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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/968990
by Seuzz
Rated: 18+ · Book · Young Adult · #2204735
The description will be updated when I've figured out what the story is.
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#968990 added November 4, 2019 at 3:07pm
Restrictions: None
Chapter One
THE STREET LAMPS WERE BURNING THE NIGHT AIR as I sprinted down Belden, and the 7/11 was a blazing puddle of incandescent light at the corner of Twentieth. I gave it the quickest glance—should I dash in to grab a candy bar for later?—but passed by, plunging straight for the crosswalk. Normally I wouldn't have bothered to check for traffic, normally I would've just jumped across Twentieth without even turning my head, because life is short and traffic is pretty thin in my neighborhood after nine, even on the boulevards.

And if hadn't looked both ways, I'd have gotten pasted by the rogue SUV that was barreling through the intersection with its headlamps switched off.

But this was one time I did look both ways, so I slowed up long enough to let it shoot on by. Then I dove across the street in the teeth of a blaring DON'T WALK signal to continue my evening run across the municipal soccer fields.

Right.

Because that's exactly what I was doing at nine o'clock on a weeknight. I was out for a healthy evening jog in dark jeans, a black hoodie, and flip-flops.

Ten minutes later, after crossing the soccer fields, I was brushing the cinderblock wall of the Crestmont Apartments complex with my left shoulder. I tried not to notice when I hooked a hard left in through the front gate, and not until I was passing the manager's office did I let myself reflect that I might as well stop in to see a friend while I was in the neighborhood.

The lights were out on the lower floor of Building D, but there was a dull, orangish glow in the one window on the second floor that I was interested in. But I only spared a glance at the outside staircase before pulling off my flip-flops and stuffing them into the front pockets of my hoodie.

Kid, that ain't a big toe at the end of your foot, my granddad told me when I was eleven. That's a thumb. Three years passed before I let myself be seen out of shoes or socks, and I was a high school sophomore before I realized the other kids either didn't notice or didn't care that I had toes like fingers at the end of feet like canoes. I'm still conscious about my toes, but they come in handy when I'm trying to climb a brick wall.

Like I was about to try doing now.

This was only the second time I'd ever tried climbing the face of one of the buildings at Crestmont, and the first time was only because I was waiting for someone to pick me up and was bored. This time I tried not thinking about the hard blacktop below as, with fingers and toes straining into every mortared crack, I clambered fifteen feet up its face.

I got my chin over the windowsill and—hanging on with five fingers and ten toes—banged at the window through the bug screen. I counted to four through gritted teeth, then banged again. I glanced down, and wondered how far I'd be able to inch down before I had to let go.

Then there was a shadow at the window and the curtain was yanked back. I only saw the outline of her head before Georgina was lifting the window open.

"Charlie!" she gasped. "What the—? How did—?"

"The screen," I grunted. "Get the screen off!"

"Wh—? Why don't you use the front door?"

"Too late now! Get the screen off before I fall!"

"How do I—?"

"Plastic tabs!" My fingers felt like they were about to break. "Plastic tabs at the bottom, there should be some plastic tabs! Pull them and lift!"

She fumbled at the bottom of the screen and pushed it into my face and almost pushed me off the face of her building. I ducked to the side to get behind it, then shot first one arm and then the other over the sill to pull myself up. Georgina pawed at me as I pulled my way up and into her bedroom, clambering over her desk and knocking over a pile of books and a cup of pencils.

"Oh God," I groaned as I stumbled forward to fall onto her bed. She snatched her laptop up before I could crush it. "Is your mom home?"

"No, she's at work." Georgina stared at me with her mouth hanging open. "Why didn't you come to the front door?"

"I 'unno." I stretched out on her bed and propped myself up on my elbow. "Seemed cooler this way, or something."

"You goose!"

Then she covered a sudden grin with the back of her hand. "You stork!"

I gave her my beadiest of beady-eyed glances. I'm six-foot-three, but at our last team weigh-in I was a shade under two hundred, so I'm not a stork. But Georgina knew me back in middle school, when I was already six feet tall and had pipe cleaners for limbs, back when "Charlie Stork" was my nickname.

