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You ground yourself in the body pressed against yours, fingers digging into muscle, holding on like your life depends on it. And maybe it does, you don’t know anymore. All of the meaning you ever knew, all of the sense the world once held is gone now, gone again. Chaos reigned when your mother passed and now here it is again, everything topsy-turvy. The world is off axis and your hands only stop shaking when they find his.

You didn’t trust him at first—that’s okay; he didn’t trust you either—and sometimes you’re still not sure you do, but when your eyes catch his across broken glass splintered wood blood-smeared concrete, you know he knows that you know what it’s like to lose. This you have in common. It’s a starting point, maybe not a very good one, but it’s there and you work from it. Build something like partnership, like friendship, until you find yourself turning to him when night falls and he creeps through your window and into your room and maybe all of those fairy tales got it wrong. Maybe Little Red jumped to conclusions and the monster in the woods was never what she should have been afraid of. Maybe all of that was hype after the fact and Grandma let the wolf in on purpose.

Not that you’re a little old lady. Not that you’re fragile and helpless. You let him into your home and into your bed and at first, at first that wasn’t voluntary—the home, not the bed (yes, you breathed when he asked if you were sure, yes, and it wasn’t desperation or loneliness, though it was those, too; it was darker and bone-deep necessary)—but he became a fixture, someone you could rely on, even when he was wrong. You welcome his presence now. He gives you something to hold onto when you feel yourself beginning to spin out of control, when the world blurs at the edges and your chest feels tight and all you can do is close your eyes and breathe and breathe and breathe until air comes easy again.

You open your eyes and he’s watching you, that big bad wolf. You’re tempted to tease him, My what big eyes you have, and brush all seriousness off like it’s nothing. You open your mouth to do just that and his gaze flickers downwards and then he’s kissing you like he does when you’re alive and he didn’t expect you to be. He’s kissing you like he can keep you and you cling and kiss him back, ground yourself in the feel of his body against yours, the span of his shoulders solid beneath your palms, and reassure him that you’re still there, you’re still there. You’re still there.