“Y’know, Augustus Waters might have been a real pain in the ass, but a lovable one.” Belle sat on the metal benches the cafe had outside, a travel cup of hot chocolate in her hand. She didn’t drink coffee, she thought it was absolutely disgusting. How people managed to drink it each and every day was beyond her.
“I think, y’know, like throughout the book, you kind of had to like him,” Danny sat with his foot crossed over his knee, a venti sized cup of black coffee held close to his lips.
Belle nodded, raising an eyebrow all the while. “Sometimes I wonder what it would be like, to you, know switch lives with a person like him. Even if it was only for a moment, I want to see what went through his head when he realized he loved Hazel. Danny noticed her eyes had faded to a deep auburn color, like rust.
“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” Danny said softly, the coffee burned as it went down his throat.
Belle nodded solemnly, taking a sip from her hot chocolate daintily. “Have you gotten any word from him?”
But it wasn’t true. Mars had left Danny sixteen voice messages, and thirty four texts, that all said the same thing:
Tell Belle i luv her. Danny always texted back:
No, dude. Where are you, anyways? Tell me. He never got a straight answer, just the same request.
He didn’t want to tell Belle. She didn’t deserve to know that her needy, deadass boyfriend wanted forgiveness. Not after what he had done last night.
He looked back at Belle, who looked on at the bustling scene, the blurs of people going by.
Her hair was done in a neat braid, tossed to the side, shining a bright chesnut brown when the sunlight hit it at the right angle. Her cheeks were dusted with a light rosy pink. Her skin was pale, but he could see the remnants of tan lines on her shoulders from the summer.
She was beautiful. Danny grew to love her in the short time they had met, but it wasn’t a romantic type of love, it was a brotherly type of love he felt towards her. The need to protect her was strong within him.
Besides, he couldn’t love her romantically, even if he wanted to. He was pretty awkward around girls anyways, which he guessed is what made him gay. At least that’s what he thought. He wasn’t sure. But he warmed up to Belle quickly.
“He isn’t sorry,” Belle said softly. “Not after what he did last night,”
“I’ve never seen Mars do anything remotely like that, and he’s my best friend.” Danny’s grip on his cup bcame tight. The styrofoam crumbled under his clutch.
“Mmm..” Belle’s gaze became distant.
Damnit, Dan. Bring her back. “So, back to the book. Augustus the loveable asshole?”
Belle let out her tinkly little laugh. Her eyes went gold, that tarnished gold color.
“Sometimes I think that, you know, even though that Augustus is..fake. I feel a connection to him. I can pity him, but there’s a part of me that wants to slap him across the face and tell him to live. But everytime I read those last few chapters, it hits me. I can’t change the end of something that isn’t written by me. For me.”
Danny nodded, putting his chin in his hand. When Belle talked, she spoke through another lens. Another voice that yearned to speak, but couldn’t. She was held back by pain, emotional pain, physical pain. He could see it.
“I’d have to agree with you, there.” He grinned.
“Really?” She gave him a look of surprise. “You agree with me,”
“You had something to say, something I agreed with. I know how you feel. Sadly.” Danny felt his smile fade a little.
“Oh, Danny,” She looked him right in the eye. Her gaze was intoxicating. “It may be sad, but its only part of a realization. A realization that could change everything.” She clasped her hands together and sighed.
“Well, why don’t we change things now?” Danny threw away his still-full cup, Belle’s too. He grabbed his keys off the table and reached out for Belle’s hand.
“What, Danny-” Belle’s eyes danced as she took his offer. “What about Ricky?”
“He’ll have to catch up with up with us later,”
The car ride to the grotto was filled with wonder, pure wonder.
“Are we actually going to do this?” Belle said.
“You bet your ever lovin’ boots we are,”
The walk through the grassy, winding paths was quiet. Only the sound of nature was present.
