Seven years ago.
Drip, drip, drip.
My eyes start to water as I watch my popsicle melt, creating a red puddle on the ground. I stick out my tongue to take a lick before its completely gone, but it falls to the ground. Seconds laters, ants swarm around my popsicle. I wail. My popsicle!
I sit on a bench sadly, being unable to do anything but stare as my popsicle went to the ants. Some flies join the party and I sniffle. That was MY cherry popsicle, not theirs! I sat there for hours, mourning my popsicle. Mom wouldn’t worry, I had my phone and she could probably see me from the house windows. Dad wouldn’t worry, he was always working. And my brother, well, he was a whole other story.
The sun set, making my shadow long and large. The other shadows around the park were also long. It wasn’t dark yet, so I wasn’t scared. Instead, it seemed like a scene from a movie, with golden light shining on the hero, orange clouds piercing the otherwise perfect purple sky, crickets and wind becoming the perfect soundtrack.
Once it got fully dark, and the all the creatures went to bed, the park seemed to transform. Now the evening seemed like pitch, dark and sticky. No stars shone in the sky, and the moon was hiding behind the clouds which had once made the park beautiful. Still, I couldn’t move from my spot where my popsicle had fallen.
Somebody sat next to me. The figure was about my size, and their voice was . “Kira? What are you doing out here so late?”
“Eek!” his voice had startled me. I didn’t recognize it. I got ready to scream.
“Kira? Kira, it’s just me, Ivan. From school.”
“Why are you crying?”
This caught me off guard. I hadn’t realized I was crying. Now, though, it was painfully clear. “My popsicle fell.”
I could feel his gaze judging me. I turn away, feeling heavy. I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t. The air clings to me, and tears run down my face. I wouldn’t wipe them away though. I wouldn’t show weakness.
“What color was it?” he asks. I turn to face him, even though I wouldn’t be able to see him. I could picture his face though. It was round and curious, but also solemn. He wore glasses, and had dark hair.
“Are you okay?”
No, I wasn’t okay. “I’m fine.”
“Okay.” he says. He moves closer to me, and the clouds move away from the moon. It’s a full moon, with silvery light. I can finally see Ivan’s face. He’s concerned. I wish I had a flower I could pull the petals off.
He believes me. He doesn’t. He believes me. He doesn’t.
“Why are you here?” I finally ask.
He now looks guilty. “I… don’t really want to talk about it.”
“Why do you look so guilty?”
“Fine. I fought with my parents, and I ran out here. They’ll know where to find me if they want.”
“What were you fighting about?”
“Nevermind, that was nosy.” We lean together, supporting each other and their pain.
Four years ago.
I stare at the ground. Ivan laughs. “Clumsy.” he says.
“Hey! It’s your fault, you bumped me!” I wasn’t sure if I was angry or not. In front of me was a red puddle of homemade tomato sauce. Ivan laughs again. I push him.
He looks at me with wide eyes. I put my hands behind my back, feeling bad. But only for a minute, since a smile is slowly growing on his face. I narrow my eyes and take a step back.
“Don’t do it.” I say, but I know he won’t listen. Instead he takes it as a challenge and pushes me. I push him back, knocking off his glasses.
They land right in the middle of the the tomato sauce.
“Look what you’ve done now!” he says, picking up his glasses. The kitchen light glints off them. I grin at him.
“Would you like me to stop?”
He sighs. “I suppose not.”
“Okay, I won’t.” I snatch his glasses right off his face and run outside, leaving the tomato sauce for my dog, Scarletta, to lap up. Ivan chases me, trying hard not to laugh. Eventually, we ended up at the park where we first became friends. Ivan tackles me and takes his glasses back. He rolls over, and we both stare at the sky for a while.
The sky was blue, with wispy clouds. The light was white and warm. I look over at Ivan. He seems calm. I wonder if he’s thinking about that night when my popsicle melted. That wasn’t really why I was upset. I had a fight with my best friend, Fran. We had gotten popsicles together, but she ditched me for the ‘popular’ girls. That was an unbreakable rule, and now she was my ex-best friend.
“You never told me why you were actually upset.”
“I— you don’t think I was sad about the popsicle?”
“Fine. Fran —you remember Fran?— well, she ditched me. We had been friends since, like, second grade.”
“It’s okay. I got a better friend out of it.”
“Oh yeah? And who was that?” Ivan says, smirking at me.
“You know perfectly well who. I can see them from where I’m sitting.” I say, sitting up and making a big deal of looking around.
“Maybe. Am I your best friend?”
“You’re pretty much my only friend.”
Now I’m smirking at him. “Then I’m the best by default. But I knew that already.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Ivan sits up and smiles at me. “Don’t get a big head about it though.”
I sigh. “Fine, if you insist.”
We were both quiet for a minute. I turn to face him and say, “When are you leaving?”
“We’re not sure. Probably before school ends.”
“You’re leaving before the dance?” I ask. I was dreading the dance.
I lean over to give him a hug. “I’ll call you that night. You can suffer with me.”
He gives me a small, sad smile. “Sounds good.”
