In Earnest Speculation | Teen Ink

In Earnest Speculation

February 6, 2022
By ChompChomp123 BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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ChompChomp123 BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music"

“In madness lies sanity.” - Alan Watts


Author's note:

Writing this book, even just the first three chapters has been healing for me and I'm putting it out there in hopes that it could heal somebody else. Life is difficult but there's much to live for. And to anybody in suffering or in pain, you have my admiration for fighting. Stay strong and peace to all. 

The author's comments:

this is all unedited work. Sorry for the grammar and spelling errors. 

Dedication: To my family and the others who showed me the meaning of life 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the arms of solace, we lie. In the ties of each other, we confess. I couldn’t remember where I heard it, but for whatever reason, I always thought of it out here. This time of night was the hardest to be out in. No one could figure out how or why it all started, despite their efforts. A few said it was the end of the world, but it wasn’t widely believed. Even with the woods, it wasn’t hard to see the sky had changed. I hadn’t looked up in three months; a record. I only came here to hike, anyway. It was no use looking up. The stars had started fading, almost eighteen years ago, the month before I was born. There was no shortage of theories, but I didn’t believe any of them. It scared me a little more every night, I looked out the window but maybe it’s just how I was. I was always told I was fearless, but that was hardly the truth. In fact, fear drove my every last action. The only thing you could do with the absence of terror was test its boundaries. To be afraid, well, fear followed a dangerous tale. but it’s risk was absolutely epic. and Every day, that’s what I lived by. I lived like the wind was knocked out of me because in authenticity, there was no other way. If I hadn’t, I would’ve been destroyed by the fading stars out my window. Ever since the beginning  of my life, I had searched for love. Love was risk, too, and that was all I ever wanted. These woods always felt alive, in that way, but it made me wonder what would happen if all the stars would go out. If it happened, like science said it would. I wanted to forget about it, looking up that night. I thought, maybe there was something I could do. Maybe love could stop them from going. Somehow. Because even I, at that moment, knew I was meant for something, more than these woods. So, I looked and I loved, and I feared, and I risked,  and even then, even after every ounce of light had evaded our grasp, we could see everything. And when it all began, that damp fall had cradled us, cradled us  between the shafts of glory, on every starless night, we endured. The dire situations that left us, with eggshells of a fairytale, were resurrected, in the finite light, of ourselves and the infinite burn of the sun. We’d professed, to  the world, our yearnings. We spoke, the stitches of silence. We tethered our existence to each other. We sat on the edge of the moon, strewn across the universe, beside the dark clouds shaped like broken-winged birds. And maybe,  maybe this story is just a saturated excuse for the stars that had begun to disappear from the universe, or maybe I just couldn’t explain right. After all, I was never the writer. Avery was. Regardless, it would be the most remarkable thing that I could have ever asked for, but then, there, I had no idea. I took a careful step over a log, trying to keep my balance. It was the third time this week, I’d come out here. So far, I’d only encountered a few poisonous snakes and dangerous drop-offs. The slight disappoint of it still lingered, as I preferred a tad more action, but I’d take it. It gave me inspiration at the very least. Having been observant all my life, I thought it was only natural, what I spent my time doing. Imagining conversations between people, playing out storylines, and growing characters, in my head had been normal for me as long as I could remember. Rarely did they involve myself or anyone I knew but once in a while a character’s situation took a jab to my heart. Was it childish? Some people said so. My family said it was just who I was. Blond hair, brown eyed Sophia. Hopelessly romantic, outgoing.  I was content with that. But hiking was my thing, too. Or rather, the adrenaline. It gave the stories in my head a little pace quickening. My life however, needed direction. Everyone said it was okay, not to know what to do with your life as a senior. But a month away from eighteen, for some reason I didn’t believe them. I got out of my head  momentarily, and took a left turn. I could see my car in the distance,  where the woods cleared, and decided it would be best, to go home now. I looked up for the last time before opening the car door and took a breath. It was hard to tell from night to night, even week to week, but between months, another handful would disappear. out here you could barely tell, though. you could tell if you went to a dark sky, though. The satellites could tell too. after all, they’ve had a good amount of years to prove it. The next ones to go were always the dim ones. I’d never seen one go out before my eyes, but those were the hardest to come by. Usually, the ones that were near black, were already too dim to notice. I spent nights wondering how it happened, why, and what it all meant for us, as did the rest of the world.  I saw a couple of dim ones but I took my eyes away, as a puncture went through my heart. I slammed the door behind me and kicked the steering wheel. I felt like a fool, for crying, but I couldn’t help it. It was as if I cried their creamy insides, driving away into the empty night.  Driving at this hour, made me feel free. I decided it must’ve been the dark. I knew I should’ve feared it but I didn’t. Something about the blackness, mimicked infinity. And who wouldn’t want to be infinte? maybe it was the silence, too. Or the loss of sight and it’s risk. At times like these, I could forget about the stars. but I remembered things too. like when dad handed me the grocery list earlier today. Quickly, I turned right and pulled into the store’s parking lot. Opening the door to the store, words crammed into my head and the storyines started up again. I smiled, slightly, and walked towards the soup section. Quietly, I started talking to myself. “No, no, no. Uhhh..no.” I scanned the wall of cans fruitlessly. “Excuse me. Hi, can you tell me, uh, where the uh, the um,” I looked to my right, watching a guy push his cart towards my side of the aisle, as he spoke. He parked it in front of me, and stood next to it. He leaned his head on his hand, placing his elbow on the cart handle. Crossing his left foot over his right, he looked for the right words to finish his sentence. He wore glasses, like me, but instead of my blue, his were thick and red. His hair was red too and his eyes green. He had the faintest freckles and looked about my age. He wasn’t much taller than me either. 5’9 at tallest. “Yeah?” I asked, sort of confused. He cleared his throat and glanced side to side like he regretted coming over. The acne on his face was less noticeable than it is on mine, but what did that matter. “Um, yeah, do you have any idea where the produce is?”  he finished, nervously laughing. “Yeah, actually, I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I..uh...just..I live in Seattle and I have termites in my house right now, so we came here because my mom was already going on a business trip here so my dad and I just decided to go with her, but no, no, I used to live here. I lived actually right around the corner, like until I was seven but just because it was easier, and I’m really sorry. I just-you probably didn’t want to know that. I’m sorry.” he started pushing his cart away when I stopped him. “Hey, no. No, you’re fine. The produce, is at the front of the store. Where you came in.” I smiled, laughing a little. “And I live around the corner too. I can see why you would want to leave. Florida’s really something.” I laughed. “What you mean?” he asked, sound partially curious. “Well, I don’t know. It’s just that the world changes a lot, and before you know it, the places you love, you can’t even begin to recognize. I mean, I don’t know. This, it’s not the best place to live. A lot of bad things happen around here. But I don’t know if I could leave the only place I’ve ever known. I don’t know if I want to.” I laughed trying to brush it off. I paused for a minute. “But you know, I guess that’s life for you.” I paused again, and this time it was him who spoke. ” I know what you mean. Except for me I never wanted to leave. I loved this place. Actually, that’s not true. I was obsessed with those seven years of my life. I spent weeks crying. I still do. It broke my heart to leave. I was at peace here, you know. But you know how it goes. Even peace knows pain.”  I stood there for a minute and smiled knowingly at him. “What?” he asked, casually. “No, it’s just....” I tried to refrain from saying it. “Oh, no, I know what you’re going to say. I hear it all the time. It's okay. I’m a charmer.” he shrugged. “Avery. Thornton.” he added. “In case you were wondering.” he smiled in the way his soul had begged him to. Like it came from somewhere in him I didn’t know of.  “Sophia Kendall. Eighteen, by the way. Almost.” I answered. “when’s your birthday?” he asked. “October 13.” “mine’s December 17. I guess you’re only two months older then.” “I guess so.” I whispered. “How long are you staying?” I added. “Probably two weeks. It's a good thing the hotels around here are pet friendly, huh?” he didn’t seem interested in laughing at his own joke and it crossed my mind that maybe his heart was in another place. Some other space time infinity. And for a moment, I wanted to know what that place where he was, was like. I tried not to stare, but I was told before, I had a bad habit of excessive eye contact. I’d tried to work on it but it never did seem to improve. But right now, he stared too. You would’ve thought, it was a staring contest, and in a way it was. In an unspoken, self-standing way. “When you lived here.’” I cleared my throat and continued. ” have you ever been to the woods?” I asked. “if it’s by the produce, no.” he laughed a deeply shallow laugh, and I chuckled a little too. “Well, wouldn’t you like to? I mean, there’s only so many grocery stores around here. After two weeks, it might get a little dull.” I tilted my head and waited for him to speak. ”I guess you’re right. Maybe you want to show me? Just for something to do? I mean, what else do I have to do? Maybe I’ll convince myself I still live at 311.” he smiled. “311?” I laughed at first, mostly confused. “Deer Park Ave.” he added. “that’s where you lived?” I asked, shocked. “Is that where you live?” he asked, laughing. I nodded and we agreed on a plan. “Ok, tomorrow. One o clock. We’ll talk to our parents and if everything checks out, I’ll pick you up?” I asked. “that’s the plan.” he smiled. ” now if you excuse me, I’m expected places.” he lifted his chin and walked away. I tried to tell myself I was only meeting him because of the irony of fate but deep down I knew if that were true, I wouldn’t have tried to reassure myself of it as many times as I did. I knew I wouldn’t sleep well that night, after that and as right as I was, I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. I tried to convince myself, I was just overwhelmed in general, and that if it were anything else it wouldn’t make sense but I knew it wasn't true. Not for me at least. I knew by everything I’ve ever experienced that tomorrow was only an attempt to help someone, get to know the town. Someone my age who just happened, to have lived in my house. it was just coincidence. Besides, I was a hopeless romantic. Of course, this would happen. That didn’t mean I was actually interested in someone I met once, who lived across the country. For a minute I thought about what he said. Even peace knew pain. I thought, that not everybody would say something like that. I thought that, minds didn’t say that. Only souls did. And then it hit me. Regardless of my feelings (which had always been stronger than I needed them be), Avery was alive. Alive in the way, that his eyes could speak. It was a rare thing, I noticed. And everything aside, I was curious to know him. So, whatever that meant, I was happy with it. So, that night, after putting the groceries away, I told my parents. “Mom,” I began walking into the living room. “I met this guy at the grocery store tonight. His last name’s Thornton. he lived in our house right before us. He ‘s seventeen. Don’t you know his parents?” I asked, sitting down on the edge of the couch.  