Fading Stars

May 23, 2008
By Elizabeth Enz, Pittsburgh, PA

Hailey sat on the swing languidly, pumping with little effort so that the swing would only sway and make her feet lightly lift off the floor. The rusting debris of the chains eroded the skin on her hands and the shrill cry of the swing made her heart patter every time. She solemnly gazed at the sidewalk, anticipating to find Aiden approach her with the curious smirk that was always smacked on his face. Although, she doubted he would come on time; it wasn’t typical for him to stay true to his time because he wasn’t so precise with proximity but instead had an internal clock that would tell him when it would feel like the time to do something. Hailey pushed a button on the side of her phone to illuminate the screen and it read 7:32, which meant he was 43 minutes late.

“What is taking him forever?” she asked to herself, while standing up from the swing and walking over to the bench.

After she sat down, she slid her dull flavored gum in between her index and thumb and then pushed it under the polished bench while looking down.

“Hey, don’t litter. It’s bad,” said Aiden, slanting his head and turning it to look at Hailey while he walked up from the sidewalk and into the park.

“Yeah. Sure. Where were you?” Hailey asked lifting her head and pushing her bleach blonde bangs to the side.

Aiden sat beside her and comfortably leaned back and laid his arm around Hailey’s neck and shoulder and hesitantly pecked Hailey’s brightly blushed cheek.

“Sorry. I had to wait for my friend Mark to get me some cigarettes and he ended up taking forever,” he replied while slightly lifting up from the bench to reach into his back pocket to get a box of menthol cigarettes and a lighter. He opened the box up, and grabbed two cigarettes and shoved one in between his lips.

“Want one?” He motioned the extra cigarette towards Hailey as she glanced at his young, fresh luminescent blue eyes and his wispy dark brown hair pricking into his eyes.

“I thought I told you I’m trying to quit. Stop feeding my addiction,” she said playfully smiling at him, arching the left of her top lip, “But yeah, thanks. I’m gonna give up on quitting that habit.” She took the cigarette and placed it into her mouth and noticed Aiden gazing at her awestruck, but his expression seemed to be veiled with misery and his cheeks were relaxed. He quickly looked down and then lit his cigarette.

“Here,” he said while leaning closer to her looking at the cigarette in her mouth to light it with his. She leaned in closer and then they both were puffing the cigarettes into the musty wind surrounding them that smelt like rain on a window pane with peeling paint.

“What’s wrong?” Hailey asked Aiden while scrunching her eyebrows and tilting her head and looking up towards the graying sky.

“What?” he asked while squinting his eyes and lifting his head to blow smoke into the tranquil wind.

“I don’t know. Your face.”

“Oh, thanks a lot. Aiming for insults now?”

“No. Your face, just earlier, seemed sort of distressed, I guess.”

“Well, nothing’s wrong.”

“Are you sure?” Hailey asked while observing the sky to see if any stars were lit yet.

“Yeah. Why do girls always have to do that? They keep on asking the same question. It’s so annoying.”

“Maybe because people always hide things and never say something if there’s actually something bothering them.” She noticed a twinkling star and her hopes glinted when she made a wish while squinting her eyes shut.

“Well, nothing’s wrong. And, um, what are you doing?”

Hailey opened her eyes and glanced at Aiden. She burnt out her cigarette and threw it to the ground.

She answered, “Oh. Um, my eyes. They were burning.”

She gazed at the sky again and was surprised to suspect that not many stars were out yet and she had a thought that maybe all the smoke from the cigarettes had been like a scream that vanquished the other stars and destroyed every wish she had ever made. Making wishes was something through her childhood and was constant throughout her life.

“Are you sure?” Aiden asked grimacing and then burning his cigarette and tossing it under the bench.

“Is that your clever way of retaliating?” she asked shaking her head and then reaching into her purse to get out a sugarcoated spray to cover up the scent of smoke so that her parents wouldn’t suspect anything when she returned home.

