It was extremely and absolutely hot.
The weatherman wasn’t kidding when he said it was going to be a ‘very hot summer’. At a high peak of 108° Fahrenheit, Miami was sizzling hot: in both ways. Bronze and glistening, men discarded their shirts on the streets, while the women strutted around in bikinis and mini-shorts that barely covered their thighs. Tourists were all on their cameras clicking away.
And where was I? The local Barnes and Noble of course, hidden near the back where the pregnancy and baby guides were with a tower of manga at my side. The back was rarely visited; probably since they were such awkward books that the few people who pick something out shoved it in their coats before darting out, looking more like smugglers then soon-to-be mothers and fathers.
Sixteen years of heat, heat, and more heat taught me that if you're not out on the beach or pool, there's no reason to be outside. Unless you want to be black by the time you come back to school and diagnosed with skin cancer.
I pushed my glasses back up the crook of my nose and started on the next volume on my current favorite series, xxxHolic. Today was a busy day; with all the tired, perspiring people coming in and the crazed honking of traffic outside.
My eyes were already dancing with the pages, turning into chocolate blurs as they devoured the first six pages. Reading left me completely lost in another world of ink and images, usually filled with mythical beings and impossible things.
I jumped instinctively, hitting my head on the shelf above as my glasses skidding off onto the carpet. “Great”, I thought.
“Damn it Pen, I told you not to sneak up on me like that!”
She grinned, flashing me her commercial white teeth while handing me my fallen glasses. I quickly put them on, the thick black frame an item I was now used to despite my family’s continued objections to them because they hid my ‘beautiful eyes’. If you found brown beautiful.
“Sorry,” she said giggling, scooting herself next to me and grabbing a book from my pile.
I glared at her, trying to snatch the book out of her hand but she just lifted it higher, opening it wide enough so the spine would crack. Just to piss me off.
“Quit it! You know I hate it when you do that,” I growled, my hands still outstretched in a claw.
Pen laughed at my shudders as she turned the pages and dog-eared them randomly. “You hate everything Chrissy, and if your mother saw you right now she’d be quite upset at how unladylike you’re behaving.”
“I don’t give a s**t!”
“Like, watch your mouth.”
She whipped out her new cell phone that looked like a preppy hippie had vomited on it, all covered in pink, purple, and orange swirls with stars and glitter.
Penelope was my neighbor, ex-best friend and biggest snitch in the universe. Our mothers had tried to pair us up as kids as soon as they met each other, making up play dates at each others houses for reasons to come over and gossip about the neighbors, but after two weeks of scratches, bruises, and the occasionally stolen items, they had finally given up.
We’re as different as we were kids as we are now. She likes anything pink, frilly, and topless while I like books, music, and friendship. She wears G-strings and see-through shirts while I prefer T-shirts and jeans with the occasional jacket.
And coincidentally right now my parents are gone this summer, spending it at my Aunt’s in Switzerland with my younger brother Max because they didn’t have another room for me to sleep in. Leaving me then, staying with the Queen of Idiots and her sweet but just as clueless mother.
“Call if you like but the only one they’ll catch cursing is you” I answered, taking the moment of her distraction to steal the book back and move both me and my pile father away from her.
She huffed, snapping her phone shut and back into her pink leather purse, a stuffed dog poking out of the back. I rolled my eyes.
“What?” Pen asked viciously, and I just shook my head. Maybe one day someone will finally set that tiny mind of hers straight.
For once in a lifetime, we actually spent in a moment in silence. Or at least half silence, me flipping pages whole she drummed her fingers on the shelves which was notably starting to get on my nerves. Like most of what she did.
“Ah, I remember!” she chirped, her blond head bobbing back in life. “Mother told me to bring you home for dinner. We’re having guests over tonight.”
“Oh,” I replied, closing the book with regret and placing it back on the stack. Pen got up as well, rearranging her skirt and bikini top and hooking the purse on.
I grabbed the stack and started making my way to the manga section to put them back while she called out, “I’ll wait for you at the front!” I rolled my eyes again.
Figures, Queen Penelope couldn’t wait a second while I put these back. She’s probably texting her friends right now, who seemed to have ditched her over the summer on trips to the Caribbean and Europe and Japan while she was stuck in the hot suburbs.
