forever within our numbered days (part two)
“But he had given her their own slice of infinity, and she treasured every moment of it.”
“Traveling the Muggle way has to be the worst decision this foundation has ever made,” Tatiana groaned as she leaned into the window.
Will merely passed over an airsickness bag, lips curving up in amusement.
They landed in Chicago late in the afternoon and pulled into their hotel, Tatiana’s mother helping her up the stairs to their room. As they began to settle in, Will appeared at the door. “We’re going to dinner in an hour,” he informed her, peeking his head into the door and then disappearing upstairs.
Precisely an hour later, he arrived in a button-down shirt and dress pants, and they waved goodbye to her mother before setting off. Chicago was exactly the sort of city one would find on American postcards; loud music was blaring in the streets, the lights were overly bright, and the scent of pizza wafted out from nearly restaurant they passed as they approached a brick building. The skirt of her dress flared slightly as she stepped inside, and she felt a little bit overdressed, glancing around.
It wasn’t a classy restaurant by any standards. On the left was a bar full of raucous people watching a football game (the American kind with quarterbacks and the pointed brown ball), the lights were dim, and the waitress popped gum and rolled her eyes at them as they led them to a table, but it was a restaurant, and she was with Will, and Tatiana couldn’t bring herself to complain about anything at all, even when a man nearly spilled beer on her or when the pizza arrived after nearly an hour.
“This is the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
“I would marry deep-dish pizzas if I could.”
They went on in that way for some time, clinking cans of coke, laughing at the antics of the drunk Americans who were faintly heartbroken about their football team losing, at the waitress losing her temper over a customer who missed his reservation and arrived late.
He poked lightly at her side and motioned to the dress. “Is this what you wear to funerals?
Tatiana shook her head. “No, this is much nicer. I can’t bring myself to wear what I would to a funeral on a date.”
A smirk tugged up one side of his lips. “We’re on a date?”
“Don’t push it,” she warned him, only half-joking.
When they showed up to Harper Leviosa’s house the next morning, Tatiana thought she might faint. She gripped Will’s shoulder for support as a beaming blonde (her name was Seren Jones, she informed them, and she was Harper Leviosa’s personal assistant) led them inside to meet the author that they’d been waiting for ages to meet.
Harper Leviosa was drunk – one look at her was enough to confirm that. She giggled in their faces, made a mockery of their questions, and on top of that, prodded at the sensitive issue of Tatiana’s Spattergroit. The brunette left the apartment in a huff, on the verge of tears with Will close behind her, and Seren apologizing profusely as they left.
She’d marched several blocks before she found herself out of breath, somewhere on the bridge over the Chicago river. Will emerged a few moments later, standing beside her, seemingly too hesitant of her reaction to reach out for her.
“Guess that proves it.” Hazel eyes narrowed to stop the tears as she watched a duck float by in the river under her. “My idol is an asshole.”
“Who needs her?” Will leaned against the railing, elbows against the cool metal as he turned halfway to her. “I can write you a sequel, one that’s way better than anything that jerk can write.”
“I wasted your wish on her.”
“No, I was the one who used my wish, and I didn’t spend it on her. I spent it on us.”
Tatiana sniffed hopefully and then finally he reached forward to cup her face, brushing away her tears with his thumb. “It’s alright,” he murmured reassuringly. There wasn’t a smile on his lips, but there was something soft about his gaze as he looked down at her, and she was forcibly reminded that apparently her efforts to push him away weren’t working, in his opinion.
And if he was so willingly giving herself to her, then why was she refusing him when her heart wanted otherwise?
Tatiana leaned forward, stepping up onto her toes to close the gap between their lips softly. For a moment, he seemed surprised, and then he responded, arms wrapping around her waist as her own arms twined up around the back of his neck, fingers threading through his hair the way she’d wanted to for so long.
And maybe there was a cold draft coming from the river, and a man gawking on a bike as he passed by, and perhaps Tatiana was a bit short of breath – but he had given her their own slice of infinity, and she treasured every moment of it.
Everything from the kiss, to the sneaking back into the hotel, to the tango under sheets in the bed in his hotel room. She awoke a few hours later, pressed a kiss to his forehead as he slept, and slipped out from his room and back to hers.
Her mother remained none the wiser about what had happened between her sixteen year old daughter and the seventeen year old boy. “You two were out late last night. What did you see?” she questioned over a cup of coffee in her hand.
The two exchanged looks. “We walked around for a bit,” Tatiana supplied.
“Tried to find the best deep dish pizza joint in the area,” Will added.