But I didn't say anything, and her smile faded and her expression turned grave and a little questioning. I knew she was waiting for me to tell her why I'd come over and what I wanted.

What I wanted, of course, was for her settle onto the bed next me and to shake out the curls of her hair (reddish-gold, like the sunlight that scorches the bottom of the clouds after the sun has fallen below the horizon) and to wrinkle her nose and call me bad names for busting in on her on a school night.

And at the same time, I was scared that that's exactly what she'd do, that she'd get onto on the bed next to me, propping herself up on her elbow and wriggling in close, and grinning into my face with her bare legs curled up between us.

I didn't know what I'd do if she did that.

Instead she plopped into the chair at her desk, and tucked her knees under her chin.

"So why'd you come over?" she asked. "You didn't even text first."

"I was out running, out jogging. Oh, pfft!" I rolled my shoulders. "I had to get out of the house."

"On account of your aunt?"

I shrugged. "So I was out running by your place, decided to drop by. I can go if I'm in the way." But I didn't move.

"What do you know about stats?" she asked after a moment's silence.

"Like, football stats?"

"No." She sucked in a smile. "Math stats. Statistics. Mr. Morton's class. Oh, wait, you're not taking math this year, are you?"

"Didn't have to."

"Right." Her eyes narrowed. "Because you killed it so hard last year in Algebra Two."

I just shrugged again and fell onto my back and stared up at the ceiling.

"Why did you want to know if my mom was home?" Georgina asked.

"I didn't want her busting in on us."

"Busting in on us doing what?"

I started to get that wormy feeling in the front of my jeans. I'd had it in my gut on the run over, but now it had wormed down and was trying to worm its way out through my zipper. "Just talking," I said. "That's all we're doing."

"We could talk out in the living room."

"If she's not here, sure."

"We could talk out in the living room even if she was here," Georgina corrected me. "You'd have to go back out and come in through the front door, though. If she was here."

I rubbed my forehead. I felt a slight headache coming on. "If you wanna move out into the living room, okay," I said. "We're just talking. But, uh, when your mom comes home—"

"You're gonna be gone before then."

I felt my breath coming in short bursts. "What time does she get off work?"

"Two."

"Oh. Uh, yeah, I guess I'll be gone by then."

I began to itch all over, and grabbed my shoulder to scratch. I had a sudden, vivid impression—like reverse deja vu, like remembering something that was about to happen but won't, instead of something that could have happened but didn't—that Georgina was about to lurch out of her chair and kneel on the bed next to me and scratch that itch.

And then she'd tell me to roll over and she'd scratch and massage my back, putting her hands up inside my hoodie. She'd find I wasn't wearing a shirt underneath, and she'd peel it off me and work me up and down with her palms and fingers.

"I'll be right back," she said before I could push the fantasy any further. I watched her pad out of the bedroom, then dropped back to stare at the ceiling again. The worm squirmed, then fell still, as though holding its breath. I listened for her to come back, and dug the heel of my hand into my eye and wondered what I could talk to her about. I didn't mean to come by her place—

Sure, I didn't, I was just out jogging in my flip-flops for the challenge of it.

—and I hadn't brung any little pieces of paper with conversational topics scribbled on them.

So I stared around her bedroom until I realized I was digging my fingers into her bedspread and clenching fistfuls of it in a death grip.

It was a small bedroom, crowded in with the bed and the desk and chair, and a chest of drawers with a mirror mounted behind. The shelf with its two small trophies, and the bat leaning in the corner, gave it a tomboyish feel. She got the trophies her freshman and sophomore years, when she played on the school softball team, and even back in middle school she and I would meet in the soccer fields to play bat-and-catch. But she'd taken down the ribbons from seventh and eighth grade—the years we hung out so much that the other kids thought we were going together—and it made me realize that it had been almost that long since I'd been inside her room, instead of looking in on it from the doorway when she had a study group over or something.

I slid upright as she came back in. She had two frosty-looking mugs filled with cola and ice cream. She held one out to me as she settled back in the chair.

"So what's going on between you and Madison?" she asked.

Right. I was very careful not to make a face as I took the Coke float. Madison.

My girlfriend.
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