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     richie ran his fingers through pam's hair, leaving kisses along the shell of her ear and jawline.
     he nipped at her earlobe on occasion, smiling as she giggled and swatted at his face. she flipped to the next page of her novel, maniac magee. yes, it was on about a fourth grade reading level, but it was also her favorite book having reread it twice.
     richie continued to pester her with loving pecks to the cheek, leaving her muttering again and huffing in richie's face. she eventually gave in and leaned back against richie's stomach, nuzzling further into his lap and resting her head on his shoulder. he holds her tightly, reading over her shoulder.
     she begins to read aloud, like they always tend to do when they're together. her voice was soothing, leaving richie to close his eyes and drift to sleep as her words rocked him slowly back and forth.

-

     eddie taps his fingers repeatedly against his desk, the voice of freddie mercury all he can focus on. his breathing begins to quicken again, and it leaves himself wondering why he does this. why he inflicts so much pain and ptsd on himself. why he won't just let himself forget about richie completely. why he won't just move on.
     eddie stares at the paper in front of him, simply dated in the right-hand corner. he clicked the pen along with the best of the song, bicycle race, one of richies favorites. save me came on after. then fat bottomed girls. then radio gaga.
     eddie couldn't help but smile when bohemian rhapsody turned on, reminding him of their time at live aid. the wonderful experience.
     he got up and walked to his bedroom, where he pulled a small box out from under his bed. he lifted the old polaroid from it, blowing the layer of dust off and tracing his thumb over it. mercury and him; mercury and them. mercury and richie. mercury and eddie.
    he didn't notice he was crying until a drop landed on his thumb, in which he immediately wiped and held the picture to his chest. he'd told his therapist that the photo was long gone and was never to be seen again.
     instead of putting it back in the box, he slid it underneath his mattress. walking back to his desk, the familiar, soft static click signified the record was over and no songs were left to play. the silence reminded him of how alone he really was.
     he went back to tapping his pencil repeatedly against the desk, sliding in the new tape from his therapist. he wasn't allowed to read what songs were on it, but he listened carefully to each one.
     africa.
     i wanna dance with somebody.
     come on eileen.
     uptown girl.
     tainted love.
     eddie decided on i wanna dance with somebody, writing it down and saving the tape for his next meeting with mrs. kurt.

-

     "and why did you choose this song, eddie?" mrs. kurt hummed, the pencil in her grip tapping melodically against the notepad in her hands.
     "because it's true," he said quietly, adjusting his tie. "i want somebody to love me."
     "you want to feel love again?" mrs. kurt confirmed, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
     "yeah. i want to be held again. i want to listen to music and never want to stop."
     mrs. kurt wrote hurriedly, nodding. "thank you, eddie. you may leave. don't forget your medications."
     he walked down the familiar steps and into the streets of new york once again. his hair blew against his face as he shivered in the cold. nothing new. he looked up at flashing signs and cars zooming down the icy streets. he tipped a few cents to some pan handlers on the side of the streets. the usual.
     he had to walk through the nyu campus to get to the other side of town where his apartment was located. he dreaded this part. full of students and successful scholars. every time he walked by he felt like a total waste.
     he hopes to attend nyu next year. he's sent in many letters in hopes of being accepted, but he's yet to get a response. he sees a couple walking and holding hands, but then eddie feels as if it's rude of him to assume they were dating. maybe they're just friends. he shouldn't assume. bad, eddie. bad.
     he stops for a moment to warm himself up, cowering into his jacket that was failing miserably at reflecting his body heat back onto him. he rubbed his hands together, shivering. after a short while of struggling, he began to walk again, only to slip on a small patch of ice.
     he caught himself right before he landed on his face, his anxiety and anti depressant bottles spewing every which way from his bag, including his tapes from his therapy and his cigarettes. he immediately dropped to the sidewalk, attempting to scoop everything up.
     his eyes blurry with tears from embarrassment, his hands working nimbly to scoop up the cigarettes and tape, his chest heaving.
     he makes out what seems to be a third hand, and eddie didn't think much of it until his mind registered that he doesn't, in fact, have three hands.
     he looks up to find a kind face, picking up pill bottle after pill bottle and sliding them carefully into eddies bag.
     he had black hair, the color of coal, but the street light illuminated the highlights of his hair to reveal more of a hershey brown. his eyes matched, dark with specks or honey drizzled in top. his lips were chapped, but slightly pink as if he were wearing lip gloss. eddie pieced two and two together that it wasn't him, but probably his girlfriend. it would explain the small smudge just below his lower lip.
     eddie watched as the boy lifted the last bottle and muttered the words on the sticker softly.

EDWARD A. KASPBRAK
PAROXETINE: ANTI-DEPRESSANT
TAKE ONE TABLET DAILY

     the boy furrowed his eyebrows, but shook his head and handed it to eddie.
     eddie got a good look of the boys bright, multi-colored windbreaker once he stood up. he took the bottle from him and made eye contact. he was much taller.
     "richie?" he managed to huff out, but before he could make himself heard, the boy was running away to catch up with the boy with noodle hair ahead of him. eddie clenched the strap of his satchel, heart pounding in his chest.
     perhaps he did have something to live for, after all.

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