one

To me, I don't currently believe in a religion. However, I am not completely against the idea of believing in religion or becoming religious. I feel like if there was a point in my life where maybe I wanted some type of belief or religion, I'd possibly be Catholic or Christian.

I don't know what I think about what happens to us after life. I don't know whether to believe we all get segregated, depending on how many of our sins outweigh our Saint moments. Or whether to believe that Hell is as we all think; a place with fire, torture, endless suffering and eternal screaming. But, I think I've spent too long on wondering what to believe about the life we live that I don't want to spend time theorising about our possible future lives, that isn’t even certain because they're all just theories. Maybe I will believe the theories sometime but for now, I just want to make sure that I'm successful in this life. Successful and very happy. That's all I want. Success with all the friends, money, accomplished dreams. And if I do end up going to Hell - with flames, erratic temperatures and punishment - then at least I know I've lived a good life here while I still had it.

•••

The dark sky was fading and bright colours were starting to form, signalling the start of a new day. We all recognised we needed to be leaving, but no one moved an inch. We were too busy taking in the feeling, capturing this moment through cameras in our mind. It was tranquil, remarkable and bliss. We didn't feel we needed anything else, apart from what we had, in that moment.

The reflection that lay upon the top layer of the water was the centre of attention. I felt the arms around me squeeze closer, as I continued to admire nature's natural beauty. All that was created and all we could do was enjoy it. I wasn't complaining. I had an urge to jump in, destroy the settled reflection that twinkled in the small light the sky provided. But I resisted. I just wanted to take this moment in, because who would know how long it would last?

The hands around me started to stroke my arm slowly and I felt fully at peace. If I were to die right now, I'd die happy. I'd die knowing my last moments were nothing but paradise. I'd die knowing that nothing but ecstasy ran through my veins, maybe mixed with a bit of alcohol from the night before. I'd be happy.

The cold air loomed around, tickled my exposed legs. It was a nice feeling. Something else to remember about this moment in time.

I moved my eyes around, really capturing the entire essence of our paradise we found. The small sound of the flow of water enhanced the way I felt about this place. I felt happy. The hard feeling of rock beneath my legs wasn't enough to make me move, in comparison to the beautiful sights I was presented with in front of me. I could stay here for eternity.

The small whiff of cologne that hit me when I slightly leaned back reminded me I was sharing this experience with someone else. Maybe two differentiating feelings, but the same experience. I could ask him about it later. Later. I want to enjoy this breathtaking moment.

If I look to my right, I'd see more rock and two others. Of course, they were incredible to share this with, but I only really cared about my baby whose arms I'm wrapped in right now.

I looked back up at the sky, seeing pink colours arousing more and the solemn blue continuing to fade. Can't the world just stop? I don't want to go back. I want to live in this moment for a bit longer. Here on the rock that overlooks the small cove. Here with people I love. Here with experiences made that I'll never forget. Can't I continue to make more experiences? Can't I please stop time so I can fully analyse this place, so it's like a movie in my mind each time I remember this day?

I felt the arms around me move in closer and I knew I'd be hearing a deep voice soon, pointing out the obvious that none of us wants to accept.

I took one last, long look at the reflection on the water, in between the rocks that surrounded it. How could something be so still yet so thrilling at the same time?

"Babe," I heard a soft whisper into my ear. I knew this was coming, but it was coming all too soon. "I hate to say it but we should go soon."

I sighed softly and turned my head to face the one who broke the harsh reality to me.

"I don't want to leave." I looked into deep eyes, surrounded by long eyelashes and thick brown eyebrows.

"I know baby. Me neither." He tightened his grip around me and I turned around to look at the sky. I wonder if I just stay here, what would happen?

"Promise me we'll come back sometime soon." I breathed, hoping he could still hear me with my voice this soft. It felt as though it would be wrong to speak loudly here like I'd destroy the peace.

"I promise, baby. Don't you worry, we'll be back."

I smiled even though he couldn't see me. I was taken away by his words that seemed to soothe my mind. They didn't take away my annoyance at our obvious early departure we had to make.

"We should get our stuff." He made me stand up with him. I tried to protest and stay sitting, but he was stronger than me and got me up on my feet.

I turned to look at my bag that I had placed beside us sometime in the past few hours. I grabbed my sunglasses next to it and placed them in there, making my movements purposely soft as though hoping it would cause time to slow down.

