I’m not the type, normally, to talk about what I’m currently working on. It’s this weird mixture of being private about certain, key things, and wanting to be a mystery. I like to think it makes me charming and interesting. Maybe not. But a girl is allowed her ridiculous beliefs.
Thanks, so very much, for all the support, the buys, the reading. The everything. Thank you guys for helping this girl chase a dream.
Crickets chirped somewhere close by, a relentless song that filled the air as they hunkered down in one of the old water tunnels their dying city claimed was playground equipment. The light was fading from the sky, but there was enough left behind to make out each other’s flushed and sweaty faces, their lips pulled back in tired grins. They’d raced through the heavy July night and no one would find them here. No one ever ventured into these tunnels. The other kids in the neighborhood thought they were haunted, inhabited, maybe, by ghosts who’d drowned exploring them before the city hauled them up and placed them on this sad piece of land. They were the only ones brave enough, desperate enough, to win this chaotic game of hide-and-seek to risk it.
Their knees pressed together in the cramped space, smooth skin brushing against coarse hair whenever they moved, their calves aching as they balanced in precarious positions to avoid sitting where, perhaps, someone had taken their last breath. She shifted again, quietly, and maybe she reached for his hand or maybe he reached for hers, she wasn’t sure, but their fingers tangled in a grip both slick and dry all at once. Because they were brave, yes, but the tunnel was growing darker still. No one would see them. Soon, they might not be able to see each other. She dreaded the thought. Because it was rare they were alone, that their friends weren’t around, creating a barrier between the two of them. A part of her, a secret part that devoured words and stories in a feverish way and believed in impossible things, wanted to stop time. Like a game of freeze tag, they’d stay here, with the heat and the coming dark and his hand in hers. Forever in this single moment, waiting to be found and hoping they wouldn’t be.
Maybe he felt the same. Maybe he was just caught up in the hiding and being sought. Maybe he felt the pull of summer in his bones, nights made for dreamers and lovers and poets. Because before she knew it was going to happen, he leaned over and pressed his lips to hers. It was a little too hard and a little too fast, clumsy and inexperienced and perfect. It’d be the kiss she always judged all others on.
They broke apart quickly, the voices of the others growing louder as they crept closer to their pocket of stolen time. They slid back further into the shadows, smiles bright and secretive. They’d have to run in a minute, race across the baseball field toward home plate where they’d be safe. They’d never tell the others what had happened in the moments before they sprinted, but they wouldn’t forget either. You never forgot your first.
It would be the last summer they’d chase and be chased, where they’d hide and where they’d seek under the streetlights. The following June, they’d all silently agree they were too old for such things and their muggy days would be spent in pools before they gathered in cool basements, listening to music or playing truth or dare. They’d get a little older still, and chase the adrenaline of those long ago summers in other ways, venturing through places the locals swore spirits lingered. She and him would reach for each other’s hands, ignoring the groans from their group for choosing a place that set their teeth on edge.
Being with him would always feel a little like running.
He’d leave eventually, after he graduated but before she did. He’d put on a uniform and run where she couldn’t follow. Sometimes he’d call. Mostly he wouldn’t. Other boys would chase her, or she’d chase them, and sometimes they’d catch her and she’d let them. But it was always a thing to fill the time until he came home again for a little while. He never asked her to wait and she never promised she would, but when the time came to choose, to go and chase other dreams or stay behind, she’d choose to stay. Because he would come home for good one day. Never put on that uniform and they’d run together again.
It was summer when it happened. It was always summer with them. The tunnels were gone, but home plate was still there. They walked slowly at first, until she couldn’t resist any longer. She nudged him with her elbow then took off, her delighted shrieks filling the air when she felt him on her heels. But he only caught her fingers, his strong and sure, and kept going, past home plate, until they were both red-cheeked and panting for breath.
It was years later, years upon years after that first chaste kiss and the mad dash that followed, when she woke up with a gasp and a pang in her chest. Somewhere, somewhere impossible, somewhere she’d made different choices, another her was quietly grieving. Remembering that first kiss and his sweaty face and how he didn’t ask her to wait so she didn’t. That other her felt the ghost of his slick palm in hers as they ran, through the places they’d go to have an excuse to hold hands, toward whatever point they’d deemed safe. She was thinking of the times she talked to him after she’d left until, eventually, they stopped talking at all. That her didn’t regret her choices, but sometimes, she’d wonder about them. She’d wonder about him.
This her, in this life, glanced over at the boy she’d stayed for and watched as sleep made him look a little like that skinny kid he’d once been. She took a deep, ragged breath, a breath like the ones she took when they’d ran together, and a tear leaked from her eye. Because he was here. But somewhere else he was gone, existing only in hazy memories of her other life. Running. Always running.
She reached out, or tried to, across to that other timeline, to tell the other her that he was okay. Here, at least, he was safe. She thought the other her might understand. Because they’d made different choices, lived in different streams born from them, but sometimes, just sometimes, they were sure they felt each other.
Then she laid back down and rolled into his side, listening to his breathing as the room grew lighter around them. Maybe, later, they’d make a trip to where those tunnels once sat. They’d stand there, listening to to the crickets until the streetlights clicked on above them. If he asked, she’d tell him it was for the other her, the one who took another road. He’d nod, face serious, before grinning and grabbing her hand. Then, together, they’d sprint for home.
hey! i have a newsletter now! it’ll probably next to never get sent out and there’s a 79% chance I’ll talk about Doctor Who/food in it when I do send it. You can sign up aqui!: http://eepurl.com/2_U31