I woke up at about 9:30 am the next morning. The sun was shining into the room from the parking lot. I shielded my eyes with my arm and rolled over to face Porter. He was up looking at the photos he’d taken last night, deleting the ones he didn’t like or weren’t that good.
I look, he showed me an edited photo of us looking out at the fireworks but there were three circle fireworks super-imposed on top of us, a red, a yellow, and a green one.
I looked so happy. I don’t know if a picture of me existed where I was anywhere near as happy as I was in this photo, if it did, it was probably from when I was a baby, I’d never seen baby photos of myself in the house I grew up in. The family photos started at four years old, so did the birthday photos or at least the ones that used to be on the walls of the house when my mother was still living did. My father had since torn them down and either destroyed them or locked them in the attic so he didn’t have to be reminded of her, or of me.
Porter’s dark eyes reflected the fireworks out in the sky and so did my glasses.
“That’s a nice one, we should show Maya when we get back,” I reply. “Your mother should really start a blog or something with her photos.”
“That’s a cool idea,” he replies. “I’ll mention it. Would you be okay if she put photos of you up?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“When do you think they’ll want to leave?” he asks.
A knock sounds at the door.
“Well, they’re up now,” I reply.
Porter makes a move to get up.
“I’ll get it,” I reply grabbing my shirt off the sofa and pulling it on.
I answer the door, my skin and feet cringe at the cold air that’s let in.
Oli is standing there in his coat and boots but his scarf and gloves are missing. Probably still in the room.
“Good morning, Ryker,” he greets me, smiling. “We’re going to get out of here by ten and get breakfast on the way back to Lexington, okay?” he informs me.
“Okay, we’ll be ready by then,” I reply.
“We’ll be waiting in the car,” he replies.
“Right,” I reply.
He turns to walk back to their room where the car is parked in front of and I shut the door.
“They want to be out of here by ten,” I tell Porter crossing and rubbing my arms to get warmth back into them.
“Okay,” he replies setting his phone down on the bedside table, he gets up.
He throws on his shirt and socks while I pull mine on my feet. We go over to the hooks and pull on our sweaters and coats. We zip ourselves up nice and snug. I wrap my scarf around my neck and put on my gloves at least until we get into their warm car. I pull my boots on and lace them up and Porter does the same.
We grab the room key off the table and exit the room locking it up behind us, having made sure we didn’t forget anything. We walked over to Oli’s car and Porter hands off the room key to him so he could drive over and check all of us out.
The four of us got into the car. Hilana and their parents were waiting until 11:00 am, Liam would most likely be awake by then. We waved to them from the car in front of their room. We drove out of the parking lot onto the highway.
I tuned out the noise of the engine and the rubber wheels against the road and Porter’s parents’ songs, and lay my head against Porter’s shoulder, listening to his heart again. It reminded of dull thunder but with a pattern.
I watch the snow fly by outside. Eventually, I fall asleep on his shoulder. When I wake up we’re entering the city limits of Lexington. He must have taken my glasses off of me when I fell asleep because they’re gone and my vision is mildly blurry.
I lift my head and Porter’s offers me my glasses, I take them and he holds out a paper bag to me. My stomach growls in response.
“You fell asleep before we got breakfast,” he states.
I glance at the clock on the front dash, it’s almost 12:00 pm.
“Thanks,” I reply taking the bag.
“Your coffee’s down there,” he replies pointing to the cup holder in the floor. “Two sugars, right?”
“Yeah, thank you,” I reply and instinctively kiss him on the cheek.
He blushes because it was in front of his parents, I do a bit too now that I realized it. I open the bag, inside is a bacon and egger and a hash brown. I pull out the hash brown and take a bite, it’s salty and cool now but still good. I eat my bacon and egger and sip on my mildly warm coffee until we get back to Porter’s house.
We all go inside and I and Porter go upstairs to change out of our clothes into something more comfortable than the tight jeans that I slept in. I changed into some jogging pants and stole one of Porter’s hoodies. It smelt of his cologne and enveloped my small body with warmth.
Porter snuck up behind me and picked me up, hugging me tightly around the midsection. I laughed, my limbs swinging around until he set me down.
I turned around, I placed my hands on his shoulders and stared up into his eyes. I wish I could stay here with him forever, I wished we didn’t have to go back to Copper Cove or see Julian ever again, but life isn’t that simple. It never is.
At least I wasn’t alone anymore.
I reached up and kissed him. I was with him. He was the light shining through the revolving door that often stood in front of me spinning, constantly but never allowing me through, out to freedom. But he still made it into the dark space somehow so there was always hope.
I’d miss Maya if we didn’t go back. But I also wished Porter was graduating with us this year, then we’d never have to go back. I hoped he’d be okay in the school next year by himself, I’d probably visit him a lot on the weekends, but during the week he’d most likely be alone.