1 year ago.
I rub my lips together, spreading the red lipstick evenly. I look into the mirror. The lipstick is too red. It’s unnatural, I think. I hate it.
“KIRA! WE NEED TO GO, NOW!” my roommate, Nikki, who wears too much makeup but is the closest thing to a friend I have right now, yells. I don’t want to go. Going anywhere with Nikki was a boatload of stress that I wasn’t sure I could handle right now
“CAN I STAY HOME?”
“SUIT YOURSELF!” Nikki yells. I hear the door slam shut. The lipstick slips in my hand, leaving a red streak across my face.
I wipe my face, dropping both the wipe and the lipstick. “No, no, no.”
I leave it there, walking away. I take a deep breath, and go to my room. I sit on my bed, and open a photo album. Inside are pictures of my friends. At first, it’s mostly of me and Fran the backstabber. Then Ivan. These pictures I flip past quickly. The more recent photos are of me and some people I hang out with, like Nikki. Not really friends, not like Fran and Ivan, but not enemies either. Just people.
I feel alone. I sit there on the bed, letting tears fall. After all, no one can see me. I’m all alone.
The sky outside darkens, and it begins to rain. What a movie-like coincidence. I don’t move from my spot. Eventually I quiet down, savoring the silence. There is beauty in aloneness. Many people prefer it, I hear.
Someone knocks at the door. I sigh, taking a minute to check my face for blotchiness and lipstick smears. I make my way over to the door and answer it. “Hello?”
“Hey, I just moved in across the street and-- Kira, is that you?” a man with dark hair and glasses says. I go pale. It can’t be.
“Ivan?” I ask. After years of no contact, it can’t be him.
“I’m sorry.” is all he says. I let him in. He waits for me to say something, anything. I’m still processing the miracle in front of me. I have trouble processing it, but once I do, it’s not pretty.
I yell at him. I say mean things. He just sits through it all quietly, which hurts me more than I’ll admit. Finally, my anger wears away. All I see in front of me is an empty, loveless man I used to know. A man I used to love. A tear drips down my face.
“I’m sorry.” I say. Ivan nods. I offer him something to eat, and he accepts. We stand in the kitchen while I cut up an apple. I bump him as I reach over to grab the peanut butter, and a million tiny sparks zap through my stomach in that brief contact. I pretend to ignore it and finish what I’m doing. I offer him the plate, but he ignores it and grabs my hand instead.
“Kira.” he says softly.
The sparks return. “Yes?”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I was just so, I don’t know, emotional when I saw you, and it just came out sideways.” I press against him, giving him a hug. Ivan doesn’t respond.
I know why when I feel something drip onto my neck. I pull away slightly and look at his green-flecked eyes. They’re shimmery, and I feel tears and a smile creep to my face. “Isn’t this silly,” I say. “We finally see each again, and all we can do is hold each other and cry.”
“Yeah.” Ivan says. He presses his forehead against mine. “Are we still friends?”
I chuckle under my breath. “If you want.”
“What if I want to be more than that.”
In response, I kiss him. His lips are soft against mine, and his arms slide up around me, pulling me closer. My fingers get tangled in his hair. He only pulls away once, long enough to say, “I missed you.”
“Love you too.” I murmur, leaning farther into him.
Drip, drip, drip.
I’m not sure which made the sound— the tears I was trying to hold back, or the blood oozing from Ivan’s torso. A red puddle forms underneath us and soaks into my jeans.
“No. No, no, no.” I whisper, holding Ivan’s head to my chest. I press my hand against his neck, frantically trying to stem the blood flow. “Help!” I cry. A second later, I realize no one is around. I fumble around my pockets, trying to pull out my phone while still clutching Ivan’s head and neck.
“Ki-Kira?” He says quietly. I look down at him, tears filling my eyes. This can’t be it. This isn’t it.
“It’s okay,” I tell him. “It’s going to be okay.”
“No, Kira. Please. Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t. I promise.” I say. Tears are flowing freely now. Ivan grabs my hand and presses it to his lips. He looks at me sadly. I’m still grasping at straws, trying to save Ivan. I dial a number on my phone.
“Help, please! Ivan Graham. Lots of bleeding. We’re at--” I glance around for a street sign. “Fourth street in Corvallis, Oregon.”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll be there in twenty minutes.” They hang up. Twenty minutes isn’t fast enough. He might be dead by then. I call another number.
“Nikki! Me and Ivan are at Fourth Street. We need help ASAP!”
“No hello? Are you okay?”
“NO, I’M NOT OKAY! IVAN IS BLEEDING A LOT!”
“I’ll be there in two snaps of a monkey’s tail. I’ll even run any red light for you, girl. See you then, and call an ambulance for crying out loud. Bye.” Nikki hung up. I called 9-1-1, but Nikki was there first. She helped me wrap a makeshift bandage around Ivan’s torso, but he was already unconscious. I’m getting really scared now. What if something happened to him? We had just reconnected, I couldn’t lose him now.
I kissed him softly, praying it wouldn’t be the last time.