I thought I might have heard his name before but I wasn’t too sure. “Of course. Jacob and April Thornton. They have a daughter, Kelsey. She's a  junior in college. You think he’s the son?” she asked. “Yeah, him and his parents are staying in a hotel nearby. They live in Florida but he said their house has termites. Do you know him?” “Oh, yeah. Of course. Yeah, we’ve been friends with his parents since we bought the house. Their son’s your age. Yeah, Andrew, I think. Something like that.” she smiled, closing the book she was reading. “Avery, yeah.” I shrugged. “He said they’re going to be here for a couple weeks so I offered to take him to the woods tomorrow. I’m going to pick him up at one, if that’s okay. He hasn’t been here since he was seven so it’s just kind of a....casual..thing.” I finished awkwardly. “Well, I think it sounds fine, honey. His parents are wonderful people. I think it’s great that they’re here.” she finished. “k, thanks mom.” quickly, I rushed off to my room and called Ivy. We talked like sisters did, for a good two hours before I went to bed, or rather tried to go to bed. She said she was coming home from college soon, for thanksgiving but senior year was the hardest, and one month into mine and didn’t I know it. I had to start putting in college applications soon, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go or more importantly what I wanted to do. Overall, the high school experience had been okay but it didn’t seem to be what everyone made it out to. I had one boyfriend last year, but Carter and I only lasted a couple months. Staring up at the ceiling from my bed, I tried againto clear my mind. Eventually, I fell asleep and the morning followed. By twelve fifty, I was on the road. It was only a five minute drive to Avery's hotel, but it took forever to find his room. He texted me the room number in case he wasn’t outside when I got there, so I went up to find him. I knew it ‘d be too awkward knocking but it was only after I did so that I realized I could’ve texted him instead. Promptly, the door opened and a woman stood in the doorway. “You must be, Sophia. Your mom has told me so much about you and your sister. Ivy, right? She must be a sophomore this year. And then you must be a freshman. Yeah, what college do you go to?” I figured this must be the April mom talked about, and understood how they were friends. “Well, not exactly. Ivy ‘s a junior and I’m a senior, but next year I’ll be a freshman.” I played with my hands, nervously and hoped Avery would show up before I regretted knocking on the door more than I already did. “Oh, that’s right. You're a senior just like Avery.  I’m sorry. I’ll go get him in a minute. Jacob and I are going out to lunch with your parents today, though. we set it up this morning just in case you don’t know.” I opened my mouth to say something when Avery appeared behind her. “Okay, mom. I hope you have fun today. But I’m going now. Bye.” he walked around her and shut the door behind him before I could even blink. “I’m sorry about my mom, Sophia. She likes to talk almost as much as I do. It's in our family genes. Anyway, you’re early.” he smiled. we went down the elevator, and into the parking lot. I was already buckled in the driver's seat when he walked up to the car. He leaned against the passenger door and stopped as he was about to open it. “Hey, I’m sorry for the other day. Yesterday. I usually don’t think about what I say until it comes out of my mouth, so I’m sorry for however I embarrassed myself yesterday, and how I might today. it was kind of an awkward interaction on my part yesterday. My sister tells me I do that sometimes. Like I get too personal with strangers. she says I tell anyone I come across my whole life story. I guess she’s kind of right.” he looked down trying to hide his flushed face. “Sorry?” I laughed, unintentionally. “Don’t worry. You won’t embarrass yourself. I’m like that too, according to my family. So, I know what you mean. I’ve done it before, too. Just get in. So, your parents. Jacob and April, huh?” I laughed. “Yeah, well, I did live in your house. Our parents may be friends but that doesn’t mean I don’t blame you for moving in. You cost me years of therapy.” he joked, stepping into the car. I bit my lip and tried not to laugh. I stepped on the gas and moved forward. “But seriously, Avery, I kind of want to know. You seemed.... kind of...I don't know, hurt yesterday. Not to make you feel awkward or anything, but you know, you seemed like you had something fragile here.” had I not been driving I would’ve been staring into his eyes, trying to pull something from them, like I did everyone else. “Awkward's my thing.” he paused. “You know, I’d like to talk about this, seriously I’m not trying to be macho or anything. Like seriously, you’ll get the whole story if you like but I took a cold shower this morning and hit my head on the tv stand. I don’t think you want to hear much of what I have to say right now.” he smiled. I noticed his right arm that leaned against the window and caught sight of his hand. It was shaking, not violently, but still noticeably, and I tried not to stare even in my wonder. “Well, I guess I’ll tell you what I know about this place then. I’ve thought about leaving here for college. Going out of state. Maybe not coming back. You know, Florida. It's not all it’s cracked up to be. It could be better here. Especially, these days. The crime and everything is just awful. But I don’t know if I’d have the heart to leave. I should but I guess maybe I’m afraid I’ll something like you do if I go.” I glanced over at him for a brief moment when we sat at a red light but he just stared at the window. “Then don’t. Stay.” he shrugged, but there was something real in his voice. Something that couldn’t help but care like he’d known me forever. “Well,” I laughed. “I guess you could say it’s not that easy for me. I’m into living on the edge. It's okay here; I’m not complaining. But life could be something absolutely epic, and epic, well, it doesn’t exactly live here. I mean, I do have a job babysitting and I do want a family, and house, and love and life. I could find that here. But-” I sighed. “But epic doesn’t come knocking on your door.” Avery laughed. “Do you find it out in these woods we’re going to?” he asked. “Maybe a little.” I shrugged. “what's that supposed to mean?” he questioned thoughtfully. “it’s more like peace there.” I tell him. “Well, that’s unfortunate. It's best when you can feel them both, you know.” he smiled. “Yeah, well, that’s what I do the blood drive for. It helps people. That’s all that really matters. It's supposed to be every month but after I signed up, I chickened out on the third month and skipped. Now, I’ve just gotten used to it.” I almost forgot Avery was in the car, when he looked over and glanced at me. “hm. Yikes.” he pushed his glasses up on his face, even thought they were already as far up as they could go, and sniffed. “I don’t think I could do that. I scared myself stupid, getting my vitamin levels checked last year. I shed blood, sweat, and tears that day. I remember it like it was a week ago.” I never thought I’d hear a guy say something like that, although I guess I never knew how much I’d appreciate it, either. It was honesty on another level. “Hey, what’s your favorite candy?” I asked spontaneously. “Well, milky ways are my favorite. But I like a good Snickers, and kit kat too.” he replied. “What about you?” “Green Loli pop.” I answered. “Now, open the compartment in front of you.” I directed. He pulled open the passenger seat storage compartment attached to the dashboard and picked out a snickers for himself and green loli pop for me. “I guess I need to stock up on milky ways, huh?” I mumbled. “Nah, it’s okay. This is the best taste I’ve had in my mouth all day after my near concussion experience.”  he took his shaking hands and closed the candy compartment. It didn’t look like nerves, and it wouldn’t make sense if it was. I was just giving him something to do because our parents were friends. That's all. I was tempted to ask, but ultimately decided that I shouldn’t. It was probably private. If he wanted me to know, he’d say it. “Hey, you know. forget green Loli pops and milky way bars. Okay, look. I made a discovery the other day. So, the next time you go to eat an Oreo cookie put it in your mouth and while you’re chewing breathe in through your nose and you’ll notice it smells like a gym. like those fitness places. I mean, I swear by it. I don’t know what it is, but I’m telling you.” he shook his head and leaned back. “Ok?” I laughed. “I guess I’ll do that, then.” I smiled. “Yeah, but anyway.” he continued. ”You said you did babysitting,” he started. “How is that?” it took a minute for me to understand what he was saying but when I did, I answered promptly. “it’s okay. I mean, I get paid ten bucks an hour so it’s good. Besides, if I’m going to have kids one day, I’ve got to know how to take care of them, right?”  “that’s right.” he nodded. “You already give blood to a bunch of strangers. every single month. You do know you have to care a whole lot more than most people do to do that? I’m impressed, Sophia.” he smirked. “Yeah, because I’m really interested in what you think.” I chuckled. “Look, I just think that there’s no point in being selfish. We live for other people's happiness. not our own. Not in the end. So, if you’re not making other people happy, what are you living for?” I pulled into the spot I had claimed many years ago and got out, remembering last night and the stars. “You an artist?” he asked, closing the car door behind him. We looked at each other over the top of the car. “Excuse me?” I asked, confused. “you’ve got a lot of insight. Are you an artist?” he repeated. I thought about how I should answer. I’d never considered myself to be a traditional artist. Why would I? I didn’t paint, draw, sculpt, write, dance, photograph, design, act, or create. I did it all in my head, sure. I tried photography and painting a couple years back but, I had to have been the worst one in both beginner classes. I had it in my head. I had it all in my head. Even at night, it wouldn’t stop. But no matter how hard I tried it could never find a way out. Maybe it was because I was made this way. Or maybe it was because I didn’t want it to find a way out. Maybe it was too perfect in my head. Maybe I knew, somehow, nothing tangible could do it justice. “No, I’m not an artist.” I answered finally. “I guess It's just not my thing. My sister, Ivy, she’s in college, she says I have it all in my head, but no, I’m not an artist.” “Sure, you are.” he argued, leaning on top of the car. “you’re an observer. You’re keen. That’s good.”  he cleared his throat and took a step away from the car. “Are you an artist?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m a writer.” I’d like to say his cheeks flushed with red, but they seemed to be that way since he stepped into the car. “Cool. What do you write?” I asked curiously. “Oh, novels. Um, romance. I’m writing a romance novel. Yeah.” he nodded. “So, you’re a hopeless romantic, huh?” I could’ve sworn I heard my heart skip a beat, but tried to deny it and forget it happened. “Eternally.” he answered.  “But, hey, don’t judge me. I swear, I was born this way. Ever since I was nine, I’ve had scrapbooks of my future love life. Besides, I don’t have nearly enough years of my life to waste on some macho quarterback act. There are enough posers in this world. It’d be the death of me. No, all I want be is something real for someone the same way. What can I say? Love’s underrated. And you know, I guess people say that young love’s confusing. But the last time I checked, it has nothing to do with football and jealousy.” then, he walked over to my side of the car and gestured for me to lead the way. “hm. So, I reckon that talking is one of your favorite things to do, then. am I right?” I stared at his green eyes, and he stared back at mine. “well, it’s not better then walking in the woods that look more like a jungle.” he gave me a concerned look. “Oh, get over yourself.” I teased. “I come here all the time. It's perfectly safe.” I lied. It wasn’t death’s doorstep, but it was far from safe and if you didn’t watch your step, it was very possible you might land yourself in a difficult situation, to say the least. I didn’t say it, though, considering Avery looked scared enough as is. “Are you sure about that?” He asked. “What are you so afraid of?” I asked him seriously. I caught his eye and we stared at each other. I don’t know whether he was surprised by my seriousness in the question or if he just didn’t have an answer but we stood there for a good thirty seconds before he said anything. “it’s dangerous.” he shrugged. “I think if you stick around long enough, you’ll learn I’m afraid of a lot of things.” he continued. “Well, that’s just not right. What are you not afraid of? Is there anything?” I asked. “Everything but death. Growing old and dying.” he answered, oddly enough. “What?” I almost gasped. “How? Wait. You’re afraid of danger but not of death?” I asked. “Yeah, danger could result in a lot of things other than death. Permanent physical impairment, trauma, suffering. the list goes on and on. anything could happen anywhere. any time. I’m just supposed to be okay with that?” he asked. “Listen, wise guy.  I may not know much but I do know this. You think dangers scary? A life lived in fear is far scarier.” I took a step, then another, and walked past him into the woods. “Now, I guess I could see how you’re not afraid of death. If you live a life well, the end of it makes for a grand closing. But tell me about this romance thing. Can I ask what your book’s about? Believe it or not people call me a hopeless romantic too.” I smiled. “I’m not surprised.” he ducked underneath a branch and started to follow behind me. “It’s nothing special. Just a regular romance. You know, a guy finds his soul, with the love of his life, in the alignment of the stars. It’s pretty cheesy but it I guess it helps me cope with it all.” he finished. he walked up to my side and slowly we walked forward, side by side. “You mean the stars.” I began. “People don’t talk about it as much as they should. How long do you think they have?” I asked him. “Well, the scientists say like seventy years. So, I guess I don’t know. But they can’t all go out, can they? I mean, there’s not even an explanation. Is it the end of the world? Why is it happening?” he thought out loud. