Elaine pushed a row of books over with a satisfying thwack.
“I have a question for Mr.Galen” she stated, meeting two green eyes on the other side of the bookshelf. “A very serious question”
The green eyes crinkled, and a laugh escaped.
“really? I’m sure he’ll be surprised” The boy said, sarcasm dripping from his tone.
“this time, it’s truly serious Christopher” she snapped, defiantly wiping the dust from her fingers.
The boy’s black hair swung over his eyes, clear suspicion on his face.
“last time you asked Galen if he knew how to loot excavation sites” Christopher scoffed. “And apparently that question was ‘serious and time-sensitive’”
“it was” Elaine insisted, a certain sadness falling over her. She curved her finger through the dust on a book title.
“I guess if you think so”
“Just give me the keys already” Elaine sighed, tilting her head with a bored roll of the eyes. If Chris wasn’t beyond her grasp, she would have shoved him by now for making her wait.
“if you’re really serious, come and get them yourself” Christopher smirked, dangling the keys from his pale fingers. His head of dark curls disappeared, the sound of swift feet following after.
“I’m gonna straggle you, Chrissy!” Elaine hissed, darting down the aisle. She could practically hear the lyrics of her favorite song “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” as her Mary Janes swept across the floor.
She trampled through the rows of books, searching each aisle for that face she’d come to love and sometimes hate. Elaine stopped in the row marked Classics, crouching down to muffle her steps. She listened for sounds of keys coming together. Elaine peeked through the shelves, barely able to make out anything on the other side.
“damn these stupid lights” Elaine whispered.
Unlike most, this bookstore had a way of deceiving your eyes. The lights were always warm and dim, making the whole place hazy like cigarette smoke. Elaine patted her curled hair and straightened her circle dress.
The distinct click of metal echoed behind her.
Elaine turned to see the keys lying at the end of the aisle, their owner nowhere to be seen. Knowing Chris, this was a trap. If she was fast enough though, she might be able to snatch them before he got the jump on her...
Elaine tiptoed as far as possible, then darted toward the golden prize.
“Hands off or Jane Austen gets a mustache”
Elaine looked up, fingers just grazing the tip of the keys. Christopher was standing over her, holding the book Pride and Prejudice, along with a sharpie. He knew she looked up to Austen like an idol.
“put that book down” Elaine sighed. “You wouldn’t even dare, Galen would kill you”
“I don’t know” Chris laughed. “Disrespect has always been my forte”
Elaine grabbed his ankle and pulled him to the floor.
“as is mine”
They both laughed as Chris fell next to her. Elaine gave him a friendly shove.
“well played, Elaine,” Christopher said, handing over the keys.
Elaine grabbed her prize: The key to Galen’s office, with the answers she needed. “Hope you get your weird questions answered” Chris laughed.
“it’s for writing research”
“are you going to ask him about Mr. Darcy?” He mocked, lifting Pride and Prejudice.
“enough with you,” Elaine said, giving him another shove.
“Race you to Galen”
The two companions smirked.
One can assume much shoving and laughter followed.
The way Elaine and Chris had become friends was through Galen’s bookstore.
This bookstore was no ordinary place. Though it operated normally, it had a certain way and wonder that enticed particular types of people.
Christopher was one of those people.
A few years ago, when Chris had needed somewhere to go, the old bookstore with foggy windows had shown up on his path. Chris decided to enter the store, covering the tear stains on his cheeks. The loss of his dog Bluesy was harder to take than it should’ve been for a boy his age, and he hadn’t wanted anyone to see him crying. He needed a place to hide, and the back shelf was perfect.
However, that spot had already been taken—by a very solemn writer.
Elaine, to be exact.
She was so engrossed in her other worlds; Elaine waited to look up. Her writing was to her, a very serious profession. Elaine never expected to see a boy with tears. Tears that were now falling onto her paper, merging with the black ink.
Elaine had realized at this moment that the boy before her—wanted an escape. She wanted an escape. They both wanted an escape.
So the bookstore grew into a second home. A place for both of them to live free.
They become Galen’s best customers.
Elaine and Chris opened Galen’s office, bursting into the room with intention. The smell of coffee and the rasp of a radio playing “Kanas City” flew at them. Galen turned, lifting a grey eyebrow above his glasses. His eyes were shining like the keys now dangling from Elaine’s fingers.
“Mr. Galen,” Elaine said, placing the keys next to his coffee. “I have a request”
“what might you need this time, my dear?” He said with a smile.
Both his eyebrows flew up. Elaine didn’t blink an eye.
“Whatever for?” He asked worriedly.
“Christopher’s birthday,” she said with a hitch of nervousness. Elaine made sure to keep eye contact. “I want to drive him around...because it’s fun”
“is it truly your birthday Christopher?”
Elaine shot Chris a look.
“yes...” Chris said, making it sound like a question. “It is”
“I see,” Galen said, eyeing both of them. “Can you even drive Elaine?”
“of course, I’m sixteen” She insisted, flipping her hair.
Elaine, in fact, was not sixteen.
“Okay...” Galen said, looking intently at Elaine.
“It’s for writing research too” She added, hopping up and down on her toes, excitedly anticipating another set of keys.
“and my birthday” Chris also added.
“very well...if you must” He mumbled, reaching into his drawer. “Have it back in an hour”
He handed her the keys.
