Miles to Go

Chapter 3: Him

It was a cold night, the kind of night where the air you breathed hurt your lungs, and the air you released came out white instead of clear. It was the kind of cold that went all the way to your bones, and left you trembling in its wake.
I breathed in deeply and held the air there, but when the air left a bitter taste on my tongue, I let it out quickly, wondering why it tasted so… empty.
But it seemed appropriate, for some reason, that the air should taste empty on a night such as this one.
My gaze moved up to the moon just as it hid behind the clouds, and smiled grimly to myself as the empty beach darkened, and leaned against the white wooden fence.
Suddenly, the kitchen’s light in my neighbor’s house turned on, and I glanced over, brow furrowed.
Had someone moved in? When? Hadn’t the house just been lifeless this morning? Someone walked past the window then, a girl, going by the shadowed silhouette.
My body turned to the house of its own accord, and the cold that washed over me then seemed a thousand times worse than the night air.
I stumbled back a step, keeping my eyes on the girl’s form hidden behind the white curtains before shaking my head and jumping the fence, landing unsteadily on the soft white sand.
And before the cold could touch me again, I turned, hands tucked in the pockets of my jeans, and quickly walked away, cowardly as it seemed.
Whoever lived in that house… there wasn’t something right with them.
I scoffed, the only sound besides the waves crashing against the shore, realizing how utterly ridiculous I sounded. Something wasn’t right with them?
As if I should be the one to talk. There wasn’t something right with me.
By the time I made it back to the house, my neighbor’s lights had been turned off, and the house was silently lifeless yet again, or so it appeared. Someone was having a bad dream in the house, in the attic it seemed.
Not my problem, I thought as I took a seat against my fence on the soft sand, on the corner further away from the cold house and closer to my other neighbor’s house, from whom there was always warmth.
The Wilsons had lived next to us for as long as I remembered, and they had to be the most loving family I’d ever met. However, whenever they fought, rare as it was, it seemed all the more unbearable because of the love they had for each other.
My narrowed eyes moved to my own house then, where my family noiselessly slept, unaware of my absence.
And, as a sigh escaped me, I tilted my head back, resting it against the wood, and closed my eyes.

The next morning, I awoke to a bright shining sun and cursed, scrambling to my feet and jumping over the fence into my backyard as I patted my pockets for my phone which was most likely downstairs in my room, beeping annoyingly in vain to try and wake me up.
I paused outside, listening to the sound of my mother cooking. When I was sure it was just her inside, I slowly slid open the glass door and pushed the curtains aside, stepping inside.
“He’s in the bathroom,” she said without turning to me, “I distracted him as much as I could. I suggest you get downstairs and turn off your alarm.”
I nodded, muttering a thank you as I snuck down the stairs into the furnished basement which I used as my room.
Going to my bed, I picked up my phone, dismissing the alarm before collapsing on my bed.
Five minutes later, I forced myself up with a groan and trudged to the bathroom, grabbing clothes on my way in.
Once I’d brushed my teeth, showered, and dressed, I came back into the room, hitting the play button on the stereo as I glanced at the bright blue lights that read the time.
I’d already missed the first two periods of the day… it seemed rather pointless going to school now. Besides, it wasn’t like I was cutting often—it was a one-time thing. Did it really matter if I didn’t go for one day?
Not really, I decided as I took a seat on my bed and fell backwards, staring up at the ceiling.
Okay, so I’d decided to be reckless for a day… what now?
All my life, I’d been the responsible one, the one that was always collected. And I was so fed up of it. I wanted to know what it was to be reckless. I wanted to know what it was, being—
“You’re not going to school?” a feminine voice asked. My mother descended the stairs then, her thin arms crossed across her chest.
“No point. I’m already late.”
She nodded. “Right. Where… where were you last night?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. Out.”
“The beach?”
“Did you forget your phone?”
“Yeah,” I said again, moving my gaze to her. She was a stunning woman, tall and skinny with almond shaped eyes, she screamed confidence, especially with the way she stood, spine straight, shoulders back.
“Do you plan on giving me something more than one word responses?”
I sighed. “I’m just tired.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” I said, the lie slipping from my lips easily as I smiled. “Fine.”
“Alright,” she agreed suspiciously, eyes slightly narrowed. “I’ll tell your father you weren’t feeling well.”
She nodded briskly and turned, quickly going up the stairs again, her heels clicking against the wooden surface.
I could feel the irritation rolling off her in waves and sighed, running a hand through my still wet blond curls.
And again, I questioned: what now?