“No, but I think I’m gonna leave soon, but first, we kinda have to talk,” he said, his voice quivering at the last few words and he kept fiddling with his hair, something Hailey had noticed was a bad habit when he was apprehensive.

“We’ve only been here for a little bit, but okay. What do you need to say?”

“Yeah. It’s better that way and I think we should end things on a more, um, detached note?” he replied hesitantly while positioning himself more upright.

Hailey looked at him clearly perplexed, having her eyebrows furrowed, her lips were slightly separated, and her chromatic crystal eyes were widened. She didn’t know how to react and she wasn’t even fully sure that he was serious. Aiden noticed her facial expression and heaved and thought that this stare from her can take him to his grave and he was reluctant to continue.

“Trust me, it will be better when we end this and it really isn’t you.”

“What are you doing this for? I’m just…confused. Nothing’s going on wrong between us.”

“I know,” Aiden said, “but for a big reason, we just have to do it this way. I’m sorry. I wish we didn’t have to do this but…”

“Well, we don’t have to do this then. Wait, actually, what’s your so called big reason?” Hailey asked with a flicker of fury penetrating throughout her veins and a sense of tragedy in her blood. She wanted to cleanse this feeling away but she can already start to feel her heart swell with hatred in his name.

“God… I really don’t want to say it,” Aiden stared solemnly at the sky, sq
uniting his eyes and leaning his head far back, inhaling deep takes oxygen.

“No! You wanted to do all of this. I wanna know,” Hailey said, her voice beginning to get high-pitched, impatient, and uneasy.

“Fine!” Aiden jumped off of the bench and stood in front of Hailey with a gloomy mask concealing his typical jovial expressions. He gazed into her eyes and his eyes started to form into glass that looked like if he were to blink, his eyeballs would shatter.

“Okay. Go,” Hailey said nodding her head once to motion for Aiden to start explaining why he wanted to end their relationship.

“Just...um, okay, I know you won’t forgive me and you’ll probably wanna just forget me but I just want you to know, I never intended to hurt you or anyone else. This whole thing is a mistake and misunderstood.”

“You want to go out with someone else, don’t you?” Hailey snapped.

“No! Just listen, okay?”

“Okay,” she said, raising her eyebrows and twisting her lips.

“I’m not gonna give you all of the details, but here it goes: I’m in trouble with the law and that’s bad, and I rather just die than serve a long prison statement, so me and my friend Mark are gonna roam around the country and…I just don’t think I’ll ever see you again.” His shaggy hair fell in front of his face and he looked down upon the ground and kicked a rock, then looked up at Hailey, whose face was stoic.

“Oh. Okay. Sure,” she said sardonically.

“I’m serious! You asked and I’m telling you the truth! Can you just stop being stubborn and believe me?”

“It’s hard to take you serious, and besides, you’re always kidding around.”

“I can swear to you, on my damn grave, that I’m telling you the truth,” Aiden said his face surprisingly serious with no trace of amusement. Hailey observed his face with a still expression, which showed no emotion. There was a long silent pause and none of them moved, but instead, they examined each other’s faces.

“I’m sorry,” Aiden said.

“It’s okay, but, I just don’t want you to go.”

“And I don’t wanna leave either, but I have to do it.”

“You don’t have to,” Hailey said whispering and her voice trailing off.

“I want to though. If it all comes down to it, you can come if you want. I’m just not sure if you’d take on that.”

Hailey’s whole body froze and she stared at him.

“Actually, I might. I’m tired of my life here in the boring suburbs and you’re really the only person that actually cares for me.”

“I just don’t want you getting caught up in all of this too though.”

“Well, I’ll think about it.”

“Okay, but hurry,” Aiden said, “but I think I’m going to go now, so just call me later, if you want. Bye.”

“Bye,” Hailey whispered while embracing Aiden’s slender and awkward body. She was afraid to let go, afraid to lose him, or afraid to get in trouble and then she let go and watched him intently while he walked away.

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