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Celia learns her father’s cheating and she can’t tell anyone. She’s the oldest of four, two sisters one brother, and as she cries the wind blows through the balcony balmy and hot against my neck. Textbook pages spin like windmills against each other, catching on the pencil lead and slowing to a halt. “Talk to him,” I say with clay words so heavy bitter they collect near my gums. So I burn them off with my yellow stickered lighter and breathe easy, hard, then easy again.
I speak to Ally over Skype and she’s fine. She eats apples with her friends and gossips about the girls the year above. Her brother likes his college, his roommate. I remember how we used to lay in my bed and I’d stare at him like he was polished silver. “Are you dating Alex?” She asks, and I shake my head. “Where’d you hear that?” I whisper.
Lucas tries to take me flying. Pete and I sit in the back as the instructor jumps in and the engine starts up as he asks for permission. It is so easy to feel vulnerable in a biplane so small. Then the plane carrying the President of Ethiopia stops right in front of our runway and we can’t get out. “Sorry you guys,” he says as we climb out, hot and mucky sunset. “Next week, I promise.”
Celia says she saw the messages on her father’s phone. He says “hey baby” and “I love you so much.” Spaghetti smell and ocean breeze are the only things I hear nowadays. “Your mom’s gonna find out anyways, I think you should talk to your dad before this goes on.” I say. “You can’t live like this forever.” I say. “You can’t be sad like this for long.” I say. Practiced therapy sentences. She shakes her head. “In the end, I’d rather that my family not know and be happy. That way I’m the only one who’s sad.”
“My boyfriend’s blonde, and he’s in ninth grade.” Ally tells me. I laugh. “Are you dating anyone?” She asks, and I laugh again, heartless. “No,” I reply. “I still really, really, really, really, really like your brother.”
I plan our sixteen day trip to Nepal alone and send Allen the emails. He’s excited. So am I. Upper Mustang where the monsoons don’t reach. Kanye complains from my speakers in smooth profanity. Allen hooked up with a girl last night and he’s on top of the world. He wants a tattoo of Africa on his shoulder. “Beautiful,” I say, and mean it.
“I miss you,” Ally says. “I love you. My mom was sad you and my brother broke up.” I miss her mother. She was my mother too, sweet Thai flower tea and package cookies. “I love you too.” I mean it. “I have to go though, I’m going to the beach.”
Celia circles her multiple choice, and her fist shakes, chimes from her nails. I get her tissues and she thanks me. “I don’t want to ruin anything.” She says. “You know what the right choice is,” I say. “If you don’t do this you’ll regret it.” The grilled cheese burns in the toaster. I sneeze very loudly, wishing for change. The smoke rises in swirls into the celling. I just leave it on, and pray again.
I distract myself with sports and listen to Lana Del Rey. I cut circles out of paper in art with Lucas. “Do you love her?” I ask him, and he nods enthusiastically. “She your first love?” He nods again, and I smile, looking back down again. “You’ll never forget her.” I promise.
It’s better this way, he was walking all over me. But I lost my best friend. I tell Allen. Whenever I talk to Ally the feelings come back. My typing is fast and mechanic. He replies with a that’s a lot to deal with. I want to leave. I want to go to college. “Maybe.” I reply. You’ll be okay. He assures me. I know. I say. Do you regret it? He asks. Never. Beach time. Talk to you later.
I take off my clothes and put my green swimsuit on in a sensitive fashion over swim team tan lines and a back full of blackheads. “I love you!” Ally says, and then it disconnects. Send me a picture of him and me at prom, but just one so I don’t get sad. I ask her. I will. She won’t.
The people leave from their classes and Celia sniffs away tears like they weren’t even there. But Julia sees them. “What’s wrong?” She asks.
“We’ve been laughing,” I lie.
I lie in my bed with my green swimsuit on and stare up at my celling through my mosquito net. I think of the poem I wrote about him and how it’s only been read about twice. It’s too cheesy I think, too cliché to be beautiful. And it wasn’t beautiful anyway. Julia and I walk from PE and I say how he just disappeared when he left. “I’m fat and I’m ugly and I don’t care about feelings.” She mocks him, and I laugh along with flip-flops snapping against my heels. But he’s not ugly. And he’s not fat. He’s beautiful.
I’ll fly in that metal plane one day. Lucas’s test is on Monday. I wanna come, “Celia says, and I tell her she can. She’s good at burying things too. “You better?” I say. “Yea.” She says. “Good.” I say. “Thank you, Maxime.” She says.
“You’re welcome.” I say.