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Amelia and Atticus
There must have been hundreds of planes, but I only saw the first three.
The first caught my attention because of its unusually loud volume. The only planes that usually passed by were as small and quiet as this town, and if they were larger then they were too high in the sky to really hear, on their way somewhere far more exciting.The second pulled me to my feet as I watched it gracefully glide through the sky in all its grandeur, a big, black, metallic force cutting through the blue and the clouds. By the time I saw the third, I'd finally registered what was happening and the panic set in.
A million different people had warned me about this, but I hadn't listened. I avoided the news broadcasts, turned off the radio, politely stepped out of conversations when the attention drifted to the planes and what they meant. I thought it was all talk. I had to believe it was all talk. There was no way this could happen. Not here, not now. This didn't happen here, it happened in deserts across the ocean, or in crumbling middle eastern towns that had no government to stop it from happening. We were advanced, modern, we were above this.
But we weren't, were we? Because this was happening. Here. I couldn't even wrap my mind around the word. I'd heard it a thousand times; in history class, in reference to lands far away in time and location; on the news, broadcasting its after effects on already-destroyed nations. That word didn't belong here- not in practice, only in theory.
"Amelia?" a voice ventured, inches away from me. My brain needed a moment to connect the voice to a face and a name. Atticus. My Atticus. I turned, suddenly acutely aware of how close Atticus was to me, his hand on the small of my back. I stared for a moment- a moment I knew right away I had no right to take- at Atticus. I noticed how his brown hair curled around itself and seemed to fling itself all over the place. I counted his freckles for the millionth time- seventeen of them- dotted all over his cheekbones and his sloping nose. I looked into his eyes, emerald green, and in them I saw panic. He knew, I knew, we both knew. That single moment marked where one thing ended and another began. Nothing would ever be the same as it was before.
"Atticus, what do we do?" I asked, because I didn't know. Something shifted in Atticus' eyes, like something deep within him had been unlocked after centuries of being hidden.
"Close all the curtains and blinds. Keep all the lights off," Atticus sounded like a robot spitting out information he'd been pre-programmed to say. I took the order, knowing I needed something to do with my hands to distract myself from the rising adrenaline in my body and the rising anxiety in my mind.
"Basement!" Atticus shouted. He was still standing in front of the picture window in the living room as I closed the curtains in my bedroom. We both ran to the basement door.
"Ladies first," he insisted, but I shook my head. I was scared. He knew I was scared, so he went first and took my hand. Even in a crisis, Atticus was a gentleman. I loved him for that.
The basement looked different. It shouldn't look different, it was the same as it had always been. But the basement looked different. I knew it was my imagination, but the basement felt scarier than usual. The stacks of boxes in one corner seemed to tower over us, menacing. The concrete walls were cold and impersonal. The whiny hum of the washing machine- I forgot I had it running- was drilling a hole from my ear into my brain. My knees were wobbly as I tiptoed down the stairs, but Atticus' hand in mine helped steady me.
"Flashlights," Atticus blurted once we reached the end of the stairs.
"What?" I countered.
"We're going to need flashlights," Atticus took of, searching the cluttered basement for a flashlight. He finally found one, but it didn't have batteries. He tipped the flashlight on its other side, but it was held together with screws so we couldn't open it to replace the batteries without a screwdriver. Atticus tried prying it open with his fingers, growing frustrated.
"Atticus," I interrupted his jerking the flashlight around, reached out, placed a hand on both of his shoulders. "It's okay."
"Amelia, I'm scared," Atticus turned to face me, looking like a lost puppy. He dropped the flashlight and placed a hand on both of my hips. I knew that look on his face; it meant Atticus had his guard down. In all the years I'd known Atticus, I'd come to know this look. It was rare, it said more than he ever could, and it made him look small. Nothing else in the world made Articus look small; he was six feet tall compared to my mere 5'5", how could anything make him look small? But with that look in his eyes, Atticus was small.
"I'm scared too," I replied. I decided to be honest, as I wrapped my arms around Atticus' shoulders.
"But we'll be okay," I whispered into his ear.
"How do you know?" Atticus whispered back.
"I just have to believe."
The sirens made both of us jump, even though we probably should have expected them, given the circumstances. Neither of us said a word as the sirens screamed at us, loud and demanding. A knee-jerk reaction, I pressed a hand to my chest to feel my heart beating rapid fire. Atticus did the same. After a moment, he took my hand; he placed his hand on my heart, and my hand on his. Then Atticus surprised me by speaking.
"The last time my heart was beating this fast, we were at the Spring Formal and I was getting up the nerve to ask you to dance," he said.
"You never asked me to dance," I replied.
"But didn't I?" And then Atticus pulled me close to him, one arm wrapped around my waist and a hand in mine. I let my head fall onto his shoulder. As we swayed Atticus began to sing. I recognized immediately that it was Frank Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight.
"Someday, when I'm awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you and the way you look tonight." I never knew Atticus could sing. He was actually very good. For a moment, the whole world was silent to hear Atticus sing. He was interrupted by a deafeningly loud boom, but he kept going, even as the sound reverberated through my body.
"Yes, you are lovely, with your smile so warm, and your cheeks so soft, there is nothing for me but to love you and the way you look tonight." I hugged Atticus close as another boom sounded louder, closer, but he kept singing and we kept dancing.
"With each word your tenderness grows, tearing my fear apart-" Atticus flinched this time; the sound was even closer and even louder.
"And that laugh that wrinkles you nose," Atticus' voice was a little shaky now, and he stopped suddenly as we both heard a boomcrash closer than all the ones before. This one shook us and the house, rattled the neighborhood. I'd never understood the phrase "earth shattering" before, but then I understood wholly and completely. Both of us lost our footing, but we found our balance after a moment.
"Atticus," I interrupted before he could start up again. I had something important to say and I knew I didn't have very much time left to say it.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Amelia."
Boom. The war raged outside, and we danced until it reached us.