11 years ago
As I near the house, I cut the lights and pull the car up to the curb. I get out and jog as quietly as possible until her house comes into view; the tiny, run-down two-bedroom house. I sneak around the side until I reach her bedroom window. Lightly, I tap against the filmy glass. A few seconds later her blonde head becomes visible as she raises the window. Her stormy, gray eyes meet mine and that small smile I love comes over her face.
I help her out of the window, thankful that her house is only one story. However, even the one story of this house is a death trap. The foundation is crumbling, the siding of the house is collapsing, and the roof leaks so badly it might as well not be there at all. My family doesn’t have a lot, but what Hollis has grown up with is way worse.
Once Hollis’ feet are safely on the ground I slide the window back down. I take her hand and we jog back down the block to my car. Right before I reach down and open the passenger side door, I spin her around to face me. Before she can say anything I lean into her, my mouth capturing hers. Hollis leans into me, the two of us molding into one. A soft sigh escapes her and in these moments I know that she’s all that matters. I’d do anything for her. Everyone says it’s just first love, but it’s not. This is real. I don’t care that I’m only seventeen or that she’s only fifteen-- when you know, you just know.
I open the car door and wait as she slides into the seat before shutting the door and going back to the driver’s side. Once the car is started again, I reach behind her and pull a sack from the back seat. Axell and I had made spaghetti tonight since mom actually felt like she could eat. With chemotherapy, she didn’t always have an appetite, but tonight had been a good night for her. But even on bad nights, I’d bring Hollis whatever I could for her and her little brother Alex. My parents knew I did, so it wasn’t a big deal. Hollis takes the sack and looks inside then her eyes come back up to meet mine. “There’s more for Alex in the ice chest, we can stop by the shop and warm it up before I drop you back off.”
She looks away from me and I know it’s because she feels ashamed, but if there’s one thing I know she has no reason to feel ashamed. “Thank you, Bowie,” she mumbles.
I run my thumb over her cheek and tuck a stray strand behind her ear. I let the silky softness tickle my fingers. “No need to thank me, I told you I’d take care of you.” We drive in silence with the exception of the radio and Hollis eating. By the time we reach our spot, she’s finished. I pull off the road and into the tall grass of the open field. Once the car is in park, Hollis lays her head on my shoulder. I press a kiss to the top of her head. I run my fingers up and down her arm, letting her warmth sink into me. She’s the only thing that calms me, my life right now is a damn hurricane, yet she’s the calm. She calms my soul, makes me forget that mom is dying, makes me forget how messed up her life is, and just lets me be… me. I love her so damn much that it hurts. I’d give anything to make her life better. To take her and Alex and run away but I can’t… not yet anyway.
The radio DJ comes back on giving us some of the local news. Hollis turns to look at me. “You should do this.” I give her a questioning looks, “Be a radio DJ, I think you have the voice for it.”
“I think you might be biased,” I say, as she shakes her head while I nod mine before I reach out and start to tickle her sides. Her laughter fills the car and knocks right into my heart, setting my soul free. That laughter… I’d do just about anything to hear that. She manages to wiggle free from my grasp and bolts from the car. As I get out of the car, I see her standing in the beam of the headlights, the moonlight and headlights creating an angelic glow around her. She has that shy smile that is so damn sexy on her face again.
Crazy by Aerosmith comes on the radio and Hollis jumps up a little and throws her hands in the air while she spins around. “I love this song!” I laugh because I know she does. I watch as she sways to the music before she stops and faces me then beckons me with her finger. I go willingly, pulling her into my arms, we dance around in a small circle. Nothing ever feels as good as this, not even racing. She tilts her head back and stares at me for a minute. “I love you, Bowie,” she whispers.
I lean forward and kiss her. One of those kisses that make you forget everything, one that makes you feel like the rest of the world just faded away. When we finally pull away from one another, I stare into those gray eyes. “I love you too.” After a few more songs she sighs that defeated sigh that rips at my heart. It means our night is coming to an end and I have to take her back to that house.
We drive back into town and into her neighborhood, Alex’s food lying in the backseat forgotten for the moment, but as we approach her block, the flashing blue and red lights blind us. Cops and an ambulance have the street completely closed off. Something in my gut tells me that this is bad but I grab Hollis’ hand and tell her everything is fine.
As I come to a stop, Hollis shoots out of the car and down the sidewalk. I run after her but hear her scream before I can reach her. I manage to catch her from behind before her knees hit the ground. Three black body bags lie in the front yard, one much smaller than the other two. The front door is kicked in, barely hanging on its hinges. Hollis is hysterical, fighting to get inside where she has convinced herself Alex will still be. I hold her against me until she gives up and turns around, burying her head in my chest.
I watch as the bodies are loaded into the back of the ambulance and when they shut those doors, I know that my entire life has just been ripped from its axis. This will change everything for Hollis… for me… for us.