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An Ever-Changing Sun

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Not very many people understand the smell of three am. It smells like the sidewalk after it rains, or a breeze running its fingers through a jungle. It’s fresh and crisp, and also lonely. Every soul is asleep, and sometimes you feel like you are the only one left. I understood this smell when I woke up to the telephone ringing on June 12. My hands were cold against the phone, and my lips trembled, trying to keep the tears from my voice. I didn’t like the way those words tasted in my mouth: my father is dead. He had been enlisted in the army as a teenager, and had made it all the way up to becoming an officer, but I knew one day his luck would end.
I packed a bag for the airport that night. I didn’t really know where I wanted to go, but I had found two one-way tickets to Paris in my father’s library. They were tucked in his favorite book: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The tickets were not so much of a mystery, because my parent’s anniversary was coming up, but my mom was in another city on business. She must have gotten word by now, so I didn’t have much time to leave. I grabbed a ticket and stuffed my jeans and a few T-shirts into a duffel bag.
The plane left my past emotions behind. I was becoming a different person, leaving all of my tears and any knowledge of my soon-to-be-forgotten life. I didn’t want to think about what I was doing, because then I would have regrets. I made sure to get a window seat so I could look at the wingtips, and the way they scraped the edges of the clouds. I pretended I was eating a cloud, curious about what it would taste like. I pictured a sad, but sweet taste, like cotton candy, only cold as ice.
When our plane landed, I was asleep, but woke in a panic, slowly coming to the realization of where I was. My actions were automatic, and I was walking through a fog, getting off the plane, gathering my bags, and walking outside to greet Paris. It was eight at night, and the Eiffel Tower was all lit up. The first thing that came to mind was Disney Land, which was a disappointment. I walked over to a café and ordered a café au lait, sliding a few coins on the table. I walked through the city with my coffee, completely unaware of where my feet were taking me. I had hardly any money left, and began to be afraid with hunger.
I sauntered into a little bakery, and my first instinct was to reach out and grab a roll that was still hot from the oven. I was suddenly completely aware of a strong, overwhelming grip on my wrist. I dropped the roll, bit the arm that detained me, and ran. I heard a roar, and hurried, angry curses in French. I knew someone was right behind me, filling in my footsteps as I lifted my feet. Panic gripped me, and I stumbled, sprawling on the concrete. My pursuer was on top of me, beating me around the arms and face. I can’t remember if I screamed or not, but suddenly I could feel a little hesitation in the man’s punches. A boy began to lift him off me, and take the punches for me. I pulled myself up and scrambled around the nearest corner, breathing heavily. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, and then felt a gentle but hurried grip in my hand. I ran, being dragged through the streets by the boy. The man was still yelling in French at us, but we slipped through a door that had some trouble opening, and entered a dark, dusty room.
My life was a blur for the next month. The boy explained that he was the leader in a group of lost boys who lived in this shut-down movie theatre. The first thing that came to my mind was Peter Pan. They stole what they could and lived how they wished. The boy helped me steel some seeds from a garden shop so I could plant them in the dusty walls of the theatre and add some color to the gloomy room. My world slowly changed back into color from the darkness I was lost in. I told the boy what day my birthday was, about a week after I ran away. That night, he helped me climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The sunset I witnessed from the top was life-changing. It contained colors that were never in any crayon box I’d seen, and the array of light shifted slowly every second. With the earth shifting beneath us, and the sky shifting over our heads, we sat motionless, suspended in an unreal time. The boy leaned in and gently brushed my hair back from my face. I closed my eyes and felt his lips softly touch mine. And that was the first kiss.
I got back on the plane the next day, knowing that it was time to go home. I never told anyone about what happened in Paris, fearing what others would say. I wasn’t afraid of my father’s death because after seeing that sunset I knew he would always be with me. I never told anyone that, except for now.



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