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Mace Spray and Full Moons
I have a friend who likes fire.
Naturally, I'm going to let her build the campfire tonight when I go camping with my friends. It's our senior year of high school and we want to do something fun for spring break. Tyler is pitching tents, Marissa is cooking, Bret is cleaning dishes, Nicole and I are taking down the tents and everything, and Tellie, my best friend, is building the fire.
"It'll be the best campfire you'll ever see," she says.
"Trust me," she says.
And I do trust her. Only because I know, and my friends know, she would never hurt a fly. I definitely believe her. Even if she's the definition of loud and spunky, she's also the definition of sweet and caring. Her eyes tell the most amazing stories. Her eyes are like stars. Her eyes are like fire.
Maybe that's why she likes fire so much. She's always talking to me about it; she always asks if I think fire is cool.
I say, "Literally or figuratively?" And then I burst out in laughter like a loser. God, I crack myself up. Tellie hits my upper arm in an act to try and stop me from telling lame jokes. I stop.
"Really," she says with a smile. Then she becomes silent and looks down at the ground. She speaks up again, a slight edge to her voice, "Do you ever have the urge to light something on fire?" She picks at the grass between her crossed legs.
"No, I don't. What are you, some kind of pyromaniac?" I laugh at myself again.
She shrugs. "No, I was just wondering," she says softly. She looks up from the grass, picks up a stone and tosses it into the lake in front of us.
"Oh," I sigh, leaning back on my elbows.
Tellie starts to hum the song from the new Toyota commercial.
The song comes on the radio like clockwork, pulling my mind back to the present, just as I pull up to Tellie's quiet house, ready for our day of camping. I slam my hand down on the horn, pushing there for a split second. A heartbeat later, Tellie is dashing out of the house with a duffle bag and a navy blue pillow. The smile on her face is like the moon's pale, wide grin. She opens the passenger door, tosses her stuff on the seat and runs back to her front door.
She wraps her arms around her brother, Jason, and kisses him on the cheek before running back to my Jeep.
“Let’s go! Vamanos!” She yells, pounding the top of my car. She jumps in beside me, slamming the car door behind her. She leans over and gives me a hug, squeezing me tightly. Her scent envelops me, the scent of vanilla, sunshine, and the orange she ate for breakfast.
She pulls away and pecks me on the cheek, bringing me out of my daze.
“Wow, look at you, speakin’ Spanish and such,” I say with a smile. I rev the engine and pull away from her quaint house, leaving her brother to wave at us on the doorstep.
She nods, rolls down the window, slips her aviator sunglasses on, and tunes the radio to some odd channel I’ve never heard of before. Butterflies start to swarm in my stomach.
“And next,” buzzed the lame college grad, sitting with his ankles crossed up on the table in front of him. He probably was wearing sunglasses inside, and he probably had a short beard. “We’re going to play some lovely French pop music from the 80s.”
I raise an eyebrow at Tellie, curving up a corner of my mouth. She gives me a wide beaming grin back before pursing her lips and letting out a loud wolf whistle.
I laugh. “You’re certainly chipper today, Tels.”
“Jesse, the word ‘chipper’ just ruined the mood,” she snickers, running her fingers through her short, wavy hair.
“You sure?” I smile again; the butterflies in my stomach have now turned to elephants parading all over. I hope she doesn’t hear them stomp their feet.
I’ve had a crush on Tellie for the longest time. Not that she knows or cares. I just think Tellie has witty banter and a hot body. Tellie would never go with a guy like me, though. I’m really short but I have some muscle. From what Tellie has told me, she likes tall, lean guys. Curse my build.
“Yep, I am.” And with that, she props her feet up on my dashboard and cranks up the French 80s hits.
I sigh and shake my head, the crooked smile still plastered to my face. I pull away from her driveway, the elephants in my stomach still running around.
The rest of the drive to the campsite was filled with odd songs, Tellie’s laughter and a strange conversation about Jason, her brother, and how his new girlfriend is supposedly lame.
“Not that I’ve ever met her,” I say, “but she seems like a nice girl. From what Jason has told me, at least.” I smile and glance at Tellie, who was currently twirling a piece of hair around her index finger.