My friends started to pack up, too, and it felt more real. I didn't want it to end. None of us did. It didn't need to be said because it was clear in the soft air that danced around us, and the lighter sky and dark rock that was illuminated in the still reflection of the water down below.

I stood up. "I have an urge."

"What's the urge, babe?" He smirked slightly. He was the Devil and an Angel all in one.

"To jump in there." I moved my head in the direction of the water, settling my eyes on it.

"Well, are you jumping alone?"

I smiled at him. He made this whole experience so much better. He lights up my life, much like the stars in the sky. I couldn't ask for a better person to spend this night with. You couldn't ask for a man like this, even if you had God on speed dial. He was perfect, in every way. And I was unsure if he was even human at times.

His eyes glistened and gleamed and even though they were a dark brown colour, I still saw light every time I looked into them. They crinkled when he caught me gazing deeply into them, completely in awe about how he can be so perfect and all mine.

I looked at him. He was wearing black shorts and a black t-shirt and I was wearing a short black skirt and a red top. We should be fine to jump in like this.

So without a second thought, I grabbed his large hand, felt the sparks run through up to my heart, and took him while I ran up to the edge of the rock and jumped off with him.

The drop wasn't big, so before I knew it we had hit the water. The beautiful reflection was probably shattered, trying to repair itself among the ripples now forming. The water was chilly against our warm bodies, but it was thrilling. I felt ecstatic that I had done that.

I came up, after being submerged, and took a deep breath in. The sky was directly above us in a way that we could see every single movement the atmosphere made, a single twitch of a cloud would be noticed.

I felt a jolt beside me and saw dark hair rising out of the water. Before I knew it, those familiar eyes were staring at me again and the smirk was present.

"You have good urges." I blushed at his remark and splashed some water towards him playfully.

He advanced closer, wrapping his arms around my body in the way I love. We were at eye level, slightly motoring our legs below the water to keep ourselves afloat in the dark liquid. His hands wrapped around the back of my damp head and I couldn't keep the smile off of my face. He just pulled my head closer, slowly and steadily. I would have forgotten about patience, in this moment, if it were not for the beautiful flowers I noticed behind him from this angle that now inhabited droplets of water on their precious petals, or the soft hum and trickle of the small waterfall that was behind me.

I felt his hot breath coming closer, and closer. His eyes were still lit up, as we continued to stare into each other's eyes, like the windows into our souls. I closed my eyes because I could feel there would be no gap between us in a second.

The next thing I felt was soft lips against mine, pressing passionately. This was entirely bliss.

Sparks electrocuted inside me, my whole body euphoric. I was alive. I was living like I never had before. This moment was perfect and this kiss was beautiful with these intense, but loving feelings attached.

All too soon, he pulled away and I opened my eyes again. I had finally found it. I had finally found two things, as he didn't break our stare and I felt like he could see right through me, and I would melt in the palm of his hand if he continued to look at me like that. I had found two things, whilst he smiled widely, his beautifully lit up face matching the flourishing surroundings.

I had found my happy place. I had found happiness. That's the first thing I found.

And as he pulled my hand, our bodies cutting through the water to the side where we had to go to leave, and smiled at me, I confirmed the second thing.

As he breathed, "I love you." for the first time, then and there under the stunning sky and just when we got out of the shimmering water, I admitted to myself what his real name was.

And as I said it back, feeling bubbly from my head to my toes, and even in my fingertips, I said it to myself in the realisation that it was entirely true.

Morning Star, the light of my world.

But everyone else calls him Asher.

———

“Do you even know where you’re going?” I raise an eyebrow, as Asher backs out of the parking lot.

We did end up leaving the idyllic waterfall after reality defeated our last wishes to stay in the serene hideaway.

“I sure do,” He looks back at me, his hair still slightly a darker shade of brown than usual due to the water, but his eyes were still as full of light as ever. “Don’t question my navigational skills.”

“Oh sure, I should just take your word for it. It’s not like we’ve gotten lost before because of you.” I tease.

“Come on,” Asher turns to face me once more. “It was one time. How was I supposed to know that we were going East instead of West? We went through so many windy roads.”

“I suppose so. It was pretty funny, watching you so confused and having to admit you were wrong.” I giggle and watch his face lit up.

