The room was dark. She lay awake, she was always awake at this hour, thinking of her. She turned and looked out the window. The last of the late-night drunks were stumbling under the street lamps. "So happy, so stupid." She laughed. It was a kind of painful laugh, a laugh that had been hardened, one only of a lonely woman. Her thoughts went back to that night. The night she lost everything.
It was mid-November. They were strolling, arms linked, through the park across the way from their loft in New York. This was Jane's favourite time of the year. New York was so pretty after the first snowfall and this year it came early. She looked over at Zoey. Jane could tell there was something on her mind.
"Zo, what's going on, are you alright?"
Zoey looked back at her, took a deep breath, and gently clasped her fingers between Jane's. She stared at their hands, intertwined so perfectly. It felt so right. Zoey smiled and gazed into Janes' eyes. Jane felt the first snow start to fall all around them. She looked up, taking it all in, and when she looked back down Zoey was on one knee. You could practically see the love surrounding them.
They were contagious to everyone they came into contact with. They spread laughter and happiness everywhere.
Janes eyes filled with tears and she dropped to her knees, embracing Zoey. "Is this a yes?" Zo laughed as she choked back tears of her own.
"Yes! A million times yes!" They hugged even closer.
A small smile crept onto Janes' face, still laying there listening to the drunks yelling below her. The smile faded as quickly as it came. She had to push those thoughts away, she didn't want to remember. She couldn't. Instead, she reached into her night table drawer and pulled out a small bottle of pills, the ones her therapist insisted she take to help her relax, to help her sleep. She relished the thought. She told herself it was because she didn't need them. In reality, it was because she felt she didn't deserve to relax. She didn't deserve to sleep. After all, it was her fault Zo was gone.
It had been 2 days since Jane and Zoey had gotten back from their honeymoon in Italy. Jane said they didn't have to go someplace so expensive but Zo wanted to spoil her. Unbeknownst to Jane, she had been saving since their first date. But we'll get back to that later. The wedding was beautiful, quaint and in their minds, perfect. They had gotten married in the park where Zo proposed, right after the first snow, exactly one year later.
Since the wedding they had done nothing but lay on a beach, do cheesy tourist things, like they always said they would, and have sex, or as Zo used to say, "make love." Once back to New York not much was different. They drank and laughed and had lots of sex. They stayed up until the sun was starting to come out, talking about their future and their hopes, laughing about the past and reminiscing about the past 5 years together.
"I'm starved," Jane said smiling at Zoey. She rolled her eyes and smiles right back.
"Cho's Chinese doesn't deliver this early, we'll have to go pick it up." Jane got out of bed and started to put jeans on, when Zo grabbed her by the waist and pulled her back into the bed.
The sun was starting to shine now, it glistened on the frost that covered the ground in the park. They looked out the window still wrapped in blankets. Jane looked at Zoey as if to say, "Let's go."
"Alright, alright, let's get you some Chinese." And with that they were gone.
Zoey was beautiful. She had black hair that fell perfectly around her face and green eyes that light up whenever Jane smiled. Jane often thought of those eyes, She was thinking of them tonight as she held that pill in her hand. And for the first time in a year she let herself cry.
It was spring in New York. Jane had just moved there, she grew up in a small, boring town and always dreamed of living in the big bustling city. She was 21 and had saved up enough money. She had kissed her parents goodbye and promised to call them every day. Her first day in New York She passed a beautiful library, taken back by its columns and sheer size she bumped into the woman that would change her whole life.
"I'm so sorry!" she said scrambling to help this woman pick up her bags, which contained notebooks full of stories that Jane would later stay up reading 'til all hours of the night.
"There's no need to apologize," Zoey responded cheerfully. "I'm Zo."
Jane smiled. "Jane."
And in that moment they both knew. They went for coffee later that day. When Zoey went home that night, to her loft across from the park, she wrote the greatest love story she's ever written. The story of her and Jane. Instead of keeping it in her note book she slipped it into the night table drawer. She thought about it often over the next 5 years.
The two women, now 26, married and happier than ever, walked the short distance to Cho's Chinese. Cho was a middle aged man who knew them both well; he should as they came in for food more often than any of his other regulars. He happily handed them their usual takeout, and with a kind thank you they headed home. They took the short cut through the park. The first time in the park since their wedding. That's when it happened. Jane stopped to take it all in. It had snowed again since they've been back, she closed her eyes and listened to breeze blowing the freshly fallen snow. Zo turned around and beamed, as Jane took in her surroundings, Zo took her in. Her curly blonde hair, the slight curve of her soft lips. Zo's heart felt as if it was about to explode. And again you could see the love between them.
Earlier that night a man Jane would later come to know as Robert was out celebrating that his divorce was final; it was a long drawn out affair and he was glad to be rid of the stress and his ex-wife. He had drank too much and he knew it. He knew it was time to go home. To his new apartment. Karen, his ex, got the house. He pulled his keys out of his jacket and walked to his car. He fumbled to start his car.
"Finally," he mumbled to himself. He was driving too fast and he could barely see straight. "I'm fine." He kept telling his friends at the bar. "I'm fine." He was again saying, as if his friends were still there, trying to convince him to, "Just take the cab with us." Robert pushed them to the back of his mind. As Jane often does now with Zo. Robert felt himself start to drift off. He could see a woman in the road. She looked blissful, he would later remember. But by the time he saw her, it was too late.
Jane was pulled out of her trans like state by the sound of a car swerving. She saw Zoey smiling at her, then she saw the car. She tried to scream but nothing came out. She ran over to Zo and dropped to the ground.
The snow started to fall, sirens blared, and people hurried around her. It was like a dream. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. They were so happy, they had a plan. They were supposed to grow old other. This wasn't part of the plan.
Jane wiped the tears from her face, after crying for what seemed like days. She put the pills back in the drawer. She allowed herself to think of Zo, of their first date, of the past five years they shared, of the proposal, wedding and honeymoon. She allowed herself to remember the feeling of Zoey's lips on hers, the touch of warm flesh pressed together. She remembered Zoey's laughter and for the first time since Zo's death, Jane smiled. She thought of Zo's smile. And then she remembered the night she died, the way she smiled just before. The way she laid there still in the snow. Jane cried again.
She needed to sleep and she knew it, so she reached back into the drawer. Her hand slid across a small journal. She had seen it before but Jane knew it was Zoeys and she couldn't bring herself to look at it. Tonight she did. She pulled it out and unwrapped the thin drawstring. She felt the cool leather on her palm, and opened the book.
It was titled First Snow. It wasn't just a love story about Jane and Zoey it was their plan. Jane stayed up and read about their meeting, and first date. About how Zoey planned on saving money to take Jane to Italy, how she knew she wanted to marry Jane the moment she looked into her eyes. Their proposal in the snow. It was all there and so much more.
Jane looked out the window. She could see the glistening frost, the snow was coming she could tell. Jane got out of bed, which seemed easier than usual. She wrapped herself in a blanket and went down the thin dark stairs. She stood in the doorway for a moment. She hadn't been to the park since that night. She took a deep breath and pushed forward. She walked to the spot Zoey had proposed. She closed her eyes and felt the snow, her blanket dropped off her shoulders and she stood there. She felt Zoey in the breeze, in the snow. A single tear fell from her face, she felt lighter. That's when Jane started to laugh. The tears were streaming down her cheeks now. She threw her hands in the air and spun in a circle letting the snow touch her bare arms.
And once again you could feel the love in the park that night.
Jane wasn't fine. But she would be. And she knew this to be true.