Not my characters. Couldn't tell ya whose they are, but they're not mine. I just saw this movie and thought: What, they're gonna get together now?

It didn't seem likely.

by Maya Tawi


Years later, she could almost joke about it. Almost.

"I used to love the woods," she'd said once, wistfully, when a friend had finished describing her weekend camping trip. The friend had asked, in all innocence, "What happened?"

And Jess said, "My friends took me camping, and they were all killed."

Chris still remembers the look on the woman's face. Shock, uncertainty-- is she joking?-- discomfort. Pity.

Jess always hated pity. She had quickly changed the subject.

Years later and they're still friends. Within twenty-four hours of meeting each other, they had seen each other at their worst. It was all uphill from there. Or downhill, or whichever one meant they fell in together like it was meant to be, like they were two puzzle pieces that made a perfect fit. A corner and an edge.

Chris had kissed her once. He still remembers that too.

At first she didn't pull away. At first she stayed pressed against him and it felt so right, so perfect, he wondered why they hadn't done this earlier, and then she flattened her hand against his chest and pushed and he remembered.

"I don't want us to go there," she'd said. "I don't want to feel like I got something out of it. It'd be like I sacrificed all my friends and their happiness in exchange for true love."

"Well, true love, let's not be hasty," Chris had replied, trying to joke, to lighten the mood. Then, more seriously: "Jess, you didn't trade anything. You know that, right? You didn't ask for any of this."

"I know. I don't blame myself--" Pause. "Most of the time, anyway. But that's as far as it's gonna go, Chris."

"All I'm asking--"

"I know what you're asking. I'm telling. Ain't gonna happen."

And that was that. When Jess makes up her mind, it stays made.

It's one of the things he loves about her. One of many.

"You know what, Chris Flynn?" she said, one Sunday afternoon when they were sprawled on her bed watching old movies and eating microwave popcorn. "You're not the best friend I've ever had. But you're pretty damn close."

He didn't need to ask who his competition was.

Francine and Evan, he barely remembers; sometimes he tries to conjure them in his mind, to manufacture one more link between himself and the woman he loves. A thin, leggy woman with short red hair and a knowing smirk. A scruffy hipster type with safety-goggle glasses.

But their memories are always replaced with their corpses, with Francine staring at him with glassy eyes as her blood crept towards him across the floorboards and Evan tumbling out of the truck as they ran for safety.

Francine's mother, he remembers, was going to kill her for wrecking the car.

Scott is clearer in his mind. Scott he knew, he liked. Scott he might have been friends with, if he had lived. And Carly... was a tragedy. He doesn't like to think about her for too long.

He is competing with the memory of four perfect friends. There is no way he can possibly win.

"You know how I feel about you," he says now, years and years after that horrific day and night. "It's been a long time, Jess. Don't you think you should start moving on?"

And she stares at him, cold and perfectly calm, and says, "If that's how you feel, maybe you should be doing the moving."

Jess, he realizes, is used to loss. If he leaves, she might miss him. She might think about him sometimes. But his memory will never become as holy as Francine's and Evan's and Scott's and Carly's, and she will never call him back.

Chris is the only one who would suffer. Now he must decide between cutting off one limb or two.

So he says, "I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. I just... want more." Because she is vital to him, and if he can only have half of her, then he will make do.

"I know," she says.

And that's it.

Sometimes he remembers the night they spent behind the waterfall, with Jess clinging to him like a lifeline as the spray mingled with her tears. The hours he laid awake, alternately watching the woods and watching her sleep. Sometimes he thinks that you couldn't pay him enough to go through that again.

Sometimes he thinks it was the best night of his life.


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