i was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.

• THEN •

He's your first real love. Then again, all fathers are their daughter's first love. From here on out, he is your subconscious frame of reference of what all men will live up to. They way he treats you and spoils you will what you will expect without actually realizing it. It's a little freudian, and you won't realize until later what that actually means, but he is your first great love. In a way you're his first great love, too. The favorite child, and not even ashamed to hide it - not that he could, and your mother will grow to resent you for it. You had him smitten from the start in a way that she couldn't ever compare to. Not that you understand. Nor would you want to. All you know is that even before you could talk, this man was wrapped around your little finger, and you had latched yourself to his. He was your protector, your prince charming, the king of the castle. Memories intoxicate you as you recall trick or treating in family costumes. Squealing with delight at games of hide and seek and tag. You and your brother against daddy, running underfoot and hiding in closets, hushed giggles as he discovered your very obvious hiding spot of underneath the coffee table.

He was the man that would read you bedtime stories at night, complete with voices and over exaggeration, leaving your dreams as fantastical and imaginative as any young child's should be. The man that taught you how to ride your bike, that wiped your tears when you fell. That taught you to throw a punch because you were as strong as any boy on the playground, and sometimes you needed to let them know. As you grew, your bond only grew - even when your interests went from playing in mud to playing with dolls and pretend makeup. He was first row at your gymnastic competitions. The man that introduced you to horror movies (much to your mother's dismay). He'd give you flowers on your birthday, for as long as you could remember. Stargazer Lilies. Because your head was always in the clouds.

You weren't stupid though. He knew that. You knew on a deep level that he wasn't the perfect man that you pictured, but you didn't care. Loving someone was to forgive them for their imperfections. A concept you couldn't vocalize as a child, but something you inherently knew. The pedestal that you placed him on towered over you dangerously, but in your childhood naivety, you couldn't possible think it would topple over. He would never do that to you. He smelled of beer and nicotine, which you found comforting. A musk that cloaked him in the quieter moments of watching tv on the couch, laughing at the same jokes. He lied. But it was only about the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. You knew deep down that it was him dressed in red with a straggly beard putting presents under the tree as you and your brother watched from the stairs. You knew that your mother and him had their fights. About what, you couldn't say, you just remember looks and voices, and the feeling of fear and anger that resonated louder than they realized. You knew that he wasn't always there. He would disappear for days at a time with no word, but he always came back with gifts in hand for everyone, and all was forgiven.

You didn't think much when you were only twelve when he came to tuck you in after you had fallen asleep and whispered a goodbye. It was just a work thing, you remember him saying. He wouldn't be long, a few days at most - and of course you believed him. He always came back.

• NOW •

You still love your father, even if it's been 15 years since you've last seen him. He never came back from wherever he had gone, and you had given up hope a long time ago that you'd ever seen him again. You were a big girl now, you know how the world works. You know that your father got in with some very bad people that he owed money to and that, for all intents and purposes he was dead. Your mother likes to remind you of this whenever she hears you mention his name in passing, reminiscing with your older brother about your childhood. In your other house. Not your step-father's home. A man that certainly tried to play the father role, but you could tell his heart was never really in it. He was a friend of your fathers, you remember him from before, and never took a liking to him. But he certainly took a liking to your family after your father had left - your mother especially. The grieving woman left with two children and no way to take care of them. It made you scowl. You'll give her credit though. She continued the single mother routine for another two years before filing for divorce. She married your step-father 6 months after the divorce was finalized.

You stopped being angry at your father a long time ago. He still manages to have a hold on your heart that you just can't shake. You miss him, but you're a realist. You know the trouble he had gotten into might have something to do with your step-father, but you don't say anything. As much as you don't like him, he did save your family from being destitute. Though you try your damnedest to not have to owe him anything. You can make your own way - your father taught you that. Everything he had taught you shaped you into the woman that you are today, and his absence shaped you as well. Even while going for your doctorate, you have a heaping pile of denial that you don't like to acknowledge when it comes to your text-book daddy issues. Still, you have questions that you think you deserve the answers to. You wonder if he remembers you, but you know the answer. After all, he still sends you flowers on your birthday.

