If I could change one thing, I’d take back the words I flung in stupidity and confusion. I’d shake sense into myself and hear what you meant when you said we were one. When you said you didn’t even need to touch me to sense our connection, and I turned away for fear you wanted more than we had. But it was always more than friendship between us.
I first knew it when we were boys, when the innocence of childhood still held sway and I understood your insistence that the world was too big for each of us, yet too small for us combined. We were a force to be reckoned with, you said, and I laughed and ran with you through the woods, pretending up monsters that we could vanquish together.
And then, one day, the monster was real. The uncle I barely knew, with his beer-tainted breath and fighter’s hands, stood on my doorstep and leered at me when I opened the door. You’d come over to play, and we were home alone. You sidled up behind me as he pushed his way inside.
“Where’s your ma?” His voice was rougher than those grazed-knuckled hands.
“She’s not here,” I said, trembling though I hardly knew why. This man had yet to hurt me. “You’ll have to come back later.”
He laughed and shoved me aside. “I’ll wait right here.”
I’m not sure which of us first saw the pistol sticking out of his waistband. You grabbed my hand the second before I noticed it, and I felt the power rise in us, like two nodes of an electric current. I didn’t know what we were going to do until we did it, yet somehow we were attuned on a level I’d never experienced.
We repelled him. We pushed outward with our will and our primal need to protect ourselves, and he stumbled in his bully’s swagger and fell to one knee.
“LEAVE,” we said, and our voices were deep and carrying, not pre-pubescent as but a moment before.
His face blanched. He tried for a curse that emerged as a croak. You clutched my hand even tighter and our strength increased. He scrabbled for the open door and fell down the concrete steps in his haste to be away.
I never saw him again.
It happened a few times more as we grew up. We pushed a woman out of the path of a car whose brakes had failed. We sent our combined energy to cool the flames of a house fire before the emergency services had arrived. We sent strength to the sickly puppy in your dog’s litter, the one even she had given up on. He grew up to become my constant companion.
We were close, you and I. I never denied that. People who didn’t know us would assume we were a couple. The way we finished each other’s sentences. The way you’d know I was hungry before I said anything. Your boyfriends never liked me, while the girls I dated always thought you were cute.
Even in adulthood, I felt the potential between us when we hugged a greeting or our shoulders touched inadvertently. The surge of power we only had to focus and channel. But I’ll admit it frightened me. I didn’t want to know what we might become if we made it our purpose. I drew back from you, and I’m sorry.
Those months were harder than I cared to acknowledge. Ignoring your calls may have seemed petty, but I didn’t know what else to do. I needed space, yet I missed you constantly. I wanted what we had, but I feared its consequences.
That day, you sought me out. You told me we were too important to ignore. That you couldn’t live your life pretending there was nothing special about our power. Our ‘magic’, you called it.
“We’re one, you and I,” you said. “We’re two parts of something. I know it scares you to admit it, but you know it’s true.”
It did scare me. You scared me, right then. Your eyes were bloodshot and I could see you hadn’t slept. You thrust your hand into mine and the world lit up around us before I snatched my hand back.
“I don’t need to touch you to feel it,” you said, rejected misery across your face.
I knew I’d already hurt you, but I said it anyway, because I’m an idiot and a cold-hearted bastard and I don’t deserve your friendship.
“Well, I don’t feel it at all. I can’t give you what you want! You know I can’t, so can we just forget this shit now? We aren’t kids any more, Liam!”
I saw the tears in your eyes before you turned away from me. I felt everything I’d denied seeping away as you left. I felt our magic leave with you, and a devastating emptiness took its place. Unfulfilled potential. A universe of change we could have wrought together, dispersed to the wind.
You were right. We are one. And this world seems far too big without you.
There’s a knock on my door. When I open it, you’re standing there. I don’t even need to ask why. Or how you knew I needed to tell you these things.
“You felt it,” I say.
You shrug. Helpless, resigned. “Always,” you say.
“I’m sorry. I’m a jerk.”
The hint of a grin appears. “That you are.”
“Think we can change the world?”
You smile, completely this time, and hold up your hand, high-five style. I place my palm flat against yours, and the possibilities surge between us.
The world is suddenly small again, and we are a mighty being ready to tame it.
Eleanor R. Wood’s stories have appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Deep Magic, Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, Diabolical Plots, and various anthologies, among other places. She writes and eats liquorice from the south coast of England, where she lives with her husband, two marvellous dogs, and enough tropical fish tanks to charge an entry fee.