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world.” I told him. “Me either. But I think that if all them go out like like the scientists say, then there will still be ones that glow. You know, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not alive. even if all the ones we can see die, there’s billions more out there. and just because a couple stars die doesn’t mean the whole galaxy will. It's the simple philosophy of life. And I mean, the stars are the simplest form of life. Why wouldn’t it apply to them?” he breathed in, then out. “Maybe because of just that. Philosophy is imagination become psychical. What happens with the stars is a science. If you believe in such things.” I laughed.” what’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, slowing his pace.”nothing,” I started. ”just..you know. You’re a democrat, right?” I asked. “let me see. Okay, I don’t believe in climate change, I do believe in gun rights, but I don’t have a gun and other than that I guess you could say I have democrat beliefs. Inclusion, mental health. social justice. you know. All that stuff.” he shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal. “You look shocked.” he added. “A little. But I’ll keep my mouth shut. I don’t believe in judging people because of their political party. it was always lost on me, why people hated each other to the degree they did because of a “side”.” I shrugged. “You know, I’m a person. Not a side.” avery nodded and we took a couple more steps forward. we were a decent way in the woods, with the trees towering over us like shadows now. “You know, I may be the opposite of you when it comes to fear level, but I don’t know what I’m doing for college, either. I might not even go. All I want to do is be a writer but everybody knows how that one goes. If I wasn’t such an idiot in middle school, I might have taken robotics like the rest of the boys instead of art. Two of the girls in my table group laughed about it, in front of me sometimes, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The teacher Mr. Mack, dyed his eyebrows so badly half his forehead looked painted. I swear, he must’ve done it on purpose. But no. Seriously, I was a little rowdy in middle school, anyways. I was the kid in everyone’s class always making some dumb joke, or doing something embarrassingly immature. I thought the art class was bad but me during those three years? I’m never going to live that down. I got better as a high schooler, but I was still the same person. My favorite color was lime green. My favorite animal was a turtle, and oh, I was left-handed. I just started to think I wasn’t who I was supposed to be. I hated the way I saw the world, and how everything looked all symbolic to me. I couldn’t control it, but I hated it.  I saw the world like a writer would and I wondered why nobody cared about the stars like I did. they were distant objects in the sky to everyone else and I guess I hated that it wasn’t like that for me. There was always some artist piece of me and I thought I’d done something wrong to perceive the world so abstractly. I thought I had no idea who I was.” he paused, and I stared at his cheeks still flushed and finally realized that it wasn’t because of the august weather or his embarrassment. his hands still shook in his jacket pockets, but again, I remained silent. “But It was the exact opposite. I knew exactly who I was. I was a writer and a hopeless romantic and eventually I accepted it, but I guess I still feel like even though I know who I am, I don’t want to be this person. I mean, I feel like I’m supposed to be a stupid teen running around the world thinking I’m bigger than it, without questioning a night on this world. not set on true love and the meaning of stars and life. I guess it just feels like that in seventy years, what do I have to look back on? Am I going to take a gander back and see me wasting my life being a know-it-all pain trying to make some wise crack? I already fall asleep hearing myself talk.” he finished. “Well, I don’t.” I said firmly. It didn’t make me mad to hear him talk about himself like that, but it made me some kind of upset. “Your hands..” I began. ” why do they shake?” I asked, pointing down at his pockets. “Oh, yeah. Nobody knows. We've been to about ten million doctors. they ran all the tests in the world and nobody found anything but they say it’s probably not a cause for concern. Just something benign.” he shrugged. “Exactly. the world can look at you and think there’s a problem, and you can believe them all you want. and by all means, correct me if I’m wrong, but just because the world thinks something doesn’t mean you have to, and it definitely doesn’t make it true.” I whispered. ” now, I’ll tell you what. Me? I don’t know who I am. At least you do.  I liked dolls when I was twelve but I was peer presssured into giving them all away, as dumb as it sounds. And ironically, you have everything I want. You have an identity, even if it's one you hate. You have a creative outlet, even though, again, it’s one you hate. I have it all in my head but it’s just stuck there. and the thing I’m most scared of in this world is being like everyone else, which you aren’t and wish you were. I’m adventurous and all, sure, but I’m not as happy as you should be, living on the edge. and you’re over there scared out of your mind and probably more content than I am.” we both laughed, and looked at each other.” yeah, but maybe I don’t want to know who I am. What if I wanted to search? What if I’d known I was finding myself when I was. at least you know you’re looking for yourself. It just slipped right on out of my hands.” he paused. “And besides. you said you’re afraid of blending in? You seem like an incredible person. And for us to be here, Sophia, after knowing each other for less than a day, discussing our life stories and insecurities? Well, let me tell you what. That’s not normal. But it’s something like the majesty of fate. don't you think?” we both stopped walking and we both looked around. I jumped onto the biggest boulder nearby and looked down at him standing below me. we looked up at the trees and rocked the entire forest’s silence between us and somehow the weight of it held. Maybe it was because two strangers like us, and all our uncomfortably deep and personal lives laid gutted on the ground in a messy truth. Or maybe it was because deep down we knew we could help each other. “Avery,” I pushed my blue glasses up on my face. My hair hung motionless, a couple inches above my elbow. ” Whatever happens with the stars, it’ll be okay.” I could tell in his eyes it’s what he was thinking about. I had no way to explain it I just knew. It must’ve been all those years I spent staring at people’s eyes. I wondered for a moment, if those stars were all he had. If it was the only thing that held his world in one piece. and I was even brave enough to wonder for a moment if that was me. “I know it’ll be fine. I guess it’s just that artists like ourselves tend to wonder if there’s any way to save them. To stop them from going out. There’s billions out there. all the ones we can see can’t just go out. they can’t. It’ doesn’t make sense. it’s too weird. in seventy years, they’ll really be gone?” he sighed, an unemotional sigh and looked up to the sky, his hand shading his eyes from the sun. The shadow cast on his face left his eyes weak in the dark. and that was okay. It was something like a whisper in the silence, that rang out between us.  “I hope not.” the trees above me shook and their branches congregated. They covered the sky like cotton coat sleeves, and lily pads. It was hard to imagine that in a few hours, it would be dark again, and I would soon be victim to the mocking of the cream beasts above. For once, I was glad for the light pollution. I used to think people would care more if they could see how rapidly the stars were disappearing but now, I was glad that every night looked the same. I was glad I didn’t have to witness it, and wonder. Because as long as I didn’t see it, I could pretend the world wasn’t losing the only real thing that held it together. for everyone else, it was enough, that the dying stars didn’t mean the end of the world. but for me, I don’t think it would ever be enough. I hoped I’d be gone from this world before the stars were and I hoped that they didn’t mean as much as I thought they did. But being an observer and all what could I say. It reminded me of what it all came down to in the end. Of what I desired most in this sorry world.  “Do you think that maybe we’re supposed to do something?” I asked, not really sure what I meant. “If by something you mean fix it, no. But I think we should do right by them, don’t you? They've been around since the beginning of everything and laid silent for billions of years. They’re the wisest creatures on this earth. Don't you wonder what they have to say? when the universe began I bet they all lived on the moon. You know, the sun gets all the shimmer and shine now, but I bet the moon used to have a light of its own. it only makes sense, you know. I bet all the stars burned on the moon and one by one, they leapt forth into the window of the universe to watch forever what went down below them. why else would there be craters in the moon? I mean, they’ve lived their lives, watching every soul that ever existed scurry in and trot out. Don't you have a world of questions for them?” he laughed, and looked up at me with tears in his eyes. “of course, I do. I think we both do. but maybe it’s like you said. if we’re not supposed to save them maybe we’re supposed to do right by them. Give them one more epic runaround.” I hopped off the boulder and stood face to face with Avery. “An epic runaround. What's that supposed to mean?” he smiled. “I don’t know. the stars are known for their association with love. No, in fact I bet they even smell like dryer steam. or coffee creamer. but anyway, If it were you, wouldn’t you want to watch one last great love story?” I asked. “Well, I'm a hopeless romantic. That’s not fair.” he whispered quietly. His hands were still in his thick jacket pockets and his jeans hung at his feet. seeing them, I knew I shouldn’t have worn leggings today, at forty degrees. “And I’m a hopeless romantic, too, aren’t I?” I tilted my head to the left and stared in his eyes. “Probably, but who am I to say? I’ve known you for less than twenty-four hours.” he smiled. I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my arms crossed. “Case and point.” I turned on my heel and neared the finish of path that circled back to my car. I looked down and walked fast the whole way back. I didn’t want him to see my face and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see his. I could hear him following me all the way back to the car, though, and I opened his door on the passenger side and waited next to it, waiting for him to climb in. Trudging up behind me,  he leaned against the side of the car, before getting in. “you know, Sophia, I don’t know if I'm okay with this whole green lollipop thing. those things are totally disgusting. I mean, it was pretty much the whole bag of candy. I almost thought it was St. Patrick’s Day in there.” he paused, and then smiled. “But other than that, I enjoyed our overly personal conversation. You're the first person outside of my family I ever got to do that with. As makes sense, strangers usually get creeped out. But I guess, I’m not as scared to live as I thought, then. right?” he stepped into his seat and I shut the door behind him. I drove him back to his hotel, and parked right in front of the door. we hadn’t said anything on the ride over. “Oh, yeah.” he said on his way out. “About that whole living on the edge thing you were talking about earlier? It turns out, it’s good you’re the one who does it. You saved me the nerves of saying something first.” I was too panicky to say anything at first, but I knew I had to get something out before he left. “Hey. Charmer.” I began. “I had fun today, too...but take your wrapper with you. And I should put you in my contacts if you’re okay with it. You know. In case you ever get bored or anything.” I smiled, and we proceeded to exchange numbers. “Is it okay if I call you tomorrow?” I asked, trying to sound polite. “Well, I have to speak to my manager to be certain but I’d say it’s encouraged.” he jumped out and without looking back, he ran through the hotel doors, as I sat there laughing. and I laughed because we both knew exactly what would go down. It was funny that we didn’t recognize all that it would become, at that time. We would be the beginning and the end of the world, if we ever knew one. And call me over personal, but I wasn’t the only one who’d run into walls time and time again because of a tremor inside of me bigger than myself. I might sound overdramatic, now, but even then, I knew it. I knew it was only a hopeless romantics over personal love. I knew we were shaking with something epic. Something for the stars. Doubt me, but hey. It showed on his hands.  