“Woah..” Belle looked over the rocky cliff, to peer over the clear blue water, the rippling waves just calling out to her. “It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah, it sure is. It’ll probably look even more beautiful once we finally get in there.” Danny took off his shirt and tossed it to the side.
Belle blushed. She kicked off her shoes and daintly stepped off to the side. “I’ll come in after you,”
Danny took her hand. “No way, girl. We’re in this together.”
Belle gave him that smile.
They laughed as they came up for air.
Danny’s hair was wet and stringy. Belle’s dress strap had slid down her arm.
They climbed back up. Exhilaration filled their lungs, a new lens covered the ones the had looked through for so long.
“Danny.” Belle said as they hopped back into the old jalopy,
“Do you think we were destined to be like Augustus and Hazel? Just a few people who want to make the most of it while we can?”
“No, I’m Danny Heartley, and you’re Belle O’Malley. We can pave our own paths. Nothing is ever destined in ink.”
They drove home, slowly, though. Trying to take in all they could, like sponges.
Eighteen years of just looking at the world negatively had done them damage.
A lot of it.
Belle leaned over the console to give Danny a chaste kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you for this,”
Danny just blushed. His grip on the wheel became tighter.
“You needed it. We both did.”
Danny could slowly feel himself lean toward her, he grasped Belle’s chin with the crook of her finger and kissed her.
Her lips were soft and sweet-
His eyes flew open and he pulled away in shock. Had he really just done that?
Belle just reared back, rigid against her seat. She gave Danny a look before saying in a soft voice.
“Are you okay?”
Danny just looked back at her, gripping at his armrest, the stuffing oozing from it. What was he supposed to say? He had kissed her. He was gay, questioning at least, and he had kissed his best friend’s girlfriend.
What kind of twisted world was this?
“I..I don’t know. I-I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Danny, just calm down. It’s fine. Just fine..” Belle put a hand to his shoulder and rubbed gently, her fingertips working into the tight muscle.
“I..I think I like you,” He uttered softly.
“I think I like you, too.”
Belle was suddenly in his lap, kissing him feverishly. He wrapped his arm around her waist caressing her gently.
“Belle,” Danny mumbled, pushing her away again. Christ.
“Can we really do this, you know, be together?” He shifted his weight a little.
‘You said it yourself, we can pave our own paths. Hell, we just jumped off a cliff into a lake. A lake. Mars isn’t in the picture. I’m free, we’re free. Just let go.”
That was it. Just let go.
So Danny did. He sat Belle on the dashboard, kissing her wildly. It seemed like hours before they came up for air.
Their clothes were rumpled and wrinkled, their hair was mussed and teased.
Belle leaned into Danny, sighing softly.
“This is perfect,”
‘Yeah. Yeah, it is.”
When all is said and done You'll believe God is a woman I tell you all the things you should know So baby, take my hands, save your soul We can make it last, take it slow, hmm.. And I can tell that you know I know how I want it, yeah When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing And he see the universe when I'm in company It's all in me
“She’s coding. Intubate her,” A nurse turned to a terrified intern, her scrubs splattered with crimson.
Danny stood in the corner of the room, his white t-shirt stained with fresh, scarlet blood.
Whose, you might ask?
Well, let’s take a look at the girl on the table.
Pale skin, chesnut brown locks, strewn in tangley spindles, Her eyes were a rust color, and hazed over. A bad sign for sure.
“Son, what’s her name?” Snapback. Danny’s gaze focused on the doctor in front of him, a tall man with bulging biceps that looked about to burst through the seams of the pristine white of the jacket he wore.
“S-Sabelle..O’Malley,” Danny said, slowly as possible, but the words came out in a jumbled hyper rush.
“Are you her boyfriend?” Danny nodded solemly. He wasn’t going to give the doctor the run-around about his relationship, there was no time to waste.
“Charge up to 250!” Screamed the same nurse as an intern readied the paddles, connected to a defibrilator.
They were going to shock her, she was that far gone.
Her body convulsed rigidly, but then loosened once she hit the gurney with a dull thump. Nothing.