“Yeah, well, she’s not.” Tellie stops twirling her hair and takes of her sunglasses. She turns in her seat her face me, her plucked eyebrows raised and knitted. “Do you even know what she said to me?”
I hold back a chuckle. “What’d she say to you, Tellie?”
Tellie scrunches up her nose and crosses her eyes. “Your brother is so nice; I can’t see how you two are related.”
I don’t hold back my laughter this time, my grip tightening on the steering wheel. I look over at her, my left eyebrow cocked up in question.
“Stop laughing, jerk. She really said that!”
I shake my head and turn my focus back to the road.
After a few minutes of driving, a song I knew came on the odd radio station. Tellie and I started singing it at the top of our lungs when suddenly, Tellie hits my upper arm and points to a sign not too far away from us.
“Jesse, look!” She starts pounding the roof of my car again. “We’ve arrived!”
“Finally,” I say, turning into the park.
We slowly pull up to a booth. A young woman comes to the window. Her black hair cascaded down her shoulders and her lips were full and pink. She smacks her gum, speaking slowly. “Hi, do you have a reserved campsite?”
“Yes, we do. I think it’s under the name Mallory.” Mallory is our friend Bret’s last name.
The woman disappears inside her booth to retrieve some things. Tellie puts her sunglasses back on and says while putting her feet back up on my dashboard, “We’re twenty minutes late but who cares? We’re still cool.”
I laugh quietly to myself, a big smile spread across my face. “Well, aren’t you Mrs. Cool.”
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
“I won’t,” I laugh, louder this time.
The lady returns to hand me some stuff. “Your campsite is number 73,” she says, pointing to something on one of the papers. She then moves her finger to point in the direction of the road. “Two other boys and a girl already drove through here.”
“Thanks,” I say, and drive off in the direction she showed us.
“We’re missing a girl,” Tellie says. She flashes a face of slight disappointment but cheers up suddenly when she asks, “Who do you think is missing?”
I think for a second before responding. “Marissa,” I answer, slowly.
Tellie nods in agreement.
I don’t think Tellie knows I saw her look of disappointment, but I did. Tellie doesn’t like to show a lot of sad emotions because she says she doesn’t like getting people worried or down for no reason. I don’t see why there would be no reason but whatever, she’s just being Tellie.
As we pull up to the campsite, I honk the horn.
“Yeah, Jesse and Tels!” Bret yells from the picnic table.
Tellie opens the door to the Jeep and leaps out, sprinting for Bret. He envelops his arms around her and spins her around. Tellie goes around and gives Tyler and Nicole giant hugs, too.
The first thing I notice about the campsite is that it’s not that big. In fact, I’m a bit saddened with the size of it. I pictured it to be much bigger. But what do I know about the size of campsites, I’ve never been camping before.
The second thing I notice is that the tents themselves are small. We have three tents in all, two people per tent. I don’t understand how you fit two people in that small, confined space but I guess I’ll find out.
I hope I share a tent with Tellie, although I don’t know if that’ll happen.
Suddenly, the car door beside me is thrown open and someone wraps their arms around me, pulling me out of my seat.
“Let me unbuckle!” I shout, smiling while my limbs flail around helplessly.
When I unbuckle my seat belt, me and the person hugging me stumble back a few steps. “Bro, how’ve you been?” It’s Bret.
He lets go of me and I turn around. “Hey, dude,” I say, the smile still on my face. “I’ve been good. How’s the girlfriend been? Did you, you know?” I wiggle my eyebrows and elbow him slightly.
“Nah. We’re too good for that. We decided that we’re going to wait until marriage.”
“Marriage my ass,” I hear from behind me.
I turn and see Tyler and my face lights up. “Hey!” I shout as we embrace in a short hug.
“You’re just mad because Peyton won’t put out,” Tyler continues. Peyton is Bret’s girlfriend. She’s prissy and uptight.
“You guys are pigs,” Nicole says. She gives Tyler a frown before turning to me and hugging me softly. Nicole and Tyler are twins. But they don’t look alike, at all. Nicole dyed her hair fire engine red. It’s really a trip. She looks drop dead gorgeous, but only at second glance.
