Carbon

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Chapter 6

I stood outside of the classroom, staring intently at the doorway as my peers filed out of the classroom. I noticed Devin had a pattern—first one to arrive and last one to leave. She never wavered from a direct path to her next class, and I wondered why she didn’t seem to have any friends aside from Heath. I leaned against a graying locker. Brody slid past me and motioned he was going to our next class. I nodded my head in approval and turned back to the doorway. Devin peeled out of the classroom and turned her eyes to meet mine. She gave me a small smile and asked, “Attend any good rock orgies recently?”

“Just with your mom.”

“Oh, I was wondering why she came home late last night,” she quickly parried. She pulled her strap of her backpack up on her shoulder as it peeled away from her thin frame. She tore her gaze away from me and continued walking to her next class. I mindlessly followed, trying to construct how I was going to say this. She glanced over her shoulder at me and inquired, “Are you stalking me now?”

“Um, I was wondering…”

She turned on her heels easily and backpedaled down the hallway, maneuvering around people as she shuffled as if she had eyes in the back of her head. She admitted casually, “I was wondering if you wanted to hang out again.” She nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders—not committal or aggressive. “I’m free after school if you want to come over.”

I cocked my brow and nodded my head. “Sure…” We silently continued swaggering down the hallway, and then I broke our silence amidst the brouhaha of the hallway. “What do you do when you aren’t saving people’s lives?”

She slid abruptly into a classroom and quickly answered, “You’ll figure it out.”

I spent the rest of the day counting down the hours. Brody mindlessly droned on about how he had a Latin exam tomorrow that needed to be dealt with eventually, and the teachers babbled about assignments and exams while my mind wandered. I rested my chin on my palm as I just stared at the clock as if I was observing van Gogh creating his last masterpiece. I don’t know why I couldn’t focus, but an excitement bubbled inside of me as I realized she was letting me into the mysterious world of Devin Sebold.

The bell rang at the end of the day, and all of the students rushed to leave school. I turned my head in all directions, searching for the petite blonde girl, which is unbelievably hard when the majority of the school population is about five inches taller than her. I shuffled down the back steps and caught a glimpse of her sauntering down the sidewalk to a white beast. I shuddered as I recalled the fierce fangs inside the mouth of the behemoth, but I resisted the urge to retreat as I mirrored her path. She fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around the dog’s neck like a little girl, pecking him on the nose with a kiss. She stood up and snapped her fingers twice, signaling for the dog to rise from his haunches. He followed her as she continued her pathway down the sidewalk towards her house.

“Hey!” I yelped as I came to her side after taking three long strides that dwarfed her nine.

She halted and turned to me. “What’s up?”

“Does he go with you everywhere you go?” I put my hand down near Holden’s snout, and he amiably nuzzled it with the black as coal nose. He groaned as he rubbed his forehead under my palm.

“Yep, girl’s best friend.”

“You don’t drive home?”

She shook her head.

“Don’t you have a car?”

She glanced at the parking lot for a moment and turned back to me. “No.”

“But your sister has a car, and you choose to walk home every day?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you even have a license?”

She squinted her large eyes at me as she tried to recall. “Um, nope.”

I snatched her forearm and twisted her around. “Here, let’s take my car.” I pulled her along until she rolled her wrist out of my grasp. “Whoa there, tiger.” She signaled Holden again with a series of hand gestures, and the great beast changed directions gracefully and followed me to my tan SUV. I opened the passenger side of the car, expecting her to slide into the car, but Holden leapt into the seat. Devin silently leaned across Holden as she buckled him in the seat belt. She ventured to the backseat and nestled right in, taking care to buckle in her seatbelt. I buckled myself in and glanced at the rear view mirror. She immediately turned her gaze to the window and silently observed the world.

I drove without a word exchanged because I thought maybe she liked silent rides. I thought she perhaps pondered the inexplicable aspects of life while in the car.

When we got to the house, she immediately shot out of the car and told Holden to get out before I even turned off the engine. She waited for me impatiently and then motioned for me to follow her. We passed through the foyer, and I turned my gaze down. Esther and Leslie had been arguing until they observed me following behind her sister. Esther and Leslie dropped their jaws on the floor as they could barely believe I was invited back without an excuse of a school project. Esther turned to Leslie and whispered something urgently, pulling him to her by his arm. Her eyes remained fixed on me until Devin whipped around the corner to the hallway leading to her room and the stairs. I filed in behind her as she welcomed me into her bedroom with Holden swiftly loping into the room around my narrow frame.