“Ugh, you guys are making us sick.”

I turn my head around and see my two best friends, Kelsey and Madeline, facing me.

“Yeah, it’s so corny to listen to you two flirt.” Kelsey chimes in, flicking her black hair off her shoulder.

“You can feel the tension between them in the air.” Madeline remarks and Kelsey starts convulsing with laughter. Madeline soon joins in.

Asher keeps his eyes on the road but leans in towards me. He lets his lips linger by my blonde covered ears for a second, before whispering, “They’re not exactly wrong.”

I feel my face burn up with the knowledge that my cheeks are rapidly transitioning into a shade of red. He has a point though.

I look at Asher, yet he doesn’t look back at me. The tension between us is growing thicker, but now it’s worse because Madeline and Kelsey have pointed it out.

A few moments pass with nothing but silence from the living bodies in the car. There’s no radio or music. Asher never plays anything in the car when my friends are there. He will when I’m there, but he holds music special to him and doesn’t want to share it with those who he isn’t close with. I understand that. Music is an art in a form which is erotic to the ears. It takes you to Eden and you can’t help but feel at least some form of adequacy upon listening.

“What are the plans for when we get back?” Kelsey questions.

“I don’t know,” I reply.

Asher chimes in as soon as I’ve breathed out my last syllable. “We could go out for breakfast somewhere. I’m kinda starved.”

“Me too. I could use some caffeine.” His suggestion was not worthy of frowning upon, for it was logical and we were all rather hungry.

“Sounds good. Where abouts?” I could see Madeline nodding her hair in the rear-view mirror.

“There’s a place on the way back to the highway. It’s just beyond these windy roads. I’ve never been but every time I drive past I always wonder what it would be like,” I recall the multiple memories of wishfully gazing out the window, a particular black painted cafe catching my eye every time. “Of course, it’s just a suggestion.”

Asher glanced over me with a smile plastered on his face. He gave me a nod before words glided out of his mouth. “I think it would be good to check out.” My heart raced.

I look over my shoulder and see two heads, one covered in a brunette colour and the other covered in a shorter black colour, moving up and down, signalling their approval. I turn my head back to focus on the road. We were driving up the hill that overlooks the small residential area of where we had spent the last day. It was still early morning, so the orange and pink swirled in the sky were more pigmented than ever.

Keeping my eyes on the horizon, I breathed out. The memories of the last few hours were being replayed in my head, as I watched us move further away from the setting of those vivid reruns.

I suddenly felt a hand on my thigh, the life inside the car so peaceful I could feel every movement the pulsing palm made. I looked up at the hand’s owner, catching his eye staring at me. I smiled and felt the same sparks from before ignite inside of me. It was so strong, I bet he could feel it. I bet he could feel the blood rushing through my body right now, myself weak under his touch.

“You’re so quiet, babe,” Asher whispered over to me, even though the two in the backseat could probably still hear every syllable.

“I’m just enjoying the view.” When he turned in my direction, I nodded my head in the direction of the sunrise, dominating over the coast and beach homes that were inhabited by it.

“Ah,” I see him quickly changing his glance from me, to the road, to the window displaying the sight. I feel my heart start to race when he continues to look over, the Saint inside of me wanting to tell him to keep his eyes on the road. But I let my Sinner win. Asher deserved to have a memory of all the small things too. “It’s beautiful.”

He turned his attention back onto the road, out of carefulness. I bet he could feel the sudden pumping, with his hand on my thigh, from my worry of where his stare was being won over.

We all sat in silence. Not an awkward silence, not at all. We were all happy, living and astonished. As we left the final sight of the place I named ‘Paradise’, I knew we would be back soon. Back to here to relive the memories of this Heaven but, sadly, also back to earth.

We grew closer and closer to our location of our caffeine fix, that would hopefully make up for our lost hours of sleep. But I didn’t regret a single second of it. I didn’t regret not getting a single wink when I saw how beautiful the world was when I wasn’t dreaming. Of course, being on that rock I didn’t need to dream. I was in a place more beautiful than my mind could have imagined, waking or unconscious, and it was real. The most real thing I’ve felt in a long time.

