She pretended not to know. That was the deal they had to strike. That at all times, she had to pretend that she didn’t know. Everything she did know was written in a small black book. Most of her friends assumed it was a diary, and it was, of sorts, it just wasn’t of her life.
It was filled with every little detail of him.
She remembered sitting down to write it. They were both acutely aware of the fact that their time was running short. It was only a little bit longer before their happy little wonderland would fall apart. The idea behind the notebook was to write him out completely, so that even after she forgot, she’d be able to know him. Sure, she would think he was some little fantasy—a character she had created and become obsessed with one night when drunk, filling every page of a notebook until she passed out or sobered up. They didn’t know yet about the loophole, about the lies. In fact, at the time, they were sure that the book would be confiscated and destroyed anyway. But they still wanted to write it.
They sat together in her bed, and didn’t leave it unless absolutely necessary for twenty-four hours straight. They took turns jotting things down. She wrote about how they first met. He wrote what he thought about her, exactly, at that first meeting. She wrote about the first time he almost got her killed. He wrote her an apology for that. He drew a very accurate picture of the ring he always word on his right pointer finger. She sketched out a rough version of the tattoo under his left shoulder-blade. They carried out entire conversations in ink, so that later she would be able to read them back, and really understand their dynamic. On random pages, he scribbled “I love you,” often interrupting stories or descriptions, occasionally cutting through the middle of a drawing. They filled every page, cover to cover, with him, with her, with them. Even though it had been years since they exploited the loophole, years since his name had slipped through her lips, she could still swear that when she opened the book she could smell him, hear his voice, feel his touch on her skin.
Of course, she had seen him since. Not often, of course. He didn’t want to push the limit too hard, draw too much attention to themselves, and draw too much attention to her. He could never approach her or speak to her. She wasn’t even allowed to acknowledge his existence. But there he would be, every now and then, stoic faced, watching for a moment, making sure she was just as okay and safe as the last time he saw her. Checking to see if she was still happy. Of course she was—and of course she wasn’t. She had to pretend to not know anything. And he had to pretend that what he saw, was actually her happy.
It was their curse for being as happy as they were. And, although they would never admit it to themselves, much less to others, they sometimes wondered if it was really worth it at all.