Devin nonchalantly sat down on her bed and pulled her CD player out from under it from a shoe box. She slid another shoebox out from the depths and placed it in front of her crossed legs as she sat Indian style on top of her comforter. She put the player in between her legs and box and began to unfold the massive headphones stored alongside the CD player. Embarrassed and useless, I looked around the room again, absorbing her mass collection of books and little else.

“You can sit on my bed, you know.”

She froze in the middle of her tasks and stared up at me with the marvelously blue eyes of hers. Her straight blonde hair framed the curves of her face and emphasized the tawny highlights of her cheekbones. Her dark brows seemed odd under her dusty blonde hair, but it somehow made sense, too.

“Um, okay.” I fell onto the bed beside the box, glancing inside to see nearly thirty CD cases filed inside the narrow box. The bed bounced as I tried to rearrange my lanky limbs into a comfortable position and just resigned to my legs hanging off of the bed like a scarecrow’s rigid limbs. I observed her as her nails delicately picked up each blank CD and then placed it to the side of the box until she found the one she was searching for. “Why do you listen to CDs? They’re so old.”

She didn’t turn away from scouring her reserves. “You know how people think vinyl sounds the best besides all of the electronic files you use?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes.”

“Well, I think CDs sound the best. You can blare your headphones all you want with that electronic shit and not get the full gist of what the artist is about. Something about a CD seems more finite than those files, you know?” Her eyes peeled away from her scavenging and met mine. “Makes it feel like your closer to the musician in my mind.”

I nodded my head as she placed her headphones on her head and shoved a CD into the circular player. A moment passed before she glanced back up at me as music blared through the phones. She nodded her head to the beat of the music and smiled without reservations. “Yeah, I like this.”

“Who’re you listening to?”

“One of Heath’s mixed CDs he made me.”

We both fell silent for a moment before she took her headphones off. “Here, you’ll understand…” She leaned across the boxes and gingerly placed the headphones on my head. Her fingers slid away from me slowly. Her eyes remained fixed on mine hesitantly, waiting for a response from me in honor of her outlet.

My eyes fell to the floor as I connected to another reality, the reality of the music. A magnetic guitar riff ripped through the speakers and cut through the thoughts flooding my mind, disallowing me from thinking about anything else. The drums echoed in as the guitar fought to maintain the forefront of the song, whirring and buzzing from beyond the pounding of the drums. The vocals came in—high but strong unlike many people whose high notes fall into quietness.

I turned my eyes back to her and asked, shouting over the boisterous yell of the speakers, “Who is this?”

“Coldplay, ‘Talk!’” she howled over my speakers.

“How old is this! You listen to such old music!”

“Oh, you’ll like this, too.” She leaned over and pushed one of the buttons on the CD player.

Piano welled up from the depths of the speakers slowly and then all at once. No other instrument hindered the fine notes. A pause separated the music, the last note resounding like an echo. Another piano slithered into the atmosphere, creating a crescendo of the beautiful notes. I had never been a fan of instrumental songs, but something about this tune made me love it. Maybe it was the way Devin sat hesitantly staring at me, waiting for a simple remark or reply.

“Evgeny Grinko, ‘Other Child Room.’”

I nodded my head as a smile split my lips. “I like it.”

“Here’s another one.” Her fingers danced across the CD methodically.

The guitar and drums came in liquidly and in unison. The haunting voice came into the song, and I immediately recognized the song despite its age. “Radiohead?”

“Yeah, ‘Creep!’ The song is always stuck in my head.”

“Is this what you were playing on your desk the day after we met?”

Her voice quietened as her eyes shivered. She incredulously smiled and shook her head. I yanked the headphones off of my head, wearing it like a necklace. “What?”

She continued to shake her head as she whispered, “I didn’t think anybody cared.”

I paused the CD and turned back to her. I didn’t know what to say.

“I didn’t think anyone noticed me anymore,” she confided.