Minutes pass, with no words being spoken into the warm air that surrounds our underdressed bodies. There’s still the familiar hand on my thigh and it constantly reminds me of how far I've come to live in such a happy place on this earth. It strikes me as insane how my life has changed so much, in so little time. I don’t understand it at all.

I suddenly see the scenery ahead of our car change from just green forestry to a black building emerging as the speed of the car increases. “There it is.” I signally, warning everyone we would be leaving this bubble we’d been sitting in for the past twenty minutes.

Asher slowed the bubble whilst our desired location inched forward. Before I knew it, the sign was in clear view and the engine had been pulled to a halt. The clutch had been moved and the bubble was stationary.

We grabbed our bags, opened the doors and leapt out of the car. I was anticipating stretching my legs out and getting a breath of free air. Everyone else had the same thoughts too, from the sights of it.

Once we had all finished our mini yoga session on the gravel, we grouped together and stepped into the cafe in front of us. It was cute inside, with wooden walls and black steel seats. It had a nice cosy feeling, with a fresh smell of coffee in the air. I looked at Asher who was on my left, with his right hand in my left. He smiled and we walked forward to inspect the menus in the small box near the counter.

“Hi, would you like a table?” A young waiter with slightly toned arms approaches us.

“Yes please, for four,” Asher responds and the waiter grabs four of the menus we were analysing and starts heading towards an empty table.

We slowly trail behind the waiter, looking around at how cosy this place is. We finally approach the table and sit down - Asher and I on one side with Madeline and Kelsey on the other - and pick up the menus the waiter placed in front of us.

“Have a look and I’ll be back soon to take your orders,” He smiles at us. “Please do not hesitate to ask any questions.” He suddenly turns his gaze to me and we make eye contact. I feel a sudden presence on my left thigh and the culprit is a hand belonging to my man beside me.

The waiter finally leaves and I turn my eyes straight onto the menu.

“Do you know him?” Asher whispers, pretending to read this menu but rather more focused on pressing me with questions.

“No,” I turn and look at him, straight in his brown eyes. “I’ve never seen him before. Why?” I already know the answer.

I see Asher’s cheeks flush and his brows furrow together. “He was staring at you.”

The jealousy is thick in the air, filling the empty locations in this room with it. I roll my eyes, before putting my hand over his hand that still resides on my thigh.

“I promise you, baby, the only person I want to stare at is you.” We’ve locked eyes and his previously red eyes from his insane covetousness turned light again, from my soft reassurance.

Asher doesn’t say anything else. He just looks down, almost as though he’s in shame, and declares a staring competition with the alcoholic drink section of the menu.

I almost say something. Almost. But then I realise, it isn't such a bad idea. It could be satisfying to have champagne for breakfast. Although, knowing him, he’s probably eyeing the heavier alcohol.

He places his finger on one of the options, then turns to look at me. The smirk has returned and it’s speaking to me.

I look down at where his finger is placed. “What do you think?” Asher breathes out, whilst maintaining the plastered smirk on his face.

“I think,” I take a breath before continuing to look into his eyes, him looking into my soul. “It sounds wonderful.”
I’m locked in, I can’t get out. I’m locked in deep under his cologne spell.

I slowly put my hand over his slightly veiny one, with is still on the menu. He breaks the rope that tied our eyes together and takes a deep breath out.

I know he’s feeling this too. It’s intense but we can both handle it. Just like his hand is now handling mine.

———

I can’t keep the smile off my face, seeing Asher slightly stumble out of his chair. I’m also heavy on my feet, but not as much. I only had a couple flutes of champagne.

Asher isn’t drunk. No, getting drunk at breakfast would not be classy. He has just drunk enough to be tipsy for the morning. Perfect end to our perfect evening. Technically, perfect evening and morning. We did see the sunrise earlier, so yes. Evening and morning. Perfect end to it all. Celebrating our freedom in paradise with more bubbles that are continuously pulling a Houdini act, making it nearly impossible to count all of them in the glass. If you had the time, which we don’t. We have a life to live.

I know Kelsey and Madeline had a drink. Maybe a glass and a half. I don’t remember, but they’re smiling. That’s a good sign. We’re all happy. Maybe only temporarily, before we dump the burden of driving back on them. We don’t want any accidents.

We end up debating about the bill. Kelsey and Madeline pay their share, swiping their cards, and I’m fine to pay my own but Asher refuses and pays it for me. I roll my eyes, as he hands over the cash.

