Leesa is told to wait in the car. “Two Halves cannot meet,” her guardian told her sternly. “It is against the rules.” So she waits in the car, staring at the time as the seconds trickle by slowly. The steady hum of the rain outside is nice to listen to, but it has been two hours.
Before she knew she was a Half, she always wondered about the emptiness inside her. She thought there was something wrong with her, because something was missing. Her heart would skip beats. Her mind would wander and suddenly she’d think about how she couldn’t remember what she was thinking about. Her thoughts, her ideas–they would exist and then not, as if plucked from her mind and placed elsewhere for the time being. Sometimes, full-fledged ideas would suddenly come to her, as if she’d always thought them, even though she knew she hadn’t. When her guardian finally told her that she was a Half, it all made sense. Of course, she had thought. It explained everything.
But it made things worse. Once she knew she was a Half–that the other part of her was walking somewhere, without her–she could not stop thinking of them. Did they know about her? Were they curious? Did they want to meet her, did they want to become one? Or were they angry, knowing that half of them existed elsewhere? That they were not whole or complete?
The questions became too much, which was why she sneaked into her guardian’s office one stormy night. She needed to find something. Anything, really, to prove she was a Half. To find that perhaps the realer part of herself wasn’t too far. And she found what she was looking for: Alees, who lived in the city, who walked the same streets, who saw the same sky, the same sun, the same moon. And as she pressed her fingertips to that name, her guardian walked in.
That was how she came to wait in the car. This had been the routine every week since the discovery. She’d made things complicated. “Two Halves cannot meet,” had been repeated over and over and over, until the words echoed in her mind, resounded in her dreams. But she had to meet Alees.
Two hours and six minutes. Her guardian had been away longer than ever before. Perhaps he was negotiating their meeting. Perhaps he was telling the Council that Leesa deserved to meet her Half because she’d been an exemplary person, even for being only half of one.
But she knew the rules. Two halves cannot meet.
No one knew how Halves came to be. Leesa used to think they were twins, separated at birth. But when she met another Half–a poor old man, hollow and lonely–she knew it was more than that. Halves were soul mates. Halves were the same person, cut in two, cursed to search the ends of the earth for their missing self, the part that made them human. But such people were too powerful; with their love, with their thoughts, with their insanity, they could plunge the world into darkness. Leesa knows this more than she knows herself, which is not much, since half of her is missing.
She blinks and the clock reveals she has been waiting nearly three hours. She turns her head to stare out the window, at the gray building and black door, hoping to catch a glimpse of her guardian–or maybe Alees. But no one comes out the building. The rain beats on and she decides she can wait no longer.
Leesa opens the door but stops when she is halfway out the car. She looks at the building again. No guardian.
She scrambles out and flinches as the passenger door slams shut behind her. For a moment she worries that the sound has alerted her guardian. No one appears. Not a single person seems to be out today. The skies are so dark and gray that all the color in the world has been bled out.
Running to the building, she ducks under the eave and takes a moment to reconsider. She could go back to the car. Wait some more. Two Halves cannot meet. And Alees might be disappointed.
But she can’t. She turns to the door, hand on the knob, and pushes. It opens easily, revealing an equally dark and gray interior like the world outside. The hall is eerily silent, so silent it seems to take over her mind and make her thoughts soundless too. She takes a step, and then another, until all she can hear is her footsteps echoing back at her.
There is nothing, no directions, no doors, no stairs. Just a hallway that seems to extend to the end of the earth. Maybe she’ll meet her Half on the other side. But then the hallway expands and there is a staircase to her right where she knows she must go.
“Alees,” she tells herself, before climbing the staircase that also seems to stretch forever. Alees is waiting, somewhere, here.
She climbs and climbs until her calves begin to burn and she is running out of breath. When she spots the staircase ending, she almost sighs in relief, but then remembers that she isn’t very much closer to anything. Who knows if Alees is on this landing, or perhaps on the next floor, or the top floor, or nowhere at all.
Taking a deep gulp of air, she stares out into the landing, spots the next staircase to her left and a large room right before her eyes. She can see something glinting on the opposite side of the room. She wonders faintly how she can see when there is barely any light, no lighting, and no windows. Magic, she decides, because if there can be Halves in this world, there can be magic. She goes to the glinting thing and discovers it is the knob of a door.
She wraps her hand around the knob and turns in slowly, slowly, ever so slowly. Her heart beats wildly in her chest. In her bones she knows that Alees is waiting on the other side, for her. The knowledge sends her blood singing in her veins.
When she opens the door, all the emptiness she felt suddenly means nothing. It is as if the skies cleared and the sun hangs overhead in the room. Because Alees is standing there just on the other side, as if waiting for Leesa.
“You,” they both breathe, their fingers already intertwined, their breath mingling in the air between them, the world having fallen away leaving only the two of them behind.
Two Halves always meet.