BY LARRY BROWN
This story is from the author’s flash fiction collection, Satellite. Copyright is held by the author.
KAYLA SAYS she won’t be, not anyone’s. Worse, she won’t be my girlfriend either. All those apologies, she says, with that whispering Irish accent, an accent I hear in my dreams though in my dreams it’s not always Irish, and not always Kayla speaking it.
We’re in the school library, I’m hauling around books on the industrial revolution, Kayla’s perfume reminds me of cherries. Apologies? I say, but with some hush to my voice. Nobody has to be sorry, I say, the hush lost. Kayla moves along the aisle, away from me, head bent, reading book spines. Or pretending to. I can’t tell.
I’m 15, I’m no thesaurus, I know what I feel, only not in words.
Yet we hold hands while we sit a cushion apart on the blue couch in my parents’ basement and watch TV. And together we unravel, probably mangle, what they say on the French station, then we search the channels for a movie, a black and white one if we’re lucky, with hats and a big story. We drink chocolate milk from Flintstones glasses. Between us, we split a Milky Way bar.
Matty, what is this pandemonium we’re watching? Kayla likes to say.
No one else does that, speaks my name and makes it a richer thing than it is.
Today, after an hour of sampling our way up and down the channels, I click the remote and the screen goes blank. It is raining outside, the basement dim, our milk glasses empty. This is the part where, usually, with barely a word and regardless of the weather, Kayla stands, Kayla leaves, as if needing to be somewhere else right away. The part where, usually, I wait to see her legs in their black tights walk by the basement window so I can try to will them to stop and bring her, bring that accent, back to the blue couch.
Today, Kayla doesn’t get up. As she did yesterday, she says, Can we stay here for now, Matty? Yesterday, she squeezed my hand and my leg shook.
But my question today, for her and for me, is this: Why am I about to say something I know I’ll have to apologize for?