By Christian Laforet
The girl picked up the boy in her parents car. It was a cream coloured Dynasty with a deep red interior (classy). Their destination was Jackson Park. Being fairly anti-social people, the boy and girl had decided the best way to spend New Year’s Eve was together, away from the crowds (This was probably more for the boy’s benefit, but hey, whatever worked).
They’d known each other since grade school, and had even dated for a time back then. It wasn’t serious though and had quietly transitioned into just being friends. Back then they were in the same class and lived very close to each other; just a quick two block jaunt up the street (or down it, depending on who you asked) away. Riding bikes, going for walks, or just hanging out in the girl’s garage were staples of their activities.
Things changed when they hit high school though. The girl decided to go to the same school as her brothers before her, while the boy felt it would be better to follow most of his grade school chums and go to the closer option. They still talked on the phone… a lot, but the physical presence was gone.
The boy grew more introverted as time passed. It wasn’t a concern for him as he was rather lazy and found doing things like going outside and having friends, tiring. Though, every night he would get a call from the girl. Their conversations were more like marathons; sometimes going on for hours. Topics usually revolved around typical teen drama (although, back then, it didn’t feel all that typical).
After high school their relationship morphed again. The girl, being of above average intelligence, had not only skipped a grade (the boy didn’t even think that was possible anymore), but was going to go to university. The boy, being slightly dense and lacking any and all ambition, was content to hang out and play video games until his mom wised up and made him get a job.
With bags packed and a long goodbye (via phone), the girl headed for Waterloo, the land of promise. In hindsight, it seemed pretty obvious that they would fall out of friendship with each other during this period. They still talked from time-to-time, but their worlds had separated and the view had become unrecognizable from their prospective pieces of land.
Just when it seemed that it was the close of an era for them, school ended for the year and the girl returned home for the summer. A year is a long time in the wacky world of teenagers, and that year had been especially transformative. The girl had spent that time going to school (in a whole different city!) and living on her own (in a whole different city!), while the boy had begun a long and illustrious career in the world of grocery.
As soon as she got back, she wanted to reconnect. The boy was unsure of this, but putting on all manner of false confidence, eagerly agreed. A pleasant day at the river was the result. It was a goodtime until a small bug flew into the boy’s mouth. The boy had been made aware of two undeniable truths that day. The first being that small bugs leave and almost minty after taste, the second, was that the girl had changed while she was away. She had always been a pretty girl (way out of his league) but he had never really seen her as something more than a friend. Now, whew, she was like some sort of exotic animal with the unexpected power to intoxicate all those within her sphere.
The phone calls started back up in earnest and they even met up a few more times over the summer (always with much resistance from the boy). It was great, their friendship was back on track and now there was this new, previously undiscovered element to ponder as well. Things were looking up. Then the girl went back to school.
The boy was concerned that she would pull another disappearing act once back with the big kids in Waterloo. He couldn’t blame her if she did, it’s just… he really felt like he was going to miss out on something important (he wasn’t really sure just what the hell that something was, but damn it, he recognized it exited). It wasn’t all that bad though, apparently the boy had made a good impression on the girl over the summer because this time, she stayed in-touch.
His job and her school made short work of the next four months. The girl informed the boy that she would be home for the holidays and that they should do something for New Year’s Eve.
Jackson Park was delightfully quite. The boy figured it was a tad too tame for the boisterous folks looking to bring in the new year from the inside of a packed bar. The solitude was perfect for him though. His social awkwardness had become a mania of sorts. He recognized that had it not been for her insistence, he would be spending the night in his room, blissfully ignorant of the world racing by outside his four walls. The boy couldn’t deny that the girl had been instrumental in digging new lengths for his life to flow through.
The girl talked about school and friends. She did not dominate the conversation, but she definitely held the majority of its stock. The boy was quiet but added a comment or an agreeing head nod whenever one was needed.
Even with his ever present resistance, he was thrilled to be so close to her. The girl emanated electricity, it roiled in the air, he felt its arc through his whole body.
Their meandering brought them to a bench. It was large enough to accommodate four people, but that didn’t stop the girl from sitting right next to him. It was the closest they had ever been as adults and it left the boy feeling awkward. Sucking in his belly as much as possible, he played it cool. After a quick check of his watch, he announced that the year was set to end in one minute.
With the seconds ticking, the conversation stopped. There was nothing more to say, the future was coming like a runaway train whether he wanted it to or not. The girl saw it as an opportunity to grab on and let it take her where it would. The boy was content with getting out of the way.
The boy’s mind played through the scenarios. There was really only two possible paths to take. Either kiss her or don’t. He could tell from her body language that she hoped for the former but expected the latter. Years of laying-low had left the boy with a nagging, mentally induced, conjoined twin which always told him that it was better to do nothing, than something. In a nasal filled voice, it chastised the boy for even considering something as risky as a kiss.
Could he do it? What if the boy could look ahead in time? What if he could see all the moments his lips would press against hers? What if he could suddenly know that one day her lips would be as familiar as his own? Would that have helped push him forward? He could do it, couldn’t he? How easy a thing, to kiss somebody.
Sixty seconds later, the boy found himself staring the girl in the eyes. With a smile that was anything but sincere, he wished her a happy new year then stood up and stretched.
They started talking again and resumed their walk through the park. The boy kicked himself for the missed opportunity.
She drove him home and he spent the rest of the night wallowing in regret. He hoped like hell one day he would get the chance again. He swore he would not waste it.
The kids were sound asleep. They were still too young to know, or care, about the dawn of a new year. And why should they? Clocks and calendars are grown-up inventions.
The boy rarely stayed up anymore on New Year’s Eve. But this year he did. Quietly – can’t wake the babes – the boy crept into his bedroom and rubbed a hand along the raised lump under the bedding. In a sleepy voice, the girl asked what he was doing. With a smile, the boy leaned over and kissed the girl (so what if it was fifteen years late). “I owed you one”, he said. The girl mumbled a response which segued into a soft snoring. With a smile, the boy prepared for bed.
Christian Laforet is the author of the short horror collection, The Space Between Houses and co-founder of Adventure Worlds.
The Space Between Houses is available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Space-Between-Houses-Christian-Laforet-ebook/dp/B00P5N8TRS/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420681234&sr=1-2&keywords=the+space+between+houses