“Aaron! Oh don’t you look so handsome! Cole take his picture!”
Tonight was the date of the prom, so naturally both my parents were waiting downstairs for me or Emma to walk down the steps. My mother asked me to stand still as my father took several dozen photos. I sat on the couch afterwards and stared into space to pass the remaining time until our limo arrived. I’d spent the afternoon around with Matt, who talked more of his dates and how he planned to dance with each of them without either knowing about the others. It didn’t bother me in the slightest that I didn’t have a date. What irked me was the idea of going.
I heard my mother cry out in joy as my sister walked down the steps in a long dress, lime in color and covered with several real jewels. Her expensive tastes were only fueled by the amount of wealth my father accumulated from the family business. Emma spun around in her dress several times with her boyfriend Alistair, both posing with smiles.
I could hear the click of the camera repeat itself possibly a hundred times before ceasing. Emma walked over to the sofa and sat next to me. From my peripheral vision I could notice her looking me over, possibly wondering how she could’ve done a better job than I had while preparing. “Must stink, not to have a date, but then again, how would I know?” she said before giggling to herself. The comment didn’t affect me, though I noticed that Alistair was fidgeting with his hands nervously as we waited.
Looking over at my father, leaning against the wall, I could see he was shooting daggers at Emma’s boyfriend.
Ten minutes passed before a honk came from outside. We got off the sofa and walked outside, with my parents wishing us a fun evening. I saw a flash of light from behind me, though I didn’t need to turn around to know it was my parents taking one last photo.
I quickly exited from the limo a block away from prom. Although just about everyone was bound to show up in a stretch limo with their friends, I wasn’t ready to show up infront of that crowd alone. Pan had offered for me to join her limo of friends that night, but the thought of being around people I didn’t know bothered me.
I hastily made my way towards the venue in my expensive ensemble. I had hoped that my mother didn’t spend too much money on this dress, though sadly that wasn’t the case. The dress was covered in silver colored fabric, and the occasional diamond where the moonlight would gleam off of. It revealed more of my back than I wanted, which only made me feel all the more insecure. It fit my lanky frame though, but I didn’t really examine myself long in the mirror to make any more observations.
I quickly made my way down the street, holding up my dress as I walked, fully showing what was on my feet to anyone who could see me- though I hoped no one did. My mother chose high heels for me to wear tonight, ones that matched with my dress. I lightly cursed Dad for not standing up for me as my mother got me ready tonight, and angrily swatted away a strand of hair that got in the way of my sight.
I slowed down to a walk as I approached the venue. Several cars were lining the street as party goers filed inside. I calmly walked towards the carpeted section, hoping to avoid any and all attention. Fortunately I passed by like a ghost, without so much as a glance in my direction.At least until I entered the building and took ten steps before being ambushed into a hug by a familiar face.
“RAIN! You. Look. GORGIE!” Pan exclaimed as she looked me up and down approvingly.“And here I was thinking you were coming in a T-shirt and jeans.” I rolled my eyes, “I think I have a bit more taste than that” I said, with no truth in the statement. After all, it was my mother who’d gotten me ready, I only fidgeted about.
“Well here you are then! The best night of junior and senior year! Listen, if you still need a date, Robby from our music class is still available.” I had no clue who she was referring to, but smiled as I said ‘No’. She shrugged and led me towards the dancefloor. “You can find me at the buffet table if needed!” she yelled over the music as she left me on my own.
I slowly walked around the dancing crowd, holding up my dress as I did so. I didn’t so much want to be around the crowd, and I didn’t mind if they took no notice of me. I stood in the corner behind a pillar, hoping this is how I could spend the evening. It worked for a few minutes before a couple began exchanging spit in the pillar next to me.
With a sigh, I left the shadow of the pillar and looked around for somewhere else to stand around. Looking around, it was almost impossible to obtain privacy. Nearly every square foot of the building had couples dancing or kissing. I felt a bit trapped. Until I noticed the ‘Exit’ sign over a door, and hurried over there.