• THEN •

The moment he looked at you, you were in trouble. You never actually believed that you would find an all encompassing love that they glorified in the movies. Yet here was this boy, so smooth, so cool. And he was looking at you. In a way that made your teenage heart burst and your knees go weak. That was love at first sight wasn't it? Or was it more lust. At the time it didn't matter to you. A younger than the rest sophomore who was finally finding her footing and he was paying attention to you. Or at least you had convinced yourself of that after your more rational side had kicked in. He wasn't interested in you, he'd leave just like your father did. Even at such a young age, you were fully ready to keep people at an arms length to prevent your heart from getting broken. He was looking at someone behind you. Someone slightly to the left. But he wasn't. You were in his sights, and you didn't realize how terrible of a thing that was. And how wonderful.

He is your first everything. The first time you hold hands. The first time you kiss. The boy you lost your virginity to. The first time you were blinded by jealousy. The first time you were mad enough to commit murder. Cliché teen romance this was not. This was all encompassing. Dangerous. You took great care highlighting passages in books, in a time when the Brontë sisters spoke to the deepest part of your soul while writing Catherine and Heathcliffe. Jane and Mr. Rochester. You weren't so cliché to imagine Romeo and Juliet.

When your relationship was good, you were high on the euphoria of love. His green eyes locked with yours, lips pressed against lips, skin to skin, bodies entangled in a hormone frenzied lustfullness that came with teenagedom. Yet, it was so much more than that. He had his dark past, and you had your own demons. The two matched in its darkness. They meshed and became engrained in another. He was your safe haven, one of the very few people that you trusted with your entire being with all your secrets, your dreams, your horrors. From the unsettling to the superficial, he matched you so perfectly it was no wonder you felt like you were drowning. He held you when you cried, promised you a world that neither of you completely understood. Protected you like the knight in shining armor you sometimes envisioned. Or the dark, gothic hero with the mysterious past that couldn't help but be drawn to you.

When your relationship was bad, however, it was...toxic. You two were not strangers to loud, violent arguments. He knew you so well that he knew every button to push to drive you mad. The joke was on him though, you would turn around and do the same. Thousands of tears had been lost in your pillow for reasons you couldn't even begin to remember. The trouble with having such similar personalities is the desire to be the one in control - and neither of you would go down without a fight. He excelled at acting like you were nothing to him; You excelled in using his stubbornness against him. You would swear that this was the last time. That it was time for you to move on and forget each other, which was always met with rolled eyes. You openly made each other jealous, using unsuspecting peers to serve as your pawns, only to fall into the same lustful embraces in quiet corners when you didn't think anyone else was looking. Rough, almost hateful sex would follow and then it was back to the start. It was maddening and infuriating. It was intoxicating.

This continued through high school into college. The same games, the same power plays, the same violent arguments and the same passionate fucks to round out the cycle. You both were growing up and you both knew that you were terrible for each other, but the chemistry that continued to wreak havoc between the two of you was palpable in every way. You loved and hated him completely, and you didn't know anything else. Nothing this exciting. Nothing that made you feel as content as you did when you were wrapped in his arms, staring into his deep eyes. Nothing else made you feel as scared and vulnerable. Nothing made you feel so alive.

“He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

• NOW •

You eventually had parted ways and let the wounds heal, the scars fade. You had made it a point to not really keep in touch, thinking that he would fade into nothing, just be a distant memory. Regardless of all the darkness, a fond one. Yet when your life completely fell apart three years later, he was the first person that you called because you knew that deep down, he would be the only one that could pull you from your lowest point to make you feel like you again.

