She hadn't been able to eat for weeks.
That was new.
She was in uncharted territory, walking a path that was strangely cold and warm at the same time. All the safety that had defined her life... the predictable days and nights she'd known in the home of her childhood, the cozy intimacy of her high school romance, the tight clan of five girls who had walked her reassuringly through adolescence... all that safety was suddenly no more than a rumor, an echo, no longer available, as if someone had snatched away a favorite pillow. There was no pillow. There was no safety. There was only this new person.
This strangely alluring and foreign girl.
It had started as only the most fleeting touch of a hand, a moment in a chaotic, smoky party at which everyone drank too much and the evening had disintegrated into the predictable sad music, accompanied by pairing off, swaying suggestively to torch songs, Billie Holiday crooning about lost love and betrayal, and three rooms full of twenty-year-olds nodding their heads as if they knew.
As if they knew.
A breathless moment in the kitchen.
"You're creating... a problem for me."
"Take a walk?"
That began a month of walks. They walked around a reservoir, late November into December. They walked as the nights got colder and longer. They walked as, all around the reservoir and into the city the lights of the holidays began to blink on. One night, abruptly, menorahs blossomed in a third of the windows. And single candles in another third. All around them lights were being kindled as every home began to reckon with the closing darkness.
They walked in soft snowfall, their gloveless hands tangled and tucked back into a sleeve or a pocket for warmth. They walked at least once until the sky greyed and pinked and they knew they'd lost all hope of sleep. They didn't dare not walk, for what was the alternative? Groping on some crummy apartment couch, in the vestibule of a building? They were not for that. They knew. This was all or this was nothing. So they walked.
They walked in fear some nights and wild hope others. They walked plans... a house by the ocean, which even as twenty-year-olds they knew was never likely to happen. A life as... writers? A bed. A big brass bed. With a quilt she'd make on it. And maybe, if they could figure it out, a family.
They walked, as the lights thickened in the thicker darkness, as a choir moaned a low "O come O come," as their papers went unwritten and their professors noted their absence. They walked until it was time, until it finally, slowly, painfully came to birth.