I was still waiting for the day to come when I didn’t have to bang on my brother’s room, shouting for him to keep the noise down, to save me from my headaches. The girl inside now, screaming like a demented cat, wasn’t Carmen and wasn’t his last ex-girlfriend. She was a redhead, dressed in cosplay. I didn’t know, and frankly didn’t want to know, if it was his new fetish to fuck girls in costumes or if he had scooped her up from a nearby nerd convention. I was, though, happy that Ophelia never came to his apartment, spending a lot of her time with her grandmother.
“I’m trying to sleep!” I yelled.
I almost fell in when he unlocked the door, shirtless and sweating. “It’s four in the afternoon. Go for a fucking drive. It’s my apartment.”
“I don’t have gas money.”
He growled, slamming the door shut, and then returning with his brown leather wallet. “How much money do you want?”
“A cool forty seems fitting.”
“You don’t drive a damn hummer.”
“I wanted to get something to eat, too.”
“Ugh, fine,” he snickered, flinging two twenties at me.
I thought, for the most part, that I understood Silvia well enough, but that notion was thrown into the air when she messaged me out of the blue. She asked me to meet up with her at the mural I made of her for her birthday. I wiped the salt from my French fries off my fingers and quickly typed a reply. In no time, I backed out of the parking lot of the burger joint I was in, and speed into the main streets. I was in no real need to rush, but that didn’t stop me from slowing down.
Tucked in the corner, Silvia stood with her back to the brick wall. I cruised to where she was, going for the keys to turn it off, but she had other plans. Silvia approached the car, opening the door and sliding into the passenger’s seat. She was in black skinny jeans and a crop top, covered in a denim jacket that looked too familiar. I knew it was mine. Ineluctably, it sparked a smile in me that didn’t want to disappear no matter how hard I fought against it.
“Hi.” I said.
"Hi.” She meekly echoed. “I’m not...I’m not sure what I’m meant to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
“I’m not good at this sort of stuff.”
“Forgiving people,” she revealed. “I don’t know anyone in my life who’s ever deserved forgiveness. When you’ve been walked all over by as many people as I have, including my own mother, it’s hard to learn to trust. And it’s even harder to trust when you messed up previously.”
“I’m not asking you to trust me right away,” I said in a hush voice, turning the car off swiftly, and cupping her hands in to mine. She flinched at first but didn’t pull away or push me off. “I know it takes time to fully forgive someone.”
“I don’t know if I can get there.”
“Eventually, I hope that we can, but you don’t need to hurry the healing process.”
Her eyes shut. “I want to hurry it. I want it to go back to normal, Dakota. You don’t know how bad I want that. But I don’t know if I can.”
“Anything is possible, especially if I put in the effort to improve. And I want to. I need to...”
“You need what exactly?”
“I need you. I need you back in my life,” I admitted, “Because this, this right here, is the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Just the thought of hope being there is enough.”
“I can’t be your girlfriend,” she said the words that surely would be the end of me. To my fortune, she didn’t end it there, continuing to say: “Not right now I can’t. I want more time before I can get in a relationship with you. I miss you, though. I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that seeing you hasn’t made me happy It does. It’s been killing me. I want you in my life, but for now, only as a friend.”
I nodded. “I understand. I’ll take anything that I can get if it means I can have you in my world again. I’m a shitty friend, though,” I cracked a smile, “Don’t be mad if I start drawing on your face when you’re passed out. Heath can tell you more about my antics.”
She mirrored my expression, squeezing my fingers. “I’ll get you back for that.”
“I know you will.” I turned the car back on. Her phone buzzed and a sad look graces her pretty face. “Do you have to get back home?”
“I do...but I really don’t want to go there right now. I want to spend more time with you.”
“I do, too,” I said, backing out of my spot. “We can head over to my house. My mom’s usually knocked out around this time, taking her afternoon nap.”
“Why can’t we go to your brother’s apartment instead?”
“I mean, we can if you don’t mind the constant moaning and walk banging.”
Silvia coughed on her spit. “He has a girl over?”
“Not sure if it’s a girl or a suffering domesticated pet. I’m betting on the latter.” I joked, but Silvia looked more disturbed than amused by my remark. “I’m kidding, I promise. It is a girl. I couldn’t stand the noise, so I left there an hour ago.”
“You don’t think your mom is going to have an issue with me being there?” She nervously asked. “I thought she didn’t like me.”
“She doesn’t like your parents.” I stated, feeling as if I’d said this multiple times by now. “But I’ve talked to her about it already. She doesn’t have a problem with you in particular.”
“You sure about that?”
“I am, Silvia. I wouldn’t drag you into that house if I wasn’t sure.” I tapped her chin, “She knows how much you mean to me and she has promised to give you a chance.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“That you talked to her about me...”
“You mean a lot to me, Silvia. Of course I told her. I didn’t really need to, though, because she could see once you left that first day you came over. I didn’t have to convince her on that. She saw it with her own eyes.”
During the drive, I caught my eyes going back to her, positive that it was a dream and that none of it was true. I didn’t what got me this second chance. My constant staring was bad enough that Silvia had to reminded me to keep my attention on the road—and not her. We laughed, talking about the storm we’d be reentering come Monday morning. I wasn’t the one who first brought it up. It was Silvia who was worried about the repercussions at school, and I had to remind her that there was no need in caring about the assholes who went to our school. I did my job, being her new friend, by lightening the mood by making her smile more and stressing less about the unknown future.
I pulled up to my house. Silvia got out to open the gate for me so that I could drive to the front portion of the estate. She hopped back in, shaking from the cold. It was starting to rain. After I took the keys out of the ignition, I went to open the door.
“Wait.” Silvia’s dainty fingers wrapped around my wrist. “Did you see that?”
“I...I could’ve sworn I saw someone run behind the house.”
“That’s impossible. The gate was close.” I opened the door regardless of what she said.
“I don’t feel good about this, Dakota.”
“Stay in the car.” I advised her. “I’ll check.”
Popping the collar of my jacket, I yanked the fabric over my head to shield me from the rain, going in the direction she had pointed at—saying she saw someone. In the shadows, I saw a girl hunched at the side of my house. When she saw me watching her, she came out of the darkness. It didn’t hit me right in that instant, but the haunting eyes reminded me too much of Heath’s, realizing who I was looking at.
It was Heath’s little sister. Before Diana died, they had been close. She had ran off, leaving without a trace weeks before Diana’s suicide. It was why Heath and I first bounded our friendship, searching clues as to what happened to our family members. We both were seeking closure.
I stepped closer, saying her name once more. She rushed back. “Are you okay, Sherri? It’s me, Dakota.”