Once I was done, I made my way to the front, deciding what to do the next day. ‘I think I might call Ruth tomorrow and see if we could go to the movies along with Abigail and Holly. I haven’t seen or talked to them for a while since summer started since I had been in my ‘rebel mood’ once my parents abandoned me here.’
I stepped through the familiar wooden doors, waving goodbye to my favorite cashiers who waved back and onto the sidewalk when I heard a screech.
It was like a movie in slow motion except real, things still making their course just at a snail’s pace. I saw Penelope standing in the middle of the street, blue eyes wide in fear and mouth open mid-scream with the car just inches away from her, apparently in fast motion with the driver rushing to hit the pedal.
My feet practically flew to her, and the moment my hand connected her arm, yanking her onto the sidewalk, the spell was broken, the car braking right when she would have been. People who had been watching this, moving to help exhaled in surprise and relief as an officer nearby * came over and helped us up.
“Wow young lady that was amazing,” he said, staring at me in open amazement. I flushed slightly, shifting my head so he was staring at my dark brown hair instead.
Pen was staring at me too, her face torn in pain and wonder. Pain probably from the leg scrape she’d gotten from our fall and possible idea of having to thank me, which I was definitely looking forward to.
Everyone was staring at me now, minus the cop who left to talk to the driver. I felt a burning on my hands and saw deep scrapes on them as well as a large cut on my arm. Grabbing Pen’s arm, I pulled her with me through the crowd to the parking lot, ignoring the officer calling after us.
“What are you doing?”
She pulled her arm away and then gasped at the web like stains of blood on it, following it back to my hands. “The emergency truck will be here soon so they can fix us up and the police guy’s calling.”
I shook my head. “This isn’t anything some band-aids and Neosporin can’t fix.”
“But what if it’s infected?”
“I’ll use alcohol.”
She let out a small shriek of anger, clearly annoyed. “Look they still need us for the police report and questioning, so let’s just go and-“
I turned around at her, staring her directly in the eye. “I’m not going.”
She stomped her heel and shrieked again like a spoiled baby as I walked ahead but in a few minutes I could hear her clacking behind me, panting to keep up in her stupidly large heels.
I saw their family car in the back, a large back van that was probably older then I was. I waited for her to catch up and get her keys before sliding in the shot gun seat, strapping my seat belt in.
She closed her door and started the engine, but stopped, turning to look at me. I raised an eyebrow, slightly curious and slightly nauseated. “What?”
“Oh.” she said in surprise, biting her nails nervously. “It’s just…”
“What?” I was kind of worried now, Pen never in her life was nervous, except that time she threw a party and was trying not to get caught (which she did).
“What really happened back there?” Pen asked, staring strangely at me.
“Uh...what do you mean?”
She clicked her tongue, giving me a roll of her eyes. “You know what I mean. One moment I’m like in the middle of the street, about to get run over and the next I’m rolling in dirt with you grabbing on to my arm like there’s no tomorrow.”
I paused, not sure what to answer. What did she mean ‘the next moment’ I was there? Of course there was that weird slow motion thing, but what was I supposed to tell her when I wasn’t quite sure what happened my-self? I could pass it off as that mental thing that mothers get when they miraculously save babies. Or just not mention it at all.
“Oh that!” I said, trying to laugh. Pen kept staring. “I just saw you leaving me behind and ran to catch up. When the car came, I was close enough to grab you. That’s all. You just didn’t notice me.”
She raised her eyebrow suspiciously, not completely buying the story but obviously hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings to know for sure or not. “Whatever, let’s just go home. And no telling my parent’s about this; they’ll freak.”
“Then you better make up a good story for those cuts.”
She sighed, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “Aren’t you the one that’s good at all that make believe stuff?”
“Yes,” I said grinning, “But I’m not the one that cares.”
Pen sighed again, defeated. We slowly drove back home, the sky dark out with one or two pale recollections of what used to be stars, until electricity and light bulbs came in and a full moon in the sky, high but small looking.
My eyes grew drowsy, worn out from so much reading, so much action, and so much weirdness. The pains from the injuries were just a tingling ache now, my arms falling limply along the seat. At least one thing was still constant in my life: sleep.
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