“Well, that makes you a donkey,” Tyler shoots back at her.
Nicole gives him a disapproving look. That look could kill anyone if you stared at it long enough. You know the saying her eyes are like daggers? Well, in this case, the phrase is basically literal.
Tellie pops up in between Nicole and Tyler, her short stature only bringing her up to Tyler’s shoulder. “I’m so happy the gang’s all together,” she says, her voice carrying on in a sing-songy way. “I just can’t wait until night falls and we can tell scary stories around the campfire.” Bret makes lame ghost noises and we all laugh.
I suddenly pipe in, “Well, we’re still missing Marissa.” I shrug slightly.
Nicole and Tyler exchange a short glance.
Bret yawns for a split second before answering. “Um, I think she said she was picking up a few groceries.”
“Right,” Nicole says, her mouth a straight line. She nods briskly.
“Groceries,” Tyler trails off slowly, his eyebrows heavy over his dark eyes.
“What?” I question, slightly confused. “Where is she?”
“None of your beeswax, Jesse.” Tellie says, hitting my upper arm. “Who wants to go swimming?”
My friends around me cheer and make jokes the whole time we got dressed and walked down to the lake. They were more excited about this than I was, and I was pretty excited.
My mind still wondered about Marissa. I hope she didn’t ditch us for some guy; it seems like something Marissa would do. She hasn’t done anything like that before, though.
When we got to the lake, the sun was setting and the water was a bright shade of orange. There were green streaks from the rippling lake water and the color combo set a nice mood as the five of us dashed into the water, the only ones there.
We had chicken fights, Tellie on my shoulders and Nicole on Tyler’s, while Bret was the referee. We yelled and splashed until the sun sunk completely behind the silhouetted tree line. The air started to get colder and we decided to towel up and head back for the site.
My toes squelched in my blue rubber flip flops my mom bought me last summer. She insisted I needed a pair even though I told her I could fend for myself in the big wide world of “what to wear to the pool.”
“We are taking showers, yeah?” Bret asks, nodding slightly. He threw his towel over his shoulder.
“Tellie and I are,” Nicole looks at Bret like he was implying they weren’t to take showers. Nicole is a strong believer in the theory that everyone must shower every day.
“I guess the guys and I will, too,” Bret adds after a pause. We walked in silence for a second. “Right, guys?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Tyler nods, scratching his bare, scrawny chest.
I eyed his scratching and started to scratch my own head. “Yeah,” I mumble.
“Jesse, you okay?” Tellie asks, touching my slightly on my shoulder.
I jump a bit and my hand flew from my hair. “Uh, yeah. I’m fine.” I say. I chew on my lip afterwards and Tellie narrows her eyes at me.
“Whatever you say, Jesse boy, whatever you say,” she let her thoughts trail off quietly. I can hear Tyler start to snicker.
I shoot him a look and he puts his hands up and walks over to the other side of Bret, now another person away me.
We arrive at the campsite, the crickets chirping from all around us. The last orange light circled the horizon and faint stars started to peep out from their hiding spots.
“We need to pick tents,” Bret announces, pulling a flashlight and some other stuff from his bag on the picnic table.
“Nicole and I will be together,” Tyler suggests. Nicole shoots him an “I’m too old for this” look and Tyler shoots back an “it only makes sense” look.
“Okay, Nicole and Tyler are in the blue tent. Um, are we doing boy-girl or does it matter?”
I glance over at Tellie but she’s looking at her nails.
“No, I don’t think it matters,” Nicole adds, still staring at Tyler. I could tell their telepathic argument was getting pretty heated.
“Tellie and I could share a tent,” I say quickly, looking back at Bret. He raises his eyes in question. “You snore loud,” I add, coughing slightly. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tellie look up.
“Okay,” Bret says slowly. “Tellie and Jesse are in the red tent. I guess that leaves me in the green tent.”
“What about Marissa?” I ask, again.
Tyler shakes his head, “Dude, she’s with David Shbosky.”
