by Jo Danilo
Prologue to ‘11:42’ by Jo Danilo
. . .
She sits beside me on the sofa, close but not quite touching. Her clenched hand rests on her knee, inches from my own. I daren’t reach for it because I know she’ll flinch. The lights from the TV illuminate her face and flash like fireworks in the darkness of her eyes, reminding me of another place, different lights. I lean back so I can watch her without her knowing.
We’ve only been officially seeing each other for a few weeks and I’m trying my best to act cool about it. It’s incredibly difficult. She sets off explosive charges inside me with just one look. My heart is constantly stuck in my throat. Every rare smile I win from her is a small victory.
She’s still cautious in my company. When we kiss she’s always the first to pull away. She guards herself to the point of coldness. Understandable after what happened to her. Excruciating after what happened to me.
“I don’t want to watch this anymore,” she says, turning her face to mine.
On the flickering screen, a woman walks alone down a street full of shadows. I swear under my breath, and reach for the remote. There’s no point looking for anything else, so I turn the whole thing off.
Maybe this is my cue. Maybe it’s time to tell her. My parents are out with their friends. My brother is at his girlfriend’s tonight. We have three or four hours of being completely alone. It might just be long enough.
Before I have chance to think up a billion reasons not to do what I’m about to do, I drop the remote and reach for her hand. She flinches, as I knew she would, and I quickly claim her other hand too, before she can pull away.
I need her full attention for this, and I have it.
“Noah…” She tugs back and wriggles her fingers, but I’m not letting go. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to try to explain something to you, and it’s going to take a very long time. And you’re going to think I’m crazy. You’re going to want to leave. But I need you to listen right until the end.”
“You’re scaring me.”
But I bet I’m way more scared. If she doesn’t believe me, I’ll lose her, and I can’t bear the thought of that. If she does believe me, I have no idea where it will take us. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take because I can’t keep this secret to myself any longer. I thought I could, but it’s too big and too difficult for me to contain.
And I can’t tell it to anyone but her.
“Remember that night…,” I say.
Immediately, she knows which night I mean. Her pupils enlarge with fear. “I don’t want to.”
This is not going to be easy.