Note: Check out the first four parts here before reading this part because… SPOILERS!
I feel trapped inside this building as Marcus keeps all the girls prisoner in The Mansion until we’re all tested for diseases. His ties are tighter around his neck than ever before. His blonde hair slicked back instead of the usual chaotic curls. Marcus leaves early each night, not requesting a girl for weeks, to his office instead of his bedroom. I see Theo each night, but Marcus makes no comment about Theo’s need to see me. Some nights we simply fall asleep on the roof. Other nights we speak of the constellations. On rare occasions, I tell him about my mother and my life before The Mansion. But those stories emerge on the nights I’m given strong emotions.
Theo runs back and forth to Castor, but he never lets me pay him for my emotions in a bottle. One night, or early morning depending on how you look at it, I sneak out of a loose window panel in the Star Room. Theo doesn’t notice or mention it the next morning. I race through the alleys and streets towards the Black Market. Only one light is lit when I reach the back entrance by Castor’s stall. The sliding door is already open to let in fresh air, so I simply walk through, surprising Castor in the process.
“What are you doing here?” His gruff voice is a welcome noise in the silence of the past weeks. “Aren’t you supposed to be on house arrest or something?” Castor walks over and wraps his beefy arms around me. So unlike Theo, I think to myself.
“I missed you, Castor. Sometimes I just need to talk to someone who isn’t going to sugarcoat things for me, ya know?” Of course he did, though, because Castor had been there for me since nearly the beginning of The Mansion. One of my few actual friends in my new life.
“I got you, sweet cheeks. Let’s talk about it.” He reaches behind his counter made of crates and produces a stool for me to sit on. Instead I hop up onto his counter and tell him all about my life at The Mansion. My diagnosis, Theo, the constellations, my addiction to his bottles, and my dreams beyond the red velvet walls of The Mansion.
Weeks pass as I jump over buildings and barter with Castor in the mornings and request Luna each night from the VIP section. The thought of her with my father makes my stomach grow sick. We spend the nights up on the roof of the Star Room until I begin to tell Luna her stories of the constellations back. She switches it up some nights and tells me stories of her time before The Mansion, of her dreams. No matter what, however, we always end up in each other’s arms peacefully asleep under the constellations and stories.
One night, a few months after Luna’s diagnosis, I set up the Star Room as her own oasis looked from her childhood. I string up white lights around the ceiling’s beams and across the paths. Blue and purple cloth swirl through the plants and across the ceiling with the lights. Gold stars hang from the spiral staircase and above my bed in the corner. Patiently, I await for Luna to walk through the door. When she finally arrives, at first she doesn’t register the decorations. She gives me a hug and kiss before looking around the darkened Star Room. Her golden eyes reflect the white light, but even her smile is brighter than ever before.
“It’s beautiful,” Luna says. “And don’t even think of saying the cheesy line about to come out of your mouth.” I chuckle because she knows me so well. “Plus, you’ll be pretty happy tonight, too.”
“Oh, Luna. I’m already happy,” I whisper as I draw her closer.
“That is a cheesy line, Theo.” Luna’s eyes warn me of any other cheesy lines about to come from my lips. “Doctor came today.” Her silence is all the answer I need for the good news coming next.
“YES! YES!” I shout, not caring who hears me at this time of night. Luna’s laugh is music to my ears as a weight is lifted from both our shoulders. She leaps into my arms and wraps her legs around my middle. I easily catch her and carry her all the way to the roof. Luna raises her eyebrows as we pass my bed without stopping. A laugh carries itself out of me to our surprise. When we reach the roof, Luna sets her feet back down on the ground and sits herself in her usual spot on the edge. I walk and sit down next to her on the edge of the roof. Subconsciously, Luna leans against me and stares up at the stars.
“Thank you,” she whispers. I stare down at this blue-haired girl I’ve grown to love in awe. Her fierce passion for everything makes it seem impossible that for a short while in her life, she held none of these emotions. “No one has ever done this for me before.” Luna turns towards me and stares back. “Theo.”
I simply lean in and mean to give her a quick kiss that slowly deepens into something more. Luna breaks it off, but grabs my hand and leads me back down to the first floor. “Are you sure,” I ask, thinking of her diagnosis from a few months ago. A mistake my very own father made.
“I’m sure,” Luna insists, and stands on tiptoes to reach my lips. We fall back on my bed.
“I’m not.” What are you doing? My brain shouts. By Luna’s confused face, I know she’s asking the same question. “Luna, I don’t want to have to share you with anybody else. And here, right now, I have to share you with other men. Even my own father some nights. How am I supposed to feel about that?”
“Are you saying you don’t want to see each other,” Luna asks, pushing herself up off my bed.
“No, no, no,” I reply, grabbing her hand and preventing her from taking a step further away from me. “Just the opposite, actually.” I pause to take a deep breath. “Luna, I want you just for myself. What I truly want is just you with none of this darkness from The Mansion. I need to have nights of being able to stay up as late as we want without worrying about who could walk in. I need mornings of making eggs at the stove while you read the morning newspaper at the table. Luna, I want us to have a conventional, normal life. We can’t have that at The Mansion. Which is why I propose for us to… leave.” I wait for her response, but her expression moves through a variety of emotions. Surprise. Love. Confusion. Guilt. And back to surprise. “It wouldn’t be immediate,” I begin to say.
“Let’s do it,” Luna answers. “Within the month. Could we do that?”
“Well… I mean… I have no idea where we would go. I have little money from bartending tips.”
“Theodore Crawford, we are leaving The Mansion to start on our grand adventure together in the outside. I declare it a promise today.” Luna stands straight up and proud of her proclamation.
“Well, Luna. We should make it permanent with a sort of contract.” I wink up at her, and her smile shines down. She takes a step and trips on the white lights twining around my bed’s legs. I catch her before she falls on her face and toss her onto the bed. Before I can say anything else, she begins to kiss me. I fall into the lunar eclipse that is Luna.
I barely see Luna for the rest of the month besides for our early morning runs each week to the Black Market. At the beginning of the month, Luna tells Castor of our plans to leave. They argue for a solid hour about the idea. The next time we visit his booth, though, he gives me a plant along with a list of people to go to for the best prices of items we need before leaving.
“Thank you,” I say. Castor simply begins mumbling to himself and wipes off the crate countertop leaving dirt streaks behind.
Luna grabs the list out of my hand and says, “Let’s go see what we all need!” She skips away through the crowded Black Market. Her hair stands out against the bland and dirty colors in the background, a light against the darkness. Ever since I suggested we leave, Luna hasn’t been able to stop talking or telling stories about outside The Mansion. I worry she may have even talked to some of the girls with the way they’ve all been looking at me. But my mind is going in paranoia mode the closer the set date looms: November 1. The day after my father’s big party for Halloween.
November 1 is a week away. November 1 is an eternity away in my mind. I snap myself out of my thoughts and catch up to Luna talking with an older woman about the price of a tapestry.
Are you excited about Luna’s POV coming back? What do you think of Castor now? What are your hopes for the future of Luna and Theo? Let me know in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~