Empty Street

By , Elk Grove, CA

I had a moment, a better moment, in my life recently. A random connection with Emily from the forest. After she joined my mother and I for an awkward dinner of shake and bake pork chops and pineapple slices, we went for ice cream. And. We kissed. It was weird. I gave her her charm back also, and she didn't question me handing it to her. She just took it. Her eyes swelled up with tears. That's when I pecked her awkwardly. She went back to some hotel on the outside of town. I had never asked her how she lost an earring in the forest of a town she didn't live in. I didn't ask her where she lived. I did find out, on the car ride to a place she said would help us solve the mystery of who attacked Loren, that she was 19. I'm a year younger. It feels strange. We get to the mystery place. Emily drove us in her car. Littered with fast food and receipts, she blared 20s jazz on the way. We arrived at a mansion, a palace in front of my small town eyes. She kept re parting her blond hair down the center, even though it was already straight as an arrow. I didn't know who owned the mansion. She muttered as we stood at the door," it's Neil Hart. I called him yesterday and explained the situation." Did all the girls in my life readily meet members of this band? Neil opens the door. He looks a lot like Loren, except for a difference from the posters of him I've seen everywhere. His long black swoop bangs, an essential for a teen icon, were gone. Emily noticed. Neil noticed us notice. He ran his hand through the stubbly buzz cut on his head. "Trying to find my new self without the band." He said as means of welcoming us. He shoots me a confused look. "I thought you were gonna be alone?" He directs towards Emily, as we nevertheless step inside. "Didn't she mention me over the phone?" I respond, cautiously because I don't want both members of this band to dislike me. Emily does a face that girls can do when they telepathically tell you you're an idiot. Many girls have given me the look. Neil's palace is very black, with dark walls and dark hardwood. Dim lighting makes the shadows vague notions against the walls. There are instruments strewn about, including a sitar. He gestures for us to sit at the dining table. No one else appears to be home, and such a big house being empty is unsettling. I have to move a tuba off a chair to sit. None of these instruments have been heard in their band's lengthy discography. "Can you play the tuba?" Emily asks half serious. Neil rolls his eyes. He gestures to tabloids on the table. "You guys are investigating who attacked Loren?" I nod. "Here is your answer." Emily feigns interest but I'd bet she's just as lost as I am right now. The headlines say: "Loren's Lover Leaves", and there is a picture of Jean on a plane with a river of mascara upon her cheeks. The recognition paints itself on my face like a billboard. " You were on the news with her, right?" Emily interjects. Neil looks at me for the first time with interest. "She's just somebody I used to know. How is this relevant?" They don't press the issue. Neil says, "We are flocked, Loren and I, by crazy girls. Emotionally unstable. I'm sure it was a crazy fangirl. You," he leans close to me and I smell the axe he must bathe in," Should give up." This seems to settle the argument once and for all. Then he ushers Emily and I to the door, and Emily tells me to go wait in the car while she talks to him. When she returns to the car she's carrying an an envelope. "What's in there?" I venture. "An autograph. For my sister." She says. I'm just happy she wasn't inside for too long, lest she succumb like Jean to the dark side. She shoves it in her glove department, and I note she smells better than Neil. "Where's your sister?" I ask. She explains, almost annoyed, "She's older than me and lives in Canada." I know not to further probe. The drive home is silent and awkward, drowning in a one sided tension radiating from Emily, who seems very stressed out. "Bye." I say when I slip out of the car. "Bye, Carson." She says, looking at me with sparkly blue eyes. Familiar blue. Like I've seen them before. Her Bye sounds permanent. When her car is our of sight, it hits me. I saw her before I ran into her in the forest. I saw her run into the forest. Mom comes out of our house and asks why I'm gaping at the empty street.

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