Catapult

Prologue


Do you believe in fate?

A trite question, I know. Clichéd. Silly, even. I thought so, too, the first time it was asked of me. Predestination? Providence? Destiny? Psssh.

I mean, isn’t it a little insulting to believe that our lives are already preordained? That we, as humans, are completely incapable of deciding things for ourselves? Unable make good choices? That we’re so helpless, we need a little assistance with finding the right career, or the right friends, or the right place to live? The right person to love?

Is it insulting?

Or is it comforting?

Nowadays, I lean towards the latter.

I’m lying on the couch, curled up with my ancient UK afghan, an artifact from my old house that’s seen better days. The fringe is tangled and dirty, and there’s a mysterious stain that won’t come out no matter how many cycles of the wash it’s seen. But it’s warm, and it’s soft. It’s flawed, but somehow perfect. Like I am to him. Like he is to me.

He’s in the other room, at the piano – I can hear the faint, melodic sounds of chords and scales and notes being played in succession. The occasional curse as he misses a note or can’t remember what comes next. I love to listen to him play – I haven’t a musical bone in my body, despite my love of listening, and I find it amazing that those sounds – those melodies – come from his mind and from his fingertips. It’s pop, it’s easy on the ears, but it’s also sort of like magic. Me, espousing pop music? I know. Of course, I’d never tell him that – I have a reputation to uphold.

I flip another page of my book. Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It’s getting dark in the room, as the sun has shifted to the west, leaving only a pale rhombus of light splayed across the floor. I yawn, stretching my arms high over my head, sighing in satisfaction as my muscles relax. I close my eyes, still listening. He’s getting frustrated, I can tell. When I hear more ‘shits’ and ‘fucks’ than actual notes, it’s time for me to intervene.

I get up off the couch and toss the afghan to the side. I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt of his, one so old and worn that it feels like incredibly soft tissue paper. It’s comfortable, but thin, so I curl my arms up, hugging myself from the chill in the air. I pad down the hall on bare feet, the shredded hem of my jeans dragging along the cool wooden floors.


A moment later, I stand in the doorway to the room, observing him. He’s wearing an old gray t-shirt and worn jeans, hunched over the piano, his shaggy blond hair falling over his face. I watch his hands dance over the keys for a moment, picking out a bright, cheery tune, before hitting an accidental sharp.

“Fuck me!” he growls, banging his fist against the keys. The sound is angry and discordant, a far cry from the sweet melody he played only moments before.

I smile. “Maybe later, if you’re good,” I say, taking a step into the room. I laugh as he spins to face me. His expression changes – the furrow goes away, the eyes relax, and he grins, wide and beautiful. “But I think we should have dinner first…”

He shakes his head and beckons me closer, crooking his long fingers to draw me in. “Food, always the food with you…” I walk to him, like I always do, unable and unwilling to stay away. He scoots over on the polished black bench, and I sit next to him, facing away from the piano.

“You need a break,” I say, squeezing his knee lightly. There's a large rip in the fabric there, and I sneakily slide my hand into it, tickling the soft skin.


He smiles ruefully and nods, sliding a nimble hand around my waist. “I do.”

“Let’s go out. What are you in the mood for? Italian? Chinese? Ooh, wait! There’s that new Thai restaurant downtown…”

He laughs, pulling me close, laying his head on my shoulder. His hair tumbles down, fluttering lightly against both our faces. “Whatever you want. Sounds good to me.”

I put my arms around his lean frame, leaning into his embrace, and gently kiss his cheek. “Good. Let’s go.”

“Right now? Dressed like this?”

“Right now. Dressed like this.”

He raises his head, brushing his lips across my cheek before giving me a slow, soft kiss. We both smile as we pull apart. “As you wish,” he says coquettishly, quoting The Princess Bride, which he knows is one of my favorite movies. It's a fairy tale, yes, but with humor and a twist. A story about love – all-consuming, over-the-top, ridiculous love.

He stands up, taking my hand and pulling me to my feet. We leave the room, our fingers intertwined, fitting together like lock and key. Like we were made for each other.

Fairy tale? Not quite; I’m no princess, and he’s no knight in shining armor, especially since I hate dresses and he’s afraid of horses. Our story is a little more realistic than that…

…and yet, somehow, a little more unreal.

That is, if you don’t believe in fate.

You say you don’t? Maybe we should explain.

Listen closely - because we may just change your mind...