A blast of cool air blew onto my face as I opened the door and walked outside onto the black pavement. I leaned back against the wall before I noticed that I wasn’t alone outside.
A familiar figure, slightly taller than me and whose dirty blond hair was organized rather smoothly, looked over the lake at the city. I knew right away it was Aaron, who must have been too immersed in his thoughts to notice that I’d just come outside.
As I leaned against the cold brick wall, I tried to close my eyes and zone out, but it was easier said than done. I couldn’t help but feel awkward with Aaron being around. I thought of going up to talk to him to pass the time, though it seemed almost as nerve-wracking as the thought of being around the crowd. I weighed my options and decided that talking to him would be better than going back inside.
Slowly, I made my way towards him, about halfway he raised his head, not looking at me, though seeming as if he was aware of my presence. The expression on his face didn’t change, and he continued to look towards the city lights. I rested my arms about four feet away from him along the metal railing, only giving him a sideways glance to see if he noticed me, except his focused remained as it was before.
I followed his gaze onto the city across the lake. From this vantage, it actually looked beautiful. The lights from the thousands of windows seeming like fireflies frozen in the brisk night air. The moon hung over it like a silver orb of light, casting shadows from anything exposed to it’s lunar brilliance. I would’ve drolled over the sight of the city, if Aaron hadn’t chosen that moment to finally say something.
“You look nice” he said with no apparent tone in his voice or a look in my direction. “Thanks” I replied, wondering how he could’ve noticed what I was wearing without turning to face me, or maybe he was just being nice, perhaps even trying to break the silence. I looked him over in his pinstripe shirt, fitting it rather well. I wouldn’t have said this to his face, but he looked really handsome tonight.
I began to wonder if he’d come here with anyone, but if he did, where were they? And who were they? These questions buzzed around in my head until I shooed them away to the furthest reaches of my mind. I stood up from the rail, hugging the sides of my arms for warmth, not that the cool air affected me that much, in fact it was rather nice, but I held on out of habit. Probably a product of being the nervous person I am.
“Are you cold?” Aaron asked, now looking at me, with -what seemed like- concern in his eyes. I shook my head.
“No. I’m fine, I just naturally hold the sides of my arms out of habit. My parents say it’s because I grew accustomed to holding stuffed animals as a child. Sometimes I do it without my noticing.” I turned to face Aaron who’s expression went back to its usual calm, but the look in his eyes seemed to tell me to keep talking, so I did.
I told him the story of how I came to be here in Dempsy City during the last quarter of junior year. The job offer my parents told me about, and how we’d only packed the essentials, leaving everything else behind. How I couldn’t make sense of it, but decided to just go along with the move. Saying goodbye to the Brownstone buildings of Zyric, and our scarlet colored house which stood out from the rest. The dull greys and browns that existed in the palette of our new home, and how it felt bare from lack of décor, unlike my old home in Zyric which had been full of Asian inspired creations and shades of reds and streaks of gold.
When I’d caught up to the present, I looked over at Aaron to make sure I hadn’t bored him, but instead he was leaning against the railing looking at me with almost the same expression on his face, though genuine intrigue seemed to shine in his eyes. If I had to compare them to anything, they would be pools of freshwater. Crisp and cool, and.. somewhat invigorating to look into. I snapped out of the trance as he slowly blinked, causing me to react by looking down at my hands.
A faint whisper entered my mind after a while in Aaron’s voice, calm and mysterious. It seemed to say; ‘It’s like I know you.’ I shook my head and looked at Aaron who continued to lean against the railing, only he seemed to be in the middle of pensive thinking. “Did you say something?” I asked him shyly. He looked at me with a slightly quizzical look on his face and shook his head. My eyes found their way once more to his and his looked back at mine in a way I didn’t recognize. Normally staring this long at someone felt creepy, but with Aaron, it felt normal, almost like what the voice I’d heard said. Like I knew him.
