Lane Corrowane is your typical high-school senior, complete with a sickly twin sister and an insane best friend named Ethan. But one day, when the world decides to steal away all that he'd learned to love, he can only turn to the very words he'd long since thought to be pointless.
“I’m creative!” he announced loudly, giving Lane a stiff salute.
Lane, in turn, dropped his chin to his knuckles and pulled an eyebrow as high as it would go. “Oxymoronic is more like it. The military is just about the furthest thing from creativity, my friend.”
“Wallow in my fantastic senses of irony! Wallow!” and with this he began to spin in circles, his arms outstretched, almost as if to soak the sun into his pasty forearms.
“Will you stop that?” Lane hissed, lowering his head as if Ethan was throwing grenades rather than having some innocent fun. “People are watching!”
Ethan’s eyes set in his friend’s direction, but his spinning didn’t cease, “let them watch!” And he just went on smiling.
“Well isn’t he just a ray of sunshine today,” Catherine murmured, her eyes swaying from her brother to their maniacally spinning companion. “Did you put something in his soda?” Her head tilted, as if she were watching an amusing zoo exhibit.
Lane shook his head, “I’d have been afraid to.”
Ultimately, the pair of them decided to sit unassumingly at their table; pretend that they were completely unassociated with him. For even though they were in the very place to release energy—the city park—it became more than a bit awkward to see a high school senior spinning in circles like an idiot. They cringed as bikers and skaters and joggers and dog-walkers and all sort of passersby would pass by with that same look of confused distraction, wondering what the kid had smoked so early in the morning.
“I’m a magical knight in a far-off kingdom, and I must take this path to rescue my princess!” Ethan declared, in a voice much too loud for comfort. Picnickers began to turn their faces in his direction. “And I must get there by slicing through the fairy queen!” He thrust an arm and swished his blade at a seemingly wide and ridiculously lofty target. “And stealing her draught of rainbow serenity!” he grabbed a bottle-sized object from his newly slain ‘fairy queen’. “And with that draught I can only hope that when I use it to water the majestic lavender-tomato tree, that the winged daffodil beast will come to graze its high branches!”
“You drugged him, didn’t you,” Catherine managed to say between the unstoppable giggle-waves.
Lane, on the other hand, was appalled. He’d practically melded into the table, clawing desperately at the green paint. It was a useless act, as Ethan was nowhere near stopping. In fact, upon seeing his friend’s distress, Ethan leapt up onto the table, to utilize it as his stage. Catherine exploded with laughter.
“And while the daffodil beast is kept at bay, I will use the supple fronds of the symbiotic Teflon-tree to fashion myself a rope ladder and reins!” he grasped something near his feet and pulled violently upwards until his fist was held high above his head. “And only then will the magical blade appear to me! That which is shaped like a bird in mid-flap!” He held his arms out, raising his elbows and drooping his hands to make a lowercase ‘m’. With that, he pivoted on his hips so that one hand once again grazed the table. “Impressed with my valor the daffodil beast will descend upon to me and I will rein it in! And I shall ride it to the land of trapezoid mountains!”
“Well that isn’t creative, there’re a lot of trapezoid shaped mountains,” Catherine laughed to Lane, but her brother wasn’t having any of it.
“Oh! But you are mistaken! For they stand upon one of their acute angles! Oh-ho!” Ethan broke out into a grin. “Mathematical, aren’t I?” he then shook his head, “but then while I roam in the Lands of Trapezoid, the evil doctor Sharpnosalot, whose lair is constructed against one of the unassuming obtuse-angle-caves, he will be able to see me! And he will try to stop me!” He clasped his fists in front of him, spreading his feet into a sturdier stance. “He’ll feel the burning pang of love at first sight!”
Catherine exploded into another fit of laughter.
“You’re an idiot,” Lane choked. “And a gay idiot at that, just can it, would you?”
“No!” Exclaimed Ethan. “Because I would have been brewing the most sacred vial yet! Before he could reach me, I would swoop into the grapple-flavored river, and retrieve not only a worthy sample of its bounty but at its very bottom I would pick the scales of an amphibious moose! Paired with a patch of whisker and claw from my obliging daffodil-beast-mount, I will create the greatest anti-libido potion known to mankind!” he paused dramatically, his arms towards the heavens. And then he suddenly dropped them, cocking an eyebrow, “but I wouldn’t be too sure about the carpet nymphs, they’re pretty good at anti-libido. In any case! Once he is turned from my path I can slay him through the patella, his only weak point!”
“His kneecap?”Lane twitched. “Isn’t that the Achilles Tendon?”
“SILENCE!” Ethan roared, beating his chest several times to Lane’s horror. “It is his PATELLA!”
“That sounds so wrong,” Catherine chortled, now several shades of red and crying from all the laughter.