You hadn't expected it to be so easy to let him back in your life. You both made the mutual decision to keep it platonic. You were better friends than you were lovers, but the spark had not faded. There was still an electricity in the air when you two were alone - you both had just grown better at ignoring it and not let yourself fall into bad habits....at least, not often. you had forgotten what it meant to have someone that you knew you back then things weren't perfect. Yours and his secrets were still carefully guarded, only spoken in hushed voices in the nights that you stayed awake, talking about everything and nothing. Using each other as the sacrament of confession and able to walk away with tired eyes and a blessed feeling of freedom.

He's still the first person you text in the morning. Your back up plan when there was nothing to do on Saturday night. You both are aware there have been others that shared our beds, and you do well masking the jealousy that licks at your heart and hide behind humor, and you have a feeling he does the same thing. Your connection is still palpable, and you still wonder what would happen if things were to pick up where they left off. You're both a little older after all, maybe that was all you both really needed. You'll never say it, though. You know better. But you can't help it when you're alone and those green eyes stare into your own.
• THEN •

You weren't looking for love. You wanted to stay far away from it. You weren't deserving of it. Despite the decision to break up with Jack was mutual, you were still reeling, unable to figure out just how to move on from someone that even when things had fallen apart, would still be there tomorrow to start the cycle again. Maybe it was better to be alone. To be unattached. Sex was possible without romantic entanglement, and flirting was just fun. Besides, there were more important things to worry about than being involved with someone. You could fully immerse herself in your classes. Concentrate on keeping your GPA high. That's what college was for, wasn't it? Which is what you did. Weeks turned into months and you could feel yourself getting used to the idea of being alone. It wasn't terrible. And on the nights that you didn't want to be - you didn't have to. It worked, for a while. Then your rare night out, you ran into him.

He was shy, a little awkward, but funny. You were always more attracted to someone who could make you laugh. You had classes in common and, he confessed, he had always wanted to talk to you but was too afraid to. Flirting had always been effortless for you, and you continued, not thinking anything of it. You spent the rest of the night talking, completely at ease in the conversation, in the jokes, in the shameless flirting. By the time you were ready to leave the party, your buzz was very alive and he, playing the gentleman, offered to walk you home. Which you accepted. You knew where this was going to head anyway. When you arrived at your building and you asked him to come up, you were surprised by his hesitation and even more so when he shook his head. "I don't want to take advantage." He had said to you and for once, you were stunned into silence. You weren't sure if that was a nice way to be rejected, or maybe you were little more intoxicated than you had originally thought. "Would you like to go out sometime?" He had asked, and you again were surprised when you said yes without hesitation. You had exchanged numbers and said your goodbyes, with him promising to text you soon to make plans. Dazed, you found your way to your dorm and fell into bed and wondered if this was all a dream.

He had texted the next day and wanted to know what you were doing that night. With nothing planned, you agreed to dinner and a movie, standard collegiate date fair, but you had convinced yourself that this wasn't that. You were going to be alone, remember? Make sure that you got into graduate school. You had decided you wanted to pursue your doctorate. He picked you up at your dorm and smiled proudly when you came down to great him, holding out a flower for you. A Stargazer Lily. You didn't remember mentioning that was your favorite flower to him last night, but you were more impressed by the fact that he even remembered. You felt your cheeks warm and, what was that feeling? A swimming in your stomach. Who was this boy? Didn't he know you weren't worth all this? The date went well, at least you thought it did. There was just the right amount of awkward, but he took it in stride, always quick with a joke or a compliment. He paid for dinner, he paid for the movie. You felt foolish with how fast your heart beat when his hand touched yours in the dark theater, how when you walked home, he offered you his jacket when you were cold. Boys like him didn't exist. You were sure of it. You weren't used to this, but you knew that with how he made her feel almost giddy, you liked it. At her door once more, you invited him in again, thinking this was her chance to catch him in the facade, but he once again declined, favoring a soft kiss to her lips that made your eyes flutter close and stop breathing.

