Every muscle in her body fought for a hopeless cause. A promise made by a 15-year-old at her best friend’s house. No peer pressure. No giving in, the habits that so separated them from their parents would remain inactivated genes in their DNA. And yet, she was here. Fingers fumbling in the darkness for a creaky window latch. With a click, they turned and a swift upward motion filled in reluctance saw the window slide up, allowing a welcome breeze inside. She breathed it in and let it seep in through her nose, then lungs and felt the newly found freedom circulate in her veins like oxygen.
Muscles in her legs and arms expanded and contracted with the same automatic function of her beating heart. In a minute she had climbed out and had found herself immersed in fog and moonlight. In the distance, she saw the lights of a car and began to walk towards them. Her sub conscious urged her to forget what was to become further away with every step she took. Out here in her front yard, she could see it from a clearer perspective. What looked like a home on the outside was only a wooden frame held together by a crazed desperation for normality. A covet both unrealistic and increasingly insignificant. Each room filled with lies and mistrust so concentrated it was almost nauseating. It was as if it was written in red paint across the front door.
The cord connecting her to the house turned thinner as her sight of the car sharpened. It pulled on every inch of her being. The house she walked away from now wasn’t the house she grew up in, she had to remind herself. A car door opened and hushed greetings were exchanged, she stepped in and they drove off. Minutes seemed irrelevant now. Time was better measured by heartbeats. On the thousandth, the car came to a halt.
Gravel crunched under shoes as they walked away from the car. Forget, forget. The word echoed inside, creating a dull pain that riveted every bone. But the memory surged and she saw her childhood room. She was in her bed, her mom sitting next to her reading aloud from her favorite book. Fast forward and she had now left her side and stood by a wooden stove. Her lips moved but no sound came out. No need- she knew what they were saying: Potential. She hated that word. The next word came from her own lips: failure.
“Are you okay?” she had almost forgotten he was there. She pretended to laugh and nodded, but the uncertainty pulsed through her. He helped her climb the tree. After pulling himself up he leaned his back against its vast trunk and took out a plastic bag. In it a lump of leafy green. a hundred heartbeats later he hands her his finished work. With a flick of orange and a burst of needed warmth, thin small clouds begin to emerge from their mouths.
They sat in silence as he stared at her and her eyes looked up glossily into the sky. The stars reflected in her eyes and became endless. So deep was the dark brown, they were a separate sky with a constellation of their own. Fifty heartbeats, then a hundred, until they were a steady music weaving through the night’s air. Two bodies, two minds, and two mangled hearts aloft a sturdy tree branch. Each giving the other quiet company and a soul to be lonely with on another summer night.