I wasted the day listening to my music and watching TV when I was bored enough and doing absolutely nothing. What the appeal of this was, I was certain I’d never know.
But somehow, I’d torturously made it through the day and half the night until everyone had fallen asleep, and ended up at the one place where I wasn’t bored.
I’d been situated on the beach, the fence my backrest, my legs crossed with my hands playing with the sand when the kitchen lights in my neighbor’s house flickered on again.
And they’d stayed on for, I glanced at my phone, forty minutes now.
The girl was still seated on her kitchen counter, looking bored out of her mind, as she’d been since she’d come in, gotten some water, and taken her seat after pulling open the curtains.
She was too far for me to see her face, or anything really besides her reddish brown hair that had been thrown in a messy ponytail and the white tank top and black shorts she wore with white socks.
Her hands clutched the edge of the counter, and her right foot kept twitching, like she was using all the self restraint she had to keep it from swinging back and forth. Every several minutes, she’d flex her hands, or brush her straight hair out of her face, all without showing even the slightest sign of emotion.
Had it not been for those few infrequent movements, she could’ve been mistaken for a statue.
And then, suddenly, she pushed herself off the counter and headed out the door into the backyard.
She stopped just outside, rubbing her eyes with one hand as she quietly slid the door shut with the other. When her hands dropped to her sides, she shoved her hand in her pocket, pulling out a cigarette and a lighter.
Scoffing at her disgusting habit, I turned to face the ocean, and continued playing with the sand at my feet from my spot hidden from her view.

She never went back inside. Instead, she stayed outside for sunrise, seated just by the door, an unlit cigarette usually in hand.
And, as annoying as it was, at least she wasn’t on the beach. As long as she stayed in her backyard, a safe distance away, I couldn’t care less.
And while she sat thoughtlessly by her door, I stayed at the edge of my fence closer to the Wilsons’ house, and stared out at the ocean.
I suppose it could be surprising, my fascination with the ocean. But it was so… It let me be—something people never seemed to do with their animated emotions that were just so easy to read. The ocean, angry or serene, kept its mood to itself and didn’t leak into me, drowning me with its feelings.
That was the thing with water. It was always just… there. And it had a way with establishing a mood without forcing you to feel anything.
People, on the other hand, had a tendency to constantly believe that if they were miserable, you had to be too. How else could they feel better?
Pathetic, really.
Hearing the girl shift, I glanced over and saw her get to her feet, the sky’s pinks and purples coloring her ethereal. And, after staring at the sky for a moment, she turned to go inside, glancing once behind her shoulder in a way that almost seemed longing when it clearly wasn’t.
It was one thing I’d noticed about her throughout the night. Her body displayed apathy perfectly, but at the same time, it was all that betrayed her. The way her fingers would twitch when her hand sat at her knee, or how the more still she sat, the more her body flinched in retaliation.
I’d reached the conclusion that she was either a serious addict, or she just enjoyed pretending to be in control of herself when she wasn’t.
I was betting my money on the latter. No serious addict would waste their money on cigarettes, which, going by the four she’d smoked and fifth she’d kept in her hand, was a lot.
Twenty minutes later, my cell phone went off, indicating that it was time to “wake up.”
And, bidding the ocean a silent goodbye, I woke up, already dreading the day ahead of me.
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