A rock hit the window. Callee rose from her bed and peered out between the curtains, but there was no one there. She sat back down and frowned. Who would dare to come to her house? It was almost twelve AM. Not to mention the fact that the whole world was undergoing a pandemic. Callee yawned and buried her face in her pillow. What an awful week. What a very bad, good for nothing, lousy, terrible... Another rock hit the window and she jumped up. She pulled the blinds apart and peered again into the dark night. She could turn the porch light on, but then her mom would know someone was at the house and that would be no good at all.
She jumped. She knew who it was now, but why in the world was he here? She thought that was, well, a thing of days gone by. So why did he show up now? "What?"
"Come outside, please. I have food." With that said, it no longer mattered why Dante was here. He had food, and that was enough. She climbed out the window and realized she was still wearing one of his hoodies. Well. That was awkward. Oh well. Food.
"Why are you here? Do you want me to get in trouble?"
Dante shook his head. "No. But I did want to talk."
Callee took the Sonic bag from him. Mozerelkla sticks and a Pieces's Threenut Margarine cup. The cup was broken but still. Delicious. Also: her favorite. Of course Dante would know this because they had been best friends since they were in kindergarten. They had grown apart over the years. Dante met his girlfriend and Callee was left to pick up the shards every time he was hurt by her. After a while it became a little much to handle, so she backed up and backed out. Until this week, when Dante's best friend Opallino broke her heart. Now Dante was here outside her window and he had food for her. He wanted to talk.
"Um, well, first of all, you look cute."
She was wearing his hoodie that he had given her a while back and Nike shorts. Read: she did not look cute. Not to herself, anyway. "Gee, thanks. Must be this." She pulled at the strings of her hoodie and Dante smiled.
"Yeah, whoever gave that to you must have pretty good taste."
"I guess so... But hey, what did you want to talk about? I'll have to go inside soon. My mom will know if I'm awake if I stay out too long."
"Oh, yeah. Um, I came by to say I was sorry for how Opallino treated you. That wasn't fair and I'm not friends with him anymore."
Callee nodded and took a bite of her Monsiebrella stick. "Thanks. I appreciate that." She took a deep breath of night air and sighed loudly. "You know what?"
"This doesn't smell like you anymore. Will you take it home and, like, spray your cologne on it for me?"
"Oh, yeah. Sure. I'll wait for you."
Callee hopped back inside, closed the blinds, and took off the hoodie before changing and hopping back out the window. "Here. Thanks for coming by." There was a long, awkward silence; the kind of silence that can only come with midnight chats between friends who have yet to admit that they love each other.
"Mm, right. I'll be back in a minute." Dante slung the hoodie over his shoulder and walked back to his truck, parked a few houses behind Callee's as to not alert her parents. Callee twisted her hair and pulled at her nails while she waited for him to get back. Why was he really doing this? She was upset about Opallino, sure, but it wasn't like she was on a ledge about it. She's say he was being a good little romantic fellow, but she was pretty sure he wasn't over breaking up with his ex yet. And Callee did not want to get mixed up with the likes of that girl. Her phone buzzed and she glanced at the screen. It wasn't Dante, but instead her good friend Juleesa Flowers. Juleesa was texting her about how much she liked this stupid new show on Netflix, but Callee just couldn’t find enough energy to care so she left her on read and texted her friend Lorna Cinnamon to tell her about what Dante had done.
Lorna, appropriately, freaked out and they spent the next thirty minutes frantically texting each other about what possible reasons Dante could be hiding. They were on the verge of a breakthrough when someone knocked on Callee’s window. She told Lorna she’d text her later.
Callee didn’t see the hoodie anywhere. Had he changed his mind? Was he here to kick over her family garden gnomes and spread butter on the walls? What was this madness? What was LIFE?
She said, “Hey.”
“Can you come to the car with me? I have something for you.”
Callee debated calling Lorna to ask her for advice, but this was a thing she had to do on her very own. She nodded, jaw set, and climbed out the window for the five billionth time that night. They walked to the car in dead silence, and when they got to the truck, Dante reached in through the open window and picked up four of his hoodies. They were all drenched in his cologne and he had added a bit of cookie dough chapstick to the gray one. He just took the whole tube of the stuff and smeared it all over that chicken. Callee didn’t mind, though. She was really really confused and really really happy. More happy than confused. She didn’t know what to say. This was nice, but why?
