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“Go,” he said, as the bemused tourist photographed their first marital kiss outside the wedding gazebo chapel. The man was clumsy and nervous and took it before their lips met, however, so that her nose was at the level of his lips, as though they’d walked into one another, or one had decided to kiss the other impromptu in the middle of a conversation, their easy smiles untellable from ones stemming from a seconds-ago hello or the imminent kiss. But she laughed when she saw it, saying it was perfect, since the swell of her lip perfectly contoured the kite-tip dip beneath his, and the two of them fit together, like the outline of mountains and the cut-out sky.

A dusty Chevrolet sped the newlyweds towards a tide-line horizon of perfect blue. It seemed that the shapes of clouds over them were leviathans and orca fish that welcomed them as they dived headlong into the ocean, one headlight dim with memories of the home that was no longer theirs; the other bright enough to navigate the blue for the place that would be.

In the meantime they would celebrate.

“Wait here,” Levi, the boy, said, eyes smiling. He’d pulled the car up by a convenience store, and as he leaned through the passenger window to kiss Chloe on the cheek, he thought how it was only yesterday that he’d kissed Chloe for the first time; how kissing the moon arc of her cheek then, even now, was enough. “Don’t you go anywhere,” he said softly, as though the force of his breath might blow her lunar brilliance sideways, like a paper star.

“You see this dress?” Chloe indicated her milk-white summer dress, buttoned up with daisies, that had doubled as a wedding dress. “Me going somewhere is not something you need to worry about.”

Levi smiled, not wholly placated, but his smile a trafficable niveous white nonetheless, before walking into the convenience store.

He perused the delicatessen, determined to find the biggest cake the store had to offer, and when he saw it, a layered pound cake with seams of raspberry jam and lemon curd, and crowned with butter-cream frosting, he knew Chloe should have it. They might not have a home, but they would be full and happy in the meantime.

“Excuse me,” he ushered over the stocky store owner, who, upon seeing the selected cake, quickened his lopsided gait. “Could I get this boxed?”

“Certainly,” the man said with a broad smile, the juxtaposition of the man’s sleek bow and his dropped “t” being secondary in strangeness only to Levi’s bright eyes and faded, oversized suit, lapels wilting about the razor-sharp angles of his smooth jaw-line.

A muffled, toneless voice spliced into the domestic warmth the house-like cake had instilled.

Police are still on the lookout for local drifter Levi Logan, who is believed to be involved in the recent disappearance of 17 year-old Chloe Avery, daughter of chief of police, Garrett Avery. Chief Avery, who is also spearheading the search, issued a statement last night.

“Hey, Frankie,” the store owner hollered to an awkward teen store assistant, who was trying to look busy re-stocking the drinks fridge. “Turn that up... I know that kid, cute as a teacup. Christ, if the son of a b**** that swiped her from her bed had the bad luck to find himself in my store…”

Levi spun around to the extraterrestrial winking of a television set suspended, perversely, it seemed, by Garrett Avery’s wellspring of emotion. …good reason to believe this Logan character to be very, very dangerous. Having taken the boy into the family home as a gesture of compassion, it wasn’t long before his perverse intentions were made clear… Levi thought the reception must have been disrupted, for the mechanical drone of Garrett’s voice was suspended, as though deterred by a wall of electric noiselessness. But when Levi forced himself to look into the man’s eyes, he saw he was crying. Garrett spoke his next words with both effort and tenacity, as though sputtering protest through a mouthful of bitter cough syrup. …Intentions were made clear when he tried to force himself onto Chloe…

Levi was shaking. Garrett had infiltrated the brightly lit enclosure of the store, the gummy bears and apple-bell-apple ticket discarded by the counter; had probably seeped through the Johnny Cash ditties Chloe was listening to on the radio in the Chevrolet, pinning her to the spot, as he now pinned Levi, the reminder that he still lived enough to disarm him. Momentarily, at least.

“Amaryllis.” Levi’s voice felt loud; the distraction of Garrett had unsettled his senses. But now he was thinking a mile a minute.

“What did you say?” The store owner’s attentions were back with Levi again. That’s right, Levi thought. Blunt his balance with an incongruous few syllables. It doesn’t matter where they come from. The store owner blinked and wobbled. The television drone seemed to ebb away.

“Your flowers. Aren’t they amaryllis, the salmon pink ones at the back? Could I get a pot of those flowers?”

“Oh, right. Of course. You must have some special lady to get back to. Usually there’s a proposal on the horizon when a guy buys flowers like these.” The man whistled in awe as he brought the lion-maned flower to rest by the boxed cake, while Levi stared back at the apathetic image of his face discolouring the pixels on the TV screen behind the store owner’s back. Trust the police to find the most unflattering picture of him; then again, any picture taken of Levi before he met Chloe was bound to be unflattering.

As the store owner worked the till he craned after the TV screen again, since he had worked the store so long he could navigate the buttons with the ease of a maritime helmsman, but Levi, and the ghost of him on the TV screen, had gone. Instead the photograph had been replaced by the attractive young female anchor that had opened the segment, closing with any filler details that the Chief, in his understandable distress, might have omitted, like a domestic goddess smoothing over any patches in the cake topping with a spatula as glossy as her smile.

…a pale blue Chevrolet, last sighted at a small chapel around twenty miles west of Marlene; it is thought that Logan may have forced Avery into a shotgun wedding…

The store owner roared out of his newly fitted glass doors, almost shattering them - whether by force or by volume, either one was a possibility - but the blue Chevrolet had disappeared, and all that remained was a single pink-flushed petal, like the telltale hanky left after a flawless magician’s piece.





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