“The lacrosse player?” I stifle a laugh.
“Of course.” I shake my head, as well.
“You know, I did notice she had an unusual interest in lacrosse,” Nicole starts to curl a piece of her honey brown hair around her index finger. “She called it ‘hockey in the sky.’”
“Wow,” Tyler raised his eyebrows. His sarcasm was heavy.
Bret stuck his thumb out over his shoulder. “Guys, showers?”
“I think I’m going to stay here,” Tellie says, quietly.
“Um, I’ll join you!” I blurt out with haste.
Tellie nods and keeps staring at her fingernails which seem to have a big interest to her. I smile at her even though I know she doesn’t see me. My heart starts to thud as the elephants start to rampage through my stomach again.
“Okay, dude. Whatever you say,” Bret nods for Tyler, Nicole and him to start the trek to the restrooms up the hill. They switch their flashlights on and walk away, their shoes still squeaking from the lake water.
When the squeaking and the yellow of Bret’s flashlight disappeared over the hill’s hump, I turn to Tellie.
“Hey Tels,” I say. I start to head for my stuff, unzipping the bag in a single zip and pulling out my lantern. “What’s going on?” I switch the lantern on and a soft glow lights up Tellie’s shiny eyes.
“Oh, nothing,” Tellie snaps her head up, rubbing her palms on her jeans. “Should I get a fire going? Yeah, I should. I should get a fire going.”
“Need help collecting firewood?” Before I could finish, Tellie was already crunching her way into the woods. I let out a sigh and bow my head. At times, I didn’t know what to do with her. She just got this new boyfriend, Travis. I haven’t met him yet and she hasn’t spoken much of him so I don’t know what he’s about so much.
I grab my bag and sleeping bag, heading for the red and gray tent labeled mine and Tellie’s. I set the lantern up in the doorway to the tent, making sure to zip up the flap to keep bugs out. I unroll my sleeping bag and splay it out on the right side of the tent and I thump my bag down at the foot of it. I sigh and smile. I spent the next five minutes figuring out how to get jeans off and sweatpants on without standing up.
When I left out tent, I saw a nice orange fire glowing in the bottom of the fire pit. Tellie had her arms crossed and the frown on her face scared me for a second. I didn’t say anything, only stared.
“It’s pitiful, isn’t it?” She asked, looking up at me.
I smile, “Yeah, yeah it’s pitiful.” I flop down in one of the chairs I guess one of my friends set up earlier.
“Let me add more wood.”
I twiddle my thumbs as I watch her throw in two more logs. A couple of sparks flew up in the air but nothing else happened. The fire reflected on her glassy eyes and she started to chew on her bottom lip, a nervous habit of hers.
“Let me add more.”
She threw another log onto the fire but nothing happened. If anything, the fire seemed to dim down.
“This isn’t right!” She suddenly yelled.
I quickly stood up, panic rising in my throat. “No, no, no, no,” I repeated, rapidly. “You’re okay.” I wrapped my arms around her from the side, bowing my forehead onto her shoulder.
“Calm down, shhh,” I kept saying. I continued over and over and all Tellie did was stare. I was saying it more for my benefit; my heart kept thudding in my chest.
“I’m adding gasoline,” Tellie whispers.
My heart skips a beat.
I swallow hard, “W-why do you want to do that?”
“It’s not a want, it’s a need.” Tellie shrugs me off her shoulders and closes her eyes. I stand there and watch her, my eyes huge with horror.
What is my friend doing?
Tellie’s eyes flutter open and she casually strolls over to her bag. Bending down, she unzips it and rummages around for something. I see her take out something round and black. She walks away from her bag, leaving it unzipped.
Fear churned in my stomach, my throat closing quickly. I try to say something, not knowing what I’m saying, but it comes out as a mix of garbled sounds.
Tellie stands next to the fire, her head looming over the small, flickering flames. She twists the red cap off with ease, clenching it in her fist until her knuckles turned white. She drops it and at the same time, turns the can upside down on the pit.
Then everything happens at once.