Your relationship was more of that night. Gentle embraces, laughter, kindness. You grew so comfortable in his tender presence that you felt yourself grow a little soft - and you were okay with that. You were loved. In the ways that you wanted to be treated. It wasn't always perfect, but it damn well could have been. He was your rock, your light, your voice of reason when things went a little crazy. You knew on all levels you didn't deserve him, but latched on knowing that you would never find better. One, two, three years had passed. You knew his family, he knew yours. Your friends were all mingled and you had entertained the idea of marriage. One day. When you both received your degrees and had establiyoud yourself, of course. Then maybe children. A big house. A white picket fence. It didn't take long for you to start feeling the heavy weight of everything you were planning. A lifetime of normalcy. Of perfect predictability. You didn't know why you suddenly felt so suffocated. So afraid. There was something wrong here, and you knew it.

You had had your fights, but they were worse now. you would purposely make him jealous and then become annoyed when his jealousy didn't excite her. you would start fights for no reason, push all his buttons, say all the wrong things. They would always make up afterward, but with every fight, you knew, that their near perfect relationship became stained, chipped. A few weeks of turmoil finally came to a head. You had noticed that he had been slowly deteriorating when it came to their relationship. Part of her wanted the drama, the chaos, the other part wanted to just go back to the way it was. But you couldn't. you prodded, insulted, degraded. You were everything that you didn't want to be. The police had been called, and he had ran off with one last heartbroken look. You didn't worry. You didn't care. You knew he'd be back when things were calm again.

But he didn't.

• NOW •

You visits his grave twice a year. On his birthday and on the day of the accident. You bring flowers and make sure that a good portion of your day is spent there, in the cemetery, regardless of weather. You clear the weeds, brush away the leaves. This is your atonement. His death was your fault, after all. He may had been driving the car, but you were the reason he had let his hands go and drive off the bridge. People say that they don't blame you, that it was just a freak accident, but you knew. He made sure you knew.

The night the police came back the the apartment to tell you that their had been accident, you didn't believe it. He was punishing you, and you had deserved it. You refused to believe that he would actually be gone, but maybe he was cruel enough to plan this awful trick. You were so mad. So, so mad. But when he didn't show himself after the officers made their entrance, your heart sank. The next few days were a blur. You were the dutiful girlfriend. You picked out the suit he was buried in, you stood on the receiving line next to his parents. You had to watch two wonderful people say goodbye to their beautiful, kind hearted son. You had to return to the apartment you shared and be constantly reminded of him. It wasn't until you were moving his things into boxes at his parents request that you found it among the items the police had given you when you identified his body.

The journal was filled with the memories of your relationship. The good and the bad. You read it, numb, flipping through the pages hungrily of any sign of him hating you, any hint that he would ever leave you. You found it tucked between the pages. A note folded, and refolded, the creases sharp being trapped between the pages of the leather-bound book. A note.

"If I'm not good enough for you, I'm not good enough at all. I love you, Roxanne."

You still have the note. To remind yourself of the person you are. To show you how you were right from the start: You weren't deserving of love.
• THEN •

Her hair is the first thing you notice about her. In the light of the overhead it shined copper but it wasn't the color that attracted her attention. "Mermaid hair." You remember saying that to yourself as you watched it, transfixed by the way it flowed down her back effortless as she took notes - something that you should have been doing but you couldn't help but stare, every so often catching glimpses of the frayed ends of your hair that had fallen in your face even as you continue to push it out of your line of sight. You want mermaid hair. You wanted to touch her hair, but thankfully you are not as creepy as your imagination lead you to believe and don't. It was the first time you really wanted anything to do beauty wise in a while, you had fallen in a rut while becoming single. It wasn't until the next lecture you sit down next to her and give her a smile and you are nervous. Being the social butterfly you tend to be, this was a strange sensation. She seemed to ooze cool, and she was gorgeous. Gorgeous enough to make someone fairly confident second guess themselves. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and she was glad that she had just come in from the cold - it would explain why her cheeks burned. When she smiled back, you felt your insides tighten and you couldn't stop the word vomit that spilled from your mouth. You couldn't look any less put together or smooth than you did in that moment, but god bless her, she smiled back. Laughed in the right places, freely gabbed with her before the professor came in and shushed everyone into submission of his 40 minute lecture.

