Two teens + a handful of dusty summer nights in Florida. Written for the Requiem contest on figment.com.
I'm woken in the middle of a muggy Floridian dream by pebbles bouncing off of my windowpane. I get up from my bed and make my way to the window, and there she is. Barefoot, that old bike of hers lying in the driveway, back wheel still spinning.
She beckons. Come on down.
I hold up a finger for her to wait, pulling on my sneakers. In moments, I'm tying back my hair as I make my way down stairs. Years of sneaking down after midnight as a kid have burned the map of creaks in the stairs into my memory.
Mattie's waiting for me right outside. She's wearing the same clothes as yesterday: black tee, grey soccer shorts, hemp necklace that I made for her last month.
I take her hand. "What's new with you tonight?" I whisper.
She shrugs. "I thought it'd be a good night for the haystacks." Her eye twinkles.
I nod, and together we pick up her bike, wheeling it up behind my house and along the path cutting behind my backyard. The heat is thick and smooth, and I move through it as if in a dream, my hand resting on Mattie's as we push her bike through the grass. In minutes, the path has opened off into a field; it's alive with the night and the sounds of insects, but here, the only humans on earth are us. Mattie and me.
And of course, off to the side, there are the haystacks. Five identical mounds rising taller and smoother than my grandpa's wood pile. Mattie leans her bike against the first, brushing off her hands. "Want to climb?"
"Sure." I find a foothold, and we scramble up to the top, hay scratching our hands and knees.
You can see the whole world from up here; the vastness of the field, striped with corn and wheat and grasses; the lights spraying out from the new town that's being built a few miles off; the moon swimming in the sky. It's so perfect; it always is. If only everything was like this.
Mattie looks at me, taking my hand. "Hey. Lace. Something on your mind?"
I sigh. "My aunt Kim. She..." I cut myself off.
Mattie bites her lip. "She's been bothering you again?"
"Yeah." I let out a huff of air. "Mattie, she knows. I'm sure she does."
"About you and me?"
"No, just... me."
"Oh. Oh. You aren't out yet, are you?"
"Not since I last checked. You know my family. They're so damn homophobic. And Kim. She keeps dropping hints, you know?"
"Believe me. I know."
I feel like crying. "Yeah."
Mattie put an arm around me. "Hey," she says gently. "When she's dead, we'll do it on her grave."
I tense up. "What?"
"It was a joke. God. Sorry, Lace." She pauses. "The part about your aunt dying, I mean. The other part was completely serious."
I blush. I can't help it. "I'm not opposed to the idea. Just so you know." She squeezes my hand. "But not, like, right now..." I add.
"Don't worry," Mattie says. "We've got all our lives."
I smile at her, and we kiss right there on the top of the world.
Mattie wakes me for the second time that night with a whisper. "Almost dawn, Lace. You need to be getting back." Her hair tickles my neck.
I sit up, brushing the hay off of my back. The moonlight casts shadows on her face, spilling over her nose, her lips. I get to my feet and climb carefully down from the haystack. Mattie's straddling her bike already, bare toes curling over the peddles. I rest a hand on hers. "Hey," I say. "Same time, same place, tomorrow night?"
Mattie gives a half smile. "Sounds like a plan."
I'm waiting outside my house at just past eleven the next night when she coasts in on her bike. Soon, we're heading silently up the path to the field. I'm giddy; hopefully the darkness is enough to hide my blushing. Mattie hums a fragment of a song under her breath.
We lay on top of the haystack for ages. It's time enough for me to count all the stars in Mattie's eyes, and then again. Time enough for me to taste my words a thousand times in my mouth before I let them out. "Mattie?"
She blinks. Smiles. "Yeah?"
"I'm going to tell them tomorrow."
Mattie sits up. "Wow. Are you sure?"
I nod. "Yeah, I've thought about it a lot."
Mattie searches my face. "You'd better be careful, Lacey."
"I can handle it. Matilda."
She groans. "God. I know you can handle it, just... you don't exactly live in a rainbow-friendly family."
"Whatever." I pause. "How did your dad react? When you told him."
She shrugs. "It wasn't a big deal. He figured it out on his own, honestly." She smiles wryly. "I guess I'm pretty obvious." Her tone turns serious again. "Just... be cautious. Make it easy on them."
We sit back for a while and just watch the stars drifting across the sky. But after a few minutes — or a few hours — we've slid close together and the stars are in her eyes again, and we're kissing in a tangle of hair and soft skin and dreams. And like always, our night is coming to a close with kisses.
I hope that never changes.
The next morning, I'm surprised to see aunt Kim in the kitchen, measuring flour. My conversation with Mattie last night comes flooding back like a wave. This is the day that I come out.
Kim looks up at me. "Morning, Lacey." She turns away to sift flour into her bowl.
I gulp. She knows. I jam my hands in my pockets and walk into the other room. I have to do this soon. Get it over with.
But somehow, I end up waiting after all. I run the words over my tongue the whole time that I'm eating my breakfast, doing my chores, wading through the plastic pool that my little sisters set up to play in. By the time that my mom is starting to talk about peeling herself off of her lawn chair to make dinner, I've worked up a knot of worry in my stomach the size of a grapefruit.
It has to be now.
I walk slowly across the lawn to my parents. "Mom. Dad." I cough. "I have something to tell you."
"Shoot," my dad says.
My throat constricts. I open my mouth. "I'm... I'm gay."
My mom is the first to speak. "You're joking, right." I don't say anything. "Some sick joke."
"No. No, mom, I'm a lesbian."
My dad rises slowly. "Are you sure?"
Are you sure? Are you sure? "Positive. I've known my whole life."
"What?" Mom shouts. "I thought I raised you right! You couldn't have..."
I turn off my eyes, my ears, my mind. I might as well be dead.
I drag myself outside that night to meet Mattie, head aching. She frowns when she sees me. "Lace, how did it go?"
I stare ahead dully. "Well, I was right about one thing." I sigh. "I live in a family of homophobes."
Mattie puts an arm gently around my shoulders. "I'm sorry, Lace," she says. "I'm sorry."
"And yeah," I continue. "Kim already knew. Turns out she read my journal."
We're silent for a while, just letting the crickets crowd in and fill the gaps in our conversation as we wheel Mattie's bike up behind my house and along the path. After several minutes, I speak. "My mom doesn't want me."
"What? She kicked you out?" Mattie gasps.
"She says if I'm not out by Sunday, she'll push me out."
"God. That's awful. I... I wish I could say you could move in with me. I wish I could say that so much."
"I know. I know." My voice cracks. "I guess I'll work something out..."
"Hey. It's going to be all right." Mattie sets her bike down and puts her arms around me. Her hair smells like coconut. "We still have the haystacks, don't we?"
I choke out a laugh. "Words of wisdom."
Together, we pick up her bike, wheeling it the last twenty yards before the treeline breaks off. But just before we reach the edge of the field, I sense something's different.
The rows of corn and wheat have been scraped cleanly away, hacked off at the roots and tossed carelessly in a huge slaggy heap where the haystacks used to be.
Where the haystacks used to be.
I catch my breath. "Mattie..."
She grips my arm. "I know. I saw." She turns to look at a shiny, understated sign that's been hammered into the ground at the edge of the field.
Coming soon: Rite-Aid Pharmacy. With Us, It's Personal.
I reach for Mattie's hand. "Let's go."
We leave the field and what remains of our haystacks behind in the dust.