Chapter 2:  

I thought about what I needed to do before tomorrow, since teachers loved to assign the biggest load of homework over the weekend. I hadn’t remembered to do any of it, and it wasn’t like I could finish it all now, but when both your parents are teachers you do have access to vital information and homework assistance. Still, I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. On my way into the house I started thinking up believable excuses to use on my teachers tomorrow that didn’t involve forgetting. I could say I was sick, but I might feel guilty lying. “Hey, honey. How was your day out?” dad asked, from the kichen. “We had a great time with Jacob and April. how‘d it go with you?” I didn’t want to make a scene, so I tried to keep a low profile. Why wouldn’t I? I didn’t even know if Avery liked me that much. It wasn’t important enough for anyone to know anything yet. “it was good. Avery's pretty....unique.” I shrugged, awkwardly. “it was...fun.” I paused. “yeah, it was good.” thankfully, mom and dad spent the most of dinner talking about Jacob, April, and Kelsey, so I didn’t have to say anything about what happened with Avery and I.  Even I wasn‘t sure what happened, yet. All I knew was that it was good. It was, maybe, a little more than good. “You know, Jacob’s actually an astronomer. It was pretty interesting to hear him talk about all this star stuff. Did Avery talk about any of that at all?” I almost laughed at the question, thinking about what Jacob must’ve said and the way Avery and I talked about it. “a little.” was all I said, though. I walked around with my head down the rest of the night, since I couldn‘t get my face to stop reddening. That night I went to bed, early and woke up at five thirty. After eating breakfast, gathered my stuff, waved by to mom and dad, and set out on my way. I was, driving for two minutes when I realized my gas was low.  It was still pitch black out, and while I understood the reason lots of people were afraid of gas stations in the dark, I didn’t consider myself to be one of them. It didn’t mean I wasn’t cautious. It only meant I didn’t have any fear to waste. When my tank was full, I suddenly became aware of my thirst. I didn’t bring my water bottle today, so grabbing my wallet, I headed for the mini mart. The windows were newly smudged with grime and the tile was covered with an assortment of shapes imprinted in dried mud. I walked back to where the refrigerator was and grabbed a bottle of water. When I looked over to my left, I couldn’t believe it. It was Avery. “Avery. No way.”  I said, barely aware of his presence. The refrigerator door shut. “Sophia. Hey. What‘s up?” he asked. He was crouched down in front of the candy bars. “I was just....I was just going to school. What...what are you doing here? I asked. “What am I doing here? What kind of question is that? I’m getting a milky way, of course. I walked three miles to get here. We only have one car and my mom took it to her meeting this morning.”  he laughed, painfully. “You walked three miles just for a candy bar?” I asked him. “Just a candy bar? Ouch.” he plucked two from the shelf and examined them. “no. This is not just a candy bar. It's the entire solar system.” he stood up and smiled. I laughed, but secretly all I felt was dread. It was too, early for me to deal with these nerves. “yeah, I’m sorry. That still sounds terrible. I...yeah. um, yeah, let me pay for your candy bar. It's...clearly, you haven’t had an easy morning. It’s the least I can do.” I held onto my water bottle like it was my life. “No, you shouldn’t do that, Sophia. Here, I should pay for your water. I’ve caused enough trouble with my nonsense.” he offered. “what, no. You don’t have nonsense, Avery. And you haven’t caused any trouble.” I held out my hand and waited. “No. You shouldn’t have to do that. If I had to deal with me, I’d want someone paying for my water. Believe me. I know that you’re perfectly capable of paying for it yourself but-” quickly, I snatched the candy bars  out of hand and got a good hold on it. After rolling his eyes he finally gave in and let me pay for it. When he noticed my electric car, on our way out the door, he couldn’t take his eyes off it. “nice car.” he smiled, pointing. “thanks.” I glanced at him, trying to stop from shaking. “enjoy.” I shrugged, handing him his candy bar. “well, don’t you think we should make good use of this time? Now that we‘re here I don’t have to call you later. we can make plans now.” He pulled down the wrapper and took his first bite of the chocolate bar. “right?” I inhaled, trying to keep my heart from racing. “what did you have in mind?” I asked, thoughtfully. I pursed my lips and turned away. “Well, I usually like to have control of things but I was thinking maybe you would think of something.” he suggested. “You know, I always thought dinner was overrated. You probably have a much better idea.” he smiled. I laughed and took a minute to think. I decided on a place, pretty quickly. “I’ve got something. I’ll pick you up at seven on not this Friday becuase I have babysitting but next Friday? good?” I asked. “the day’s fine but there’s no way. I‘m totally picking you up this time.” he insisted. “Ok. are you sure?” I asked him. “of course, I’m sure. You scared of my driving?” he asked. “maybe a little.” I joked. “but until then,” I said walking over to my car.  “I’ll take you back to your hotel. Oh, and, oh wait, you already know the address.” I opened the door to the passenger, remembering yesterday and waited for him to get in. Slowly, he got in and closed the door. “Does this count as riding in a stranger’s car?” he asked me. “No idea. Don’t you trust me?” I teased. “Should I?” Avery chuckled. The light from the lamp post spilled into the car, revealing the freckles that pawed at the edges of his face. His eyes taunted me, with the look in them. I wasn’t sure whether it was sadness or brokenness, or something else but I knew I didn’t like the way they were crowded with tunnels. I tried to escape it, by changing the subject. “Hey. Quick question.” I began spontaneously. Where’d you get your name?” I asked spontaneously, pulling the car out of the gas station. “It’s an interesting story actually. My parents got married young and they didn’t have kids until three years after they were married but they fantasized about having two girls. Kelsey would be the first and Avery would be the second. So, when they had Kelsey, my sister, there was no problem. When I came around, though, my dad refused to give me a different name. I was teased in kindergarten and first grade but after that, no one really said anything. I’ve never really had any problems with the name myself. I guess it’s okay.” he looked out the window and sighed. “that’s a good thing, I guess.” I told him. “yeah, well, it could be worse, couldn’t it?” that’s what played in my head for the rest of that day, too, after finding the ten dollar bill he left in the door’s cup holder when I got out for school. I texted mom and dad about the plans with avery and they were happier than ever to hear it. So, I spent the next two weeks listening to close to nothing during school and spending the rest of my spare time trying to master the meticulous art of paddle ball. But of course, I thought about Avery the whole time and we talked for hours on end each night over the phone until two in the morning. Eventually, Friday came around and as he clock neared seven rolled Avery was pulling up onto the driveway right on time. Actually, he was early. just like I had been. he walked up to the door and introduced himself to my parents. they exchanged a couple of jokes and laughs before we headed out the door. “ok, so this is how it’s going to work. you tell me where to go and I listen.” he buckled himself in and so did I, nodding.  After we’d been driving for about ten minutes, Avery finally asked, “so, where are we going?” “It's a surprise, I told you.” I insisted.  We both looked out our windows, away from each other. I tried to tell myself to keep it together but that only made me blush more. I rolled down my window before I could start sweating. “Don’t screw up.” I thought to myself. “That’s all you have to do. Act normal.” I took a breath before I continued the conversation. “How’s your house?” I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel, slowly. “It’s good. Apparently, It’s not as bad as we thought but we’re still going to have to stay here. At least, until next Friday.” “That sounds awful. Missing your third week of senior year?” I exhaled. “It’s not that bad. My high school was just built ten years ago and trust me, it could definitely be worse, but the teachers there are a handful. Still, I think the football team should’ve been able to figure out why they’re always losing, by now. The flaming iguana isn’t exactly the best mascot.” I put the car in park as he finished his sentence. “Where are-” “the grass looks tall, I know but that’s why they invented tailgating.”  avery gazed around at the empty clearing of grass. He turned around to look at the one way road, we’d driven off the side of and into the grass, and laughed freely. “It’s beautiful. It’s perfect.” “That's what I thought. I thought since you’re a writer you might have some take on it.” I forced open the trunk and sat on the edge with my legs dangling just above the tips of the grass.  “I wouldn't think of it.” He sat down next to me and stared at the sky. “You don’t see the houses do you?” I asked. “No, I don’t see any houses,” he replied. “Exactly. Because from this angle, the field looks endless. It’s not about where we are, though. It’s the way you look at it.” I smiled and let my mind wander.  “Do you ever blame your family?” I asked. “What?” he rubbed his  eye and squinted. “For leaving.” I clarified. “No, never. We left because it was dangerous. How could I blame anyone for trying to protect me? If I blame anyone I blame myself. When we were sitting in the car about to drive away, I thought about what would happen when we left. What would happen to me? It’s like I told myself to look out the car window. The car window that was forever cursed with permanent kid finger prints in the winter. Once they went on, there was no getting them off.” he  laughed.  “One more time. Just one more time before we left. I thought to myself, “no, you don’t miss this place now but you will. So, I told myself to look out the window. Look out the window at the house, just to say goodbye. I wasn’t convinced I was going to miss the place but I told myself I would so I did. I looked out the window and I still didn’t believe myself. After...eleven years I’m still not over that. I wish I hadn’t looked. I wish that my seven year old mind had never thought to think about how I’d miss it because I looked out that window not believing it and I looked out that window telling myself I’d miss it when I didn’t understand the first thing about how much. I think about something to do with that place every day. When I was fourteen, I was able to stop counting. Ever since I moved from Florida from when I was seven to when I was fourteen I counted each day that went by thinking about how, one day we’d have spent more time living in Seattle than we will have in the place I was born. Seven years later on the night of November eighth, I didn’t have to count anymore. I didn’t know the date we moved until I looked it up, though. I guess not remembering is the worst part of all and every day I hope it hurts. I hope it hurts just a little more than it did yesterday and I hope that one day it becomes so unbearable that I’ll go numb. I don’t want the pain to fade. If it does then I’ve forgotten what it was like there because it doesn’t matter what anyone tries to tell me. I’d never be able to live in peace if I remembered those seven years and in a way that’s everything I could ask for. People like to say, home is where the heart is, right? But my heart has only ever been in the sunshine state and now that I think about it, the truth is, I would’ve much rather been murdered down here than wishing I was up here.” I focused my eyes on the glare that reflected off my glasses lens in the left eye trying to distract myself from anticipating Avery's reaction. Sometimes, I’d secretly attempt to get a glimpse of rainbow. If I looked at it long enough I’d start to see floaters and my eyes would get sore but a lot of the time, I didn’t mind it. Whatever had to happen for me to get away from the world, I was down for. I didn’t say anything to him. I should’ve but I didn’t know what. “Wow. That's depressing. I’m so sorry, you probably didn’t want to hear any of that. I’m sorry. I’m ruining this date, aren’t I?” He leaned his head against the side of the car and brought my knees up to my chest. “No, never. You can’t keep it in. that’s not good for you or anyone.” I assured him. “I guess it could be kind of  important especially if we want to get to know each other. Birds and blue skies aren’t gonna hold us over forever.” he looked down at the ground, intently. “I know it sounds like the same old sob story. Moving to a new place, being all sad about it but I guess for me, it’s still more than that.” he added. “There’s no same old when it comes to grief, though.  