Dylan’s eyes twinkle with mischief as he gazes at me. We are out back in the garage, of course, our own slacker’s paradise. He passes me the joint and I inhale just a little although I’m not very good.
“Deeper, Holly,” he says, gently pulling the joint out from between my fingers. “You’ve got to take it into your lungs and hold it there.” Dylan places the small misshapen joint between his lips and breathes deeply. Little smoke escapes while he holds his breath – his face goes red, but he doesn’t cough. He’s like an old pro at this and as he tries to pass the joint back to me, I push his hand away. I don’t want it anymore. It’s not the reason why I come to the garage anyhow. I come here to be with him, but he’s not aware of that. Not yet at least.
I shift my weight on the worn out plaid recliner. It came out of his grandmother’s house before his mom got remarried to Mr Asshole. Dylan sits on an old army trunk toking on his spliff. He seems happier than usual today.
“What’s up with you?” I scuff my converse sneakers across the concrete floor and play with the tiny frayed threads of my jeans. My dad’s girlfriend would be pissed that I ripped the knee out of another pair of jeans, but I hated her anyhow.
“I got a text from my brother.” Dylan’s eyes are alight with happiness. “He’s out for good in another few weeks. He says I can live with him. How cool is that?” He’s practically tapping his feet with wild abandonment.
I didn’t know a lot about Dylan’s brother. He had been a lot older than us when we were kids, but I knew he had joined the army to escape Mr Asshole. That hadn’t been good for Dylan, who then became the focal point of Mr Asshole’s anger. We’d been ten at the time, that’s when Dylan started to flee to the garage. And that’s when I had, too. That had been six years ago. And here we are, the same, but not.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with him.
“Oh yeah?” I don’t have a better reply and the shock is slowing working its way through my system. He’s leaving. I can feel the pain in my stomach and it threatens to call up the tears, but I won’t let it. I’ve learned how to mask the pain so instead I toss my inky black hair over my shoulder and look at the chipped purple nail polish on my fingernails.
“What?” There’s a slight edge in his voice.
I gaze at him for a minute. My eye follows the edge of his spiky hair and continues to travel down past his vivid blue eyes, the smattering of freckles on his nose, and further still down his face to where his frown sits ugly on his chin. He isn’t classically handsome – boyish would be a better description. Tall and boyish and immature, but mine. At least he was until two minutes ago.
“Nothing.” I look away from him.
I stare around the garage and look at all the things that have been collected in our private little space. Dylan’s brother’s old ‘80s band posters that Dylan put up, boxes of old car parts, a workout bench that no one ever uses, and more cans of paint than any one garage should have. Still, I like the smell of the place and the comfort of being here with Dylan in the dim, dirty light filtering through the broken window pane. It feels like home.
“No, it’s not nothing. What’s the matter?” he asks. Dylan stubs out the joint in a hideously orange ashtray and gets up from his perch on the army trunk, sauntering over to me.
I can’t handle my emotions. It’s all high highs and low lows and right now I feel low, but not catatonic. It’s a frenetic sorrow that I know he won’t understand because I’m just a stupid girl. A stupid teenage girl in love with her best friend who can’t even see her. It’s pathetic. I look down at the silver rings on my fingers, chewing on the ridge of my thumbnail.
“Holly, stop,” he says angrily as he rips my thumb out of my mouth. He can get like that sometimes – gentle one moment, furious the next. He holds my wrist and yanks me to my feet. I feel awkward and panicky and refuse to look him in the eye. It just makes him more frustrated and he transfers his hold from my wrist to my shoulders, but it doesn’t hurt. Yet, the damn tears still come.
“Aww, come on, for fuck’s sake, what is the problem already?” he asks. And then it’s like a light bulb goes off and he changes, his ire fading away with each passing second. He looks crestfallen, perhaps apprehensive. “Did I hurt you?” He takes my wrist in his hand and rubs it between his palms. “Tell me.” Concern flits across his face, but it’s more than that. He looks scared.
I want to rip my hand out of his and be petulant. I can feel the hormones kick in, and I want to hurt him, but love him at the same time. I want him to feel what I feel, but don’t know how to make him. It all seems so futile, but he’s looking at me. His eyes are so blue and round and nervous and I can’t help what I do. I place my hands on his shoulders and kiss him. Tentatively.
Dylan turns his head aside. A simple, small movement that has big consequences. My kiss lands awkwardly on the side of his mouth and I am horrified. Whether he means to or not, he has spurned me and my heart crashes to the floor and splinters into a hundred fragile pieces. A sob twists out of my chest, startling him.
“Wait!” he says as I stumble towards the garage door, but I don’t listen. I have to get out. I wrench the door open and escape out into the bright sunshine, slamming the door behind me.
* * *