The flames jumped to life, making Tellie scream. She staggers back, watching the fire lick the dark sky. The fire continues to climb in height, embers floating down from above.
Our friends show up at the campsite, running in their pajamas.
“Tellie, what the hell?” Bret yells, throwing his stuff down on the overcrowded picnic table.
“Don’t ‘what the hell’ me!” Tellie screams back, whipping her head to look up at Bret. I could tell Bret was taken aback.
All I did was stare and I continued to stare.
Tears rolled down Tellie’s face and off her chin. “What I did was good.” She says, her teeth clenched. “What I did was relaxing.” Then she proceeded by throwing another log onto the fire.
Her eyes were ablaze. With what, I don’t know. But they were on fire. It was roaring and spitting, too. Her chest heaved as she let out a final sigh. Her shoulders relaxed as she sank onto the ground, crossing her legs and staring up into the flame-licked sky.
And I continued to stare.
“So, why’d you try to burn us all alive?” I asked.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get an answer.
The ride home the next day was next to silent.
It was early in the morning and rain lightly left small pitter patters across the windshield. All I could hear was the air conditioning softly blowing, murmurs from the men on the radio, and the rain.
My hands were sweating buckets, but I told myself I was too focused on driving to wipe them on the seat of my shorts.
Tellie sat with her legs crossed at her calves and her knees slightly to her chest in the passenger seat. Her short hair was up in a small ponytail that sprouted from the back of her head. The rainy weather didn’t stop her from putting her shades on as it never has before.
Yesterday, after Tellie’s big blow up, the park rangers scolded us like five year olds and no one barely slept a wink, minus Tellie. The tension in the air was thick like butter and I bet if one of us took out a butter knife, we could cut it and spread it across a freshly toasted slice of bread.
I recall I lying on top of my sleeping bag, listening to the crickets chirp in patterns and replaying Tellie’s scene over and over again in my mind’s eye. Tellie next to me slept soundly.
I remember wanting to pack up and leave then but I didn’t have the guts to disappear like that. I wasn’t surprised, though, when after I finally fell asleep and woke up later that morning, to see Bret had escaped. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like to stick around to see the aftermath.
And now here we are, I thought to myself as we sped quietly down the highway. I should have just left when I could have left.
The men on the radio kept laughing about something and I reached to turn it off but Tellie darted a hand out and did it before I could.
The rest of the ride home was silent.
I still like Tellie, no matter what. We’re such good friends that even though she about set us all on fire, I still love her. She should be glad I’m so passive.
I don’t really like dealing with these kinds of situations so I’m not going to tell my mom or whatever. And I’m certainly not going to tell Tellie’s parents. They already hate me enough.
I don’t think Tellie’s fire was much of a problem, really. Especially now that I look back on it. I’m sure that if Tellie goes home and sleeps for the rest of spring break, she’ll be fine. There are still three days left. She can catch up on rest in that time, right?
I’m a pretty heavy sleeper myself so I know I’ll be sleeping in until one in the afternoon. Tellie calls me a slob but my room is neater than hers. She’s not too neat, I’ve noticed. Maybe her lack of sleep comes from all those nights scared of what might pop out of that pile of dirty things she has in her corner.
We pull up to her house and Tellie hops out without a word. She drags her stuff down the pavement and up the brick steps to knock on her door. Jason pops his head out to smile and wave at me. I give him a smile and wave back. Tellie gives me nothing.
I pull away, exhausted and ready for my three day long nap.
Let’s just hope Tellie gets some sleep and the monster in her stuff doesn’t keep her up all night.
I hate the spring days where I live. Sometimes the sun is lost among the grayness and the wind blows the limbs of the budding trees around like they’re nothing.
The nights are worse.
Some days the temperature in your room drops below freezing and you have to cuddle up to your pillows and blankets to stay warm. And then, in the middle of the night, you wake up sweating, wrapped in five tons of cloth. I hate those kinds of nights. That’s how it is tonight.