I know it’s not like it is in all the books and movies. Some kid moves, sulks around and by the end of the book they’ve got new friends and their past is behind them. It’s more complicated than that. things hurt us. things kills us everyday, and that right there is true. The way that we don’t have to know anything, the way that you can only hurt somebody so badly when you’re young and when you do every sense of power that it held, it just goes soon after. We look for the answer’s though because, Well, it’s because we know that in the end, the things that  have the power to tear us apart the most will be the only things that have the power of saving us. I’ve learned that you can’t live in the past. You can’t spend your whole life wishing you could go back because it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t. If we lived our whole lives as naive as we used to be, we’d never be wise enough to appreciate it. And in that case there’s no use, anyway. Everything carries a price tag. Everything. But by the end every wallet is fuller than it was before we went shopping. If you’re like me you probably know all this but I, however, don’t take my own advice. I know I should but is it that wrong to pretend that the biggest thing we’ll ever have to worry about is saving the cookie dough for when we finish the ice cream? ”   I shook my hair away from my face and inhaled.  ” “No, it’s not wrong. We’re not even eighteen. We have the rest of our lives to figure it out, Avery. You’re definitely wiser than anyone I’ve met but it’s okay to admit it. We’re still kids, and that’s fine. That’s great. We have our lives ahead of us. No one gets answers to all their questions overnight. We get them by going out and living. Like we’re doing now. Together. I know how you feel. I’m a hypocrite, too. Not only that, but I have a life’s worth of regrets.   Life is always on your heels. It’s basically what you said. We know the bad things are best for us, in the end. At the moment, it seems like it could never get worse and that your life is down the drain. That everything that we’ve ever said or done, that we can’t escape it and we can pretend it never happened but when you do you realize that’s all your life was. Is it just me or do you want to erase the past. You can’t though. You can’t and it hurts, but it’s all because of how our hardships save us.” bravely, I extended my left hand and reached for Avery’s right. He looked down and took my hand.  A tear rolled down Avery's cheek and suddenly the feeling hid away somewhere deep inside of me. “Great. I’ve officially proved myself to be a loser on our first date. It wasn’t...you...I was just thinking that you want to erase the past, and I want to go back. I want to go forward and back at the same time. Maybe if forward and back were in the same direction.” he murmured, wiping the tear from his cheek. “I guess you’re right. You really think you’re a loser, though? You should see the boys that got to my school. They think they have to be all ‘manly’ to impress the girls. The only ones they end up impressing are themselves after giving one of the players on the opposing football team a black eye.” I remarked. “Anyway, do you have any pets?” he asked.  It took me a minute to process any of what he’d just said. “Nope. no pets. I wanted a dog, pug specifically, but my parents said they were too expensive to take care of. What about you?” I answered. “We have a ragamuffin cat. It’s a rarer cat breed but we got him when he was about two months old. He was originally named muffler but obviously, it’s not a very appealing name so we tried getting him to learn murphy or muffin, neither of which worked so we figured we just had to get used to the name. Here I’ll show you a picture of him. Next year I think he’s going to be...six? six..I think. Yeah.” I looked at the picture on Avery's phone of the black cat with streaks and patches of light caramel covering his body and face. His paws and the tips of his ears would’ve to be a fair shade of white if they weren’t dipped in dry mud. Even his shaggy coat didn’t cover up how chubby Muffler was. The way his short snout was positioned could’ve been mistaken for a devious smirk, but his eyes appeared as innocent as they come. his right ear flopped over covering half of that brown right eye. The left ear was standing up and the eye was blue. “He’s adorable.” I admitted. “Yep. he’s definitely something. He’s usually on my lap when I write but I bet he’s at the hotel scratching up the wall right now. He did mine last year. He tore the paint up and I still have no idea why. We had to get a painter in.  Anyway, I think we vented plenty tonight if you ask me. What time is it?” he asked. “It’s eight. The sun should be going down soon.” I said, checking my phone. “What do you think of this place? As a writer I mean.” I glanced over at him wearily. “You can’t laugh,” he smiled. “Not a chance.” I promised.  “You sure?” he said.  “I told you. I wouldn’t dare.” I answered, my ear. “Alright, well what I think of this place is….it has a story. The fireflies they’re everywhere and the sun’s starting to go down. Picture it. For a moment, I noticed that the fireflies looked like stars when they lit up. Then, it crossed my mind that there should be more stars in the day than just the sun. so, for a moment I figured I could pretend that it was morning. Sunrise. When the sun reached the horizon it wasn’t hard to convince myself. For a minute, I started to tear up. The fireflies were the stars that stayed with us in daylight. It doesn’t seem like it but if you can convince yourself that it’s morning and the fireflies come in the morning, well, right there and in that moment...you’ll know you have everything you’ll ever need. As long as the stars never leave us, we’ll be okay, right? So, what if they didn't? When the moon finally comes up, it’s like your whole day disappeared in just a couple minutes. You think that maybe you missed sunset. Maybe it slipped out of your hands. At the end of the movie, though, you're supposed to ride off into the sunset, right? It’s the best part of the movie. It’s pretty relatable, considering sometimes we regret our goodbyes. There’s no sunset because there’s not really any good parts, is there? Deep down you know you saw that sunset. you know. Part of you is honored to feel fully understood by the universe but that part of you that knows, knows you saw the sunset. Well, that part’s kind of glad that you did because maybe just maybe we’re not quite ready for the sun to rise. Sometimes I think that maybe we have no idea what’s good for us. When we navigate in the dark, our shadows don’t follow behind us. When we dance in the dark, we lose the ability to measure daylight. All we have is the...infinity. The one we choose to believe exists. To look at something two different ways in one moment, it’s like either way the wind blows, it will, and it’ll carry everything in the universe with it because everything has to leave before it finds its way back to us because it will. Eventually, it will. That’s a lot easier said than believed, though. When life consists of more than bouncy houses and cherry picking it’s like you can’t escape it.  You can’t run from the world and never come back, like you want to. You’re stuck. At the same time, though, if you waste your life being afraid of what’s outside your door, and what may or may not ever come knocking, you’ll never leave the house. That in itself is scarier than anything. That’s how people are, though. Complicated. Sometimes, you know, you see people's eyes. You know, in a non creepy way, of course. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s pretty lonely when you realize that by the time we know what lies underneath peoples bruises, they’re scars. In a way, it’s incredible to know that there’s a world, a whole one, behind every person we see but I don’t want to say this again, in fear of it sounding dumb but,yes, my grandma, she said that.” he  stared at the sky waiting for the sunset to begin. “I wasn’t going to laugh at that. It’s beautiful.” I gave a slight smile, but the look in his eyes told me there was something beyond what I was seeing. . “You know we may be crazy but at least we’re here, right?” I smiled.  “That’s okay. We know enough about each other to be here now, don’t we? I think the sunset’s starting.” I looked up at the sky, and took a breath in. in the silence we watched the sun sail down the sky, and held each other’s hands. If we hadn’t just met I would’ve told Avery how in love with him I was. How the feeling burned a hole through my soul. I didn’t mean to overreact but I couldn’t help but feel nauseous. “I‘m really going to miss them.“ I said swallowing hard. “me too. They remind me of fate. how sometimes you fear your fate. the slits in it. But even when I do, I just look up and I know it’ll be okay, however cheesy that it. It‘s comforting, you know. We're born to write the stars. to swing from them.” I held his hand a little tighter and I felt my head spinning.  the emotion was overwhelming. I’d only known him about two weeks at this point , and I couldn’t see straight.  “You okay?” Avery asked. “Yeah, I’m fine. Are you?” I choked. “I’m great.” he swallowed, unconvincingly. When my stomach started to sink I let go of his hand but only because I thought I might throw up. I reminded myself that I was supposed to keep it together but it wasn’t much help. “Sophia, are you sure you’re okay?” he squeezed my hand, lightly. his hand was hot and shaky but soft.  It was hard to see his face in the darkness but hearing his soothing, light, airy, voice was enough.  “Yeah, I am. I should probably be getting home, though now. It’s almost ten. Get ready to meet my parents.” I sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll just come in, I'll say hi and then you can drive me home. K?” “ok, but keep it short. Maybe you’ve known me for a couple weeks now, but you’re just meeting them. Be cool.” I reminded him. “I’ll try but I can’t promise anything. Alright, let’s go.” he jumped off the back of the car, and closed the trunk after me. “. He got in the car  after me  and buckled his seat belt. I started the car, and circled around the field up and back onto the road. “Windows down?” I asked. “It’d only be right.” he laughed. “It’s not possible you want to hear me talk anymore but I just have to say that after tonight I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to deserve you. Sorry, if that sounds cheesy. I mean, I’m kind of writing a romance novel. I should know better. I’m sorry.” “What are you apologizing for? You’re….you’re really amazing, avery.” I couldn’t finish my sentence before getting double vision. I almost wondered if I should be driving. There was no one but us on the road, which should’ve been a little uncomfortable but it was a free kind of loneliness. A simple, carefree kind. If I was feeling it, that meant Avery was too. “You’re dying to say something, aren’t you?” I laughed. “No, I’m not.” he lied. “What? I’m not!” I’m not sure whether it was the wind, the laughing, or both but soon tears were streaming down his face. When we’d gotten a hold of ourselves, we got back to talking. “I’ve known you two weeks. You never don’t have something to say. You can’t convince me otherwise. I’m not your sister. I like it when you talk. Now, spit it out.” I demanded. “Fine. You know, one night a couple years ago our family went to a dark sky. Kelsey came to visit. She lives in an apartment in Miami with her boyfriend. Anyway, we were all there and my grandma had come too. My mom and