After exiting, we head over to Asher’s silver car. We load in with Kelsey and Madeline in the front, Kelsey driving, and Asher and I are in the back.

“Well, that was nice,” Madeline remarks, as Kelsey backs out of the park.

“Yeah. The French toast was so good.” I slightly chuckle and I can feel the huge grin that has started to bloom on my face.

“It was.” Asher smiles at me.

“Didn’t you get the BLT?” Kelsey has both hands steady on the wheel, focused on the road that is now in front of us.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t steal some of off her.” He laughs loudly and looks at me. There it is. That spark when I look into his eyes. I bet he feels it too, electrocuting him with a billion volts to the heart.

“Get a room.” Madeline turned around and playfully rolled her eyes at us.

“Gladly,” I heard Asher mutter, which made me look at him. “What? It’s the truth though, right?”

I used my elbow to smack the side of his stomach, to which he responded with a loud cackle.

We continued to drive, once again. The air was full of life, yet so unconscious to the idea of returning back home, once again. It was like we were running. Running far away from reality into a place where freedom exists and paradise welcomes you with open arms. Maybe it’s because we were running, or at least I was. I was running in an attempt to start fresh. Running for a change in what had become my life. Maybe searching, too. Searching for an answer to solve all the problems that are reborn every time I enter through the front door. Searching for a reason as to why these problems are my problems. They shouldn’t be. Maybe I was searching for reassurance that I wasn’t crazy or I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about their supposed “home”, which I can’t claim I’ve fully found that address. Or maybe I have, with Asher. Maybe I’m searching for a sign that it’s all in my head and I’m being a superficial princess. Maybe I am just a brat with extremely high expectations. Maybe that’s what I’m searching for. A cure for my conceited behaviour towards my housely environment. But am I really being conceited if I’m just trying to remind myself this is temporary so I don’t go insane and start ripping my hair out? Maybe I’m searching for a way to prove that I’m not trying to be an arrogant bitch, I’m just trying to express my discontent towards the place where I forcibly reside. Maybe I'm searching for an antidote to stop all these thoughts inside my head from spinning out of control. Or even some breaks, to stop the sudden rush of word and questions that race for the chequered flag. Maybe I’m searching for something to stop it all.

I look out the window and see the trees splatter past as though I’m out running them. We’re all out running things. Look at us. Kelsey is going slower than usual and it’s not because she’s scared of going fast. She’s scared of what will happen when this ends, or perhaps that’s just me.

I see more cars ahead of us starting to line up more frequently, signalling lesser distance towards the civilisation we’re unfortunately all too familiar with. I wish I could just hit pause for everyone but us.

“So, any last stops or am I dropping everyone off at their home?” I hold back my thoughts on Kelsey’s use of “home” because maybe she’s fine with her place.

“Do you want to come back to mine?” My eyes light up when I turn towards Asher’s soft whispers.

“Do you even have to ask?” I smile widely, happy to shake certain deep thoughts out of my head, and happy to escape reality for that much longer.

“Sapphire is coming back to mine, alright?” I love the way Asher says my name.

“Sure.”

“Just drop yourselves off first because this is my car, remember?” Kelsey and Madeline nod.

“Yeah, how could I forget? It reeks of weed,” Asher scoffs. “No offence.” Kelsey attempts to revive herself.

“Whatever. I happen to enjoy the scent.”

“Well, no shit.” Madeline chimes in, Kelsey laughing at her remark.

Asher has a mock angry look on his face. He’s cute when he’s mad. It’s so frustrating.

We get on to the motorway 10 minutes later, my heart thudding harder with each meter we drive. At least I’m going back to Asher’s after this. At least we’ll have each other.

I’m looking out the window, like not-so-long ago, wondering if this is all some people know. Is this all some people are stuck with? Day-in, day-out routines that are boring and based off slightly above minimum wage salaries. God, I hope that won’t be me. I don’t want to live a 9-5 life, with nothing else in between. I want the fast and fabulous, without a single need to be despondent towards anything.

I’m reminded of the rush that I currently have in my life when I feel warmth cover my hand, digits sliding against my own. I love these little moments. If only I could craft my life from all the little pieces, sewing them together into a one-of-a-kind designer piece that fits like a dream.

