Authors: Nadia Scrieva
“No, you’re not. You shouldn’t allow other people to determine your value,” I scold him. “If that’s the heart of the matter. We need to address that. We need to see what went wrong with Madison.”
“Show me,” he says firmly. “I’m all ears.”
I look up at the third fountain with determination. It depicts a blindfolded woman holding scales. “We’ve visited the past and the future, but let’s look at right now. This moment. Could things be different today if you had treated Madison differently in the past few months?”
“Of course they would be,” Kieran says with a frown. “You don’t need to show me some fantastic vision to prove that. I was working too hard and I all but ignored her—and all my efforts were for nothing. I have no future and I won’t be going back to school. There’s no reason for her to stay with me.”
“You’re wrong, Kieran. And I didn’t even need stardust to know this much. Come with me.” I step forward into the third fountain, trusting that he will follow. We are immediately transported to a café that smells of delicious baked goods.
“That’s starting to give me a headache,” Kieran said, wincing as he rubs his temple. “It feels weird popping from place to place like that.”
“We’re moving through time more than we are through space,” I tell him. “It’s all in your mind, really. I’m just helping you to find your way.”
Kieran seems like he’s about to protest when he notices Madison sitting in a corner near the window. She is sipping on hot cocoa and speaking to another young girl.
“That’s Jenna, her best friend,” Kieran tells me as he pulls me over to them.
I go along, hoping this will finally convince him. “Okay. Remember—this is what would happen if you had done everything perfectly right. Or, rather, what you consider to be right.”
“You can’t do this,”
Jenna is saying in disbelief.
“Are you crazy? Kieran’s a great guy. The greatest.”
Madison stares down at her drink, holding the mug tightly in both hands.
“I know. Trust me, Jen, I know.”
“So what’s changed all of a sudden?”
“You guys were prom king and queen. Everyone is jealous of your relationship. You guys are solid—those rare high-school sweethearts who actually make it to marriage.”
“I realized that something was missing. The excitement is gone and I want to feel that thrill again. We’re too young, and I want to experience more of life.”
Jenna shakes her head violently.
“You need to think about what you’re doing, girl. Kieran is a smart guy who has been devoted to you for years. Heck, he moved out to Massachusetts to be with you at Harvard!”
“Harvard?” Kieran repeats. “She didn’t get into Harvard.”
“She did,” I tell him. “She only went to Cornell to be closer to you.”
“I don’t understand. She lied to me about that? Why would she follow me to university and move in with me if she was just going to break up with me in four months?”
“She loved you—and she was scared of being alone.”
“What changed?” Kieran asks me.
“I don’t know. Let’s listen to Madison.” I point to the girl who is still spilling her guts to her friend.
“That tingling sensation in my stomach every time I see him. I wish I could get that back, but after four years? I know him too well. He’s like a brother to me…”
“A brother?” Kieran shouts.
“I just really need something new, Jen. I’m growing to learn more about myself, and I don’t want the traditional life with marriage and kids. Kieran is so serious and focused and goal-oriented. But I want to travel and be free and—can I be honest? I want to get a little crazy.”
“You are crazy. God, Maddy! If I had a guy like that, I’d never let him go.”
“I just want something casual and fun. I’m happy with Kieran, but it’s getting stale. This thing with Jason—it just feels right. It feels like what I need at the moment.”
“Jason?” Kieran whispers. He takes a step back and lifts his hands to his head. “That guy in her study group?”
“Yes. In all fairness, this might be a different Jason than the one you know—one in Massachusetts.”
“Did she really? Kayla, did she really leave me for some guy?”
I don’t want to answer right away because I’m afraid of crushing him. His face is contorted in fear and I wonder if maybe this was the worst thing I could have possibly shown him. I don’t understand people at all—maybe it’s for the best that I will be retired after tonight. I lower my chin, gazing at the floor. “Yeah, she did.”
“No, no, no,” he says, looking around wildly in frustration. He is staring at the walls and chairs and random people in the café as if he is searching for a way to cope with this information. Kieran seems to be losing his mind for the first time since I have known him. He has always been so calm, even when discussing taking his own life—now I can see the cracks beneath the surface. I think this might be healthy, but I could be wrong again. “I should have seen the signs. I should have known that was the reason she grew so distant…”
“She didn’t tell you because she didn’t want to hurt you. You couldn’t have known,” I tell him.
