We wait until the soft explosions above deaden to absolute silence—not the kind of silence that listens but the kind that sleeps, and teenage girls know the difference. We wait until our murmurs turn to whispers and even the whispers seem loud—muffled collisions, muted giggles. Fingers fumbling at the silver latch of a basement window. We crawl through the narrow opening, climb over the well, roll onto cold grass. Streak across the backyard and scale the fence like wood sprites, two girls—jeans, sweaters, sneakers, cigarettes. We run.
Dark empty streets, a world asleep, the gift of midnight. Our voices now like bells. We light our cigarettes and inhale deeply, listening to the paper crackle, watching the embers momentarily glow brighter before they turn to ash. We blow jets of smoke into the night air. We have nowhere to go, and nowhere is enough.
Another night, another bedroom, this one above-ground. We slide the window open, quietly, carefully, pop the screen. We lower ourselves gently onto the gravel, tiptoe across the gravel, wince at the comically amplified sound of our sneakers on the gravel. We leap silently onto the gray strip of sidewalk and bound across the street, waving at the neighborhood boy who sits on his front porch smoking, friendly face, long blonde hair—he waves back. Later we will stop for boys, later boys will run with us, after us, they will pick us up in cars and drive us places and buy us alcohol. But for now, it’s just us.
Maybe we’ll walk to the elementary school and climb the highest horizontal bars—one with chipped blue paint, one with chipped yellow paint—eight feet up, sitting, falling, coordinating death drops so our feet hit the ground at the exact same time.
Maybe we’ll jump onto the swings, side by side, long brown hair streaming, voices shrieking, kicking our legs higher and higher until our feet shatter the moon.
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband and two children. Her work has been published in Brevity Magazine, Superstition Review, Hunger Mountain, The Portland Review, SLAB Literary Magazine, Literary Mama, Motherwell, Hospital Drive, YA Review Network (YARN), and a few other places. Her novel The Fourth Wall was released in June 2014 through WiDo Publishing. Links to Elizabeth’s work can be found on her website, elizabethmarianaranjo.com.
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