“Why are you giving me these, Dante?”
“Because a guy’s got to make sure his girlfriend’s warm in the winter, Callee.”
“It’s the middle of July.”
“Don’t ruin the moment.”
“What are you saying, then?” She leaned against his truck and brushed her now sticky with humidity hair from her eyes. “You want me to be your girlfriend?”
“Yeah… I do....”
**interlude because no more talking was done that night until…**
Callee backed up and touched her lips. She smiled. Her night had taken a turn for the unexpected, but that didn’t mean the worst. Who knew kissing someone you’ve known since kindergarten can be so dang fun? Dante reached across the car seat and tucked her fallen hair behind her ears. “You’re so pretty.”
“I have to go home now.”
“But I don’t want you to.”
Callee shrugged. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Pandemic. Mothers. Us. Not a good mix.”
“You have a car and I have an easily accessible window. That is a good mix.”
Dante shrugged. “You’re right. So I can come by in the morning? We can go to the lake and watch the sunrise.”
Callee went home in a daze, her head filled with dancing pictures of her and Dante on their wedding day, twirling away to her favorite country song. She snuck back into her room and started texting her friends. Lorna Cinnamon, Juleesa Flowers, Bianca Kincade, Brinkley Hitches… They were all dying to know what had happened. Callee told them almost every last detail, but of course she left out the boring parts. Juleesa and Bianca were always wary of boys, so they made a pact with all the other girls that if any rotten boys did anything to hurt them, they would be committing some federal crimes. Callee wasn’t worried. She knew Dante would never hurt her.
The next day she woke up at five thirty and left the house before the sun left its bed. Dante was waiting for her in the alley where he had been the night before. Callee expected the ride to be kind of awkward, but instead they had a blast, singing along to every song on the radio and meaning every word. This, Callee and Dante thought to themselves, is what the country songs mean when they talk about love. And in some ways, the two kids were becoming part of their very own country love song. It all checked out, see. They had known each other since they were kids, families grew up camping and going to church together, they both got caught up with their own lives and just recently found their ways back to each other. They had met late at night when the crickets were chirping and the hogs were snuffling in their sleep. The moon hung bright in the sky as they realized this moment was one they’d remember forever.
Now they were going to watch the sunrise by the lake.
The only thing that their song lacked was a bit of heartbreak and some snarky female friends with a vendetta, but that would come sooner rather than later. Two days, later, in fact, the song came to a screeching, blood coiling halt, like truck tires skidding on the hot July asphalt. Callee had gone to see Dante and football practice and when she came home, things were in shreds just as soon as they had been sewn together. She sat on the edge of her bed and watched The Babysitter’s Club, quiet and undetermined tears slipping down her face. She hesitated to tell her friends because she knew full well that Juleesa had a new metal baseball bat and Bianca had her driver’s license now. They both lived over three hours away, but Callee knew they’d take no time in rushing to her side if she called them. Eventually, she broke down and texted them on a group chat made especially for the girls to talk about anything related to Callee and Dante. They had themselves quite the fan club. Callee hated to burst their happy bubbles, but it had to be done. She couldn’t keep any more secrets from her friends.
Girls, Dante and I are on a break because he isn’t over his ex and I completely understand. Please, don’t do anything violent to the poor guy. He has a lot on his plate and I don’t want to chase him off forever.
Little did Callee know, her friends had already interrogated Dante while she was in the shower a few days ago. She had left her phone on the bed and he started to say hi, but before he could even send the waving emoji, they had pounced with their guarded arsenal of questions. And now they were fuming mad because they had been convinced he could truly be a nice kid. Juleesa swung her baseball bat and waited in the driveway with a mask pulled up over her ears for Bianca, Lorna, and Brinkley to get there. It was time for a road trip.
Meanwhile, Dante was having some conflict of his own, obviously. His mom had told him that if he was going to spend so much time with Callee, he might as well pack a bag and get out of the house. He was only a kid. Only sixteen. Of course he didn’t want to leave home. It wasn’t a fair choice, and to add to that mess, his ex had texted him because she was bored at home. Just another added bonus to quarantine. But he didn’t want to text his ex. He wanted to talk to Callee and tell her how much he had messed up. He didn’t mean what he said to her. Besides that, though, he was scared of her friends. Especially the girl who told him she’d commit federal crimes if he hurt Callee; she was frightening. He picked up his phone and wrote a message to Callee.