Danny doubled over, feeling that he was going to vomit. This was too much at once for him to handle. He felt the doctor’s hand on his back.
“Come on, son. Jesus Christ. Let’s get you out of here.” His tone was sharp, but melancholy all together,
Danny didn’t retort, and slowly straightened back up, still clutching his stomach.
It wasn’t long before he was seated in a plastic-cushioned char in the waiting room, a styrofoam cup of poorly made coffee in his shaking hand.
“We were walking down the street, together. When he came up behind us..” Danny tried to take a sip without spilling, but it was hard.
“Who?” Todd took Danny’s shoulder and squeezed. “Daniel, I know its hard for you to tell us everything, but we need to know what you saw.”
‘Mars..” Danny felt his eyes fill with tears. “He came up behind us, surprised us, really.”
“Belle freaked out, she grabbed me and told us to go. Mars started to laugh, dragging his finger across her throat. I smelled beer on his breath. He was drunk. I told him to back off. He didn’t. An’ he took out that knife..and stabbed her. In the shoulder and ribcage.” It was getting harder to talk, the lump in his throat became thicker and thicker.
“Thanks, bud. That’s all we need to know for now,” Johnny just smiled his crooked smile, as if everything was fine.
There was a scream.
“Danny, where’s Danny? Is he okay? Is he alive?”
“Miss, please lay back, your friend is fine,”
“Belle?” Danny went running down the hall to the trauma bay, the sickness he felt was gone in an instant.
She was sitting up in bed, her eyes welling up with tears.
“Belle!” He knelt by her bedside, taking her hand in his.
“Are you okay?” Was the first thing out of her mouth.
“Goddamn, Belle, don’t go asking me things like that,” Danny felt the tears begin to flow. “Not now, at least. You’re the one that had to be shocked back to life, not me.”
“If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be sitting up like this..”
She stopped for a moment, her fingertips brushing her throat. She went ghost white, and suddenly began to struggle for air.
“Belle, come back to me, sweetie,” Danny knew what to do when her anxiety kicked in. This was one of those times. “You’re fine, you’re safe. Just breathe. ‘Kay?” He squeezed her hand.
“Mars isn’t coming back. Your dad treats you well. Nothing’s going to happen, you’re safe in my hands.”
Belle finally took in a breath and burst into tears. Big gasping, baby sobs, and her body shook violently.
“It’s okay, it’s okay..” Danny crushed her in a hug. He couldn’t let her go. He just couldn’t.
“He touched my throat..he knew..he knew..” She struggled to form words.
“M-my s-stutter..i-it’s n-never g-g-gonna..”
“Shut the hell up, Danny..” Belle slurred her words angrily as she lay crumpled in a ball on her bed, holding her stomach. “I can’t even hear myself think with your mumbling.”
“Belle, calm down. You’re sick because of the drugs they pumped into you,” Danny sat at the foot of her bed. “You’re home now, okay? You made it through surgery. You might be sore for a little while, but you’re going to be fine.”
Belle uncurled and rolled over to face Danny, tears in her eyes. They shone that familiar rust color. “A-And what about h-him, d-did the police c-catch..?”
“Yeah, hon. They caught Mars..” Danny squeezed her hand tightly. “He’s being held without bail.”
“I-I don’t want to see his face in court, or anywhere. He can rot in the the gates of hell, Hell, I tell ya!” She began to feel her little bit of a southern accent pop up again, but ignored it.
Danny on the other hand, found it hilarious. Maybe he was just laughing out of pure shock, or anxiety. But hearing Belle talk in such a ludicrous manner, made him love her even more.
Belle broke into a tiny smile, letting a little chuckle of her own. She reached out for Danny, stroking his cheek.
“So, are we, you know, an item?” She whispered, inching closer to him, their lips almost touching.
Danny laughed, meeting Belle’s lips, kissing back as gently as possible. “What do you think?”