I lie in my bed, sweating buckets. I have nothing else better to do than to think about my dumb life. I sit up in bed, pulling my old YMCA shirt over my head before tossing it on the floor. My bare chest is exposed. I tighten my abs and give myself a punch in the stomach. I smile slightly and run my fingers through my dark brown hair. I flex my toes and spread them apart, wiggling them around. I look down at my body and quickly frown. I’m not too skinny for a guy. I’m not bone and skin and I’m certainly not pale, either. So why don’t girls like me? More specifically, why doesn’t Tellie like me?
I reach over to my nightstand and click on my lamp. My clock now reads a refreshing 2:36 am. I rub my eyes before turning back to looking at my body. I place a hand on my chest, rubbing the slightly tan skin. My dad is half Puerto Rican and half Italian and my mom is French. Oh, how cultured I am.
My gaze drifts to my baggy gray sweatpants; they’re my favorites. However, I’m still feeling waves of heat, so I slide them off and drop them on the ground next to my shirt. I sigh lightly and lie back down.
My phone suddenly lets off a noisy buzz, vibrating across my nightstand. I quickly grab it so it does not continue to make the annoying noise. I glance at the bright screen:
1 New Text Message
I cock an eyebrow and hit “okay,” the little envelope opening up to display the message.
Hey, Jesse. You still awake?
The text is from Tellie. Why she’s be texting me at a quarter to three, I have no idea. I decide to reply, anyway.
Yeah. Don’t you know it’s almost three in the morning? You should be sleeping.
I place my phone down next to me and start flexing and clenching my toes again. After a minute or two, my phone buzzes again.
I should be saying that to you. Why’re you still awake?
I scratch my head and flex my toes.
I place my phone down again and whistle outward. I’m beginning to become bored with my toes. I slide out of bed and shuffle to my bathroom. Lucky, lucky me; I have my own bathroom. After relieving myself, I see another message from Tellie.
Oh, I see. Hey, can you come pick me up? Family problems…
I am surprised by this. I had just got my license on my seventeenth birthday a couple months ago. I don’t believe I’m supposed to be driving at three in the morning, in fact I’m certain I’m not supposed to be driving this late, but…
After sending the message, I pull my sweatpants and faded YMCA shirt on again. I start to think maybe going out to save Tellie isn’t the smartest idea. But who cares, she’s my friend.
My phone buzzes.
Lynn Park. I ran here.
I respond with “okay” before stuffing my phone in my pocket and grabbing my sandals and keys. Luckily, my parents taught me to save a dollar, not spend one, so I had saved up enough money to buy myself an old, red Jeep by my sixteenth birthday.
I creep silently downstairs, the hardwoods below my feet creaking softly. I open the front door and shut it behind me, locking it as quietly as I can. I smile in success and punch the air above me.
I jog out to my Jeep in my lame pajamas, opening the driver’s door and jumping inside. I put my keys in the ignition and turn them, wincing as the car powers on. I switch the radio off to create as little noise as possible and slowly back out of our driveway. Once on the road, I start to head for Lynn Park.
Guilt and paranoia start to grip my mind as I think about what I’m doing. My curfew is eleven at night and if my parents find out I am, or was, out at 3 am, and with a girl nonetheless, they’ll kill me twice.
I ignore the NO LOITERING OVERNIGHT sign and pull into the quaint parking lot for Lynn Park. I shut the car off and step outside into the cold spring night. I wish I would have remembered to bring a sweatshirt.
“Tellie?” I say quietly, nervous about what is going on. I step forward into the darkness, unsure if this is a good idea after all. When Tellie doesn’t appear after what seems like a minute or so, I pull out my phone to call her.
Suddenly, I feel two hands on my shoulders, “Hi, Jesse!”
I jump and spin around. There stood Tellie, in all her glory. “God, Tellie. You scared me,” I say, stifling a forced laugh and putting my phone away.
“I sure did,” Tellie smiles.
I’m not going to lie; Tellie is the hottest girl I’ve ever seen. She’s short and curvy with a heart shaped face and large, green, cat-like eyes. She’s wearing a long thermal striped shirt and long, black skinny jeans. On her feet she wears two purple socks. No shoes, just socks.
“Why aren’t you wearing shoes?” I ask, raising my eyebrows.