Hey, meet me outside your house in 30 min.s I messed up. I’m sorry.
Callee’s phone dinged and she barely glanced at it. When she saw it was from Dante, she turned the phone over. Two minutes later, it went off again and she obliged. He was coming back? In thirty minutes? Oh boy. The girls were going to freak out about this. They were already on their way, but Callee didn’t know this. She had no clue they were all piled in Brinkley’s parents van, with baseball bats and frying pans and montypythonrella sticks from Sonic. She texted Lorna. Lorna read the message out loud to the other girls and Bianca stepped on the gas pedal. They would make it there before Dante. They would set up in the same alleyway and prepare for battle, masks to prevent both boy cooties and coronavirus safely in place and hand sanitizer slathered thickly on their palms.
Callee checked her Find Friends app and saw that Dante was about ten minutes away. She took a deep breath. This was fine. She was sixteen. She could handle a simple conversation with Dante. Either way this went would be okay. She would grow from the experience and blossom like the beautiful flower she was. She stepped over a pile of laundry and reached under her bed for the Sonic bag Dante had brought her almost three days ago. Aha. There was one last mooseymatchoxa stick left. She held it to her chest and took three more deep breaths. This was fine. This was life.
Ten minutes ticked away. The van full of vigilante friends and the truck full of one Dante arrived at the alleyway at the very same time. Dante got out of his car to wait for Callee and the friends got out of the van to wait for Dante; Callee got to him first.
“Hey.” He’d been crying. Lorna gripped her frying pan tighter and glared into the air. Stupid boys always crying to their way. What the heck? Bianca rolled her eyes. She gave them three seconds before attack. Juleesa smacked the mamarramamarina stick between her teeth. This was war.
“Hey.” Callee smiled at Dante, unaware that her friends were hiding in the shadows.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to take a break. I never did. I had a lot on my plate. Will you forgive me?”
Callee nodded wholesomely. “Yeah.” They were young, the night was young, Dante was her best friend and he sang well and bought her food. So what? One slip up. Fine. There would be more, and they would fight through it.
“Good, because I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Is that a proposal?” Callee laughed. She didn’t want to get married this instant.
“Of sorts.” Dante smiled back down at her and took her hand to walk back to the truck. They were going to go to Sonic and get some marmalickinfrickfrack sticks.
And they weren’t the only ones, because Lorna, Bianca, Juleesa, and Brinkley had all gotten back in the van. They still did not approve of Callee and Dante, but luckily, it wasn’t up to them. That night, as Calle wrote all the events of the last week in her journal, a poem came to her, and she scribbled it all over the mirror.
You are amazing
You are a dear
You are beautiful
So have no fear.
Don’t hide in your room
Unless you want to sleep
Don’t hide under the covers
And never be a sheep.
Don’t follow others
Because they grab your wrists
Write your own rules
Make your own lists.
You are intelligent
You are smart
You are clever
You are art.
You are neat
You can be nice
You can eat chocolate
And you can eat rice.
You can be thin
Or you can be fat
You could be in the middle
I’m not the judge of that.
I just think you’re lovely
I just think you should know
I just want you to smile
I think we all can grow.
You don’t have to cry
But it is okay to be sad
I wish it wasn’t so
But you have permission to feel bad.
Just know it’s not permanent
I hope you have good days
I hope sometimes you’re alright
I know you can’t always make it
But you can call me day or night.
I’ll do my best to answer
And listen the best I can
I won’t be like all the others;
You know, the ones that ran.
You are my friend
You are my heart
You are a miracle
Even if you fall apart.
I’ll be here,
With tape and glue;
Because I can’t fix the world
But I can say to you
That I know you are marvelous
I know you are strong
I know you’ll get up
And you’ll move along.
The things that you have gone through
Have just made you stronger
Even though we can’t always see that
And our nights grow longer.
You are a person
That makes you enough
You are a human
Though times can be rough.
You are still breathing
While you read this
You can still smile
You can still make a fist.
You have the ability to stand up
For what’s right
You know when to run
You know when to fight.
I love your eyes
Your face and your nose
I love your ears
Your back and your toes.
I love your lips
They are yours
And yours alone
Your body is beautiful
And it is your home.
Don’t hate yourself
When you look in the glass
You are your own level
Give yourself a pass.
This was fine. This was life. :)