A deafening silence fell between us, and we lost ourselves in each other. We just stared at each other intentionally but without a known agenda. My blue eyes became glued to hers as she continued to memorize my features and this moment. She had not pulled back to her normal seated position since she turned on Radiohead. She leaned into her palms right next to my hip with her face close to penetrate my personal space. Her lips parted as she readied to say something…

A giant white beast jumped onto the bed, separating me from Devin. His bright pink tongue covered my vision as he layered kisses onto my face as if I was a dog biscuit. Devin burst into laughter as the dog leaned into me with his chin resting on my shoulder restlessly. I groaned, “You are not a lap dog!”

She patted Holden on the head as he released a heavy sigh. “He likes you.”

“What is he doing?”

“He gets jealous if I’m giving someone else attention.”

That afternoon was one of the best of my life. She exposed me to songs and bands I had never heard of—The Killers, Keane, The Misfits, Genesis, Tom Odell, AFI, Insane Jane, The Bleachers, Twenty-One Pilots. When I finally left her house, I found myself humming a congregation of all the songs she unveiled to me, and I wondered how I could present these entities to Brody and Lily. How had Heath managed to shield me from his music even if it was old and dated? Devin showed me that all of the CDs she had were actually mixed tapes Heath created for her, and I chuckled as I realized how deeply he felt for this girl, spending hours creating these playlists for her to remember him by. She gave me a couple to play in an even older CD player she had and let me borrow the equipment.

When I went home, I immediately hurried to my room and placed some decrepit, graying headphones to my ears and listened to the music, wondering if this was what she listened to if she was sad or happy. Every night that week, I would fall asleep to the thrumming and rush of Devin’s CDs. As I combed through the lyrics and composition, I found myself focusing more upon her than the actual purpose of the song, so enveloped in the identity of Devin Sebold.

“What is this crap on the radio, Ned?” Lily leaned across the console and ejected Devin’s CD. She looked it over and turned to me, her eyes wild with jealousy. “You’re talking to her?” Lily’s dark hair flattened against her almost concave chest as blood rushed into her face. Her tawny eyes flickered as I could practically see the heat ruminating off of her cheeks.

I glanced at her as I continued to drive home after class. Lily wanted to catch an early movie so we could then go back to her place while her parents were gone off on a date. I turned back to the road and scoffed, “What? I can’t have friends?” My nerves were already shot after she continued to interrogate nearly everything I did in the past hour. Why are you wearing that plaid shirt? Why aren’t you wearing the watch I gave you? Why are you this and why are you that?

She hissed, “You know what I mean.”

I rolled my eyes, feeling my contacts slip and readjust. I moaned, “What’s wrong with her? She’s just a friend.”

She growled with a sneer, “She is a huge slut for one.”

I braked hard and spun the car into a parking lot. I quickly parked and immediately shut off the engine. I whipped around to glare at Lily and responded, “Please explain to me how so.”

“She’s slept with the whole school, Ned!”

I rubbed my eyes with the heel of my palms and meekly replied, “Hardly.” The A/C gurgled to a halt.

Lily clapped her hands together and murmured, “Look, she’s just not good news. She’s going to try and sleep with you, and I don’t want that to be a distraction from us.”

I folded my brow, peeling my hands away from my face. My jaw fell as I turned to my girlfriend. “You don’t trust me with her?”

“No! She’s sneaky and manipulative.”

“I think I can handle myself. I’m a big boy.”

“No, shut up. That’s not what I meant.” She clawed at my collar and popped it up, fixing out a wrinkle I neglected to iron this morning in my school rush.

“Obviously it was.

“You know what? I like us better when we’re wasted because that’s the only time we have a real conversation, Lily. That’s why I’m friends with her—because we talk.”

“About what?” she bombarded.

I threw my hands in the air and roared, “Anything!”

Silence fell over us. Her eyes fell to the dashboard as she slunk into her chair. She spun the ring on her middle finger around clock-wise endlessly. I got her that ring for our year anniversary just a while ago. Beryl—her birthstone.

“We talk about things other than us, Lily. We don’t talk about things that will hurt each other or give each other bombastic assaults. We just talk about anything.”

She didn’t respond.

“And sometimes, I feel like this relationship is only about the physical aspects.”

She turned her chin up and glazed over my features with warm eyes. “We can skip a movie and go to a restaurant or something.”

I barely nodded my head. “That sounds better.”


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