"Jesus," she said. "That's random. Where'd that come from?"
I shrugged. "Just curious."
We were sitting on the loveseat in my attic, looking out at the snow falling over the city. It was late, well after two in the morning, but neither of us had been able to sleep. We'd found each other online hours before, and had been sitting up here ever since, in the dark, music playing softly from downstairs and a bottle of Chivas Regal being shared between us. The mood these days was heavy, for her and for me. Winter is never a kind season for either of us.
"First boyfriends are so uninteresting," she said. "When it's the first one, it's really all about sloppy kisses and fumbling with buttons and trying to seem more sophisticated than you really are. It's like the first time you smoke a cigarette. It always looks better in the movies.
"Second boyfriends... now those are the interesting ones. That's when you feel like everything is going to come together just right. You've figured out how to be with someone by that point, because you've invariably fucked it all up with the first one. You're not so selfish with each other, and you realize that the little romantic gestures are far more important than the big ones, because the little ones are more true and lasting. The second boyfriends are about putting to use all the things you learned the first time around."
"So then you're second boyfriend was..?"
"A complete and total prick," the Muse said. She took a swig from the bottle and then handed it to me.
"That bad, hmm?" I asked.
She leaned her face close to mine and pointed at her right cheek. "See that?" she asked. It was too dark to see what she was pointing at, but I knew what it was: the small crescent-shaped scar that ran just below her cheek bone. "That's from his class ring." She sat back and turned towards the window again and was silent.
After about a minute, I asked, "Want the bottle again?"
"He hit me twice," she said, not taking her eyes from the window. The snow continued to come down, thick and heavy. "I'd like to say it was just one time, because that's what a tough girl is supposed to say, right? Well, that didn't happen. If it was a first boyfriend, that's how it would have been. First boyfriends aren't serious enough for you to put up with bullshit over. You'll leave them in a heartbeat at the first sign of trouble, yours or theirs. Second boyfriends, though, you think are worth the effort to fix. You've been in love once before, and it didn't work out, so now you want to make it all perfect. You're willing to put some work into it, even if he throws you a suckerpunch. You might not even think it's your fault that he hit you, but you're sure that whatever the problem is, it's something that can be fixed. Because second boyfriends are supposed to be the ones that are right for you. The bugs were supposed to be worked out in the first version."
She fell silent again, and I was unsure if she wanted me to prompt her to continue. She took the bottle from my hand, but didn't drink from it. Finally, she said, "There are only two people I've ever told that to, and that includes you."
"Who was the other person?"
"My third boyfriend," she said, and laughed softly. "I told him if he ever did it, I'd cut his dick off. This was right after the whole Bobbit thing. I'm sure it was all fresh in his mind."
"I imagine that it would be," I said.
Downstairs, Major Tom began playing on the iPod. "God," the Muse said. "You and this song! Does it have to be in every mix that you shuffle?"
"Just let it go. It'll be over in a few minutes."
We listened and drank and watched the snow coming down. At some point during the song, the Muse put the bottle on the floor, then leaned against me and curled her legs up underneath herself. "Are you going to write about this in your journal?"
"Not if you don't want me to," I said. I took her hand and starting massaging it gently.
"No, go ahead. Someone will probably enjoy reading it. At least that's something."
"I really don't have to put it in."
"Hush. You just keep writing. You should also keep rubbing my hands. It's making me fuzzy and will put me to sleep."
"As you wish, Princess."
"Thank you, Wesley."
I continued the massage through another two songs, then switched to her other hand. Her breathing became softer and deeper as I worked.
"You never could have been one of my boyfriends," she said, her voice quiet and thick, like a hot summer breeze through fresh hanging linen.
"No?" I said.
"No. You're much too good to me."
I leaned down to kiss her forehead. "You know I love you."
She didn't respond, and I knew that she had finally fallen to sleep. I pulled the blanket from over the back of the sofa and draped it over her. I held her close and closed my eyes, listening to the music coming up from downstairs.
"Come away with me... and I'll never stop... loving you..."
I was asleep beside the Muse before the song ended, and so in my dreams, at least, it continued on throughout the night.
Love is when the happiness of another is essential to your own.