by Kathryn Silver-Hajo
The cutest kid in sixth grade, with his freckled face and aquamarine eyes, asked me to meet him at midnight on his front porch, when no one else would be around.
10:30 pm exactly. Snores and snorts from my parents’ room down the hall. Thank God they sleep early. For another whole hour I have to lie in my bed quiet as a lizard, listening to my folding travel clock tick, tick, tick. I’m wide awake since I guzzled a can of Coke before bed and I can almost feel him squeezing my hand, asking me to go steady, giving me a ring he made from bark with his own double-jointed fingers. I saw him stripping wood with a pen knife, twisting it into a voodoo doll after a game of spin-the-bottle under the mango tree in the overgrown lot that’s full of three-foot grasses and three-inch grasshoppers that stick to your pants like leeches. He gave the doll to Chrissie for being the best kisser, and my cheeks got hot thinking how Chrissie cheated on her math test by looking at my paper and then got me in trouble. Well, haha Chrissie. If you could only see me now.
11:30 pm. I imagine his peanut-butter-and-jelly breath on my face when he says thanks for coming, his smile pinching a dimple into his left cheek. I pull on the rainbow-colored t-shirt and jean short-shorts I hid under the bed so Mom wouldn’t see them, sneak down the corridor and downstairs on tabby-cat feet, scared they’ll hear my heart that’s thumping like a tom-tom. I slip out the back door. Humid. It’s always humid in West Palm. I smell Hibiscus flowers, chlorine from the neighbor’s pool. Something shrieks, and hairs I didn’t know I had stand up on my neck. Just an owl, I realize when its wings slap the Spanish moss that hangs down from the trees, upside-down ghouls in the darkness.
11:44 pm. South Olive is usually pretty busy, but mostly quiet on weeknights like now. Still, I stay towards the edge of the sidewalk closest to houses. It should only be ten minutes, if I run. But I’d stink of sweat by the time I got there, so I fast walk instead, wishing I’d snuck some of Mom’s deodorant. Wishing my heart would settle down. With only five more blocks to go, headlights flash right at me from a side street. I jump behind a palm tree, sure the driver saw me. What if he kidnaps me, chops me up and dumps my pieces in the Everglades for the alligators, like some kids at school swear they heard on the news? But the car passes and I wait for the red taillights to disappear and my fingers to stop throbbing before I slow-trot the rest of the way.
When I get to his street, it’s black as tar on the beach after an oil spill. No porch lights, no street lights, just a firefly sparking, sparking. Finally, I find number Twenty-Seven, tiptoe up to the empty porch, thinking I’m either too early or too late. My Timex says 11:58, so I slide down, lean against the railing, tell my breath to slow down, rub my underarms and wipe the sweat off on my shorts.
12:01 am. There’s a shush shush-ing next to the porch and I pull my knees up to my chest. Is it him? But it’s followed by the yowl of a “horny tom cat,” like my stepdad says when he thinks I can’t hear.
12:11 am. The air feels cooler now and my skin is clammy. My heartbeat is back to dull thumps and my belly is achy.
12:18 am. Did he forget? Maybe he mixed up the day. Or couldn’t stay awake the way I did. Maybe he is awake, grinning like he thinks he’s the coolest kid in town.
12:21 am. I ghost-walk back to the street, the night air smelling nasty now, like rotten water or eggs. The tree frogs and crickets are so loud, it sounds like they’re laughing. What will I do when I see him in class? Act like everything is fine, like I didn’t really run through the dark night for the chance to look into those cool blue eyes at all, that I’m not the kind of girl who would ever fall for something like that.
Kathryn Silver-Hajo writes short fiction, long fiction, and poetry. Her stories and poems appear or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Ellipsis Zine, Unbroken Journal, Six Sentences, The Drabble, The Ekphrastic Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary and Art Journal. Read Kathryn’s work at www.kathrynsilverhajo.com and follow her on Twitter: @KSilverHajo