Clouded Over

September 1, 2012
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Clouds, dangerously close to overflowing, seemed to follow Max down the street, setting the mood, or, perhaps, reflecting it. He pulled his grey sweatshirt tighter around himself, flipping the hood over his tired eyes as the first drops fell on the weathered street.

He couldn't count the number of times he'd walked this very road before, and, yet, he desperately wished he could erase each and every single one of them. Letting out a mixed growl, he threw himself off the popular sidewalk, onto a quickly flooding pathway down a small ravine, into the bit of natural forestry the contractors had left so many years ago. The bushes tore at his jacket, attempting to slow his progress through the dense flora. The trees half-way protected the lightly trekked trail from the soon-to-be onslaught of rain, much to Max's relief.

He couldn't catch a break very often.


Clouds of cigarette smoke filled the doorway as some guy attempted to protect himself from the bitter cold of the storm waging war against the sturdy frame of the pub. Inside, people chattered away, forgetting, for a moment, their everyday lives, leaving them behind at the door to become whoever they pleased.

Cindy sat, observing, from the discolored seat by the door, slowly sipping her large glass of whiskey. She played with the thought of lighting up with the stranger beside her, but remembered her clear-thinking, morning self had decided to quit, leaving her last pack on the coffee table at home. She grumbled silently, fuming over the ice in her cup.

As she watched a young man slip a quarter, two dimes, and a nickle into the jukebox and select some lovey song from the eighties, she began to wonder about Max.

Where did he go after storming out of the school?


Clouds of his breath puffed over his frozen hands as he stared out over the dampened clearing. He felt the heartache starting to set in. Up to this point, Max had been rushing to get somewhere,doing all he could to forget what the counselors had told him, to avoid thinking of the gaping hole that would be in his home as soon as he arrived.

The only person who'd ever loved him.

The only person he'd ever loved.

His brother.

His caretaker.


He felt the mud squish under his cheap sneakers, and he felt the fat drops fall from the darkened sky as he worked his way back to the street. Somehow, nature was crying when Max had long run out of tears.


Wrapping her wool coat tighter against herself and pulling her cap firmer over her forehead, Cindy marched into the onslaught of seemingly solid rain drops, closer to her home just beyond the school. She was slightly buzzed off whiskey, stumbling every few steps, and drunk with the need for another cigarette, her hands shaking. Her thoughts seemed clouded by the fiendish desire, making it difficult to focus on any one thing.

She cursed herself, knowing she'd failed yet another mission in her never ending battle with smoking. Mounting the slippery paved hill, Cindy felt the presence of Mountlake High School boring down upon her. She cursed herself yet again for becoming a high-school English teacher.

Suddenly, her hands slammed into the ground as her feet tumbled out from underneath her body, and her hat flew off her slightly damp hair. Before retrieving the lost cap, she examined her slightly bleeding hands in the dim street light's glow. Deciding it would be easy enough to wipe her hand on her dark jeans, she looked around for her hat, when, out of nowhere, it was shoved in to her face.

She looked beyond the hat to see a disheveled Max, attempting to hide his face from her.

"Thank you, Max."

"Anytime, Ms. Ackles."

His voice wavered, but he refused to lose control in front of his favorite teacher.

Sobered by his somber appearance, Cindy pushed herself up to face him.

"Max, what's going on?"

"Nothing, Ms. Ackles."

Unsatisfied by his answer, she bit her lip, a nervous habit carried over from childhood.

Unsettled by her question, Max shuffled his feet and stared at the ground, a nervous habit he was going to carry over into adulthood.

"Why are you out so late on a Thursday night?"

"I could ask you the same."

Taken aback, Cindy tried rephrasing her question as Max's face finally turned towards the light. Clearly, he'd been crying for hours, possibly all day.

"Why aren't you home?"

"There's nothing there for me."

Cindy nodded, feeling sorry for the young man. She had yet to find the reason why, but she felt it all the same.

"There's a steaming cup of tea at my house. Care to join me?"

"That's wildly inappro-"

"Are you coming?"

"Yes, Ms. Ackles."

The moon peaked through the clouds that covered the town, shining light upon the odd couple climbing the steep hill towards relief.

Towards comfort.

Towards warmth.

Towards a break in the clouds.

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