The back door burst open, causing us to stop looking at each other, and turn to see Emma stride out, wearing possibly one of the most expensive prom dresses I’d ever seen. She was eyeing the both of us suspiciously, but she contained her theories if she had any.
“Aaron! C’mon, just cause you’re dateless doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be inside there. But you completely missed me being crowned prom queen. Ah well, your loss.” With a giggle and a slightly smug look, she turned around and headed back inside.
I looked over at Aaron, expecting to see some reaction come out of him, instead, he appeared completely unaffected by his sisters words. Was it this easy for him to remain so calm? Or perhaps he naturally didn’t care about those sorts of things. I continued to look at him, part of me hoping he’d look at me again for some odd reason, and the other part of me wanting him to say something so that I wouldn’t have to. He stood up from his leaning position and straightened his shirt. He took several steps toward the door before stopping and turning his head around to look back at me. His eyes were slightly squinted, but the blue in them was still clearly visible from this distance.
“Would you like to dance?” He said, almost a bit uncertain, as if debating whether asking me was the wisest decision.Personally I thought he would be better off with anyone else besides me as a dance partner, but that didn’t stop me from saying;
I led her into the room onto the dancefloor, my hand clasped around her delicate fingers. Tonight I wasn’t quite sure of what I was doing, though something in me felt certain that I needed to be around Rain tonight. An odd sense of familiarity came to me whenever I was around her, as if I’d known her all my life. As we trod towards onto the dancefloor, I could tell without looking that eyes were looking at in our direction. Naturally they would.
We came to a stop where not many people were around. “So, um.. I probably should’ve said this earlier, but I can’t really dance…” she mumbled, her bottom lip quivering. I took her hand and spun her around, her face washed with surprise.
“Wow, um.. how’d you do that?” I gave her a small smile, “Tradition dictates in my family.” I left her to ponder the meaning for a while before I took her hand once more and led her body through the movements of my family’s ‘Rosebud Dance’. A series of swift movements which involved spinning, lifting, and holding your dance partner. It was a medley of various Mexican dancestyles-turned-modern which had been taught to each male in my family for the past 2 centuries.
The music blasted all around the room as we danced. Because the ‘Rosebud’ had no set order, I arranged the steps to match the rhythm of the music. I would check Rain’s expression, genuinely concerned if she was enjoying herself at this point, and much to my relief she had a warm smile on her face as I held her. I was surprising myself more and more tonight. I had planned to lean against the railing outside during the entirety of the dance, only to find myself wanting to keep that smile on her face.
The same feeling I’d felt her first day in school this week. I had tried to dismiss it as another phenomena, only, the sound of desperation in her voice had willed me to help her. It was only until I’d left the building that I could register what I’d felt as unusual. Except tonight, I couldn’t care less about those doubts. Only to keep her from losing that warm smile.
I could hear voices around us seeming farther away than they really were, as people formed a circle to watch us. Though I didn’t turn away from Rain as they approached. I would allow my other senses to examine the area instead of my sight. The aroma of Emma’s perfume got stronger as she approached, and I could hear her gasp as I performed the last step of the dance.
Like a rose blooming, I spun Rain around me counter-clockwise, slowly further and further away until I stopped after the second full rotation. I stepped around her, my hands never breaking away from her. I stopped to hold her delicate frame and motioned them to sway slightly. Rain quickly got the gist of it. We stepped around an imaginary circle, rotating ourselves and stepping clockwise, closer to the center of the invisible circle. My grandfather illustrated this to me at one point using a metal rose he’d designed. The first stage of the last step signified the opening of the flower, a symbol of new hope, whereas the last stage is the closing of the flower, when day turns to night. A symbol of holding close what you find dear.
Upon reaching the center, I tilted her back, our faces dangerously close to one another. The music stopped then and the people around us broke out into an applause. I held her back up, my hands still around her. She pushed away a strand of hair from her face, her warm smile even wider than it was before. “That was.. wow.. incredible? Yeah, incredible” Rain said before wrapping her arms around me tightly and whispering into my ear, “You made this night incredible Aaron.”