“We planned our futures together, you know. She was a reasonable girl. We decided long ago that we’d go to the same college. We studied together. We rented a place together—once she moves out I won’t even be able to afford my rent.” He laughs at himself a little derisively. “I planned everything so carefully, Kayla. It all fell apart.”
I feel a sudden burst of anger at the girl sitting in the booth with her hot cocoa. I know that I shouldn’t allow personal feelings to interfere with my work, but she shouldn’t have done this to him.
I wouldn’t have done this to him
, I think to myself, enraged on his behalf. I immediately feel silly for this thought, and force myself to be logical and say the right thing. “She didn’t know what she wanted. She didn’t know herself.”
“We made promises,” Kieran says softly. “I don’t know how to imagine my life without her. She was the only person I had—she was my family.”
“She was wrong here, not you. She was the one who couldn’t honor her promises. You need to forgive her and move on with your own life—don’t let her mistakes defeat you.” I am trying desperately to think of the best words to use. I have delivered these sentences to so many people, but this time it feels more important than ever before. “Madison would have left you today regardless of what decisions you made, and how kind or cruel or attentive you were to her in these past few months. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“I don’t know how to accept that,” Kieran says. “All the happiness I ever had was built around her.”
“She didn’t deserve you,” I say a bit too fiercely. Closing my eyes, I force myself to take a deep breath before speaking again. “The only reason things fall apart is so that they can come together again in a more appropriate and fulfilling manner.”
“I don’t see any coming back from this, Kayla. This is a low moment for me. The lowest.”
“Nonsense. You can do better than a spoiled girl who doesn’t appreciate you.”
Kieran stares at me in surprise before he nods carefully. “Yes, she is spoiled. Her family is very caring and loving—she’s an only child. Her parents really liked me, almost accepting me as their own son. I guess the fact that she had somewhere pleasant to go home to always made her need me a little less than I needed her.” He stares at the brunette wistfully.
“You can fix your family,” I tell him, leading him away from Madison. “Maybe if you talk to your dad about school—put your pride aside and just tell him how much it would mean to you if he would help out…”
“I don’t know, Kayla. Even if I could get back into school now, I don’t think I could be as focused and driven as before. I don’t have anything to look forward to. This has been a really rough time for me, and I don’t have the energy to keep going.”
“So nothing I showed you has made any kind of difference?” I ask him desperately.
He suddenly smiles at me. “It means a lot to me that you did this. I enjoyed seeing all these visions—and even if it wasn’t true, I liked having the illusion that you really cared about how things ended up for me.”
“I do care,” I tell him.
He nods carefully. “Maybe you do. It doesn’t matter now. Can you take me back to the bridge?”
I stare at him in shock. “You mean, you’ve decided…”
“I’ve thought about it carefully and I’ve reconsidered based on all this new information. Maybe some of my thoughts have changed, but I still
the same way. I want it to be over. Please take me back to the bridge, Kayla.”
His words cause an empty, sinking feeling inside of me and I press a hand to my chest to stop the sickening sensation. I’ve lost him. I’ve failed him. I had all the resources available at my fingertips to show him that life could be beautiful and worthwhile, and I failed. I guess it’s the end for us both. I feel tears prick the back of my eyes.
“Kayla? Will you take me back?”
“Okay,” I whisper.
Most people live their entire lives with regrets—they believe that if they had made better, braver choices, their conditions would be drastically different. Not many are lucky enough to be shown what would have happened. The truth is that the world is created by what people do habitually, and who they are on a long-term basis—it is not small mistakes and individual decisions that shape us, despite how pivotal they might seem. I have tried to show this to Kieran, but I suppose I wasn’t convincing enough. I suppose there’s a reason I am being retired. I am not any good at being a guardian angel any longer.
“So what happens to you after tonight?” Kieran asks me. We are sitting back on the bridge where I found him cutting open the wire fence.
I lean back against the cold metal railing, staring up at the sky. “I don’t know exactly. I will probably just disappear from here. They’ll send me away.”
“Who are they?” he asks.
“My superiors. Celestial spirits.”
“Sounds fancy. Where will you go?”
“Somewhere out there,” I tell him, gesturing at the sky. “I won’t be human anymore. I won’t be conscious—maybe I’ll just be drifting clouds of dust and gas. Aimless energy. Spirit and stardust.”
“Will I be the same thing when I die?” he asks.