‘It’s not just a rock,’ I said to the side of his face. ‘It’s more than that, I swear. See, it’s a—’
‘It’s a Sikhote-Alin Meteorite,’ he said, looking up at me. ‘From Russia.’
‘Yeah. It is …’ I said, surprised.
He looked back at the rock in his hand. ‘It’s from a meteor crash site in Siberia in 1947. Is that what you were going to say?’ He was looking at me again, and he was wearing the strangest expression on his face. I had never seen it before.
It was … wonder.
I smiled sheepishly at him. ‘I was actually just going to say it’s a fallen star.’
He held it between us, passing his thumb over the small ridges. ‘These are coarsest octahedrites,’ he murmured. ‘Part of the surfaces of these meteorites were blasted off while they passed through the atmosphere on the way to earth. That’s why it’s not smooth. See.’ He placed my thumb under his, so I could feel it.
‘Do you, um, do you already have one?’
‘No,’ he said quietly. That look, still on his face. His eyes seemed bigger, his mouth fuller, his breathing quicker. ‘I don’t.’
‘Good,’ I said, relieved. ‘Because I had to outbid an old lady from Kansas for it, and it got right down to the wire, but I’ll be damned if I was going to let her play the age card on me. Like, what? I’m just going to let her steal it out from under me when—’
‘I love it,’ he said, cutting me off. ‘I love that you went head-to-head with some sweet old lady and won. And I love that you have absolutely no remorse about it. I can’t believe you did this for me.’
I moved a little closer. ‘Why is that so hard to believe?’
He shook his head, his smile small and sad. ‘Because I don’t deserve it.’
‘Yes, you do,’ I said, willing him to look at me, but he was already disengaging, reaching into his jacket pocket.
‘I have something for you, too, Sophie.’ He pulled out a small box.
I took it from him, and held it in front of my face. ‘OK, this looks a little small to be a unicorn, Luca.’
‘Maybe I was just trying to throw you off the scent,’ he said, leaning closer as I opened it.
It was a bracelet, delicate and silver, with a single, heart-shaped charm. I read the words engraved on it. ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”’
‘It’s a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson,’ he explained.
‘It’s beautiful.’ I slipped it on to my wrist, trailing my finger around the heart-shaped charm. ‘I love it, Luca.’
I wanted to say the rest: I love you. But the moment was so fragile and precious, I was afraid I might shatter it.
‘It’s about possibility,’ he said quietly. ‘All the possibility in your life.’
‘In our lives,’ I amended.
He didn’t say anything. I could feel the weight of everything pressing down on us, the sadness at the edges ready to swoop in and take him away from me.
He took my hand, and wound my fingers in his. ‘Sophie,’ he said, his voice calling to the space inside my heart. It beat faster as I looked at him. ‘Please don’t come tomorrow. Please stay here, where it’s safe.’
‘Don’t,’ I breathed. ‘Please let’s not talk about tomorrow.’
He laid his forehead against mine. ‘I am begging you.’
‘No,’ I said firmly. ‘I go where my family go. Where you go. This is our revenge. This is our destiny.’
He shut his eyes. It was too late. We were both going, and neither of us could stop the other. This was too big, it was too much of what we had been pushing towards. We owed it to Valentino, and to my mother. Luca wasn’t going to back down, and neither was I. Dom’s words from earlier skated through my mind.
‘No more talk of tomorrow,’ I said. ‘Please. Let’s just enjoy now. What will be will be.’
‘Your teeth are chattering.’
‘Are they?’ I couldn’t tell if it was from a sudden onslaught of nerves or the chill in the air. It wasn’t enough – this moment, as perfect as it was. I wanted to be closer to him. I wanted to hold him tight, to wrap my legs in his, to fall asleep with my head on his chest. I wanted to stretch out the moment and live inside it for ever.
‘Let’s go inside,’ he said.
‘Can I stay with you?’ I asked, suddenly feeling this crushing sense of finality between us. The words fell out before I had time to temper them, but I didn’t care. I wanted it so badly, it was clenching around my heart. This could be the last time we ever sat together or kissed or laughed with one another. This could be our last night. Dom’s words had bound themselves to my consciousness. It was like Valentino had said: those who have the most to live for are the hardest to kill. ‘I want to fall asleep next to you. I want to wake up in your arms …’ I lifted my gaze to his, the meaning implicit. ‘I want to be with you tonight.’
Luca swallowed hard. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I’m sure.’ I was so sure it ached. ‘Can I stay here with you tonight?’
‘Yes,’ he said, a little breathless. ‘Yes, stay with me.’
There was something in his words that felt a little bit like goodbye. I could sense his grief in them. It broke my heart that I couldn’t take it away, but I could be in it with him, at least for now, for tonight. We could be in it with each other. We could harness a little spark of happiness and keep it warm, just between us. Tomorrow was a different story. Tomorrow would change everything.