Maybe instead of staying with Ezra, I could find a job in Blue Hill and rent an apartment. I had six months to figure all this out, I can understand why most teenagers don’t know what they want to do after high school. There are so many factors and choices.
“What should we do for the next few days before we have to go back to school?” Porter questions, his face right next to mine, his nose just above mine.
I looked up into his dark eyes.
“Do you have any other places you want to show me?” I ask quietly smiling.
He smiles, his dark eyes taking on a gleam.
“Let’s try to make sure we don’t break any laws though this time,” I murmur.
“Of course,” he whispers taking my hand and pulling me towards the closet door back out into his room.
“I’ll bring a blanket this time, in case we get cold,” he continues.
He pulls me out of the room and to the hall closet and takes one of the comforters out. He drags me down the stairs to the front door. He alerts his parents that we’re going out and should be back before dark at 6:30 pm. We pull on our winter attire and Porter takes the keys and carries the comforter out to the car.
“Do I get a hint this time?” I question, turning up the heat in the car.
He smiles opening the vent on his side of the car.
“No, it’s a surprise again,” he replies smiling.
I took the blanket and wrapped it around my shoulders tightly as he backed the car out of the driveway. He straightened the car out on the blacktop of the street and started down the street slowly.
“Do you really believe Clare’s parents will accept her?” I ask.
“I hope they do. She’s always been shy. Maybe this was why, maybe she was just that kind of person. Jaclyn shouldn’t have reacted like that, she should have been excited to have a sister and to have her trust her that much to tell her first before anyone else,” he replies. “That woman at the market did better at accepting her and she didn’t even know her.”
“Some people are just like that, they’ve been persecuted themselves so they don’t feel the need to persecute people themselves because they know what it’s like,” I continue. “Like you and me.”
“Humanity shouldn’t be that way though,” he continues.
Again, life isn’t that simple.
“I know,” I reply quietly though.
“Even some people who have been persecuted are like that, they do it out of spite,” he replies quietly.
I reach out and touch his hand, he glances at me out of the corner of his eye. Porter takes a breath and calms down. I keep hold of his hand and lean my other arm on the armrest and my head on top of it.
“Where is the place we’re going?” I ask quietly, changing the subject.
“You’ll like it, don’t worry,” he replies in a calmer, quieter voice gripping my hand tighter.
Porter drove for twenty minutes before he turned into an out cove and stopped. There were trees for miles, at least from what I could see anyway.
“We have to walk through the woods?” I question.
“It’s not far, about fifteen, twenty minutes in,” he replies, unlocking the doors.
I sit up and open the door. I shiver once I’m out from under the blanket and actually outside. I shut the door leaving the blanket in the car, it would probably get wet if I brought it with me. Porter comes around to my side of the car and takes my hand. He leads me into the trees.
“Watch your step,” he warns.
I attempt to step in his footprints to keep from tripping and getting my feet wet. At least he didn’t blindfold me and do it. That would be a nightmare, especially in the snow.
We continued into the forest through the snow, I had no idea how Porter knew where he was going, whether it be the dead of winter or not, I probably would have been lost ten meters into the woods.
I take another step and my foot halts midair causing me to fall forward into Porter’s back. I let go of his hand and catch myself on him. I push myself back up so I’m standing straight and look down at my foot, it’s caught under a tree root that was buried in the snow.
Porter turns to see what happened. He sees my foot under the root. I wiggle it free and step over the limb. We continue more cautiously until we reach a small clearing.
There is a tree in the center covered in solar-powered Christmas lights, there are names carved into the tree, and ribbons and fake flowers decorating the tree. There’s no explanation, it’s just there in the middle of nowhere like MISFITLAND was in that old abandoned house.
How did he find this in the middle of the forest? The other one was in a semi-visible place that people would most likely venture into because lots of people like to explore abandoned buildings. But this tree is hidden in the middle of nowhere.
“I almost dehydrated the first time I came out here,” Porter stated looking down at the ground kicking some snow.
I looked over at him for an explanation.
“It was the middle of summer again, I left the house, I’d fought with my parents about signing me up to more schools because we weren’t sure I was going to get in Copper Cove and I really wanted to get away from Harry and the others. I took the car and left and I drove out here and just parked in the side of the highway and went for a walk to clear my head and I found this,” he replied.
He stepped closer to the tree, approaching one of the branches a bouquet of plastic roses was tied to. It wasn’t a memorial tree, there were no pictures and who would have died way out here?
He freed one of the plastic roses and disconnected the flower from part of the stem, he came back to me with the plastic rose and put it between my ear, glasses, and beanie, he smiled.
I took the flower from its place and looked at it, it was dusted with snowflakes and water, I’d never been given much personally by people who cared about me, that was something people did. I valued the gifts Porter, Hilana and his parents had given in these last few weeks and months. Not just the physical ones but the mental ones as well.