After the lecture she seeks you out in the masses. You talk briefly, and you are sure to mention how much you love her hair. Because you're you, you tell her it reminds you of a mermaid. She laughs and you exchange numbers and she promises to offer tips and you go your own separate ways. You felt giddy, but foolish, and think that she won't ever text you. She's much too cool to be your friend. When she texts you later that night, the butterflies rage and for a moment you forget that you have homework due the next day. Thats how it started.

Your friendship grows exponential over the course of the next few weeks. You have vast amounts in common, you hate the same people, the conversations are random, but effortless and it was the first time in a while where you felt that you didn't need to put on a mask to be something that others wanted to see. You were you and she still liked spending time with you. You had stopped a long time ago in thinking it was strange and were just grateful to find another member of your sex to bond with. You've never really had luck being friends with women before. Yet somewhere along the way, it wasn't just a friendship. You didn't know if it was love, or what. After all, you weren't a stranger to being intimate with women, it felt just as natural to you as being intimate with a man. This was just different. You were scared of fucking this up, which also was a brand new feeling. Someone had finally found a way into your heart that you had bared yourself to and you had lost your confidence about keeping them. Maybe it had to do with being friends first, maybe it was something deeper than that. Maybe you were afraid of ruining her, like you had ruined Dylan. So you bit your tongue when you felt your attraction swell, determined to not lose someone like this. Not again.

"Isadora, she's a bore-a. Makes me snore-a, but she knows that I adore her." Laying in bed with her, drunk, you'd sing this to make her laugh, laughing yourself because you were so far gone, and the whole wide world had become just the two of you in a dorm room with the lights low. You didn't know how badly you needed this until you kissed her, breaking your rules and letting yourself, for at least this drunken encounter, to forget about everything else that you had felt in the past, all the pain, all the fear, and just concentrate on the slender thing in your arms. Soft bodies pressed against each other in several moments of ecstasy. Hair twirled in fingers, clothes removed slowly, tenderly. The feeling of bursting as red lips caressed and kissed down your torso, delicate traces of fingertips dancing along your skin.

Everything changed after that night. You both pretend it was no big deal and said it just made your friendship stronger. In a way, it did. And it continued. She was the one person that you could rely on for everything and even with all your faults, she stuck by your side. You had stupidly thought that sex would not make things complicated. You two were above that. In another plane of existence when it came to these so called rules that dictated what sex was and wasn't. You were perfectly fine the way you were. But you weren't. You just chose not to acknowledge it. And still don't. Despite the complications and the utter frustration that this causes, you can't help but smile in knowing that you're not the only complicated one. That she is fighting just as hard as you are to keep everything from engulfing you both into something that you don't know you're completely ready for. So you both do your own thing, with your own people. You're still there for each other, a real life Thelma and Louise, but it strains. You swallow the jealousy of seeing her with other men, and you know she does the same - the two of you resulting in passive aggressive squabbles until one of you fades and everything is back to normal. At least, as normal is it could be.

• NOW •

You were foolish to think that you were the only one she could ever love. You're completely selfish in asking her to love you as much as she does while you love someone else, and you know it. A hypocrite. You can'y deny it. An amber 'H' seared into your chest. Especially when she finds someone else that you know truly loves her, even if he has about as much difficulty at showing it as you do. You hate him, but you don't. You just hate that he gets her attention, and you hate yourself for wanting all of hers but not giving her all of yours. She left you, without a word, and you were surprised by this, but you know that you shouldn't be. It was probably your fault anyhow, it always was. And oh, how you miss her when she's away. Not just because of all the complicated feelings that are always involved, but you miss her friendship. You miss being able to call her at a moments notice and drink wine and eat food and watch terrible tv, all gossiping about people you hate, people you'd fuck. You miss the weird conversations that only she would understand. You're angry, but you know you're more upset than anything. You just want your friend back. And in thinking she wasn't going to return, you do silly things that you'd never do if she was here, thus making everything so much more complicated if she ever came back.

And she does come back.