She shrugs. “I forgot them.” She smiles again.
God, she is perfect.
“Aren’t you cold, dummy?” she asks, flicking my bare arm.
Goosebumps immediately flare on that arm as I let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah.”
Tellie grabs my arm, her eyes lighting up. “Can we go to Taco Bell? You know it’s open.”
I would absolutely love to eat poorly made meat slop with a hot girl at three in the morning but because I am utterly stupid, I forgot my wallet in the midst of my escape.
I definitely am not going to let Tellie know I had forgotten my wallet because I’ll never hear the end of it. I quickly make up a lie, “I have work tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow is a Thursday, dummy. And it’s already tomorrow.” She laughs. She opens the driver’s side door and pushes me inside the vehicle. “Look, it’ll me by treat. You just drive.”
I stick out my tongue and shut the door. I power on the Jeep as Tellie runs around the front of the car and jumps in next to me.
“Onward Jeep!” she yells as we start to make our way to Taco Bell.
Tellie and I are back in the car. We had a thrilling time being the only ones in Taco Bell at this time of the morning—no surprises there.
Tellie places a hand on my thigh and I about die. “So,” she begins. “Where are we off to now?”
I scratch my head and the leg her hand wasn’t on starts jumping up and down. “Well, um, I ought to get back home before my parents find out I’ve been gone.”
She lifts her hand off my leg. “So, you’re ditching me?”
I can still feel the weight of her hand on my thigh, even though it wasn’t there. “Yeah,” I answer, quietly.
“Loser,” she says and crosses her arms.
“We have school tomorrow,” I say, scratching my head again. I bite my lower lip a bit, remembering my earlier lie about work in the morning, embarrassed at how lame and stupid the lie was.
“We can ditch,” Tellie suggests, looking up at me through her sandy hair. The corner of her lip is slightly curving up into a half smile, her eyebrows knitted together.
I think about this for a second and reply with, “Let me go home first.”
Tellie uncrosses her arms and turns herself to look forward. She tilts her head slightly to the right and said, with a slight grimace, “I don’t want to go home.” The mood in the car suddenly shifts.
I clear my throat, as it is abruptly beginning to thicken. “Why not?” Sadly, my voice still cracked on the “why.”
She shrugs and looks forward still, her eyes slightly glossy. “Just take me home,” she finally sighs.
I nod solemnly and start out of Taco Bell’s parking lot and on to Tellie’s house.
Tellie lives on the edge of town only five or ten minutes away from me. The only thing majorly separating us is Lynn Park. It squats right in between our neighborhoods.
Tellie’s house is small, tight and quaint. The windows look like sleepy eyes and the door looks like a gaping yawn. The steps and porch are made of crumbling bricks because they’ve been stepped on too many times. You’d never know what goes on inside. Then again, you don’t know what goes on inside any houses. Sometimes that’s what I think houses are for; for keeping the bad in, and the good out.
Tellie lives with her older brother; he’s nineteen, and her two parents, who don’t give a flying fudge about her.
Her mom obviously sleeps around and her father sits, drinks, and yells. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits, too, but I’m not curious or nosy enough to find out.
Tellie’s family is kind of a mess. That’s why she gets away with black eyeliner and low cut shirts; staying up until all hours of the night, listening to punk music and having sleepovers with guys and girls.
I’ve been friends with Tellie for a few years and I love her like she’s mine. I don’t love her because she’s fun, spunky, smart and hot; I love her because she’s dark and stormy and so scared but not afraid of anything. She’s the definition of perfect.
When we pull up to her house, I shut the car off. Tellie and I sit there for a few moments in silence, breathing quietly as mice. I finally ask, “What did you mean by ‘family problems?’” I’m not really that nosy of a person and I don’t like getting into people’s business if it’s not mine, but this time is different. Right?
Tellie sits there, chewing on her bottom lip. She shakes her head and says, “Go to school today.” She opens the car door and gracefully steps out, shutting it behind her.
She walks slowly, but with her head held high, to her dark house, disappearing up the steps and into the blackness. I scratch my head and leave for home. Tellie sure isn’t your average sixteen year old.