Because of you I’m alive, Mom, and I’m so, so grateful for that. Because of you I’ve survived this long and gotten a chance to know my small part of the world. But it’s not enough. It’s not your fault. It’s this impossible life.

I’m not doing this just because of Olly. Or maybe I am. I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s Olly and it’s not-Olly at the same time. It’s like I can’t look at the world in the old way anymore. I found this new part of myself when I met him and the new part doesn’t know how to stay quiet and still and just observe.

Do you remember when we read The Little Prince together for the first time? I was so upset that he died in the end. I didn’t understand how he could choose death just so he could get back to his rose.

I think I understand it now. He wasn’t choosing to die. His rose was his whole life. Without her, he wasn’t really alive.

I don’t know, Mom. I don’t know what I’m doing only that I have to. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the way I was before, before I knew anything. But I can’t.

I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you.

- Maddy

The Five Senses

Hearing

The alarm’s keypad tries to announce my escape by emitting a loud BEEP each time I press a number. I can only hope that the sound is too unexpected and my mom’s room too far away from the door for her to hear it.

The door unseals with a sigh.

I’m Outside.

The world is so quiet it roars.

Touch

The front-door handle is metal-cool and smooth, almost slippery. It’s easy to let go of it, and I do.

Sight

It’s 4 a.m. and too dark for detail. My eyes take in only the general shape of things, fuzzy silhouettes against the night sky. Large tree, smaller tree, steps, garden, stone path leading to a gate with a picket fence on either side. Gate, gate, gate.

Smell

I’m in Olly’s garden. The air is full, ripe with scent—flowers, earth, my expanding fear. I store it away in my lungs. I toss pebbles at his window, willing him to come out.

Taste

Olly’s in front of me, stunned. I don’t say anything. I press my lips to his. At first he’s frozen, uncertain and unyielding, but then he’s not. All at once, he pulls me tight against him. One of his hands is in my hair and the other one is gripping my waist.

He tastes just like I remember.

Other Worlds

We come to our senses.

Well, Olly comes to his. He pulls away, grips my shoulders with both hands. “What are you doing out here? Are you all right? Is something wrong? Is your mom OK?”

I’m all bravado. “I’m fine. She’s fine. I’m running away.”

The light from his room above casts just enough light so I can see confusion across the planes of his face.

“I don’t understand,” he says.

I take a deep breath, but freeze midway.

The night air is cold and moist and heavy and completely unlike any air I’ve ever breathed.

I try to unbreathe it, to expel it from my lungs. My lips tingle and I’m light-headed. Is that just fear, or is it something else?

“Maddy, Maddy,” he whispers against my ear. “What have you done?”

I can’t answer. My throat is blocked like I’ve swallowed a stone.

“Try not to breathe,” he says, and starts guiding me back to my house.

I let him pull me for a second, maybe two, but then I stop moving.

“What is it? Can you walk? Do you need me to carry you?”

I shake my head and pull my hand from his.

I take a sip of night air. “I said I’m running away.”

He makes a sound like a growl. “What are you talking about? Do you have a death wish?”

“Opposite,” I say. “Will you help me?”

“With what?”

“I don’t have a car. I don’t know how to drive. I don’t know anything about the world.”

He makes another sound halfway between a growl and a laugh. I wish I could see his eyes in the dark.

Something slams. A door? I grab his hands and pull us both flat against the side of his house. “What was that?”

“Jesus. A door. From my house.”

I press myself flatter against the wall, trying to disappear. I peek over to the path leading from my house, fully expecting to see my mother coming down it. But she’s not there.

I close my eyes. “Take me to the roof.”

“Maddy—”

“I’ll explain everything.”

My entire plan hangs on him helping me. I didn’t really consider what would happen if he refused.

We are quiet for one breath. And then two. And then three.

He takes my hand and guides me around to the side of his house furthest from mine. There’s a tall ladder leading to the roof.

“Are you afraid of heights?” he asks.

“I don’t know.” I start climbing.

I duck down as soon as we get to the roof, but Olly says there’s no need.

“Most people don’t look up anyway,” he says.

It takes a few minutes for my heart to return to normal.

Olly folds himself down with his usual unusual grace. I’m happy to watch him move.

“So, what now?” he asks after a time.

I look around. I’d always wanted to know what he did up here. The roof is gabled in parts, but we’re sitting in a flat section toward the back. I make out shapes: a small wooden table with a mug, a lamp, and some crumpled papers. Maybe he writes up here, composes bad poetry. Limericks.

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