dad were trying to make a fire on the other side of the field. It was kind of like this one. The point is, me and her, you know, we were alone. We looked up at the stars and it was the most incredible thing. It wasn’t what people say it is. It’s incredible because, no, it wasn’t the stars. It was her. I was fourteen and I remember it like it was yesterday. It breaks my heart every day. Knowing no words in this universe would ever do that moment justice. It broke my heart that I’d never be able to give anyone else that moment. That I’d never be able to put words to it. For me, being a writer, it’s like an itch in your ear. Her eyes had reflected the stars. It was like they lived in her. I still wonder what it’s like. She was seventy nine at the time. I hated that I didn’t know what it was like to be as old as her. I wanted to be, that old, that kind of experienced. Honestly, I still do. I want somewhere to look back on. I mean, in seventy years, when all Iis said in done I want to find peace. She would always joke about how bad it was, getting old. She knew, though. She knew that it was no curse. She would marvel over every regret. Every mistake. Every accomplishment. Because she could. She still does because now, after eighty three years of her life every memory that came to her, it’s like dreaming. and to look back? She said it was the greatest gift god had ever given her. And under those stars, she looked up and she said the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard. She started to cry and I asked her what was wrong. She laughed and she said, “never take it for granted. When you look up, what do you see?” and I told her I saw the stars. She laughed at me and said, “You think that thinking like that will make you a writer? Those are stars all right. But you can’t understand a single thing in this world before you understand them. Those stars? Even they sleep. That means they dream with us. They tether us to the universe. They burn by the light of our memories and that, right there, that’s what we live for. The truth is, memories don’t last forever. But the forgotten ones burn for us. Which is why you must never fear the memories, the world, its people, or  yourself. But as long as you live for the memories, live for the stars, they’ll live for you. And one day, you’ll lie down and be at peace. Whether or not you know the meaning of life, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you never know what you were here for. What matters is that you’re here and under the stars, me and you, tonight, we’re alive and just for a second to be alone in the universe, me and you, it’s an honor.” my grandma, she was fascinated by memories. I felt like I would never be whole until I had as many as her. Like I was half a person. I guess I still kind of do. You’ll  have to meet her one day, though.  She's amazing. One thing I do know now that I didn’t at fourteen is that it’s not about words. I wish I could describe that moment to you. I always will but I know that we don’t need words to feel alive. We only need to feel. If you have that, you’ll be okay. Her friends thought she was nuts but she told me she felt bad for them because anyone who didn’t live like they were on the verge of death was missing out.” he smiled. neither of us felt the need to say anything after that and so we didn’t. We let the night sink in like it should. and that silence was needed, for the profound depth of his words to simmer. “I know I shouldn’t talk like this and I still do. It’s like I can’t stop myself.” he laughed, and took a minute before speaking again. “I’m surprised you think that since tonight’s been the best part of my week.”  I smiled, upset by how I didn’t know how to convey my honest. “even then, it has to get old after a while.” he shrugged. “How about we make a deal. do you want to see how long we can go trying to have normal conversations? Without any philosophical, quotes or discussions.” he proposed. “only if you want to” I replied.  “you think I don’t want to? please, I’d love to stop myself. it’s a deal?” he asked. “it’s a deal.” I giggled. “ok, and do you want to meet up for lunch tomorrow then? We'll have a normal lunch date conversation about, I don’t know, Christmas movies or something?” he offered. “Ok, but I’m picking you up this time?” I suggested. He punched the steering wheel and kicked his foot. “Oh, come on. My stops aren’t that bad.” the truth is they were and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one who knew. “Oh come on. Don’t tell me you don’t know.” I teased him. ”ok, really? you really want to go there? Ok. how about you try learning with a driving instructor who has one foot in the grave. I swear, that man was back from the dead. You think he had a license? I don’t think he did. He was a century too old to drive.” the lighthearted banter took us back and forth, and it felt almost as nice as his talk of his soul searching. Could he cut back a bit? Sure. But he only wanted to be honest. I was open, but man. He lived with his heart on his sleeve. And I was no fool. Even I knew that was something incredibly rare to find. Who was I to complain? Besides, It's who he was. And it’s who I was falling for the minute I laid eyes on. It might’ve been the very reason, we had some potential. It was powerful. Anything real was dangerous, and to be honest I was more scared than I’d like to admit, but I was waiting. And I was ready when he was. After all, this is what I did. Lived on the edge. And so, when lunch came around the next day we both realized it was harder than we originally thought to keep the deal of normal conversation. I kept thinking about everything he said last night about Florida. it made me see him differently for some reason, and maybe it was because it was only sinking in, now, that he actually used to live in my house. I tried to imagine Avery as a toddler, but I couldn’t picture him ever being different than he was now. We ordered and then sat in silence waiting. “So,” he tapped his fingers on the table like he couldn’t think of anything. “now, I should ask you about this whole Christmas movies thing like I said I would, but....it seems a little early. So, I’ll just ask you what kind of movies do you like to watch in general?” he asked. “romance.” I answered quickly. “Ok, that was easy.” he smiled. “I’ll have to go with that one, too.” “really? I had no idea.” I laughed. it seemed funny to me that it was only now I realized how little skills both of us had at normal conversation. After we couldn’t stand it anymore we decided to go deeper. Only not philosophical. “here. I’ve got something.” he suggested. “I tell you a good story. Okay, so you know when I got to middle school in Seattle every kid in sixth grade got a writing tip book to keep for their whole middle school career. so you know, pretentious little me thought I was above it, right, and so I refused to use it. It was completely arrogant of me, especially since we were required to use it for all our writing assignments. Now, the teachers didn’t know I was breaking the rule but for that whole year, I thought I was better than it. Then, after some summer reflection, I realized by the beginning of seventh grade that I wouldn’t use it, but for a different reason. I realized that writing it supposed to reflect who you are, and I wanted to live by that rule, so if writing reflects who I am why wouldn’t I want it to have its flaws? and I guess some things never change because there was no way I was sacrificing my philosophy for an A. even then. in high school, we got a writing tip book too, but I tossed out the first week of freshman year. Again, it’s required for every writing assignment but I don’t want their writing rules. I might learn something from it, sure, but writing should be like life. there are some things you can‘t fix. and there are some things you’re not supposed to. Besides, writing is about what’s in your soul. It's about the entirety of your being.  not about what you find in the tip book.  I’ve been writing since I was in third grade, and it started as a school assignment, but it took off. The only writing rules I’ve followed since then, have mostly been the opposite of what they teach in school. Because at the end of the day, nothing they teach really means anything. I dread going back to those awful tip book users after this all blows over. Descriptive language doesn’t move people. Humanity does. when it all comes down to it nobody wants to hear about what‘s like or as something. people want honesty. it’s like when I went on family road trips with my family. I was six. and I still remember what it felt like to close my eyes and go down these slopes in the road and then come up from them. I always wondered when we would keep going up. when we would drive right into the sun and escape the world. because with my eyes closed it was possible. and if we could fly into the sun, we’d be alright. if we could just make it up into the sky, our lives would be flawless. they don’t teach you what that means in school. They don’t teach you that that kind of stuff even matters. Because it’s a heap of garbage without descriptive language right? Whatever, though. it doesn‘t matter. all I know is that I despise those writing tip books. They suck the life out of anyone’s writing. but that’s just me and my nonsense .Anyway, next story. so you know, people like to tell me that I can make my eyes mushy, right? Don’t know what it means. Don’t want to know. but I’ve taken it as an insult mostly. because for some reason, people who know me get this idea in there heads that I’m some innocent toddler. But, I’m here to set the record straight. I’ve done plenty of bad things. I’ve said things I’ll never be able to take back and because of that I’ve hurt people. I lost friends. I’ve made mistakes, like everyone. In fact,” he began dramatically, when I was thirteen and my friend, Walter Proveli beat me in a neighborhood basketball game, I snuck out of the house and egged his house that night. The family was this close to pressing charges. The only reason they didn’t is because my parents spent weeks convincing them, and paid for the window cleaners. Well, actually it came out of my piggy bank. Boy was that thing was empty for the next year. Needless to say, after that Walter and I didn’t talk much. Or you know, at all.  I was grounded and on chore duty for the next year and half but I’m just glad that’s over. now I may have taken art class, but let me just say, eighth grade was a bad year for me.” he paused for a minute and then went on. “and I may act like a hippie sometimes but I do know that this world, it’ll rip you to shreds just to throw you into the fire, before you’re old enough to ride a bike. some people think I don’t get it but I do. I don’t live under a rock. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about but there just...you know...speculations.” he sighed. “that wasn’t philosophical was it?” he asked. “eh. I’ll let it pass.” I replied. “ok. So then, where’s your light hearted story?” he crossed his arms and laid back in his chair. “I don’t know.” I laughed. ”I can’t think of anything. I’m not a storyteller like you. all I can think of is that stupid doll story. I mean, this is going to sound super dumb but I want to go back to that doll store one of these days. It’s right by the mall, and I had twelve of them when I was eleven, right? And I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of them and all their stuff. