This isn’t a love story.
This is a story about two girls who could have watched the world burn without losing any sleep.
The first time Kady holds Julia’s hand is for a casting.
Kady doesn’t trust her yet-- she doesn’t even like her. Most of the time, she hates her because she’s the easiest thing to hate; her mother is dead and Marina is a nasty memory and it’s a little easier to hate herself so much when there’s someone else to share a part of the burden.
But the kind of magic they’re doing right now-- Richard’s such a little fucker, in all of his guidance counselor glory, because this shit is clean. It’s not the mangled, hungry, ambitious magic she grew up with and watched her mother hustle for, and it’s not the practiced and steady, holier-than-thou, pretentiously academic brand Brakebills drills into its students, either. It’s a raw and powerful thing they’re trying to focus, and it buzzes with pain and hope all around its edges.
The skin of her palm presses against Julia’s in a cliche-- laid bare and naked in both the literal and metaphorical senses. It centers her, or it’s supposed to. That’s what holding hands during a casting does with this kind of magic.
You can’t manufacture a perfect center.
They try and they try and they try until Kady wants to find her center more than she wants someone to hate.
(Julia’s hand is soft, and warm, and small; Kady likes the weight of it, despite everything.)
This is a story about two girls who watched the world burn around them again and again, and held hands as they pulled each other out of the ash.
After Julia finds her, but while she’s still detoxing, they lie in Julia’s bed with their sides pressed together even though there’s plenty of space-- space to drown in, get lost in, be alone together in. Julia’s thigh is cool and clammy against the goosebumped skin on her own, and Kady wonders silently if this is what becomes of inbetween girls, haunted girls, girls half-alive and half-women and whole-nothing. She holds Julia’s hand between both of her own cradled like something precious.
It’s cold and dark outside, and they pull the duvet up over their shoulders like children in a snowstorm. Julia reads Sylvia Plath by the dim light from the lamp on her nightstand as Kady looks over her shoulder.
“I took a deep breath, and I listened to the old brag of my heart,” Julia reads. “I am, I am, I am.”
Kady props herself up on one elbow and brushes her hand over Julia’s forehead, back to her hairline. She cups her palm as her hand passes over Julia’s brow, like some mother in a movie. Julia’s eyes flutter shut. Kady kisses her on the mouth-- quick, and closed-lipped, and dry. Julia’s hand tightens around hers, and she opens her mouth to let out a sob that pour pour pours out into Kady.
It feels like magic, the kind that’s cold as rain.
This isn’t a love story, but Kady falls in love anyway.
Julia is bright, burning ambition in a world that hates her for it; she is standing tall and proud and screaming out of anger when they’d have her drowning in fear and pain. Circumstance has carved deep marks into her softness and pulled at it in bloody, sinewy strips, but she has stood in front of Kady, over and over and over again-- she is warmth and security and terrifying in her beauty. She’s ambition and she’s loyalty and she makes Kady believe in storybook knights.
At first, it made her furious. She had never asked for that, had no burning desire to be protected or fought for because that’s a fucking lie sold to children and suckers. Chivalry doesn’t exist, and if does, it’s manufactured and/or temporary.
(She can’t tell which Julia is.)
And Julia’s screaming at Reynard not to touch her. Julia’s dragging her out of a drug-induced guilt haze. Julia’s holding her steady in the shower, Julia’s not saying a fucking word while she paces the insomnia out of her veins at 4 in the morning.
Julia’s scared and yelling her name in the middle of a fucking abortion clinic, and she gets it, alright? That burning warmth in her chest that makes her run to Julia’s side instead of out the door. It isn’t made up, and it doesn’t matter if it’s temporary.
(She didn’t mean to fucking fall in love.)