Christian hasn’t been at the house since he kissed me. My mom had asked me a few times if I knew where he went. She didn’t seem to mind his absence all that much. I know my dad is relieved. I noticed how uncomfortable he had been with a boy under the roof that wasn’t actually a part of the family, especially since Christian slept in my room. My mom, I believe, is the only oblivious woman on earth when it comes to handling teenage boys; she was the one who insisted that Christian sleep on the floor in my room. She was more willing to take Christian ‘under our wings’ than my father was. I guess she’s just more of a hospitable person than most.
“Do you want to go driving today?” my dad says when he comes into my room.
I just shake my head. He frowns, but he doesn’t ask me what’s wrong. I don’t think he knows how to. He never has before.
When he leaves I take out my box of records and pull out the Brothers album by the Black Keys. I put it on the record and place the needle in the center of the album, skipping all the way to my favorite song, Everlasting Light. I lie on the bed as it starts up, my arms spread out across the bedspread. I close my eyes and just breathe. I try not to think of anything, but it’s difficult. Christian comes into my head first. Where could he have gone? Why did he leave? Did he already go on that trip with his friends? No, he said it wasn’t for another few days. He said his friends are going to leave next Tuesday. When your winter break starts.
Is he going to be gone the whole three weeks of winter break? All these questions flood my head and they’re deafening. I can feel my heart racing with anxiety and I feel like my body is going to implode on itself.
And what am I going to do about Cole? I’m sure he hates me now. I haven’t seen him for two days. I haven’t even seen Kelsey for weeks now. We only talk in school now. What’s happening? I need to make things right with every single one of them.
♕ ♕ ♕
As I drive, I realize that I don’t know where Cole lives. I don’t know where Christian lives either and I’m not sure where he could be. When I texted Kelsey I asked her what she was up to and she said that she’s in the next town over with her parents. My plan has completely backfired on me.
I pull over to the side of the road and sit in the car and dial Cole’s number a few times. He doesn’t answer until the fifth time I call.
“What?” he says on the other end.
I can feel tears choke me, and the escape in a flood when I reply, “Do you hate me?” I’m blubbering like a baby, wiping my nose with the sleeve of my sweater.
There’s silence on the other end of the line, and for a moment I think that he’s hung up on me, but then I hear him sigh. “I need time to think, Mel,” he says.
I can almost feel the rejection through the satellite that keeps the connection strong. Think about what? I wonder. The phone almost slips out of my hand, slippery from the tears. I wipe my face dry, rubbing the ends of my sleeve on my jeans. “What?” I manage to get out finally through a couple of sniffles.
“Sorry, but I really think we need to take a break, okay? Sorry. I need to think. Sorry.”
“Stop saying sorry!” I cry, and then I hang up. The tears return and the rush out of me like water breaking through a dam, rattling my insides with their fury. There’s so many different emotions raging through my brain at once. I feel angry and sad and awful and somewhat relieved…
Why would I feel so relieved that he let me go?
I lean against the door and press my forehead against the window, my breath making small pools of fog on the cool glass. On the outside of the window there are droplets of water appearing out of what seems like nowhere, and within seconds there is a soothing drizzle. I can hear the water pelt the concrete, the hood and roof of my car. I turn the car on momentarily and roll down the window a few inches, then turn the car back off. The water starts to come in the car now, wetting the bridge of my nose and the roots of my hair.
The raindrops mix with my silent tears, coursing down my face like snakes, as if my cheeks are labyrinths they scurry through. The seat and the steering wheel is getting soaked. I run my hands over the wheel, smearing the water into the leather, over the horn, which sounds softly like a mouse when I lean on it. The noise somewhat startles me, although it wasn’t much. I wrap my fingers around the grip of the wheel and lean my face on its wet leather. The water is cool on my skin, and I can feel my pores soaking them in like a desperate sponge.
I can’t tell where my tears end and where the raindrops begin anymore; they have mixed together so well.
The raindrops smell fresh and pure and like pine, but maybe the pine scent is just coming from the trees outside. They’ve become dark and heavy with the rain, their leaves blowing with the strong currents that are beginning to pick up speed. The sun has already set behind them by now and the road looks ominous, but I don’t bother to turn on my headlights at the moment. I’m not ready to go home yet.
As I think about home, I wonder if Christian has shown up yet. Will he come back at all? If so, when? Why did he leave in the first place? I need answers. I need to see him. My mind is yearning for him, my body too. I also wonder if he has reencountered the person who harmed him so badly. I feel anger rush up inside me and I ball my fists. I finally know that I am still crying, for my tears come out hot and contrast greatly from the raindrops coming in through the open window. My hair is soaked wet, my jacket and blue jeans not so far behind.
“Jesus Christ, where are you, Christian?”
There’s a rap at the window, and I sit up, realizing I had fallen asleep. It’s darker out now, the road and the trees and the hood of the car looking pitch black. I can’t even see the person standing at my window. I turn my headlights on and roll down the window a bit more. The rain has stopped for now. I look up and see that the rain clouds are looming overhead, grey and utterly brooding. I shiver from the cold that comes from outside.
“Are you alright, young lady?”
I stick my head out the window and get a better look at the guy. It’s a police officer, wearing his crisp uniform and a warm-looking black coat. He has his flashlight on and is shining it into the car, inspecting a young girl who probably looks about as wrecked as a druggie. I’m sure he’s looking for drugs too.
“Why are you pulled onto the side of the road, miss?” he asks politely, tipping his head. “Are you feeling alright?”
I nod my head slowly, trying to find the proper words to tell him. “I just felt really tired,” I finally say. “There was a lot going through my mind and it was stressing me out and…”
“Do you need an escort home?”
I shake my head. “No. Thank you, though. I’ll be fine.” I hope.
I turn the car on, flick the headlights on, and ease back onto the road.