saw herself. The way she felt inside her skin. As an adult, she was always so aware of how others saw her. Was so aware of the fact that people were always watching her, judging her, making sure she toed that exacting line the adult world—the real world—set.
But when she stepped into her other role—her other self—none of that mattered anymore. Scooting back in her seat, Ivy marveled at the fact that her feet didn’t quite reach the bus’s floor. She kicked her legs, letting her heels—which now made her think of times long ago when she used to play dress-up in her mother’s shoes—swing and smack against the bus’s wall. She listened to the hum of the engine, to the weary sounds of the other riders, and tried to get her beating feet to match the world’s rhythm. To lose herself in those sounds.
She turned to press her hands and face against the bus window’s glass and watched the familiar neighborhood whoosh past her. She breathed a heavy puff of air against the air-conditioner-cooled pane, watching with delight as it fogged over the world. She took one finger and traced a big heart, taking exacting strokes to make it perfect. Quickly, before the heart disappeared into the clear nothingness of the glass, she scribbled the initials IF + MR in the heart’s center, sealing it—the wish of it, the promise of it—into the ether forever before pulling the bus’s cord to signal her stop...
Read Part Two Here