The rose was a representation of how much he cared for me, while the physical reminder was nice, it would never replace him sleeping beside me, hugging me, kissing me, or just being there for me in the dark times. I stepped forward and took his hand, still holding the flower in the other, he leaned down and met my lips halfway this time.
“Thank you, for sharing your life with me,” I mumble against his lips.
He smiles, kissing me again.
“I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else,” he whispers his dark eyes staring into mine.
We walk around the tree looking at the flowers, ribbons, and lights and names, further ruining the pristine snow surrounding the tree. Eventually, there is a circle all the way around the tree and we take the same way back towards the car. The sun is setting, it’s almost 5:00 pm now.
We get back in the car, and I bundle up in the blanket because despite the protection from the wind in the trees we had to walk through a lot of snow and spent a good amount of time outside. Porter starts the car and it takes a few minutes for the heat to kick in. my glasses fog up and I take them off to clean them. I wipe the fog off them and put them back on.
Porter puts the car into drive and pulls back out onto the highway. We drive back the way we came, down the streets of Lexington.
“Do you want to get pizza?” he asks.
“Won’t your parents be mad if we come back having already eaten when they’ve made dinner?” I ask.
“We said we’d be back late anyway, they’re probably expecting us to get food anyway,” he replies.
“Sure, I guess,” I reply.
“What kind?” he asks.
“Do you just like basic kinds or can I suggest something else?” I question.
“Are we having the pineapple on pizza discussion?” he questions.
“Honestly, I don’t understand the big deal, it’s pizza, if it’s on it I’ll eat but I don’t actively ask for it. I was going to suggest chicken bacon ranch pizza though,” I reply.
“Sounds good,” he replies. “Drink? Do you need coffee? Because I don’t think coffees and pizzas are sold at the same place.”
“A coke will be fine,” I answer.
“Okay,” he replies.
He drives us through the streets close to his house to a pizza place.
“I’ll go order and come back because it’ll probably take half an hour,” he replies.
“Okay,” I reply.
“Lock the car,” he says as he gets out.
I lock the door once he shuts it and wrap the blanket around me tighter. My ears pick up on a life song in the car next to me. There’s a young African-American man looking at his phone, he might be waiting for pizza too or someone to get off their shift so he can pick them up. His life song starts out sounding static and then an electric piano kicks in with drums. His death song is a whisper under it, I can hear a guitar, lower drums and a tambourine in the background.
Someone knocks on the driver’s side window and I turn back to see Porter standing there, I unlock the doors for him, and he gets in. He hands me a coke and sets his sprite in the cupholder between us.
“It’ll be about half an hour, like I said,” he replies.
He cracks open his sprite making sure not to have it fizz everywhere and takes a sip. I do the same for my coke. We wait out the half an hour, a young female Filipino woman emerges from a hair salon and gets into the young man’s car sitting next to us. They smile at each other and start talking before he starts up the car, backs out of the parking spot, and leave the parking spot.
Porter goes into check on the pizza and comes back out with it minutes later and two more sodas. We only got a 12-inch cut into four to share. Porter hands me the pizza and sodas and put the car back in drive to drive home.
We arrive home at 6:00 pm and grab plates and take the pizza slices and sodas up to his room. It feels nice to be back inside a warm house without the bulky winter attire. I sit on the bed with the pizza and Porter sits at his keyboard.
He’s attempting “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin. But he keeps messing up the chorus when the pace becomes faster and then slows down again. I finish my pizza and wash my hands in his bathroom. I go over to the piano to help.
“Do you want me to try?” I ask.
I hadn’t actually looked at the music sheet he had up but I had a feeling it wasn’t accurate to the actual song because his playing sounded off.
“Sure,” he replies moving off the seat taking his pizza with him.
I set my coke on the back of the keyboard and study the sheet music. Yeah, this was definitely off. I ignored the sheet music and went off of my memory of the song.
“You gotta swim, swim for your life. Swim for the music, that saves you, when you’re not so sure you’ll survive. You gotta swim, swim when it hurts. The whole world is watching. You haven’t come this far, to fall off the earth. The currents will pull you, away from your love, just keep your head above…”
I start and it sounds a lot better, I pause before the chorus.
“That sounds better,” Porter replies.
“The chords are wrong, maybe try another website,” I state.
“It’s late, I think I’m good, I’ll be practicing lots for the talent show when we go back anyway,” he replies.
He’s finished his pizza and set his plate on top of mine with his empty sprite.
“Come here,” he beckons me.
I get up off the piano bench and approach him. He pulls me onto his lap, I feel like this is something you would do in school. I lean against him. I was glad he was comfortable around me, regardless of my power. He leans down kissing my neck, I can feel his lips against my collarbone, I feel like he might leave a bruise. I wrap my arms around his neck.
He pauses, his eyes moving up to mine, I can feel his hot breath on my face as he leans in to kiss me. We lay down in the bed and turn off the lights around eight, Porter falls asleep soon after. I snuggle next to him. I listen to his breathing and it lulls me off to sleep.