When her hold on me lessened, I couldn’t help but look into her green eyes. The longer I stared, the closer I could feel myself getting to her.
She didn’t push away as I pressed my lips to hers, slowly kissing her bottom lip and then both of them. I entered a state of meta-cognition as we kissed for what seemed like hours. I questioned what I was doing, and why. I had only just met Rain several days ago, and now I was here, kissing her as if I’d known her for much longer. I returned to the present as Rain broke away from our kiss.
“Um.. I.. thanks for the dance.” She flashed a smile before holding up her dress to walk away, breaking into a run when she passed the doors leading to the front.
I stood there slightly baffled, unsure for a second of what was happening. I heard Emma burst into laughter, “Aaron’s date ran away!” People gave her mixed looks including her boyfriend. She’d noticed him doing so, and said; “It’s hilarious! You can’t blame me for that.” Alistair seemed defeated for a second before his face turned serious. “Well he’s your brother! You shouldn’t go around..” Whatever he was about to say was cut short by the white cake slice that collided with Emma’s face. I traced the path of the cake to its origin and saw Pan motion for me to go after Rain before flinging more food around the room. The dance erupted into a mess of frosting and salads as I rushed out of the venue looking for Rain.
I caught sight of her preparing to enter a limousine and ran towards her, “Rain..” Though I’d remained stoic after she’d left, I couldn’t mask the urgency in my voice. She turned around and sighed as she stood up to face me.
“Um.. Aaron, I..” Before she could finish her sentence, I held her and kissed her warm lips. It was a brief few seconds, though it’d felt like minutes. Rain looked at me with an uncertain expression and then down at her hands.
“Aaron.. it’s just that, you’ve only just met me, you don’t know anything about me really.. and you still went and did.. that.” The way she said it felt accusatory. As if I’d done something she didn’t want me to have done. I hated myself for it now.
She turned around to leave though, without my realizing, my hand reached out to touch her shoulders. ‘Stay, please’, were the words I wanted to tell her, though I kept them from coming out. “If you knew me, you probably wouldn’t want to keep someone like me around..” She said, not turning to look at me. My eyes widened slightly. Before I could do anything else, Rain entered her car, and I watched as it drove off. Leaving me there to consider my actions tonight.
All of this. Especially her last words to me; ‘you probably wouldn’t want to keep someone like me around’.
A week had passed since then. I proceeded with school as usual, the only change being that instead of immersing my thoughts in my studies, I could only think of Rain. I avoided her during class hours, despite the urge to listen to what she seeked to explain to me.
Pan had even attempted a chat with me after class, only to throw her hands up in defeat and shoot me a ‘talk to her’ gesture. Only Matt knew better than to bring up her name as we ate lunch in the branches of the nearby park.
I was in a contradiction. Avoiding her, though longing for the sound of her voice as well. I’d spent the night lying in bed wondering what was the matter with myself. I let out a low sigh as I slowly rose, and walked to my dresser to get changed. I exited out from the window, dropping to the ground as quickly as I could and walking down the sidewalk under the light of the moon.
I walked several blocks as I made my way to her address. Stopping infront of a stone-grey house with weeds growing on its front lawn. From the front windows, I could only detect light coming from one course, the window to the right on the second floor. A faint glow, though still detectable. I slowly walked around, hoping to get a better view of the inside by doing so.
I stopped myself though. What was I hoping to accomplish at near midnight. Even if Rain was still awake, I had probably already driven her away with my actions. A part of me held onto the belief that when she saw me, all would be forgiven, though the other had decided that staying away from her was best. I chose to believe in the former as I picked a small stone from the ground and flung it towards her window. I stood still, watching as a shadowed figure stood up and opened the window.
