At night she rested her forehead between his collarbones and refused to put her ear to his chest cavity. She said she was afraid to hear his heartbeat.
I am broken inside and I do not want to envy other clockwork organs. Dont let me hear the tick-tock of all that I am missing.
He wrapped his arms around her and whispered into her hair that he would fix her; his skin was punctured with metal and his bones had snapped before, but if he could be whole then so could she. She shook her head and tried to dream. She fell asleep to the words,
Ill collect your pieces, sunshine, and put them back together.
When she fell asleep he pulled back the moonlit sheets and covered her in butterfly-kiss gazes. Her hipbones and ribs were all angles and geometric structures protruding from a flat plane. He tried to will them to life with nervous grazes and stuttering words, but they refused to arch to meet his touch; they did not thrum with racing heartbeats. He pulled his Polaroid from a shelf and began to click away.
He counted the pictures as they slid out from the camera and into a new plane without the mathematical curves that he used to caress during hazy summer days. There were twenty from the tips of her toes to the fine points of her spine to the top of her head. He tried his best not to look at her face as he arranged them on the ground and took an extra picture. He did not shake any of them.
When she woke up in the morning she stayed tucked in the sheets and under his arm. She did not rest her head on his chest and she did not kiss his lips good morning with her sleepy breath. She lay by his side quietly and counted the scars she could see and wondered how he had remained whole after all this time. When he woke up, they did not speak of the pictures until he stepped over them so as not to disturb her sleeping double.
That is not me, she whispered, pointing at the photograph he took.
He hung his head in agony, not shame, and did not move until he looked at her and there was saline threatening to escape the restraints of his eye sockets. He could only croak,
It is me. I gave you my heart so you would no longer be afraid of hearing it beat and you would not be so broken and cold all the time. It will pump blood into even your fingertips and you will not be frigid when I try to be close at night.
When he lay down to sleep that night she did not answer to the call of her name. The picture on the floor lay still as well; it did not make a move to get into bed. There was a rush of wind against the icy window panes and he tried to shake the numb feeling from his toes as he moved all twenty pieces to a space between the covers. He sprawled out next to her and realized, as he began to shiver from the cold, that the twenty-first picture was missing.
Even the clocks on the walls stopped ticking.