I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…
Annie and Christian each invested $15 so Annie’s aunt could pick them up a decent bottle of whiskey. They went to the store beforehand and stocked up on their favorite snacks to share – Sour Patch Kids, Almond Joys and Spicy Cheetos, and Christian picked up a celebratory pack of cigarettes even though neither of them smoked. It was a day to splurge.
A steely gray water tower sat prominently at the very edge of town and Annie had always wanted to climb it. She could imagine herself up there, the world a soft quilt spread below, a patchwork of houses and hills stitched together by rambling charcoal highways. She loved heights. They ascended the ladder, Annie in the lead because she couldn’t contain her excitement, and Christian determinedly behind her because he wouldn’t possibly let her do it on her own.
As they reached the top, Annie walked gingerly to the far rim and looked out across her city. It was everything she’d imagined, and it was here that reality finally hit her. These streets would no longer be hers in two days’ time. She had finally arrived at all she’d been working toward. Her Greyhound route was mapped and almost finalized. The money from 2 years worth of working was in an envelope at the bottom of her backpack in her aunts house, and her last days of school and work were finally finished. Tomorrow would be a day of tying up loose ends, purchasing that ticket, and packing her meager bags. It was really time to start the next leg of her journey, and the entire world was spread before her. This world, the world directly in front of her. It was liberating and daunting at the same time, and a small piece of her felt a little empty at the thought of leaving it all behind, although she would never admit as much. She wondered if that emptiness would have been there just a couple of weeks ago. She felt a rustle at her shoulder, and turned her head to gaze into the eyes of a smiling Christian.
“Okay, dreamer. Let’s get this party started! What do you want first, whiskey or Cheetos?”
“Cheetos, duh,” she smiled as she grabbed the liquor bottle and twisted the top, “never drink on an empty stomach.” She took a small sip and grimaced, then passed the bottle.
Christian ripped open the Cheetos and handed them off. “This stuff is awful,” he croaked as he took a swig of the bottle. “I don’t know why anyone would drink it unless they just wanted to get wasted.”
“I think that’s the point. And it’s not that bad. C’mon! It’s Grad Night! We’re here to celebrate, don’t make me regret bringing you, you square!” Annie took a healthy swig and motioned for him to take the bottle and do the same. She made her way to the center of the tower and lay down, arms and legs splayed wide as if she were going to make a snow angel.
He took another deep swig, then followed her lead. As he eased his body down next to hers and gazed straight up, he was not prepared for what he saw. Billions upon billions of stars seemed to fill the night sky – more than he though possible. Just moments before they had been looking out over the indigo horizon and the stars hadn’t even registered on his radar, how could he have missed something this brilliant? It was gorgeous. He had never noticed how many layers were in the sky, how far away and intangible some of the stars seemed to be while some seemed so close. It was a metaphor for his life in many ways. So many layers, so many complexities and unknowns. So much beauty, but just out of reach. It made him just a little sad.
Long, deliberate silences where one of the things that he loved about Annie. They could be in their own worlds together, the need for words unnecessary. In the two weeks they’d been hanging out, he felt she understood him better than anyone had. She didn’t have expectations. She didn’t ask him for anything except his presence and his confidence, and he gave her his trust, too.
In the silence, Annie wondered what Christian was thinking about. She appreciated their silences together, and felt that these were some of the times when they understood each other the most. She loved that he seemed to value her whims and her occasional rants. She loved that he was game for almost anything, and that he seemed to respect her voice and her thoughts when she wanted to share them. He was someone she could share with, for there hadn’t been many given to her in life.
“What do you think?” She asked.
“Thank you for coming with me.”
He scooted just a little closer, and wrapped an arm around her head. “Thank you for spending it with me…Annie?”
“I’m going to miss you.”
She wondered what he meant by it. Her heart hurt thinking about leaving this, her only friend ever. She hoped that was all he meant, too. Her stomach flipped at the thought of him trying to kiss her. The thought had never crossed her mind until this moment, and she was afraid it might ruin everything. But maybe it would make it easier leave town and leave him behind. She sighed.
“I’m really going to miss you, too, Christian,” but she couldn’t leave the thought behind. “You aren’t going to try to kiss me now, are you?”
He stiffened. “No, why? Do you think we should?” Christian hadn’t thought of this. In fact, he hadn’t thought of kissing anyone, ever. He knew it was abnormal behavior for a young man his age, but he’d had an abnormal upbringing. With Annie, he had found an unlikely eleventh-hour ally, one he was afraid to lose, but not because he wanted to get in her pants. He would just miss this random easy friendship.
Annie felt stupid. “Christian?”
“Yeah…” He was afraid of what she would ask next.
“Are you gay?”
“No. I don’t know. Maybe?”
“Because I still like you, even if you don’t want to kiss me and you like boys. Especially if you don’t want to kiss me.”
“Gee. Thanks for the confidence boost, Annie. Where are those damn cigarettes? And pass me that bottle!”
Annie wrapped her arms around him as he sat up, and laughed heartily. They stayed up until dawn, bantering as they had for the past 10 days, passing the bottle back and forth and smoking a few cigarettes for good measure.