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American Fiction Romance

Clark eyed Jolie's dirty blond head from under his overgrown fringe as he sucked on the cornflakes, quickly looking down at the bits and pieces floating around in the milk as she turned to look at him over his shoulder.

"Whadduya think, Gable?" She said.

He jerked his chewing mouth outward to show her he couldn't reply right away, receiving an eye roll in turn. He thought long and hard about what exactly it may be that she had asked him his opinion about, but couldn't for the life of him remember. Finally, every single cornflake had been turned to nothingness and swallowed down his gullet, and he had to speak up.

"What about?" His cheeks blushed, even as he feigned nonchalance. 

"An orgie, jackass." Mark intervened with a sneer as he came out of the kitchen to stand at the island counter next to Jolie. Startled, Clark looked to her. Snickering, she shook her head at him.

"We're planning a road trip tomorrow morning to the end of town. Just driving straight ahead, taking only rights, stopping every 45 minutes regardless of the place," Jolie explained.

"Oh. Wait, how would taking only rights get us to the end of town? Are you sure we won't end up going in circles or something?" Clark felt like every bit of the jackass Mark had called him, but he had to ask. 

"This is Santa Cruz, dude, not fucking Minecraft." 

Clark found himself wishing he'd never allowed Mark to live with him, the guy couldn't keep his derisive mouth shut if he was paid to.

Jolie shrugged and put her half-eaten toast down, dusting her bony hands and walking over to the table where Clark sat, joining him. 

"Look, we got a map and all. If we leave an hour before sunrise, we can make it to the sink."

He looked at her dark, inviting eyes, and sighed inwardly. The sink was what the three of them had nicknamed Big Basin, or Mark had, and the two of them just followed. Anyhow, he hadn't had a good night's sleep in about a week, and his dark circles were beginning to remind him of blackholes, but here he was, looking at his floating flakes and nodding resignedly before her. He knew that his book wouldn't write itself as he went off on road trips every time Jolie looked at him with those eyes, but he figured it wasn't time wasted, what he spent with her.

He looked up again to see Jolie grinning, and smiled the small smile of a kid who sadly gets up from the computer to go to the park with a mother who says to him, "You'll come, now won't you? Make mama happy?" 

Jolie returned to her unfinished toast, Mark sang along to U2 on his rusty record player on the top of his lungs, and Clark put another spoonful of cornflakes that tasted more like overly softened rubber soaked in milk in his mouth.

___________________

The slightest of nudges would usually get Clark's eyelids fluttering, and yet there he lay like a rag doll that early morning hour. The slight breeze swept its way past the drawn curtains through the open windows, and the distant streetlight shone down ever so sweetly on his childish features. Jolie reached for his fringe, fingering the soft hair. She almost changed her mind about the trip, looking at him sleeping so peacefully, out like a light. She and Mark had been dragging him off to clubs almost every night the past week since their semester break had started, and she knew how draining it had all become for him.

Shaking the guilt away, she got off the bed and walked over to the switchboard, flicking on each of the lights. Clark grumbled in his still deep slumber, bringing his arm over his eyes to shield them from the sudden exposure. 

"Get up, sleepyhead," Jolie grabbed a pillow and dropped it gently on his face.

"What time is it?" 

"3:30, come on. We leave at 4, remember?"

Clark made no move to get up but opened his tired eyes wide to partial darkness from the pillow that rested on his face. It took him a moment to recall the previous day's events, the most unfortunate of which had been his agreement to go on the road trip with Mark and Jolie. He found himself wistfully thinking about how great it would feel to turn on his side and go back to sleep, telling Jolie to go off alone. Then out of nowhere, the mental image of Mark's strong, sturdy hands in Jolie's soft, silky hair, their faces meshed together, the rising sun bearing witness to their makeout, clicking its tongue in distaste at a sleeping Clark at exactly 36 kilometers' distance from a position that could have been his instead of Mark's, entered his brain. As if struck by lightning, he shot up and out of bed, almost tripping. 

Jolie raised her eyebrows.

"Easy, Gable. It's only 3, we still got an hour." 

"You lied to me?" Clark wanted to say that with widened eyes and frowning mouth, but instead, all he managed was a saddened squeak. 

"It's not like I told you your dog died or anything." Shrugging, she turned to leave the room.

"I don't have a dog." He mumbled to himself.

"I know." 

He was too surprised to reply, as he watched her walk away. She'd heard him, and known he didn't have a dog. 

Of course, she knows you don't have a dog, silly. It's not like she guessed your favorite color, get a grip.