“Thank you, Mr.Galen!” Elaine chirped, doing a little spin on her Mary Janes.
Chris grabbed Elaine’s wrist and pulled her out the door, excited for whatever Elaine was planning—excited for the adventure.
“See ya Mr.Galen!” He hollered.
The door shut behind them.
Galen sighed once more.
“The things I do for those kids...”
Elaine grabbed her writing journal, buzzing with anticipation.
“you ready to blow this pop stand?” She asked, leaning on the door with her back.
“as always,” Chris said. Grabbing the door handle and opening it for her.
The bell atop the door jingled, singing goodbye to Galen’s best customers.
Elaine and Chris sped outside, sunlight flitting across their faces. Galen’s hot rod was situated in front of the store, gleaming in all its Chrome-plated glory. They both hopped inside.
Elaine touched the wheel delicately as if she might crack it. She toke a deep breath. This was for her novel. When told from experience, writing was truly magical.
“you sure you know how to drive?” Chris asked a little nervously.
“let’s find out”
They both smirked. Adventure it is then.
Elaine pushed the gas pedal, lurching the car forward. Chris gripped the side of the vehicle. Elaine spun the wheel and directed them told the main road. The car tottered along slowly, Elaine trying her best to feel in control.
“I can do this...” she whispered, her eyes flashing at the main road.
“you better do this” Chris warned, also staring at the road ahead of them.
Elaine pushed the pedal down, and they sped forward with confidence. She made a sharp turn, almost pushing Christopher out the window. “Did you even use a turn signal?!” He cried.
Elaine sped toward the intersection.
“Oh geez, we’re doing this” Chris said, biting his lip. “We’re really doing this”
Elaine slammed the brakes, halting the car just before the white line.
“Yeah, we are,” Elaine said, eyes wide.
Once the light turned green, Elaine surged forward, smiling from the feel of the engine. They zoomed through the city, passing by neon-lit stores and cafes. The city seemed to be shining just for them, it’s neon glow reflecting off the car. Lines of bright pink, blue, and green shimmered over the hood like little fireworks. Christopher turned the knob on the radio, blasting out the song “Wild One”.
Chris laughed, swinging his head to the rhythm.
Elaine grinned, pushing on the gas.
They popped open the window and let out whoops of joy. They laughed and cheered down the avenue, the lights from the city flying by.
“We’re driving! We’re driving!” Chris hollered from the window at confused pedestrians.
They drove down the street with an electric joy.
Elaine suddenly noticed police driving behind them.
“Uh oh, we got company”
Chris jerked his head around, fear in his eyes.
“punch it!” he cried, looking at Elaine. They were in so much trouble.
Elaine pushed the gas just as the police turned on their lights and sirens. They zoomed through alleyways and back streets, thrilled yet terrified.
“I’m putting this in a novel” Elaine whispered to herself, gripping the wheel as they zipped around a sharp corner. “I’m putting this in a novel...”
The police kept up the chase, following every twist and turn. Elaine zoomed around the lane, yelling, “sorry!” To the cars she cut in front of. Christopher was hopping up and down in his seat, hollering, “go! Go! Go!”
A police car suddenly zipped in front of them.
Elaine slammed the brakes.
They both jerked forward, their seat belts stretching. The police cars behind them stopped. A few officers got out, staring at their car strangely.
“Shoot” Elaine snapped.
“Shoot indeed,” Chris said, looking around for an exit.
Elaine turned her head around. There was a small opening just between two police cars. If she could just reverse the car into that exact spot...
She put the car in reverse, taking a deep breath.
The hot rod flew right through the space, scratching up against two cop cars. She reversed out of the alley. Elaine whipped the car around like a madwoman, shifting it back into drive. The police began to get into their cars, sirens blaring once more. Elaine raced out of view.
“Hallelujah!” Chris shouted, throwing his hands up.
Elaine could only smile wildly as they speed down another street.
Then the car began to slow.
Elaine looked at the dashboard with wide eyes.
“We need to park” Elaine cried. “Were running out of gas”
“The alley—behind the theater!” Chris shouted, pointing at a shiny building that was fast approaching.
Elaine lurched into the alleyway, just as the police sped past them. She parked the car behind a trash can, waiting in the seat with wide eyes. She prayed no one saw her turn into the alley.
They held their breath.
The car was silent.
The sirens slowly faded away, like fog on a window—inch by inch.
They both opened their doors slowly, meeting at the hood of the hot rod. Elaine leaned her back against the car, taking a few deep breaths.
“happy birthday Chrissy” She sighed with a smirk.
He stood beside her, shaking his head with a grin.
“I don’t know how you get these ideas” he laughed.
They both looked out of the alleyway.
They stood in silence for a moment, watching the bright lights of the city shimmer here and there. A single sign in the distance blinked slowly, flashing the color blue upon their car. Click. Off. Click. On. Click. Off.
Elaine pulled out her writing journal, tapped her pen to her lips, then wrote the following:
As one who yearns for freedom, I find stolen cars are the best mode for finding it.
She put her pen behind her ear and smiled. This was the start of a story. A story Galen would sell someday...
Though both Chris and Elaine were only sitting in an alleyway, they both had a distinct feeling of freedom. The feeling of being apart from everything. Unique.
The light blinked slower. Click. On. Click. Click. Off.
So the alleyway became a third home.
Another place to live free.
Click. On. Click. Click. Click.