Ben was startled when he opened the door. Harley stood there, dressed in her own impeccably funky fabulous say. But fishnets always make any outfit better and Ben found himself a bit overwhelmed by her, for the first time. He gave her a sexy little growl because he couldn’t help himself. He was rewarded with a blush and a smile. She curtsied.
“Why, thank you, sir. Happy birthday.”
Harley handed him a bag. Ben took it and reached inside. He pulled out a very ool portrait of himself done on marker board. Harley made him look like one of her comic book characters – and maybe a little bit like James Bond, just for good measure. Scribbled on the bottom was “thank you for always rescuing me. Love, Harley”.
Ben was lost for words. Finally, he managed to croak out something. “Thank you. It’s amazing.”
Harley kissed him on the cheek. “You’ll always be my superhero.”
Ben pulled her closer and hung on longer than should have been necessary. In a romantic comedy, the kiss would come. But instead, he finally let her go, his spirit hanging on just for a beat longer.
“Let me grab my guitar and we can go.”
* * * * * * * * *
The restaurant is just perfect for Harley and Ben – unpretentious, comfort food and good whiskey. But really, nothing existed outside the two of them as they talked and laughed and shared the way two intimate souls do. The colors of their energies lit up the place, the connection visceral.
“So Vegas is still on?” Harley asked around a mouthful of food.
“Good, ‘cause I have to sell a kidney to buy the plane tickets and pay for the hotel. Oh, Rose can’t go because she’s got some board meeting or something, so I have an extra bed if anyone needs it. What’s the head count now? Ten? Twelve?”
Ben smiled. “Two.”
“Yup. Just me and you.” The colors around them burned just a bit brighter as Ben watched Harley for her reaction.
“Oh.” Harley tried to fight the smile. “I thought… Well, do you still want to go? I mean, if it’s just you and me…”
Ben put his hand over hers and squeezed. “Then it’s going to be just fine. I’ve already picked up tickets for a couple of shows.”
“How much? I’ll try to cover my end.”
“Harley, don’t worry about any of it. I know how tight things are. I’ll take care of it.”
Harley squirmed a bit. “But…”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the…. waitress.”
Conveniently, the waitress chose that moment to appear. She put the bill on the table, with Ben’s credit card on top of it.
“Thank you, sir. Have a good night.”
Harley grabbed the bill and card. “What? What did you do?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Ben as he slid the check back and signed the slip.
“The agreement was that I was supposed to pay since it’s your birthday.”
“And since it’s my birthday,” Ben laughed as he put the credit card away, “I choose to not accept that. You can buy me breakfast in Vegas at some point.”
“But…” Harley tried to protest.
Ben stood up and held out his hand for Harley. She took it and as they moved through the restaurant. Ben wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer, the energy deepening and brightening.
* * * * * * * * *
It was another nondescript, uber-hip bar where the cool and chic hang out. Or at least those who want to be. Ben and Harley walk up, his arm still around her. The bouncer nodded as they went through into the bar.
The place was so packed, conversation was almost impossible. Ben guided Harley as they fought their way to the bandstand. Many greetings went unheard over the noise, but Harley didn’t mind. Ben kept smiling at her and she was lost. The energy between them had created their own little world, their spirits no longer needed as they no longer fought their instincts.
Ben put down his guitar and his bandmates all greeted Harley over the noise. She leaned in to whisper in Ben’s ear.
“I’ll be right back.”
Ben squeezed her hand just before she walked away.
Harley wound her way through the crowd toward the bathroom, Ben’s energy trailing her all the way, leaving a winding trail of color behind. At the bathroom door, Harley turned for a moment and looked back. The crowd stood still, frozen in time, as her eyes met Ben’s. Sound, noise, lights all vanished and for one brief moment, it was just the two of them. Then Ben turned and the whole world came crashing back.
Harley went into the teeny tiny bathroom and shut the door. She looked at her reflection, which was smiling as widely as she was.
She splashed some water on her face, her reflection seeming to smile more widely. She tidied herself up and then went back into the crowd.
As she reached Ben, she noticed he was talking to a whole new group of people.
“Hey,” she shouted, barely heard above the noise.
Ben smiled as she joined him and turned to the guy he was talking with. “Greg,” he began as he started to put his arm around Harley, “this is my –-“
Suddenly, everything in the room stopped as Ben looked at Harley, trying to decide how to define her. She looked hopefully up at him, her eyes full of how she felt.
But in that second, his stormy eyes became a bit colder and he pulled his arm away from her, although the ghost of it hovered. The distance between them suddenly stretched out for miles as Harley began to realize something had shifted. Even the ghost of his arm slowly evaporated, leaving her with nothing. Things snapped back to reality as Ben finished his sentence.
“—Harley. This is my – my friend, Harley.”
The guy said something but Harley didn’t hear it. She took a step closer to Ben, which he countered, keeping a safe distance between them. The shift is almost imperceptible but Harley felt it.
