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At aged fifteen, Alice Dufrese had begun to cling to cynicism. From an early age she had proclaimed her specific tenets of beliefs to include atheism and the thought that all humans are inherently evil. Her chestnut colored hair was often in a sleek ponytail, which, along with her sharp figures, made her seem distant and cold to others. Her deep brown eyes looked vacant most of the time, as if they were a never-ending abyss of secret thought. Her lips were often in a pursed position, as if they were ready to scold someone at any time. She was used to solitude and took pride in her unintentional independent nature, focusing on “real” intellectual pursuits and other worthwhile uses of her time, instead of socializing.
Concentrating on her book, Alice walked tactfully amongst the streets of her hometown, looking up occasionally to avoid bumping into someone. She passed through, in one fluid motion, often weaving in and out, but always keeping her head in her book, engrossed by the lively characters that existed on the page. Alice lived in a small town called Hollis Hill, full of friendly people, who were almost too friendly in fact. The town was so small that all the stores and businesses were on Main Street. Everybody knew everybody, and everybody knew everybody’s business. A town gossip stood on nearly every corner spreading the daily news to every neighbor that passed by. So it was no surprise that when Lucas Alfoniso entered town, everyone knew in a matter of minutes.
“Did you hear he rode a motor cycle,” whispered Jane, the local pet storeowner.
“Of course. But did you see his jacket? It has dark stains of some sort. He could be dangerous,” replied Annie, Alice’s much-disliked second cousin.
Comments, updates, and stupid little tid-bits like this went on until the town went to sleep, groggily gossiping until the early hours of the morning. The gossip usually passed around wasn’t quite exciting, but, this was for a small town. A small town isn’t a place for secrets or mystery. Or straying from the status quo.
Lucas was a handsome boy of about seventeen, instilled with a passion for freedom from authority, along with a secret love of literature and culture. His persona reeked of rebellion; you could sense it a mile away. His blond hair was tossed by the wind’s smooth direction and his green eyes were illuminated by the glare of streetlights. His chiseled face and strong jaw line enhanced his seamless bad-boy appearance, the paragon girls dream about. His father had sent him to Hollis Hill, to live with his aunt Josephine.
Ever since his mother died, two years ago, Lucas had been causing trouble and getting himself into rough situations. His mother had been the glue that held him together, but now he had nothing left. Sure, he had his father, but he knew he didn’t care for him like a parent should, like his mother did. Now that his father was getting remarried and gaining two new stepsons, he shipped his son to live with his sister for a while until they got “settled”. Really, Lucas realized that he wasn’t going down just so his father could get some alone time with his new family. He inferred that his father didn’t want to be embarrassed by his “troubling” son. So Lucas drove his motorcycle from Philadelphia to Hollis Hill, Maine as his father had told him to. He knew if he strayed and didn’t go his dad would take away the trust fund his mom had set up for him before she died. Then he’d be left with nothing.
After settling in with his Aunt and putting away his things that had preceded his arrival via UPS, his aunt said he should go have a walk to better acquaint himself with the area. So he walked under the streetlights, roaming his new home, longing for some kind of connection, to feel human again.
- - -
Certain nights, Alice liked to walk the streets in the dark, only to be illuminated by infrequent, dingy streetlamps. But as ugly as they were, they were her only source of light, she had to follow them. At dusk, her town was beautifully serene and empty, a nice contrast to the daily shuffle of a small town. It was on these hikes around town that she pondered, thinking about everything and anything. She would think about her future, leaving town for a big city like New York. There she would find people of her own kind, with the same ideas, the same interests. It was something that made her quite lonely and isolated from the town. Sure, everyone knew her and was quite nice to her, but Alice knew what they thought about her. Something out of the norm wasn’t a good thing to them. So Alice could never really connect with someone, on a human to human level. She never had felt this special connection she yearned for each night as she walked the street. Alice enjoyed solitude but longed for a bond of some sort to another person. She wanted to be tied to someone, anyone. Her life was devoid of real human connection and although it is what she intended, the achievement left a sullen feeling aching throughout her body. She continued walking, following the streetlights as if they were a path towards something, anything.
- - -
Lucas and Alice both walked for hours, and unknowingly got closer and closer each moment they followed the streetlights, illuminated in the dark. By the time it was close to sunrise they had both reached the town square, in the center of which was a gazebo. Almost simultaneously they walked up the opposite identical stairs on either side of the gazebo. Their footsteps were inaudible and while they were within feet of each other they had no knowledge of the other’s presence. As the sun came up minutes later, they saw each other for the first time. Their eyes locked as their faces became visible to one another.
For almost ten minutes they sat like that, feeling each other’s empathetic gaze, the human connection they had sought out hours ago. Light slowly crept up on them, as the morning made its arrival, pushing away the cold night. Finally Alice spoke, breaking the meditative silence.
“I’m Alice. You are?,”
“Lucas, just got in from out of town,”
“Really, oh. Whatcha doing outside, roaming around at night?”
“Wanted to get better acquainted with my surroundings. Well, when they aren’t filled with people talking about you right in front of your face,”
“Small towns are boring. Out of town gossip is essential to preservation of the way of life. I don’t know what would happen if it didn’t exist. Probably get shut out of world affairs altogether. People would become incessantly bored,”
“Well, they aren’t my type of people, at least from what I saw today,”
“Those d*mn streetlights are so ugly looking”
“I guess so,” Lucas replied. His voice uttered those words but the tender and raw tone communicated so much more.
- - -
Sometimes in life we long to wander and roam. We conflict with our surroundings, our unique qualities contrasting with the norm and wistfully sigh, wishing we were anywhere but where we were currently. Life works in mysterious ways and sometimes you just have to follow the path that’s laid out in front of you. Ultimately, it is essential you trust that you’ll be guided in the right direction.