“I think.. that you need to join me up here?” Belle gave him a look, lowering her gaze then shyly looked back up, a blush rising to her cheeks.
“Belle,” Danny tried to stifle his laughter. “Hon, you aren’t thinking straight. I can’t join you.”
“Why..?” Belle whined, peppering his face with butterfly kisses. “C’mon, I need someone to cuddle with.”
“Can I get a rain check on that?” Danny pushed her away politely, still smiling. He sort of liked drugged up Belle, but it just wasn’t like her. He was used to the sweet, soft-spoken girl he had fallen in love with, without even really knowing it at first.
“Of course,” Belle smiled her beautiful, radiating smile and curled back up under the covers, her eyes fluttering closed. Her chest rose and fell at a slow, even pace.
Danny kissed Belle on the temple and walked out of the room, as quietly as possible.
“So, Dan. My man with a plan,” Danny was met with Ricky’s devilish smile. “When are you gonna do the do with your lady friend?”
Danny just gave him a look. “Dude, shut the hell up. We are not talking about this now,”
“But when, man?” Ricky flipped his stringy blonde locks out of his eyes to give his friend a closer look. “When?”
Danny felt a blush rise to his cheeks, but felt his entire face grow hot. “When we’re ready, we’ll talk about it. Capheiche?”
‘Danny, I know you, you’re shy when it comes to these things.” Ricky said softly. “You’re head over heels about her, and Belle’s the same way. So talk with her. Please.”
Dannny collasped up against the wall beside his friend, letting out a deep sigh.
“Do you promise you’re not being a jackass?” He said gently.
“Though I think Belle and I would make hot babies together, she’s sweet on you. So sweep her off her feet, okay?”
Danny smiled, letting out a chuckle to cover up his nerves. Goddamnit, what had he gotten himself into?
“Danny,” Belle sat up in bed, dizzy and disoriented. She needed water, lots of it. She slowly got up, her thin, flowy nightshirt stained with bit of drool, gross.
She reached for the doorknob, fumbling as she turned it. Crap. She opened it slowly, letting light flow through. Shuffling out, she saw Danny, sitting at the counter, a cup of hot chocolate in front of him.
“Hey,” He smiled, pushing it towards her. The steam rose in little misty swirls
“Mmm..you know what I like,” Belle brightened at the sight of the beverage, encapsulating it between her slender fingers.
“Belle, can I talk to you?”
“Isn’t that what’s part of being in a relationship? ” She smiled as she put her lips to the cup.
Danny just smiled, but there was something off.
“Yeah, I guess,” Danny chuckled, staring into his coffee.
“What’s wrong? Did I say something, to make you upset?” Belle felt hot chocolate burn her upper lip. She ignored it.
“No, no. It’s nothing like that. You’re sweet, you’re smart, and beautiful,” His emerald eyes sparkled as he looked on at her, like Pygmalion looked on at Galatea once she stepped off her pedestal.
“I love you, Belle. More and more each day. And..I want to talk to you about, um, well..” Danny’s voice became soft, his gaze lowered back down to his drink.
She coughed in shock, inhaling the scalding cocoa. “Oh, I didn’t know you meant that..”
Danny handed her a napkin. “Y-Yeah, I did.”
‘We can take things slow, if it’s what you need,” Belle sat down across from Danny, her face hot.
“I-I would like that,” Danny gave her a sheepish look.
“Don’t be embarassed,” Belle tittered, feeling a nervous giggle rise in her throat. She had had this conversation before, but just not with.. A guy. It was strange, but she was willing to talk. Sort of.
‘I’m not, I’m just..relieved.” Danny whispered, wrapping an arm around Belle’s waist, pulling her close.
Belle just smirked and put a finger to his lips.
“I may be your Galatea, but God is a woman,” The words came out before she could stop them.
Danny just raised an eyebrow.
“Should I be praying?”
“Praying that you can keep up with me,” Belle looked him deep in the eyes, the tarnished gold color shone bright.