Smoothly, the car picks up speed, changes lanes, before slowing down again. I keep looking at the cars surrounding us, carrying bodies with intentions of taking them to their desired locations. We have control, or at least we think until we realise that we don’t. We do control where we go, but we also don’t. If we could, more than half would be out of the country, or at least to a different city. We control small parts in the grand scheme of the bigger controller. Who that is, I’m still not sure, but I do know we aren’t in control. There’s something always stopping us from moving forward to take the control we want. Whether it be money, the Government, or a higher power like God, they are always controlling us without us knowing. Like right now. We can’t control our return back to our houses. If we could control it, we’d still be in paradise. Drinking before midday, jumping off the rocks in the afternoon, skinny dipping in the evening. I wouldn’t be like this if I had full control. I wouldn’t be returning back to a house comparable to being in isolation or in some horrible place with only negative energies. I’d be in a beautiful house, with no one but those I want there, and only positive moods. Nothing negative, nothing that makes you want to pull your hair out, nothing that keeps you up at night, wondering if you should blow your brains out. Nothing would make me unhappy. But I’m not in control, and whoever is clearly hates me. I'm not in control and it hurts, but by now I’m used to the painful routines that I’m enslaved to take part in. I can’t control this. I’m fully lost. I wonder if Asher wishes he was in better control. I think he was blessed. He has more control than me. He does what he wants, not even thinking twice. He has control, much more than I.

Up ahead, I see a familiar bridge, surrounded by water on both sides. It’s beautiful. I’d enjoy it more if we were in the other lane, going west bound instead of east. Going to paradise, rather than to our houses.

“What do you want to do when we go back?” I turn my head to the left to see Asher staring at me.

“Nothing.” I smile, although there’s still the haunting undertone to my answer. He probably doesn’t notice.

“Okay.” He doesn’t notice. “Well, if you want to do nothing, my man Josh hooked me up with some of that good shit. We can do that if you want?

I run my fingers through my bleached hair. “Sounds perfect,” I smirk slightly, relieved he just wants to chill out too.

The weed will help me take my mind off of things. I’ve had it a dozen times before, with Asher mainly and a couple other times with friends. But it’s good. I don’t have it a lot, which makes the kick in my veins and the numbness in my body more prominent. It’s soothing and it’s great for taking your mind off of things.

I just let my mind run wild, cruising down the motorway, heading into the civilisation we know better. The neighbourhood I’m all too familiar with appears out the window and I shudder. I don’t want to go back but I have to. If only I had control.

I look away, even though I know the weed I’ll soon be smoking will numb this memory and the pain of it, and rest my eyes on Asher.

Kelsey’s house is on the approach - around another few turns and round abouts away - and Madeline will be going back with her. Then it’ll be Asher and I going to his house. Away from mine.

We near her off-white brick three story slice of a palace and I feel excited but also scared. This means the end of our small fraction of wonderland in this boring calendar of life. It’ll make it official. Tomorrow there will be no sun rise to see, no reflection of the orange and pink in the water, no rocks to carve our names into. It’ll be different. Maybe we’ll get it back sometime, maybe we won’t. Fuck, I really need the weed.

“Ugh,” I hear Kelsey’s disappointment as she pulls in her driveway. “Well, it was a good time.”

“Totally,” I chuckle. “Let’s do it again sometime soon.”

“Yes.” Sounds of agreement ring throughout the car from all the bodies that will soon stop living in this moment for it to all fade into a memory.

We all unbuckle our restrictors in the car that lay around our hips and our open the doors. We’re all standing on the pavement, looking over at each other. I hope this is a beginning, not the end like it feels like it is.

“Well, see you guys soon.” Madeline waves, before I pull both her and Kelsey into a hug, silently thanking them for an idea of bliss.

“Yeah, see you soon.” Asher and I wave back, watching them with their shoulder bags, trailing up to Kelsey’s front door.

After they go inside, we hop in the car in the front seats. I’m riding shotgun and he’s driving.

The excitement runs through my veins once again as the ignition is turned on. We’re travelling on a new venture to another type of bliss. Maybe it’s a medicinal bliss, rather than a waterfall paradise. But it’ll still be bliss. I’ll still be wide smiling, laughing at nothing, just enjoying the moment before it will all come crashing down all too soon.