“And only then can I proceed to the valley of which she lays!” he gripped at his wild locks of hair, his eyes darting about. “I must answer the viciously embarrassing and unbelievably reveling questions posed by the fanged cherry-mouse, and then eat him alive!” he picks up something imaginary by its ‘tail’ and chomps on it. “only then can I rip up six and a half of the bridge boards. Six and a half exactly! For they are to be the key to the bubble-mist-fan vent! They are constructed of a great, living metal, the kind we harvest for blender parts!”
“Blenders,” Lane repeated incredulously.
“Indeed! For it is through their snaking shafts that I must crawl, with my daffodil beast in tow, pushing my load of Omblandeeding boards!”
“Your what?” Lane twitched.
“The bridge materials, you doofus, pay attention!” Ethan sighed exasperatedly, placing his hands on his hips and rolling his eyes. “But then as we work our way through the writhing maze of parchment-and-glue-lined tubes, we will undoubtedly come across the rooms in where I must pass tests of judgment! A divine strength must come from the first, where I must recite the fifty states in alphabetical order!” He clutched at his heart, the expression coming onto his face as if he was going to cry. But the happiness was back in an instant, “But I shall pass! And I must encounter a game of wit! I will seduce an emancipated teenager, one with many life problems, and convince her that cutting herself is pointless!” he paused, and turned to one of the joggers who was staring at him blatantly, announcing loudly, “cutting is extremely pointless. I mean really, why don’t you just pluck leg hairs and stuff from your armpit? It still freaking hurts! I mean, I’d rather do that then have all those ugly scars. Cutting is pointless when you’re gonna MAKE BELIEVE like you’re gonna kill yourself!” the jogger turned several shades of red and hurried on her way.
“You can stop, Ethan,” Lane said with the most serious voice he could muster.
“I’m almost done!” Ethan whined.
“No, Ethan, really. You can stop, my mom just texted me and she’s coming to get us.”
Catherine breathed a sigh, half of disappointment and half of relief. She glanced at her watch, “well, that was pretty fast.”
“No it wasn’t,” Lane closed his eyes, rubbing his temples. “Let’s go.”
“I’ll have to write out the ending for you,” Ethan smiled.
“I think I’ll pass,” Lane grumbled. “You know, sometimes it makes me wonder how we ever became friends with you.”
Ethan chuckled, “because I’m a social enigma with an imagination like a six year old?”
“A six year old who knows as much as a sixteen-year-old,” Lane said grumpily.
“Cheer up, grumpy-pants,” Ethan said, clapping his friend on the back. “How could you be sour on such a day like this? The sunshine baboons wouldn’t approve.”
It truly was a beautiful day out. Catherine actually looked a little better after having been in the sun for a while. Her skin seemed slightly less…worn. And, if it was possible, even happier. Perhaps if Ethan had done anything that day beside make a fool out of them all, it was to make her laugh. Just the thought was enough to make Lane ease up just the slightest.
“I think the sunshine baboons love you,” Ethan said suddenly.
Lane was about to spin and throw an insult at his friend, only to realize that he’d been talking to Catherine. With that in mind, he actually agreed.
“I think they’re beginning to hate me though,” Ethan whispered.
“How come?” Catherine blinked, gazing up at him.
“Well, we’ve had a long-time feud. I would put on a magical blend of the pollen of pink oranges and eraser-sugar-water. It keeps them at bay, you see? Because whenever I don’t use it, they slap me silly, and I’m red for days.”
Catherine began to giggle.
“But they injected me with something, I think,” Ethan blinked, putting a finger to pursed lips. “I’ve been feeling a bit dizzy at night, I’m sure it was their doing!”
“How horrible,” Lane rolled his eyes.
“But I like seeing you happy, I think I’ll have to make up some extravagant story and recite it in public to make a fool of myself in public…just to make you laugh!” Ethan grinned.
Catherine looked up at him without moving her head, her eyes furrowed in an amused way, “I’m sure I had enough of that for a lifetime!”
“What are you talking about?” Ethan grinned. “That was a true foretelling!”
“You make TV boring, Ethan,” Lane sighed as he flipped through the channels, sinking deeper and deeper into his armchair. “I think I’ll call for pizza.”
“Will mom like that?” Catherine asked.
Ethan looked from one to the other. They were twins, fraternal of course, but they still looked eerily similar. Only that one was much frailer, and the other much grumpier, like bruised, Washington apple compared to a fierce, candy-red one.
“She told me to.”
With that, he threw himself to his feet and marched for the corded phone. Their mother was one of those who never stood for minute-wasting.
“You know, Catherine,” Ethan blinked, turning towards her, “I really did meant it.”
She smiled, “meant what?”
“I like seeing you happy, of course!”
“Well, you make me happy,” she giggled. “So I guess that keeps us both happy?”
He chuckled and leaned in towards her, cupping a hand beside his mouth in the traditional way of secret-telling, “Is it me or the things I say?”
