July 29, 2016 by Lyn
This story takes place just before Year Three of the Addergoole School.
The night was warm, the crickets loud, and the creek between their houses nearly dry. Mabina and Eric cuddled under the shade of a giant maple tree, kissing each other with an urgency that was more desperation than arousal.
“I won’t go,” she declared, even though she knew that was ridiculous. “I’ll… I’ll run away with you. I can hide out for a little while, just a month, and then I’ll be eighteen. I’ll get a job, wait tables or something.”
And college? the little voice in her head whispered. Not to mention your father would never forgive you. She dismissed the voice. She knew she was being silly; at the moment, she just didn’t care.
Eric, wise enough not to contradict her, just kissed her back. “I can take care of you,” he murmured. “I can get more hours at the garage. Talk to my dad about that second job. We can get married just after your birthday, and you won’t have to worry about anything.
And that was why she wasn’t staying. She was angry enough at her father to be long gone before she calmed down and regretted it. She wasn’t really sure she was ready for college, and a break from school might not be bad. But she’d met Eric’s mother, and the happy housewife to a hardworking mechanic really wasn’t a life she was cut out for. And marriage? She liked Eric, but marriage was forever (Or until divorce, but her father’s brilliant luck in that regard had convinced her that once was going to be it). She knew she wasn’t ready for “forever.”
“My father will never let me get away with it.” It was the safe excuse, after all, and probably true. There were very few places she could hide where Dad couldn’t find her; he had a knack for it. “So I suppose we had better make the time we have left count.”
He frowned at her, looking more than a little disappointed. “He can’t tell you what to do.”
“Of course he can,” she answered, wishing he’d get back to the matter at hand – under his hands, to be specific – and stop fretting about fantasy futures that couldn’t be. “He’s my father. He holds the checkbook.”
“I suppose.” He looked as if he wanted to fight about it some more, so she kissed him. It had proven, over the last few months, to be an effective method of shutting him up.
“You’ll keep in touch, right?” he asked, some time later.
“No,” she teased him, “I’m going to go away and you’ll never see me again. Of course I’ll keep in touch, you goofball. But you have to do the same. Write me. Send me e-mails. Send me chocolate!”
He laughed. “I suppose you want roses, too?”
“A dozen every Monday, of course,” she grinned. It didn’t really matter; he’d write once or twice and then stop. Eric wasn’t the most tenacious of guys – and, besides, the blonde down the street had been trying for him since they were all fifteen.
She hugged him suddenly and fiercely, hating the idea of him with Kate.
“I mean it,” she told him. “Write to me. Every week.”
“He will.” They both jumped, and Mabina glared accusingly at her father. He usually couldn’t find her this close to the creek, but there he was, looking all fatherly and authoritarian and tall. “It’s just about time, Mabina.”
“Ten more minutes?”
She knew better to argue with that tone, especially when he was walking away already. She checked her watch and turned her attention back to Eric.
“I will write, you know, even without your father threatening me.”
There was nothing helpful to say to that, and not enough time, now, for a proper good-bye, so she settled for kissing him. Christmas vacation would be here before they knew it, after all.
“Cass, you throw the best parties.”
Teresa was a little drunk, so a wise man would take her affection with a grain of salt and a shaker of caution, but Cassidy was feeling not so wise and not quite sober, so he turned around and kissed her full-on. She tasted like beer and strawberry lip gloss and a little like her boyfriend Jack, who was standing right behind him at the time.
Luckily, he wasn’t drunk enough to forget how to duck and, as a matter of fact, he could still do so without spilling his drink. He came up laughing in Jack’s dumb face, laughing loud enough that Teresa joined in. “Come on, Jack, it’s all in fun.”
Jack gave in with good grace, which was fortuitous, because Cassidy really enjoyed his nose being where it was, and the girls all seemed to like it, too. “Good party, Cass.”
“Of course, of course.” Throwing good parties was what he was known for, a situation helped by the house his… “father” and mother had bought, far enough from the neighbors that noise wasn’t a concern, with the big fire pit overlooking the lake and a thin line of beach at the bottom of the cliff. It was a nice thing to be known for, and one more reason to hate “Uncle” Cormack and his fucking finishing school.
Yep, he was getting somewhere past buzzed. He finished his drink and began making a circuit of the party. He’d better get this done before he lost his nerve, or before he got too drunk to gauge it right. Wouldn’t that be ironic? At least he’d probably get to skip out on the finishing school, then… if he survived.
He kissed another girl – Lydia; he’d been wanting to kiss her since fifth grade. She tasted sweet and perfect, and he thought about just talking her into a secluded corner, and forgetting about this crazy plan. He’d be gone tomorrow one way or the other.
But real life didn’t work like that, and he didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who’d made a drunken pass at the cutest girl in school and failed. So he kissed her once and walked away like it had been his plan all along. He glad-handed, laughed, punched shoulders, and made dramatically overdone passes until he reached his destination.
He stepped up onto a big boulder right by the cliff, facing the gathered crowd, hoping it seemed as spontaneous as he wanted it to. He’d known most of these people since kindergarten; they knew he was a clown and a show-off. They were waiting for him to do something funny. He raised his plastic toast in salute, and someone turned down the music. Jerry. He could always rely on Jerry for his sense of the dramatic.
“Ladies, gents, and those we’re still not sure of,” he greeted them, and got a few titters in response. That was okay; he wasn’t trying for funny right now.
“It’s been a long ride, and it’s been fun. We’ve had some great times together, and I was looking forward to great times head. Our senior year is coming, and it’s going to be crazy fun.
“I hope you all enjoy it. And I hope, when you’re puking your guts out on a Saturday night, when you’re laying on your back staring at the stars, you think of me.”
This was the hard part, making this come off properly, without sounding like a drama queen. He made a wide sweeping gesture with his cup. “Think of me, and get a little more drunk on my behalf. Because, my friends, this is goodbye.” He made as if to drink, glad the cup was already empty, and tossed it aside, turned, and jumped into the water below.
Behind him, people yelled and whooped and gasped, and their shouts followed him down. He had a bad moment, about halfway down, when he wondered if he’d gotten it right. The wrong spot would mean broken legs at best – not the way to start a new school.
But then he hit the water, sank like a stone, and was kicking back up to the surface before he had a chance to panic. He rolled onto his back, and, backstroking casually, waved to the people at the top of the cliff.
They were laughing, some in appreciation of the stunt, some just relieved he wasn’t dead, some, no doubt, at his fool-headedness, but they were all laughing… and they would never forget that moment. Score.