Her face, now illuminated by moonlight, looked around for the source of the thrown stone. She eventually found my face, and even from a distance I could make out the green color in her eyes. I flashed her a smile, hoping that it would signal to her that I wanted to talk. I heard a distant sigh as she put her head inside and closed the window.
Minutes later she opened her front door clutching the sides of her arms after she’d closed it behind her and walked towards me. “Aaron..” The sound of her voice was frail and uncertain, yet it had somehow sent a wave of calm over me. I slowly approached her, extending my hand slowly, hoping she’d take it. She looked down and hesitated for a moment before placing hers in mine.
I held her hand firmly as I led her through the streets, neither of us speaking to one another. She didn’t say a word as we walked from the concrete sidewalk onto flat soil towards the lake. We stopped a few feet from the waters edge, my grip on her tightening slightly as I pulled her closer towards me.
She didn’t resist, to my relief, though her eyes remained focused on my chest rather than my own, to my chagrin. I held her with both arms tightly before pushing her back slightly. My arms moved up towards her shoulders and I stood facing her, waiting for her next move.
She slowly lifted her gaze and looked at me in the eyes, finally, though remained silent. My only thought became ‘Talk to me’, repeating itself a dozen times until her lips parted. As if she had read my mind, she began to talk. “Aaron.. I’m not really the best person for you.. I know that because of my past.. I know that sounds lame but it’s true! Being with me would only put you in danger.” When she stopped, she lowered her gaze, as if expecting me to yell at her. I took a minute to take in what she’d told me. I couldn’t honestly claim that I believed her. I only wanted to be with her right now.
I raised her chin with my hand, smirking slightly at her. My hair had fallen around my eyes, though I didn’t bother to move it away as long as the view of her green eyes was still there. I slowly bent down to kiss her, feeling a warm sensation in my hands as my lips touched hers. The wind began to pick up around us, almost violently, though I proceeded to ignore both factors as I held her close when she returned the kiss.
Our time together was broken by the movement under my feet. At first I’d ignored it, believing it to be my feet sinking into the sand. Then almost suddenly, the ground beneath our feet began shaking violently, rumbling as if an earthquake were near. Rain looked at me with a panicked expression on her face; I shrugged. My attention was drawn to about a mile away from our current location, where I somehow sensed it to be the origin of the tremor. A crack appeared in the ground from the epicenter, through the woods towards us. I had almost become convinced that what we were experiencing was an earthquake. The the crack grew bigger as it approached our location. Through the crack shone an intense bright beam of light, glowing blood-red; it shone brighter than fire, despite the lack of heat.
Rain yelped as she pointed to the nearby trees which melted into a black goo when exposed to light directly. Instinctively, I lifted her up on my back and ran with her as fast as I could. The wind which had whipped my skin earlier seemed to push me further away from light, speeding my sprint faster and faster. All around us, houselights had begun to turn on, and car alarms went off simultaneously. Rain held on tighter until we reached her house, where her parents were standing outside anxiously. I slowly put her down before quickly kissing her and running towards my home.
I glanced back as I ran, seeing Rain and her parents rushing to get into their car. In the distance,the blood-red lights came closer and closer to the houses. The rumbling in the ground hadn’t stopped yet, nearly causing me to lose my balance.
As I approached my house, my father, upon seeing me, yelled out my name. I looked across the street and saw Matt getting into his family’s car with his mother and sister before speeding off. My mother ran up to me as soon as I was a several feet from the cars and hugged me tightly before instructing me to get in immediately.
I jumped into the back next to my grandfather who was fighting off sleep, and my grandmother who’d fallen asleep on his shoulder despite the commotion outside. I noticed Emma shuddering in the front seat between our parents.
The engine sputtered alive, and we quickly sped off down the road, my father making violent turns, nearly running into other cars as we distanced ourselves from the sinister blood-red light. We went higher in elevation as the long road to the next town dragged on.
After several minutes I turned to face the city from our current location and watched as the power turned off completely. And watching as the blood red light engulfed our home, or rather, what our former home.