She blinked. He stared at her, his green eyes practically flaring with energy. His hair was almost always a mess, there was no calming it. Even though his dirty-blond locks were naturally straight, they had issues with staying in check. His face wasn’t unblemished, and he was moderately freckled, but it didn’t stop him from looking good the way he was. It was a proven fact with all of the girlfriends he’d managed to keep, but of course, his wild antics were enough to send any sensible woman packing.
“I’m not sure,” she responded truthfully. “I’m not sure what the comparison is!”
She smiled, her pallid face taking on a certain…liveliness for a few moments. And just as Ethan was wild and blond, she was sullen-looking and black-haired, her glistening tendrils swirling down to her hips. She was black-haired and practically black-eyed, with purplish rings around her lashes to match.
But it wasn’t her fault. And the very reason for it was one that they didn’t like to speak of, as words of illness had been practically banned from the house.
His hand raised to brush something from his nose, but it hung there in midair. His eyes traveled in her direction, and his hand found the armrest behind her, his entire body turning to face her. Her eyes locked with his, slowly beginning to comprehend. They grew wider for a few moments, but then returned to their usual state, and she lowered her chin, gazing at him shyly through a thick wall of lashes, through instinct drawing him closer. She inhaled deeply, her lips parting as he closed the space between them. His hold tightened on the armrest as the second hand brushed her cheek. From there it moved with him forward, and then caught in the silky tendrils there behind. His fingers traveled fluidly through her hair, down her back, and then came to rest just above her waist, shivering uncontrollably.
“Did you mean it…this way?” his voice broke, sending his husky tone to grade-schooler notes and then back.
He turned red and then dropped his head, beginning to retract when her hands caught the back of his head. And then all he was aware of was that her lips were pressed into his.
And that was everything. He was falling endlessly with it, his heart racing just as hers was. It was like the sweetest promise he’d ever made, like the most wonderful secret she’d ever told. And it was enough. That was all they needed in that moment, the wonderful feeling of being accepted and, lord above help us, love? A moment that could have lasted forever.
But it lasted just until they heard the footsteps from the next room over. Ethan pulled abruptly away, but the fire in his eyes and the ecstasy of his movement was still present. Catherine couldn’t stop grinning. And even through pizza and through ice cream and movies, the feeling didn’t go away. In fact, it just began to escalate, growing exponentially. As she leaned against him, as he grasped her hand, as they came closer whenever Lane wasn’t looking. And as when it came time to retire, and Ethan’s mom came to retrieve him, he pulled her into the corner, away from assuming eyes, and kissed her goodbye.
“Good night,” he smiled into her forehead. “Sleep well.”
“You too—” She began, but Lane suddenly appeared and began pulling him to the door.
“Night, man!” Ethan grinned.
“Night,” Lane nodded. “Sorry to cut the end of your story short, but your mom’s getting mad.”
Ethan shook his head, “no problem. See you tomorrow?”
“Today, actually,” Lane shrugged, peering at the clock. “Well, later.”
Ethan nodded, and waved as he popped into his mother’s car. Catherine stood in the doorway and watched as they turned down the next street, and then dashed upstairs to melt into her bed smiling. But of course, she would’ve felt much more accomplished had she finished what she was going to say.
When the next morning came, Catherine woke to the ringing of the home phone. Through her open door, she could hear her mother picking up the receiver downstairs. It was raining, she realized, no sunshine baboons today, it seemed. Yawning, she grabbed a towel and slid into her bathroom, running the tap and squeezing toothpaste onto her brush. A smile began to pull at her lips. She could then hear her mother calling names up the stairs, but didn’t bother to respond. Her mom knew she was taking a shower, she could hear it through the pipes…. She slipped into the shower and decided to let the luxury of warm water take over. She knew that they’d all be angry if she took all the hot water, but decided to postpone actually dealing with it until later. She was enjoying her water.
But eventually the time came for her to slip out, and she wrapped herself in the towel fuzz, feeling warm. She slipped through the bathroom door and took out the better articles of her drawer. She slid easily into them, and then set out for the stairs, ready to take on the day.
The day thought otherwise.
She hadn’t even gotten halfway down the stairs when she heard her brother sobbing uncontrollably. Suddenly, he was sprinting from the living room, and he threw himself against the wall, crumpling into a ball against the linoleum. She dashed towards him and slid to her knees beside him.
“Lane!” She choked. “What’s wrong?”
He threw himself at her, sobbing, squeezing her so tight she felt the blood pooling in her brain. She held him back, her forehead finding his neck.
“Lane, what’s wrong?”
Tears and saliva began to drip into her shirt. He let loose a wail that wrenched open her soul, and in itself she began to cry in turn.
“Lane! Tell me what’s wrong!”
His eyes turned to her, filled with fear and anger and pure, unadulterated sorrow. His teeth were now grit, and it was like he was choking on air, he couldn’t get enough of it through his tears.