Hands Locked Together

February 8, 2008
By Lauren Frith, South Hadley, MA

They enter the bookstore, hands locked together. Not like the cheap locks that come with plastic pink diaries, but like the ones that come attached to thick iron fences. To keep all that you love in, and all that you're not ready to handle out.

They pass elderly couples who're trying to decide which breed of dog should be on this year's calender, they pass rebels who probably don't even know the date. They don't speak, just clutching hands as they ride the escalader up, up, up. Too bad it can't take them further, take them somewhere to start over.

The children's section isn't a place they often visit, but it's like a past life regression. Watching children is like seeing yourself in a never aging mirror. After all, age is just a number. If it ever meant anything to them, it doesn't now. She's guiding, she plays her role oh-so well, and he can't help but love it each time.

They sit, and finally the key inserts and twists, and their hands release. Her’s fiddle with her bag and his with the zipper on his jacket. They're blocking picture books from their rightful owners, keeping mothers from doing some late Christmas shopping. But no one speaks, they look down but don't see and leave because of that. No one really sees, at least not them. They see what they want to see, dirty teenagers, no respect, no anything. "Tell me something," the boy asks and the girl grins her ballroom dancing grin.

"I'll tell you anything. For a price."

"What the price?" He represses the thought of kissing her. He want to wipe away her expression, for that moment he wants to control.

"Buy me some coffee and don't take me home." She bites her lip and looks nervous. Inside her there's a clock ticking, waiting for an answer. Waiting, waiting. She knows it’s not something he should do, not something she should ask. Rules, rules, rules. Rules rule them.

He lowers his lashes, long like a girls. His hair falls into his face, a disguise for whatever he might be thinking. "I guess... I could... I don't exactly want to get s*** from your mom..."

"I'll tell her I'm going to Sarah's... Just don't make me go home. Not yet."

"Okay," his eyes flicker over her face and he smiles his nervous little smile. She starts shuffling faded out purple cards, mixing, arranging, corridinating. Her eyes are closed while she does this, it's not something she really needs to see. It's something she can feel. And then she hands him the cards, and he shuffles them around three times and then spreads them inbetween their huddled forms.

A ruotine, they kiss across the cards. A kiss for luck, a blessing, an offering to whatever fate is. And then he focuses, focuses on her, on them, on the clock behind her, on the way their shoes almost touch but don't, on everything that he wants, everything he isn't sure he deserves. And he choses a card. Just one, that's the way she reads them.

The Fool.

He notices the way she sort of snaps the card against the ugly carpet, the way the corners of her chapped lips tilt upwards when she realizes what card he's drawn. Or maybe, the card that drew him. "You have to be careful. Watch your steps. Realize what you have." She tilts her head and her bangs slide, "Let someone be that dog. Let them warn you. Listen to the bark." He leans back, palms pressed against a floor where millions of people have probably stepped. He wishes that he could feel them there, their trace. But there's nothing but dark stains and a stale feeling.

He never says thank you, he never says anything about the reading. It's the way it works for them, she knows better than to ask him if it means anything. It will, even if it doesn't now. And if he wants to, he'll tell her when he can form the words. She slides the cards back up and wraps them in an orange velvet pouch before returning them to their nest inside her big violet bag. He stands and helps her up and their hands lock back up.

This time he leads her down, down, down. Down, but not far enough. They get in his car and blast the heat. She breathes in the warmth, as if trying to find something there that she can't find elsewhere. And he just smiles at her out of the corner of his eye. Because that's how they are.

"Where are we going to go?" It's not a demanding question, just an offhand sort of curiosity.

"I don't know."

"Mmmm. We could just drive until you can't."

"Bad Idea?"

"You sound like my mother."


"Take me back to your dorm."

"I'm not supp--"

"You promised."

He knows that something hurts her, but he doesn't understand why. It's not really important, it's just who she is. And that's alright, because who she is is his own personal definition of the overrused word, 'love'.

"And you didn't even buy me coffee." She smirking now, he can tell by just how she forms the words with her flickering sort of laugh.

"Next time?"

"Of course."

"I wish you didn't ever have to take me home. That you didn't even have to go home. That we could just drive and drive and drive. Drive to tommorow."

"Drive through life?"

"Only with you."


"With me?"


She purses her lips, "Maybe?"

"Sometimes I'm afraid."

"Me too."

"I know."

"It's okay, you know... To be... If you are."

"I wish we weren't a secret."

"I wish we were a better secret."


"Well, maybe not better."

"Then what?"

"I... Oh, I don't know."

"I do."

"Of course."

"Of course."

Smiles stretch across the darkness, eyes flicker in the dim streetlights.

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