This story is by Amanda McFadden and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After a warmer than usual October, November turned crisp. But she refused to give up her oversized jean jacket and her white converse just yet. Slipping into the break room five minutes before her shift actually ended, she threw her hoodie over her ugly polo and sat down at the table and waited for it to be 9pm.
The unspoken tension between the two of them grew when he came into the break room two minutes after she did. Still three minutes until either of them could punch out, he sighed in frustration and sat down across from her at the table. Her eyes fixed on her phone, she spoke, startling herself as she erased the eerie silence that filled the room. “Do you want a ride home?”
In the parking lot, she quickly headed to her car, swinging her keys on her index finger. She hated working Friday nights; even when she got off early. He caught up to her.
“You know you have a rip in your pants?”
She looked down and felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment.
When she looked up again he was smiling. He had this cocky grin that you couldn’t look away from. She wanted to slap him, but also bury her face in his chest.
“Just get in the car.” She laughed.
“I can’t,” he smiled again. “It’s locked.”
She fumbled for the right key, unlocked the door and slid in the driver’s side.
“So… I’m taking you home?”
Staring down at the rip in her jeans. Her favourite black jeans. She played with the rip, instinctively wanting to make the hole bigger. She felt his eyes fall to her thighs and covered it with her hand, wondering if she could make them into shorts.
She lifted her head and noticed he wasn’t staring at her thighs at all, he was staring at her.
She put her keys in the ignition but paused to wait for his answer.
“Or, we could do something.” His face went white as he asked.
“Like what?” She stared directly at him and felt her mouth curl into a smile before she could fully comprehend what he had said.
“I don’t know. Just drive.” He smiled.
She started the car and drove far away from work, forgetting all about the rip in her pants.
They wound up in an old school parking lot. She started shivering the second she got out of her car. She couldn’t tell if she was nervous, cold, or both.
“One time in my senior year, I broke in here on a Sunday night. We played basketball in the gym until we thought we heard someone coming.” She laughed.
His eyes lit up every time she talked, but this time they lit up with more intrigue.
“Where were the doors you snuck in?”
She turned around and pointed behind him. “Those ones.”
They weren’t open. She turned to face him, but before she could open her mouth, he had spotted a cart in the parking lot and went running for it. He jumped in it at the last second and started riding. She felt her heart stop when she thought he was going to fall, afraid that something would happen to him. That’s when she realized how much she liked him.
He hopped out and started walking toward her, his tongue poking through his teeth in a smile she couldn’t look away from.
“Let’s go,” He said when he got closer to her. “I know a place.”
He took the keys from her hand and headed for her car.
“You can’t just drive my car.”
“And I can’t just tell you where we’re going, it’s a surprise.”
She leaned back against the passenger seat and watched him concentrate on the road. Trying her best to savour the feeling of excitement, but pure calm that had come over her. She was never one for surprises, or spontaneity, but nothing felt wrong or rushed about tonight. She was having too much fun for that.
He pulled into a crowded parking lot and looked at her.
“Don’t worry, we aren’t going here. We just have to walk a bit.”
She got out of the car and followed him across the street. This was her favourite part of town. Like a smaller (much smaller) version of SoHo. Artsy, exposed bricks, breweries and coffee shops.
She stopped to put her glasses on, and felt his eyes fall on her. She looked up and watched him, swearing he was going to kiss her right then and there. She caught her breath for a second.
When they realized neither of them were going to make the first move, they started walking again.
“How comfortable are you with breaking in somewhere?” he asked.
She laughed in response.
“Well, I’d be a hypocrite if I said not very.”
He looked at her, studying her face for a reaction.
“I’ve always wanted to go on an adventure with you.” She added quietly, “and 10 minutes ago I told you I broke into my old high school and played basketball.”
“So, I’m not opposed at all.”
He grabbed her hand again and pulled her forward, she ran behind him, no longer trying to fight back a smile.
“Where are we going?” She asked, not expecting or wanting any sort of answer. She wanted to see for herself.
The old office building had been abandoned for years. It was covered in vines, and majority of the windows had been broken. They were able to crawl in, avoiding the road which was busy with traffic, and any nosey cops wandering around.
It was more open than expected, because most of the walls and windows were missing. It was mostly pillars, dust and crunchy leaves. She stepped on a loose floor board.
“Careful.” He grabbed her hand, concerned.
“I’m okay.” She laughed, holding his hand tighter before letting go to roam.
He let her, but never let her leave his sight. Only once calling her name when he thought she disappeared.
“C’mere.” He called. “I see stairs.”
She ran over toward his voice. The moon shone through one of the only windows that wasn’t broken. Leaving a soft orange hue in the tiny room. She stopped to take a picture – and realized he was waiting for her.
“Sorry.” She mumbled.
“No,” he replied. “Take as many as you want.”
He slipped his hand around her waist before he started up the stairs.
“Do you think we can get to the roof?” she asked.
He didn’t answer, he just kept climbing.
It was dark, but she still stopped, walking extra slow, making sure to take in every detail. Right down to how many steps she took from the top step to the next doorway. Eight.
Her heart was pounding, but she somehow felt the most at ease. Something told her she’d never want to forget this night.
The way the moon illuminated everything, the way her cheeks felt fiery red, the way she felt every ounce of stress and heartache fall off her shoulders. The way she wanted to grab his hand again, but he was too far ahead.
“Watch your head.”
He reached his hand out to grab her hand as she ducked into the next room. She felt claustrophobic and a little afraid. He squeezed it a bit and pulled her along. Eventually the walkway was too small for the both of them to fit.
“Here, walk in front of me. If we take these stairs it’ll lead to the roof. But be careful.”
She tip-toed up the stairs, turning around to make sure he was following her. He put his phone flashlight on. Right next to the stairs was a box full of random stuff. He ran toward it and started sifting through.
“I want a souvenir of tonight.” He said without looking up.
She started laughing.
“What! Don’t make fun of me.” He scoffed.
“I’m not. It’s just… you said exactly what I was thinking.”
He turned toward her and she thought he maybe was going to kiss her. He didn’t.
“I don’t wanna forget tonight.” She whispered a little too quietly, hoping he wouldn’t hear.
He pulled out two cards. They were dirty and beaten up. King and a queen.
“Here.” He handed her the queen. “It’s the best I could find.”
She slipped the card in her pocket, trying not to let him see her smile.
“The roof’s this way.” He cocked his head to the left of him.
She followed him, but something stopped her once she reached the doorway. She found herself just watching him. He walked all the way to the edge and looked down. He then stared up at the moon.
At that moment, all she could think about was kissing him. She stared ahead and pulled her phone out, snapping a picture of his silhouette against the night sky.
She never wanted to forget this night.