I couldn't touch anybody, and then I could. He took my power and then he held my hand to prove it. It gave me goosebumps. I ran all the way back to the apartment I share with Simon, and the snow was falling on me and melting into my skin and I felt good. But when I got to the door and got out my key, I hesitated, took a few slow steps backwards, and then went back to the cafe.
Curtis was still working, wiping a counter clean, and he gave me a nod when he saw me. “Forgot something?” he asked, but his gaze didn't linger like it used to. He was soon looking back down. I had spent weeks with Curtis; I had spent weeks not touching him. I came behind the counter and leaned up to him real close.
“Watch out!” he said, moving away quickly. He gave me that wide-eyed stare, wondering what I was doing. “Alisha?” By this time I already had my fingers on his lower arm, on his wrist, near is pulse. I just left them there and he looked at them incredulously. I dragged them up higher, feeling his skin, and he didn't ask questions like I knew Simon would have; he only hugged me quickly like if we didn't embrace just then, my power might come back. But it wouldn't. I wouldn't let it. It was gone.
“Woah! What's this?” came Nathan's voice suddenly and I took myself away from Curtis's hold. I did however keep the side of my hand next to the side of his hand behind the counter, just for a reminder, just for both of us. He was looking at me now. “Did you wrap your body in cellophane?” came Nathan again. He quickly reached out to drag a finger across my cheek. “Feels like skin to me. Did you get some donated to you like people get hair donated to them?”
Curtis looked at Nathan and just shook his head. “Let's go in the back and talk,” Curtis said, and as we walked there together, he didn't take pains to make sure he was a certain distance away from me like he used to do. Nathan called after us, “I bet it would work! You'd look like a proper Picasso painting! Hey, come back! I want a drink!”
As he sat down on a box in the storage room, Curtis said, “What did Simon say?” I leaned against the shelves and asked him what that matters. Curtis raised his eyebrows. “Just asking, since he's something of yours now.”
“Why'd you put it like that? Something of mine?”
“You own him. You owned me when we were together. You never realized how the powers we got mirrored something about your personality? You're powerful at manipulation. You're powerful in general.”
“What's that supposed to mean? That he wouldn't be with me if I didn't somehow do some mind control on him? That's not my power, Curtis.”
Curtis sighed. “Let's drop it,” he said and he stood up and moved close to me. Looking at me seriously, he said, “Do you think it would have been different between us, if I could do this?” He didn't dare kiss me on the mouth, but instead brushed his lips over my cheek. I held up my arm, showing him the little hairs standing on end and laughing a little. He tried to smooth them down and laughed as well.
When we quieted, I answered his question: “Yeah. I think it would have been different. I wouldn't have felt so isolated. And this thing about our powers being related to our personalities...how come mine is so terrible? Am I that terrible?” I looked at him with wide eyes, half expecting an answer but half fearing one. Then I shook my head quickly, trying to rewrite my expression like I was one of those Etch-a-Sketches. “It's made me insecure too. Remember when I didn't give a fuck? Now, look at me.” I laughed. “That's some thing.”
“I'm sorry,” said Curtis. “But it's gone now. Rebuilding yourself won't be all that hard when you still have all the materials. You didn't lose anything. Just forgot it a little. You're beautiful, and you deserve to feel it.” He pressed his palm against my cheek, and then he kissed me, this time full-on. I kissed back. It felt almost nostalgic. Almost familiar, even though I'd never felt him like this. He moved away. “Everybody deserves that. You're not terrible.”
There was a clattering of materials at the other side of the room and we whipped our heads around to see Nikki. It was impossible to tell what she had heard, but she strode forward, her arms crossed over her chest. “Right,” she said, and her tone was hard to decipher.
“Nikki...” I said awkwardly. She held Curtis's hand and leaned forward towards me. She touched my hand to be sure, and then started her talk.
“I know that you two had something going on. Something nice.” She looked down, bit her lip, and then looked back up again. “If I could be able to live my childhood without my heart condition... I'd go back. I would. Because I missed a whole lot, and I know it's not nice to live in the past but, if I could run with the other children out in the sun and roll around in the grass without my mum yelling at me to come in all the time.” She sighed. “I'd like to feel what it was like without breathing heavy if I got too excited, and I know I can do that now, but it's not the same.”
Curtis didn't seem to understand how this all related, but he understood himself to be forgiven and he kissed her on the top of her head. My face softened and I almost wanted to cry and I held her arm, because I would take any chance I could to touch somebody, and I pulled her into a hug. Curtis joined, and then said he had to get back to work before the manager found him. I was left alone with Nikki in the store room.
“I don't know how to get my ass back home,” she said, laughing, “so I guess I'll just walk. Nasty weather though, isn't it?”
“I'm walking too,” I said.
“I know what I just said kind of justified what you and Curtis just did, and that's all well and good.” She had a serious look on her face now. “But 'what if's are only fun for a while, and 'should haves' and 'maybe if I's. I know I'm not exactly the most objective party to be talking about this to, but... You and Simon are sweet together. I think he needs you. I think it's a good time for you two. I think different people work at different times. That's it.”
“He humbles me,” I said, a little embarrassed. I thought of all of the times that I expected him to fall at my feet but he instead challenged me. Not with an anger but with a concern. He wasn't as safe as Curtis was. Maybe I needed Simon too. I looked to the side nervously. “I'm not going to try to snog your boyfriend again, alright? I needed... closure.” When she didn't respond, I added a nervous “you know?” She laughed and nodded and we went out the back door, back into the snow.