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. But I guess that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I mean, I haven’t been through much but I know that other people have. It makes me feel a little guilty, sometimes if that makes any sense. But, you know, I’m not the strong, and I’m okay with that, it’s just that sometimes it feels wrong. To be sitting around with my far from perfect but still pretty great life, and still hurting sometimes over small things when other people out there have lost everything.” I finished. “well, I think you need to go to that doll store to cure this, then. There's no reason you should feel guilty and it sounds like the reason you do is because you care too much about other people and not enough about yourself. so, you need to go do something for yourself. Go on a doll shopping spree.” he chuckled. “are you kidding? I would never. I can’t even walk into that store. I’ll look totally out of place. What am I supposed to do? Pretend I’m shopping for someone else?” I asked. “yeah, why not? there’s nothing weird about that.” he continued. “what are you so scared of? Aren't you about living on the edge? Not three weeks ago my life was flashing before my eyes in some tropical ‘paradise’ and now you can’t walk into a doll store?” he laughed. “I mean, I could but it’s no fun to go alone. it takes at least two people to make it out of that place alive with the amount of kids in there. Trust me. You couldn’t go alone, either.” I told him, smiling. “I thought you were a babysitter. Don’t you deal with kids all the time?” he asked. “Yeah, maybe two or three at a time. Not fifty.” I laughed. “come on. You should get it.” I pushed my hair behind my ears and went on. “it’s no fun to be in there with that many kids. And I know we’re only seventeen but you know what I mean. It makes you remember.” I shrugged it off and bit my tongue, in order to keep up the normal conversation challenge. “Yeah, I never tried babysitting. Suprise, surprise, I was too scared to do it. But I kind of like kids for that reason. I mean, like, elementary schoolers. It’s what old people say about us, but they’re absent from the world the way we can’t be.” he slammed his hand down on the table as soon as he finished saying it. ”I knew it. I knew. I knew I couldn’t control it. What is wrong with me?” he ran his hands through his hair and tossed his head back. ”It’s..it’s just...it‘s sick. I mean, it’s got to be a curse or something.” he joked. “But hey. it’s only strike one. I’ve got two more times to screw up.” he said to himself. “so, anyway. Back to the very normal, typical  conversation of ours. I should probably continue with the story that tells why I became a hopeless romantic. So, from the time I was five until I was eight, for those four years, every summer my family would go to this cabin in Colorado. the same exact cabin every time. and every single time, I’d spend most of the  Um, do you have another story, yet?” he asked. I thought about it for a minute, and then I had it. “oh, yeah. Ok. So, I don’t have very many hobbies and I never really did. Not like, a big thing, like you. Like writing. Sometimes I roller skate around the neighborhood. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the months. I went to the rink for a friend's birthday party, the beginning of last year. Since then, I don’t know. It’s just fun for me, I guess. I used to play the violin. Started in fourth grade. Everyone else at my school started in third but that year I had this weird thing going on with me. My hand was all I don’t know, messed up. That doesn’t matter, though. I joined in fourth grade and soon enough I’d memorized the different players and their different skill levels. Everyone knew Ally Zerimine was the best player. She and a couple others. Then, there were some good/average ones. Me and some kids other than them were the okay, ones who tried to pretend like we knew what we were doing so we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves. It wasn’t much use but that was okay. Last, there were the kids who, well, to put it nicely, they really put the effort into it and tried their best, but most of them...not really. They just...maybe they weren’t natural talents. I was one of the okay players but I usually just pretended like I was playing because I was always so confused. I wasn’t half bad if I practiced at home and played by myself. It was a school program and I did it all the way through eighth grade. The hardest part was playing to the speed of the group. Well, the teacher found out, the school was concerned that I’d “fall behind” when I got to the high school and made a “gentle suggestion” that I quit. Basically I was kicked out I but I moved on with my life. I guess it just wasn’t my calling. But what happened with you? The whole Florida thing, Avery. it destroyed you from the inside out. I can tell. How?” I asked sensitively. “Well, that’s a great question. I guess after we moved to Seattle I decided I wasn’t making any new friends. I was only seven, but it didn’t matter. and that went like I wanted it to for the first three or so years. But by the time I got to middle school I’d made some friends, whether I liked it or not. And so, I decided I would never put their numbers in my phone. I still had my numbers from my Florida friends but we hadn’t talked since I left. Well, they talked. I didn’t answer. Then, in high school I got a new phone. Now, I never answered those texts from those friends in Florida. But they were there. On my old phone. But not on my new one. so, when I got rid of the old phone I spent about three hours crying in my closet and keep in mind this was only two years ago. I know it‘s pathetic and it sounds even worse saying it. But it hurt. A lot. and it still does. But I’m the one who ran, right? It’s me who didn’t answer the texts. And maybe i should’ve but what different would it make? I’d still be all the way across the country. All of them would still be together like we used to be except I’d be gone and have lost time. They'd never know who I was now. They'd never really know that I turned out a writer and that I was failing math.  I still wouldn’t know who I was to them and they wouldn‘t know what they were to me? I‘d still wonder if they still think about me like I thinks about them every day and do they still miss me or have they moved on? Did those seven years mean the world to them. Or was my life’s purpose their summers day past. I don’t know. Maybe it's all dumb. but it hurts so bad and I can’t fix it. Maybe it’s wrong to think about where they are right this minute. That maybe they could be down the street, and maybe they would still feel like a lifetime away. Because maybe they are . Not once. It feels like so much is just out to get you. My point is, I’d say I understood but I hate when people say that to me. Because no one really does. Not in the way that restarts your heart. In fact, every wise word out there isn’t that wise. Thinking about other people’s pain, how they hurt, instead of you do, that doesn’t help. All it does is make you angry. Knowing that your pain is just a fraction of the rest that’s out there suddenly makes everything hard in your life feel minimized. But not in a good way. In the way, that it’s not fair that so many people are going through the same thing as you are. That your pain is the same because you have to hurt the most. You have to because your pain has to be the worst in the world. Because that’s what it seems like. And you need people to see that. You need it. And until your pain is the worst, it seems like they won’t. I mean, I still remember when the sidewalk right by your slash my house had this huge crack in it. The city was supposed to fix it, and when they did, we were going to put my name in it. You couldn’t even walk on the thing; it was so torn apart. but the city didn’t fix it, and you know, then we left. Ten years later, and tell me if I’m right or not but I bet they never fixed it did they? It's just a crack in the concrete, right?” I determined I wasn’t actually supposed to say anything, and I got the sense there was something in his voice that I hadn’t heard yet. A kind of tragic bitterness. I realized there was something one of a kind about him, then. and it was something that could’ve gone unnoticed. But Avery could do things, almost impossible to do. He could hold his words, and he could hold his silence. And maybe that made me a fall a little deeper into him. “I know what you mean about the hurt.” I started. “it’s like I said. Not a lot has happened to me in my life so, maybe it’s wrong of me to try and relate but I’m not happy, either. You know, I guess I live on the edge. Last year, I went to Italy with my friends and jumped off a 200-foot cliff into the water. It was epic, but maybe the thing about epic is that it only lasts a few seconds. And I live on the edge like everyone says because they say it’s supposed to leave you fulfilled, but I’m not happy.  And I don’t know why. Because I feel like nothing, I do will ever be enough no matter how much I want it to be. and people think I’m desperate because I’m a hopeless romantic but I’m not really. I know what I deserve. And I don’t need some guy swooping in to save the day. all I want is love. But what if that isn’t enough either? What if nothing is ever enough? What do I do, then? Because I’m scared. And it’s not enough to jump off cliffs because life is a whole lot scarier than that and nobody even told me. And I’m so mad, because I don’t know what to do and nobody even cares. I’m so hurt. And nobody does a thing. and what am I supposed to do in this world? Because I need to be creative and I don’t know how to do that but I can’t leave these worlds in my head. I need to put something into the world, somehow. I know it. I know I have to do it this way. I just don’t know how. I remember when I was seven and I went flying down this hill on my bike and I thought I was a hero for braving a cracked road. I thought the world’s greatest danger was under two tires, pink princess handlebars, and a seven-year-old girl. And I liked it that way. because nothing in this universe could’ve stopped me then. and when I was five getting all kinds of shots, I thought it was the end of the world. Everybody thinks that when those shots stop hurting you’ve learned to be brave about it, but maybe growing accustomed to the world’s pain is one of the biggest tragedies that could ever occur. Because it happens every day. it might make you strong, sure. But what if we’re not supposed to be strong?” tears started flooding my eyes and I tried my best to blink them away but they wouldn’t go. “But, whatever. it doesn’t matter.” I wiped my eyes and straightened my back. it sounded ridiculous but I didn’t know how else to say it.  “Yes, it does. It matters to you and it matters to me. Because I know what it’s like. your mind is bigger than you.” he paused and wiped his eyes too. “Besides, you admit your feelings. I learned the deeper you bury the body, the more the spirit haunts you. and we both have better things to do with our lives than run from ghosts. You'll find your passion. I can tell. But maybe we should appreciate our enemies sometimes. We’re not heroes without our villains. It's like football. You can’t win if the opposing team doesn’t lose. Maybe you, me, and the stars just need something a little more epic.” he shrugged. “You know, love is something that we’re beyond capable of feeling. It's absent to every withering description. And young love has a heartbeat of its own. it's part of life’s few immeasurable ecstasies. Now, that’s why I’m a hopeless romantic. I want someone in to hold in the dark. you know, it’s a bit of a misconception. the dark is not without light. it is only without color.”  We had sat looking at each other, but not really. We were looking in the places we took each other. The pensive tremble of the world and visceral sensation of life, slept between us. The air was thick with an unfractured silence and for a moment we were lost to the symphony of time. He knew what it was like to dream beside the epiphanies, in such pure desire of love. His smile had revealed a set of dimples, marking the edges of his mouth that illuminated the wondering, even in Avery, everything he didn’t know, that seemed to evade his reach. I could see in his eyes that he hurt, though, and I had a feeling he knew that somehow, the reverse button always left him in the same place. The one he was always worse off in. but I also had a feeling he knew that when every day was a gravity defying feat, he was a living victory. And in that thought, in that waking dream, in each other, we both found sleep. his eyes went soft and a cloud of innocence shadowed the green in his eyes I wanted him to hold me in his arms, and I wanted to be fragile with him. I wanted to wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him. I wanted to break apart like porcelain, in our honesty and grow together like bean stocks from our fallen tears. And one day, I vowed to. Because it was our destiny. I’d rather throw myself to the wolves than walk away from him. Because he wanted it to. And after every flavored note of music, we waited for the piano strings to snap. We waited for the right moment. But destiny moved on its own time. and so, did, music.    