Her mother smiled faintly at them and took another sip.
She declined their invitation to go see the sights around the city with them, so they started off again, winding their way down the crowded streets arm in arm, pointing out the features they passed and the odd tourists they crossed. Presently, they came to a bench, and Will took a heavy seat on it. She sat beside him after a moment.
For a bit, they merely studied the river again in front of them before Will broke the silence. “I went to see the healers for a checkup two days before we left for here,” he began.
Tatiana shot him a puzzled look sideways but didn’t interrupt.
“It was meant to be routine. A normal check up to make sure that the Spattergroit hadn’t returned. So they did a scan, and…” he trailed off, glancing back sideways at her. “Guess what they found.”
“No,” she breathed.
His lips formed a humorless smile. “It came back and I didn’t even realize it.” A beat. “It’s terminal.”
“No,” she repeated, and he turned to her, still smiling that irritating smile even as she pressed her face into his shoulder to stop the tears. “It’s not fair. You were the healthy one. You were the one who was supposed to live.”
And she felt silly that she was the one crying, because now it wasn’t just her life cut short, but it was his. And the world wasn’t fair, and she wasn’t aware she’d said that last bit aloud until he replied with, “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
She cried harder, pressing her face into his shoulder. “I know. I’m sorry. You’ll be alright, I promise.”
“You can’t promise something like that.”
“I’m going to anyway.”
Then Will had the nerve to shoot a glance down at Tatiana’s shaking figure on his shoulder, still smiling faintly, and murmur, “I love you.”
She might have laughed if she wasn’t so distraught. “You have terrible timing, Shimizuno. But okay.”
Perhaps she hadn’t noticed the signs of his affliction at first because she’d been so focused on picturing him as the healthy one, but when they returned to London, it became blatantly obvious. He needed help walking, he got out of breath faster than she did, and he spent quite a lot of time sitting. Which, as she informed him, wasn’t very conducive to snogging. It had earned her a fleeting laugh, which would have been worth it if she hadn’t seen the pain flashing through his dark eyes.
While Tatiana might have remained static, Will was dynamic in all the wrong ways. He grew worse at an alarming rate. His mother whispered something about how it was a matter of months now, a matter of weeks, but the brunette had grown accustomed to tuning these statistics out. She was too scared of waking up in the middle of the night to a phone call from one of his sobbing parents to deliver the terrible news to her.
It didn’t come. At least, not for a while. There were days when he seemed to get better, when she briefly began to hope once more that he was the healthy one – and then there were days when he was even worse than before. One day, while sitting beside him on the swings, he asked her to write a speech for his funeral.
“Don’t,” she started, shaking her head.
“I want you to say something there,” he pressed on.
“You’ll be the one speaking at my funeral,” Tatiana insisted firmly. “I’ll only write a eulogy if you do.”
“Fine,” he replied, and then his lips curved up into that familiar smirk of his.
She got a call from him during dinner one night – it wasn’t the fateful call, but it was still pretty bad. His mother wasn’t crying, but her voice was thin, informing her that he’d had another bad bout from the Spattergroit and had landed himself in Mungo’s again.
Tatiana visited him the next morning, just as his mother excused herself from the room and his little sister passed her a small, weary smile as she left. She curled into his hospital bed beside him, letting him wrap an arm around her and share his warmth. He was getting thinner now. His hip bone jutted uncomfortably into her thigh, but she refused to move.
“You’ve got to stop doing this,” she murmured, her lips a few inches from his ear.
Her eyes were closed, but she could hear the amusement in his tone. “Stop what?”
“Worrying me like this,” Tatiana replied, and this time she could feel his smile as his lips brushed across her temple.
He drew back. “Did you write the eulogy?”
“When will I get to hear it?”
“Your funeral,” she replied, hazel eyes flitting to him. And perhaps it hurt like a stab to the heart to speak the words aloud each time, but she did it anyway. Everyone dies, she’d told him early on in their relationship. It was just one truth that she preferred not to think about.
“I’ll be dead by then,” Will pointed out, and she laughed dryly.
“That’s why you get a sneak preview now.” She shifted beside him, pulling out the folded sheet of parchment, and smoothing it over with her fingertips. Tatiana paused, suddenly bashful, and blushed. “Don’t laugh at it.”
“Honestly, with the state of my lungs right now, I’m not sure that’s an option,” he quipped back, and she shot him a last affectionate glance before she turned back to the parchment and began to read.