“I gotta get set up,” explained Ben as he left Harley standing alone in the crowd.
The rest of the evening was a blur to Harley as she watched Ben perform. The band sounded better than ever but Harley seemed singled out and alone. She tried hard to catch Ben’s gaze but he never seemed to find her. Her energy reached over the stage lights but fell flat at his feet, like a force field had been created.
* * * * * * * * *
Afterward, Ben and Harley walked quietly to their cars. The distance between them might as well have been miles.
Harley tried once more to reach out. “You sounded great tonight.”
“Great way to spend your birthday.”
Ben just nodded, not looking at her.
“You want to get something to eat?”
Ben shook his head. “I should head home.”
Harley opened her car door, turning to find Ben a million miles away. “Well…”
Harley stepped to him and they hugged, but it wasn’t the same. And they both knew it. As they stepped apart, their spirits lingered in one last long embrace.
“G’night,” Harley whispered.
“G’night,” Ben barely replied, already walking away, through the mists of their spirits.
* * * * * * * * *
Finally home, Harley came into her apartment still wrapped in confusion. She dropped her purse on the floor and sat on her bed. She grabbed her phone and dialed Ben, waiting through the voicemail.
“Hey, um, it’s me. I just wanted to say happy birthday again. Did I tell you how awesome you were tonight? So good. And dinner was great. And, um. Anyway. Talk to you soon.”
She hung up the phone, emptiness filling her apartment.
Days later, Harley was still distracted. Sitting at her art table, trying to draw, she was spending more time staring out the window than working. Finally, she grabbed her phone and dialed Ben again.
“Hey, it’s me. I haven’t heard from you in a few days so I thought I’d see if you’re still alive. Of course, if you’re dead on your kitchen floor, you’re not gonna get this message. So please don’t be dead, on the kitchen floor or otherwise. Call me, okay? We need to talk about Vegas.”
She disconnected the call, staring back out the window.
On his end, Ben watched as Harley’s call rolled over to voicemail. Poker face, he deleted the message without listening to it.
Back at House of Heroes, Harley tried to keep herself distracted with the kids in her class. Her energy is very low and muted, but the kids don’t seem to notice. Most of the students have cleaned up and left, leaving Phillip behind, consumed with what he’s drawing. Harley just let him draw, lost in her own thoughts.
Will walked to the back of the shop, an easy smile on his lips. But as he got closer, he felt Harley’s low energy and his smile faltered. He gently put a hand on her back, a small spark at he connected.
Startled, Harley turned and for a moment, she saw Ben’s face. Then it faded and turned into Will.
“Oh, hey, Will.”
She got up and they hugged quickly, a soft shimmer around them.
“Phillip,” Harley called to her lone student.
“One sec,” he responded as only a child can.
Will laughed. “Always on his schedule.”
Will noticed Harley looking at her phone. “You don’t have to hang around.”
“If you need to go somewhere.”
Harley, embarrassed, put her phone down. “No, it’s not that. I just… It’s nothing. I’m always glad to see you.”
“In that case,” Will stated as he pulled Harley’s comic book out of his messenger bag. “Would you have a second to sign this? I couldn’t make your signing so I’m hoping you can make an exception.” For the first time in a while, Harley smiled.
“It’ll cost you.”
Will laughed again and Harley noticed how easily he laughed and how it lit up his blue eyes. “We keep talking about that. Okay, you’re on.”
Harley grabbed a marker and wrote “To Will. You now owe me. Harley.”
“Here you go,” she said as she handed it back to him.
“Thanks. And – “ But Phillip was suddenly standing there, yanking on Will’s sleeve.
“Okay, we can go now. Bye, Harley.” And Phillip dashed through the shop, leaving Will and Harley behind.
“Guess we’re off. Um…” Will looked at Harley, but she was again looking at her phone.
Will put the book in his bag. “Thanks for the book.”
“Sure. See you guys next week.”
They hugged again and Will gave her a cute little wink as he smiled at her. For a moment, her energy lightened significantly. But as he left, she turned her attention back to her phone.
Days later, Harley was curled up on her bed, her face tear-stained. She gazed out the window at the moon, her small poetry book on her lap. Half of a poem was already written, the words hanging in the air around her.
I don’t want/to let you go/but I don’t know how/to make you stay.
She tried to write a few more words but nothing was coming. Instead, she let her energy go to the moon. Quietly, she shared a secret with it.
“I miss you.”
Her words drifted out the window, toward the moon, into the night.
* * * * * * * * *
In Ben’s bedroom, Ben’s eyes are closed, the light of the moon touching his still face.
Harley’s words drifted in on the moonlight, finding their way to his ear. Her whisper could barely be heard. “I miss you.”
Ben opened his eyes, tears hovering but never falling. Quietly, he answered the moon.
“I miss you, too.”
But his words barely make it out of his mouth before they disappear, heard only by the moon.