The author's comments:

thanks for reading, everybody! I appreciate it. 

Chapter 3:  

He was set to leave in four days. We didn’t talk about what we were going to do. All I knew was that I wasn’t ready for him to go. A couple days ago on the phone he said to have forever would be to exhaust it’s purpose. He was right, but I didn’t care. He promised to call every day but I wondered if that would be enough. We’d spent the last couple of days fantasizing about summer break. Both of us refused to believe it was only a month ago. The topic of college came up too. And it went interestingly enough, to say the least. “But seriously, let's talk about college. Did you apply anywhere yet?” I asked, walking home from school, my phone in hand. “You go first.” he insisted. “I already told you. I applied to USF a couple days ago, and I’m going to apply to some colleges out of state, too. It's like I said. I don’t know what I want to do yet.” I finished. “Now it’s your turn.” I told him. “Ok, but what do you want me to say? I haven’t applied anywhere yet. My parents want me to go to some small university in Washington, but I haven’t decided if I’m even going to college yet. I might just....I don’t know. Why should I go, right? I’m going to be a romance novelist. It’s not like I want to sit a poorly ventilated office building eight hours, five days a week. Are you kidding? That'd about kill me.” he laughed. I tried to process it for a minute, and the only thing I could think to say was “Oh.” the silence that would follow might’ve been one of the most awkward I’d ever experienced. I know I should’ve said something better but I didn’t know what that would be. I didn’t know if I should care about it, so I didn’t know what to say. And I knew I cared about Avery, but I didn’t know what we were. I was slightly annoyed with Avery, at this point. He acted like he liked me, and like he knew I liked him back but he didn’t do anything about it. I supposed I could’ve been the one to make a move, but how would he react? Maybe it was that secretive look in his eye. The one that kept haunting me for reasons I didn’t know. His eyes held a corroded strength. A war that left him with the pieces of his heart glued back together indefinitely. And maybe I was actually mad at myself for his pain and the way I couldn’t fix it. The way he wouldn’t let me in to. He blocked off a piece of his heart from seeing the light of day. I didn’t know why that would be, but I guess even people like Avery had secrets. It might’ve been more convincing had I ever known anyone like him, but no. I had not, nor might I ever. I had to admit. I was worried about his college situation. Maybe no one had warned him about the danger of no college diploma. I believed he could make it as a romance writer, it’s not like I doubted that, but maybe he wasn’t aware that the world would rip him to shreds first. I wasn’t trying to crush his dreams, and I wouldn’t ever dare to say anything. So, I tried to forget about him, and his leaving, and the stars. I was surprised we’d managed to keep our competition up this long but I kind of missed the way he talked. but that was okay for now, though. We'd both been busy thinking about more important things. I spent my nights wondering what kind of show we would put on for the stars. What we could do. and maybe it was all in my head, maybe I was making it all up from the very beginning but I could’ve sworn I saw it in his eyes, too. I could see it. The ideas were spinning in our heads just like stars. Maybe we could help them go out with a bang. After all, it was like Avery said. Love was their thing. And when Wednesday morning came, I could feel the air was different. Denser. Since I had to go to school, and Avery's flight left at 7:00 that morning, we had to agree to meet at 5:30. The sun hadn’t come up, and raindrops started to cover my window on my way over. I’d always loved it when it rained. Especially at night. It was something to fall asleep to. And you knew that even if you laid awake the whole night, unable to sleep, even when your lamp went off and you were left in the dark, you weren‘t alone. And you wouldn’t be alone, a single hour of the night.  no matter how dark it got. Something rained in Avery's eyes down onto me, and I didn’t know exactly what it was. And I’d tried not think about his leaving for the last couple of days but now it was right before me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about his leaving, and I didn’t know what I did, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. I wasn’t leaving that boy. Not those eyes. Not him. not now. if he left I might never get to see those green eyes again. And I’d never see that face. And those thick red glasses. And his crooked teeth. And his ripe red near bleeding heart. And his incredible mind. I couldn’t lose that. I couldn’t let go. Not if I was the bravest person, on this earth and not if I was the dumbest. Because he was someone who deserved the stars. And we might’ve very well been the only people who could save them. It wasn’t to leave for fate any longer. I parked in the hotel parking lot and slammed the car door, forgetting about any kind of umbrella. I didn’t care if I got wet, At this point; it didn’t even cross my mind. I found him leaning against the front of the building. The rain didn’t seem to bother him, either. “You’re early.” he smiled.  “The sun isn’t even out yet.”  his eyes curtained a visceral sadness at his words and I knew he didn’t want him to leave either. “The stars are.” as soon as the words escaped my lips I felt more alive than I ever did. I watched almost eighteen years of my of tears, and laughter flash before my eyes.  and it was more thrilling than Italy’s cliffs. And I knew why. It was because there was a  time to be had with me and him. And a time, it would be. We didn’t know it, then, and still we were terrified. But some things were worth it. And one thing we knew was that despite whatever might happen, we’d be idiots to fight destiny. Slowly, we walked toward each other and I wrapped my arms around his neck, pressing his lips to mine. The rain fell like music notes. my heart stopped beating and it had to be the most exhilarating moment of my life. I couldn’t lie. In that moment, I hoped that in three thousand years we’d dance through every shadowed dream. I wanted to breathe his peace. I wanted to stop time and I wanted to hold him forever. I wanted to kiss him for the rest of my life and I wanted to die staring into his eyes. Because we might’ve been just powerful enough to save the stars.  I wanted to rock the daffodils to sleep and  when we  did I wanted them to  dream like visionaries. I felt Avery's tender hand on my cheek and I leaned into his body, my eyes closed. Neither of us pulled away for another thirty seconds and when it did end we were still breathless. “I guess it was about time, then, don’t you think?” I smiled, inches from his face. “Yeah, on day one. I thought I was waiting on you.” he blushed. “I guess I was thinking the opposite.” I laughed. “Doesn’t matter.” he shrugged. “Only this does.” he wrapped his hands around my waist and again, we kissed. Eventually, we stepped apart and looked at each other. In a different way now, of course. A better way.



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