“The very first time I met Will, he lent me The Great Grindlewald. It was about a pair of star-crossed lovers – or well, one was in love with the other, enough to stare at her dock for years and hope that she’d come to him one day. I thought that was a pretty rubbish sort of love. I still do, actually. Our story’s not like that. I didn’t marry some rich sap and live a miserable life – I won’t live long enough to. He didn’t sell firewhiskey illegally and build up a fortune and buy a hideous mansion – the reason why we’re all standing here proves that he didn’t long enough to do that, either. Our love wasn’t like a romance. It was hard and difficult and full of all this shit that life kept throwing at us –“
Will laughed. “You’re very eloquent,” he observed.
Tatiana cleared her throat. “But it was beautiful, even when it was unfair. He was the one who should have been delivering this eulogy at my funeral, but here we are. Will gave me an infinity; it wasn’t as big as other infinities, and it wasn’t nearly enough, but it was still ours. He gave me forever in our numbered days, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
She snuck a glance through her hazel eyes at her side, and was met with a snicker. “You’re such a sap,” he declared.
“I know,” Tatiana murmured, scooting a bit closer to him. “I love you,” she informed him after a moment, no emotion in her tone because it was a fact now.
His lips quirked up slightly. “Okay.”
“So you’d better read that at my funeral,” Will informed her after a moment, his onyx eyes seeking her lighter gaze.
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Tatiana murmured before pressing her lips to his and reluctantly pulling herself off of his bed to let his family back into the room.
She didn’t kiss him again.
William Shimizuno died eight days later, in the same bed at St. Mungo’s. The brunette awoke at three in the morning to the ringing of her phone, and as soon as she pressed the receiver groggily to her ear and heard Lilia sobbing down the other end, she knew. She said she was sorry and she cried for some time longer, and eventually her parents came in and she threw her pillows at them until they left her alone to wallow in her own misery.
People might think that someone who contemplated one’s death as often as she did would be used to facing it by now, but these people didn’t know Tatiana Penvrane. They didn’t know that considering one’s own mortality didn’t make confronting another’s any easier. So when the time came, she only wept. Tears couldn’t mend a broken heart or fill the loss she felt, but they would at least soothe her, and she fell asleep to the sound of her own dimly beating heart and the taste of her salty tears on her tongue.
His funeral was a few short days later, and Tatiana had cried herself out by then. She wore the dress she’d worn to dinner with him, and she didn’t even shed a single tear when she delivered her eulogy, or when she watched his parents cry, or when she’d seen him lowered into the ground, looking at peace for the last time.
She somehow managed to stumble beside Lee, whose curls looked even more unkempt. “Hey,” he greeted her glumly, and they fell into step beside each other, sharing in their sorrow. He turned his sightless eyes to her after a moment. “I hope you liked the eulogy he wrote you.”
Tatiana froze in place. “What?”
Lee stopped too now, confused. “The eulogy. He was writing it a few days before he died. I expected that he’d finished – he was even writing to Harper Leviosa to edit it and all – where are you going?”
The last few words were delivered in some confusion as he heard her footsteps speed up and veer off suddenly. She left Will’s funeral early, drove home on her own, and hastily moved to the shoebox of things that Will’s parents had dropped off for her yesterday – what he had planned that he wanted her to have. Tatiana hadn’t yet found the strength to wade throught it. She shoved aside The Great Grindlewald, and their pictures from Chicago, and there it was at the bottom, folded into small pieces.
She unfolded it as she stepped back down the stairs and lay on her back in the grass, finally lifting the parchment with the words written in shaky black print above her.
I don’t have much time, and my fingers are shaking and my lungs ache and fuck – this is hard. This was always going to be hard. But I’ll write this eulogy just like I promised Tatiana I would, even if I won’t get the chance to read it aloud to her one day.
Humans leave scars. And some are jagged and ugly and rough, like the one that the healers gave me on my thigh when they took my leg was. But some are beautiful and invisible and you’re not even aware that you have them at first. That’s what Tatiana was. She was a scar on my heart that smelled like vanilla and left kisses in her wake and if all scars were like this, I wouldn’t feel bad about leaving one myself.
But I’m going to, and it’s going to be rough and ugly. It’s not fair that I’m dying when I’m seventeen. The world isn’t a wish-granting factory, but it’s not meant to rip you from life so young, when you have so little time. She said I gave her forever in our numbered days, but she gave me something better – a beautiful scar. And I’m not trading it for anything.
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do get to pick who gets the privilege to hurt you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.
And Tatiana lifted her dry hazel eyes to the stars and thought briefly of onyx eyes and a familiar smirk. She blew a kiss to the heavens.
“I do, Will. I do.”