The first time Ted meets Allegra she's dancing, arms in the air undulating in time to the music. He's sitting next to his date, who he doesn't know at all, she's just a face. Just another player.
But Allegra...he knows.
It's a tension at the base of his spine. It's a quiver, stinging need in his fingers to touch her again.
But he doesn't know her. His conscious--the parts he can access--doesn't remember her at all.
In his head at fourteen and twenty-three. She is his every fantasy come true.
But he does not know her.
"Do I know you?" She's got cigarettes, but no purse.
He has a light ready, because he wanted it--wanted her--she smiles up at him.
The past slips out easily. "We hooked up once. I dated your roommate, Shelley."
Her lips curve prepare to destroy the past he just created for them--he can see Shelley, a lovely girl with straw colored hair--and he can't have that.
He takes the cigarette from her mouth. Marks her lips with a sharp white bite.
"I remember you now." Her voice cracks with laughter. She licks his chin. "Shelley deserved better."
Allegra is...Allegra is...Allegra is never there. Not when he wants her to be. She talks during sex and insults his friends and won't clean up her shit.
He hates her. Can't stand the gravel in her voice or the fact that she makes eggs with milk-like he wants to die at 30-or her dirty blonde hair.
Still there's this need for her presence. He doesn't want to wake up without her body next to his, drawing in his warmth, like he was made for the cold.
He never wanted them to be domestic. Never wanted her.
"Do you ever wonder," they're watching the news. There's a drought Malaysia. "Do you ever wonder about the game? How fucked up it is?"
She looks at him from her end of the couch. "What do you mean?"
"I don't even remember how I met you."
She grins, all sharp teeth and pink gums. "I could remind you."
"I remember that. I can't forget that, but I don't know how I met you. In the real world. I have memories of this girl named Shelley, vivid memories, but they aren't real."
"You shouldn't think about it. Now is what's important."
Later when they're watching TV Land and his legs are splayed and she's laying across him, she looks up at him, the light from the tv makes her hair blue. He can't see her eyes.
"What you said before about the game?" He nods, knows to keep silent. "I don't remember much from before either. I don't remember you from before."
He waits for her to keep going, "What if we're in the game now then more memories go away. We wake up tomorrow in a different apartment."
The words burn into his subconscious. "That's why I can't find my,"
Playing the game isn't always easy.
There's an uncertainty that comes with each passing second; like your life is being rewritten.
There's death. Multiple deaths and no promise of release.
He wakes up heaving one evening in a corner, pushing at the skin of his throat, closing a wound.
Game 37 (x7)
He's gone to his brother's wedding seven times. The only thing that changes is who catches the bouquet and the color of the flowers.
The game can get incredibly tedious.
He wakes up one Saturday afternoon to find Allegra pointing a gun at his head.
"Get out." Her voice is clipped.
"I don't know how you know my name, but I want you to get out."
He can see she's not playing, and she knows how to use the gun (he wonders whether that's her's or part of the game). In his peripheral vision he can see it's not the same apartment.
"If you just let me," he doesn't get to finish. He wakes up on 7th street with a busted jaw.
He doesn't see Allegra for two years.
The exact problem when Allegra finds him is that he can only remember the gun.
He enters his apartment, groceries in hand, and nearly shits himself to see her sitting on the couch, eating his pears like nothing has changed.
She's grinning when he drops the groceries and her grin grows even wider at the sound of shattered glass and--fuck, he'd really wanted spaghetti--she jumps up into his arms and they land by the door.
"Do you know how much I've missed you?" She plucks at the buttons on his shirt. He catches her wrists and squeezes them tightly when she tries to pull back.
"You shot me."
"It's a game baby. Our game."
It's his fault. This is what Allegra tells him.
"You wouldn't keep dying if it wasn't on your mind."
But he's sure it's the game. There's something wrong with the game.
He had a girlfriend. Parents. A life. Before he started playing. Before he met Allegra.
He feels like he could give her up to have all that back. To have some semblance of a past and reality.
She likes to try new things and he wants his life back.
"You ever kill someone before?" He's heard about the resistance and their methods.
She's cutting pieces of pepino into a bowl, the purple streaked yellow pieces fall in smoothly and land on top of the avocados. She's taken to eating healthy. He's sick of fruit.
The knife slips, cutting across her palm and she glances at him a second before passing out.
She leaves a red line across the counter.
"It was a simple question," he's wrapped her hand in gauze, made her a cup tea, and cleaned up the blood. She's looking at him the same way she did the day she shot him.
"You were asking me more than that."
"It's just a game."
She shifted away from him on the couch when he sat down. "Don't. Don't try and play me. When it's us it's a different story."
He changed tactics. "What's the last thing you remember doing in the real world?"
She pursed her lips, swallowed. "I don't know."
"Then we'll just be playing the game. A new set of rules." He takes her hand, squeezes it when she tries to pull it back. "We're doing this. Okay? It's part of the game."
They don't get the hang of it until the sixth time. They actually follow their rules.
No more than six bullets between them.
Act polite to the very end.
Let the game run it's course.
Aim. Lethal wounds. Pull the trigger.
"Death to transcendence."