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He came home sweating, breathing hard. He punched in the garage code to open the door. The door didn’t open. Cursing, he squinted at the buttons and methodically tried again. With a creak, the door began to lift up. Upon entering the house, he threw his wet jacket in the washing machine.
“Anyone home?” he asked. There was no reply. Just as it had been for what he felt like his whole life, he was alone. It wasn’t that bad, he seldom enjoyed the company of others. Other people usually caused pain, sacrifice, and were fake, using others to get only what they wanted. He had had enough of that, cutting away the parts of his life that he felt were unnecessary. His friends, family, teachers -- he had distanced himself away from them, far enough so that they thought they knew him, but all they knew was a disguise, a mask he had put on and hid behind.
There was one person who knew him. She had immediately pierced his disguise, told him that he was not who he was pretending to be, asked him to tell her his story, and as the final spin of a lock, said that she was the same way, hiding from others, not opening up to people who were untrustworthy and only sought pleasure from themselves. From then on, he was like a vault door swung wide open.
He had told her his stories, of when his father stood over him, eyes enraged, fist raised, angry words attacking him like the spit flying from his father’s mouth, as his mother continued silently washing the dishes. A quick glance away revealed his brothers in the next room, laughing at him, genuinely mocking his helplessness. He told her stories of his days spent away from home, just wandering around town, learning the alleys and street names, observing how people and trees seemed so similar, how everyone and everything seemed so at ease with the way things were, such a vivid contrast to his life. He told her stories of his future, how he would leave in a year, go to college, settle down in Maine, and live each day reading, writing his own story, and watching the silvery sun set against the soft waves gently sliding on the shore. She listened to all his stories intently, almost obsessively, and after each one, she would sigh once, then again.
She had also told him stories about herself, although they were never as deep. She told him events that had happened throughout the day, such as what she said during English class, how in Spanish they were learning the hardest things, how in soccer she got hit by a ball in the chest, and so forth. Once, as if on a passing remark, she mentioned her boyfriend. Seeing the shocked look on his face, she coolly told him that he didn’t mean that much to her, that she really kind of used him to drive her around in that little red car of his.
“Little red car?” he had asked her, and she told him that the little red car was one of he boyfriend’s distinguishing features, one way that she recognized who he was. They had a laugh over that, and dropped the subject.
But today was a different day. She had told him earlier that she would break up with her boyfriend because she just didn’t feel comfortable with him, and that she wasn’t attracted to him anymore. Again, a thin, shallow statement that didn’t say much, but enough to keep him interested. He was tempted to ask her for the details, of whether they got in a fight, or if he had cheated on her with someone else. He grinned to himself, and then froze when she asked him to come over later that night. Such a bold statement, with so much implied meaning, he stuttered out a few words saying that he would love to, and asked her what time.
“About 1 o’clock,” she had said, and his surprise grew to excitement. It wasn’t often that the only person he cared about wanted to spend time him during the late night, almost early morning time. They made plans -- how he would leave and drive to her house, how she would sneak downstairs and let him in, and how they would go to her room, close the door so her parents couldn’t hear. Then he had hung up, slowly walked into his room and lay down on his bed, smiling the whole time.
It was 12:30. No one was home: his brothers and sisters were all at sleepovers, his father was on a business trip, and his mom was probably getting drunk with her friends. He was in his closet, deciding on what to wear later that night. He thought he saw the black shirt he wanted to wear, and pulled it out. It wasn’t the right one; it had the wrong logo on the front. After a few more minutes, he found it. The shirt was on the top the pile of clothes. He put it on, pulled on a pair of jeans, and sprayed a little aftershave on his neck and chest for good luck. He got in his car and started driving for her house, wanting to be a little early.
The radio was playing the perfect music, a soft song filled with the light tinkles of a piano, the lyrics blending into the music. He opened his window a bit, but the wind blew his hair back and deciding that he would rather not have messy hair, he closed the window. He mind began to wander, as he thought about what they would be doing later that night in her basement, about how perfect it was for him that she was going to break up with her boyfriend. A small thought drifted into his head, saying that maybe it wasn’t right for her to be doing this. But he shrugged off the thought, convincing himself that she had made the decision and he had nothing to do with it.
A light flashed red in front of him. He snapped out of his dream and slammed on the brakes. He came to a hard stop just past the white line. A police car pulled up right next to him. The window rolled down, and he could see the police man leaning out of the window. Heart beating like he had just woken from a nightmare, he rolled his right window down.
“Almost missed it didn’t you?” the policeman commented, staring straight into his eyes.
Lowering his voice, he replied, “Yeah, long day at work. You know how it is.”
The police man nodded and rolled up his window. He did the same, and as the light turned green, he let the policeman race ahead. As his heartbeat slowed, he calmed down and began to congratulate himself. He had pretended to be an adult and the policeman had believed him. Maybe he was becoming more mature. As he turned into her neighborhood, he decided that it would be a great story to tell her. She would be impressed. Suddenly, another flash of red appeared in his headlights. He slowed down, but this time it was just a car sitting on the side of the road. He inched forward, hoping that his eyes were wrong for the third time that night. He rapidly blinked, but the little red car sitting in front of her house was still there. He looked up. The only light came from a dimly lit room upstairs. The silhouette of two people was visible. He put his head back on the seat and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened his eyes, sat up, and drove away.
The next morning his cell phone rang in his car. Upon reaching the voicemail, the following message was heard: “Hey what happened? I didn’t see you last night. You said that you had an undying love for me. So were you just making that up? That’s not very nice. Call me back.” As the message ended, her voice faded off into the perpetual silence of the forest, where the remains of the car and body lay.