12 August 2017
Baz is gone when Simon wakes. He knows this even without opening his eyes, feeling the absence of arms around him, and that uneasy feeling of needing to know where Baz is that Simon still hasn’t quite managed to shake off, after all this time. He sighs and rolls over, burying his face in the pillow. It’s Saturday, and if Baz were still in his bed, Simon would see absolutely no reason to get up at all today, but now he stumbles to his feet, throws on a t-shirt and walks out into the kitchen.
‘Morning,’ says Penny, seated at the counter with a newspaper and a bowl of cereal.
‘Morning,’ says Simon, through a yawn. ‘Where’s Baz?’
She shrugs with one shoulder, turning the page with her other hand. ‘He went out.’
Simon grumbles to himself and goes to join her for breakfast.
An hour later, Simon comes back with milk and cereal and paper towels. (‘Make yourself useful instead of sulking while you wait for your boyfriend,’ Penny said.
‘What if he’s already gone to get milk?’
‘Doubtful. Funny how he spends almost as much time here as I do and doesn’t do half as much of the chores.’)
Penny is on the couch furiously typing on her laptop, and Baz is still nowhere to be seen. Simon flops down on the other end of the couch, his feet tucked up next to Penny, and sighs.
‘You need friends,’ Penny says, without looking up or slowing down her typing. ‘People to hang out with before uni starts.’
‘You don’t have friends,’ Simon says.
‘I have things to do.’
‘I have things to do,’ he insists.
‘He’s not here,’ Simon says, smirking.
Penny groans. ‘You need friends,’ she repeats.
Simon grabs his phone off the coffee table and leans back against the arm of the couch. Penny’s probably right. As always.
‘Have you texted Baz?’ Penny asks, after a long silence.
‘Hm,’ she says, narrowing her eyes. Then – ‘Oh.’
‘What?’ Simon sits up, alarmed.
‘Do you know what the date is?’
‘No,’ Simon says. (He never keeps track.)
His mouth drops open. ‘Oh.’
‘And you know what else?’ Penny says. ‘It’s fifteen years, today.’
Simon is on his feet and on his way out the door before she’s even managed to shut off her laptop.
‘We have to be there,’ Simon calls over his shoulder.
Penny has to let Simon through the gate. He’s been back a few times, for the Leavers Ball, and a few conversations he had to have after the whole trial with the Mage and the mess with the Humdrum was resolved, and it’s less painful now. He still misses it – fiercely – but today isn’t about Watford, or magic, or Simon.
Today is about Natasha Pitch.
They run down to the Catacombs and find Baz sitting in front of his mother’s tomb, in the same spot where Simon found him and confronted him countless times before. Baz hears them coming and lets them sit on either side of him, saying nothing.
Simon reaches out to take Baz’s hand, not sure if he wants comfort, but Baz lets him and twines their fingers together. The three of them look at the fresh flowers by the tomb, at the carving over the door – Le Tombeau des Enfants – and they lean against each other. Holding each other up.
They say nothing, and Baz cries, and Simon cries for him. Then Baz tells them about how he still remembers the roughness of her hands, and how Fiona says that Natasha used to sing him to sleep and he wishes he remembered the sound of her voice, and that he’ll never forgive himself for not being there when she came to see him.
‘She’d be so proud of you,’ Simon whispers, and for once Baz doesn’t argue. Not today.