30 minutes later, Clark found himself standing on the porch, carrying a rolled-up map and a spare tire that Mark had scoured from the abandoned house next door. Yawning, he looked at the teal-colored minivan. It used to be his mom's, and he barely used it, leaving it to be Mark and Jolie's treasure instead. Where were Mark and Jolie, anyway? He looked back at the house where they'd gone a few minutes ago, saying they'd pack some sandwiches, and decided to join them. It was cold outside, anyway. 

"Hey shithead, let's go." Mark met him halfway into the lobby,

patting him on the shoulder in a manner more authoritarian than friendly. Clark winced, pulling away without a word.

"I'll be out in a second," He found himself saying without a second thought, gripped suddenly by an urge that had him running up the stairs, bumping into Jolie. 

"What? You gotta take a last-minute leak or something? What the fuck were you doing the last half hour?" 

"Shut it, Mark." 

He heard both of them but didn't slow down to respond. Instead, he charged towards his bedroom, over to the chest of drawers beside his single bed, and pulled out the first one. There it was, the leather-bound diary he had last seen a week ago. He eyed its worn, muddy brown color, and grabbed it, pulling up his shirt and tucking it inside his pants. On his way out, he stopped to look in the mirror. The diary wasn't that fat, so it wasn't susceptible, but Clark had never sucked in his stomach that tight. 

He held the diary to his chest as he bounded down the stairs, patting it in place before he walked out the door to a scowling Mark and expectant Jolie. 

"Sorry man, I had to take a leak." He hadn't been overtly lying, but as he pulled open the door for Jolie to get in, he felt her biting back a grin. 

It was 10 minutes later, once he'd made himself comfortable, being the only one in the backseat, that he found Jolie looking at him from her passenger seat through the back-view mirror. Mark was playing Sound Of Silence, an album he seemed to not be able to live without on his iPod, his eyes focused on the map spread out on the dashboard. 

Clark wondered why they had needed the map in the first place when they knew they were gonna go to The Sink, a place they'd been to at least 5 times in the last month alone, but didn't ask out loud. He fingered his hidden diary, suddenly grasped by the overwhelming self-conscious feeling of being watched when you've done something you know you shouldn't have. Sure enough, Jolie had been looking again, and this time he raised his brows in question. 

Smiling conspiringly, Jolie thrust her right hand back toward him, her palm clenching an object that looked too much like a pen. 

"Thought you might as well make use of that thing."

Stunned, he took his pen from her outstretched hand, slipping it inside his jeans pocket. Then he looked to Mark, who seemed to be a mere driver in that moment. No words, no expression. Just a keen gaze flitting about the road ahead, occasionally coming to rest upon the map. 

When he looked back to Jolie, she'd turned to the trees whipping past on the roadside, car window rolled down, the wind blowing her hair out from behind her ears and over her face. For once, she wasn't making an effort to constantly pin them back. Lost in nature, she looked part of it herself. Natural. Beautiful. Clark itched to say the words aloud but found his tongue to be made of lead.

He looked down at his hands, the pen. Taking out his diary, he began.

"Yesterday morning she had looked like industry, her hands on hips stance at the kitchen counter reminding me of a waitress working long hours to make ends meet. I would never have known how far from industry she's capable of looking, had I not agreed for today. I wish I could tell her that I have in the expanses of her very being the very mazes of the redwoods from Big Basin that call out to her again, and again, and again. I am a being of station, and my journey a sole traveling of my gaze from nothingness to her face. God, could I sink. This is how we are together, then, I reckon. The explicit being her world, tangible roads and measurable trips, the implicit being mine; of eyes and hair and a knowing of my possessions, absence of pen and dog alike. I wish I could tell her."

But he didn't tell her, he told the diary. And hours later, as he stood gazing up at the sunlight sifting through the branches in The Sink, Mark shouldering an old Canon, going off about shutter speed and warmth and whatnot, he found himself realizing that Jolie was nowhere to be seen. 

As he ran over to their parked car, he caught sight of her nestled in the backseat, flipping through a leather-bound, muddy brown diary.

Time hadn't been wasted after all.

July 29, 2021 22:56

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2 comments

Arizain St Paul
15:10 Aug 05, 2021

Cute story. I loved your characters and their sense of humour. And I think you really captured someone being in love with a person but being unable to tell them.

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Kelly Allison
08:41 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you so much <333 I'm so happy that you liked my story and grateful for your comment. Have an amazing day/night :)

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