Sitting up in bed, I realized that my shorts weren’t going to cut it if I wanted to go outside. Taking them off, I slid on a pair of leggings and slipped into my same oversized white sweatshirt. Glancing at the clock before pulling on the same huge green socks that I had worn the night before, I noticed that it was one fifteen. I scampered out of my room and tip-toed down the stairs. Easing the door open, I walked out into the night.
I walked down the street heading in the general direction of the playground, though I wasn’t going there. Too many memories. When I was close to reaching it, a car came whirling around the bend in the road. The headlights immediately shown in my face, blinding me. Raising my hands to cover my eyes, I stumbled a little. My foot caught on something and I found myself falling towards the ground. Landing on my back with a small thud, I realized that I had indeed fallen. I heard a car door open and someone got out. Getting up, I squinted at the form that was making its way towards me. Glancing at the car, I recognized a familiar Honda.
He cocked his head at me and looked me up and down. I should probably feel embarrassed. I mean, I probably did look pretty dumb. But to be honest, I didn’t feel embarrassed at all.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Walking.”
“Huh. At one thirty in the morning?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” I said simply. I didn’t owe this guy an explanation. It wasn’t his business.
He shrugged. “Where are you going to walk?”
“Not sure. Wherever I feel like, I guess.”
“Do you do this often?”
“Yeah, guess so.”
Nodding, he turned around as if to go back to his car.
“Why are you driving so late?” I blurted out, not wanting the conversation to end.
He turned back. “Uh, same as you, I guess.”
“You can’t sleep?”
“Or maybe I just choose not to.”
“Why would you do that?”
He shrugged again.
“I would sleep if I could,” I said.
“But isn’t it kind of cool?” he said, “Being up when no one’s around? It’s kind of like a different world. It’s really quiet and it’s just you. No one to hassle you or yell at you. It’s like you have all this time for yourself.” He shrugged, seeming embarrassed about saying so much. “I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.”
I just stared at him. He had spoken my thoughts word for word. That’s exactly why I found nighttime so magical. It was like you were in a different world. That was exactly it. He turned away, obviously regretting saying anything.
“You’re right,” I said, “That’s why I like it.”
When he turned back around, whatever place in his mind that he had momentarily let me into, was now closed off. His eyes looked guarded. “Yeah, well, I’ll leave you to it, then.”
“Do you want me to show you something?” I said quickly, before he could try to leave again.
“What kind of something?”
“It’s this place on top of a hill. You can see over the whole city. It’s really cool, my dad showed it to me.”
He narrowed his eyes for a brief moment, and I was sure that he would say no. He surprised me when he nodded. “Sure. Want to walk or go by car?”
He nodded and walked around to the car door that was still hanging open. He leaned in, grabbed the keys, closed the door, locked the car, and we were off.
We walked side by side in silence. His strides were so much longer than mine that I was practically jogging to keep up with him. When he noticed this, he smirked and started walking slower.
“Did you just move here?” I asked, breaking the silence. It was obvious, the answer, but I still felt the need to clarify.
“Why did you come here?”
“Does it matter?” He didn’t ask it in a mean way, necessarily. I had the feeling that whatever the reason of his sudden move, he didn’t want to talk about it.
He shrugged and we lapsed back into silence. A sudden cold gust of wind blew against us, causing me to stuff my hands into the pocket of my sweatshirt. I glanced over at Jonah. I was struck again on how his messy black hair seemed to fit him. He caught me staring at me, and instead of looking away or blushing or whatever, he just stared right back at me. For the first time he seemed to take in my similarly crazy hair and unusually piercing green eyes. I noticed that his eyes had flecks of bluish green in them. Huh. Interesting. Biting my lip, I habit that I had, I took note that he was wearing a black sweatshirt, dark jeans, and black Converse. He didn’t seem to like bright colors very much. He, too for the second time, looked down at what I was wearing. When he got down to my socks, he simply raised an eyebrow.
“Nice socks,” he said.
I snorted and turned away, staring straight ahead. When we reached the edge of the playground, I stopped. Looking around, I let the memories wash over me.
“Just one more push, Dessy!” my dad had said, placing his hands on my back.
“No! Daddy, stop! I’ll fall off!” a five-year-old me had shrieked.
“I’ll catch you!”
When I blinked, bringing me back to reality, I could feel Jonah staring at me. A small sigh escaped me as I felt the full effect of the memory leaving me.
“Um,” I said.
“Why are we at a play ground?” Jonah asked.
“See those woods over there?” I asked, pointing to the woods behind the playground by about a hundred yards.
“Well, that’s the base of the hill.”
I nodded and started walking again.
“Dessy, let me show you a place.”
“It’s on top of a hill. You can see the whole world from this place.”
“Can we go now?” a ten-year-old me had asked.
“No, no, it’s better at night,” my dad had said, taking my hand and squeezing it gently.
“Why at night?”
“Because, the whole town lights up and it’s amazing.”
“Okay. Now can I have a cookie?”
“Didn’t your mom just tell you that you couldn’t have any more cookies today?” he asked in amusement.
“I did!”my mom yelled from down the hall.
I sighed and stomped my foot, smiling. “Oh, c’mon!”
“Sorry, sweetheart, maybe later after supper.”
Pushing through the branches, I led Jonah to the now overgrown trail that I knew by heart. I didn’t even really know if he was still following, didn’t really care. I was so far stuck in the past that I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. Functioning on autopilot was something I’d learned to do.
“Here, give me your hand, Dessy,” my dad said, reaching for my hand.
I slipped my hand in his as he led me past the swing set. “Can I swing, Daddy?”
“Maybe tomorrow.” He continued to lead me past the trees and we started traveling up a steep hill. There were trees all around us. I felt his hand tighten around mine.
“Be careful not to slip, the pine straw can be slippery.”
“Okay, Daddy.” We walked in silence for a couple of minutes until finally the trees started to thin. I glanced around, wondering how much longer it was going to take to reach the spot that he had talked about. The trees stopped and it was now just grassy. We walked for a little ways longer and we finally reached the top. Well, not exactly. On top of the hill there were two things: a huge boulder and a tree. The tree was massive and leaned over the boulder.
“Um, well, this is it,” I said, regretting bringing him here. He was probably going to think it was stupid. It was my secret place, so why had I brought him here?
He glanced over at it and cocked his head. Turning to me, he asked, “Can we go up?”
“On top of the boulder?”
“Sure, if you want.”
“Yeah, I want to.”
“Here,” my dad said, picking me up, “grab onto the tree.” He lifted me up and set me down on a branch. I gripped it and started climbing up until I reached where I could easily step on the top of the boulder. Stepping onto it, I glanced back down at the ground. I giggled when I saw my dad climbing up after me. When he stepped onto the boulder, I gave him a hug.
Jonah climbed up the tree first and then turned his body and offered his hand out to me. I debated whether or not to take it only for a moment. Slipping my hand into his, I noticed how warm it was. There was no electricity when our skin touched. It just felt...nice. He pulled me up onto the branch that he was standing on.
A little breathless, I nodded at him. “Thanks.”
He simply nodded back at me. We both stepped onto the boulder.
“This is fun!” I said.
“Look, Dessy,” he whispered.
I turned around. Some people might not think it looked amazing at all. But to me, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The whole town was stretched out in front of me. There were lights in a couple of the houses, making it look almost magical. I felt so tall, so completely detached from the lives of the people in town.
“I can see my school!” I shrieked happily.
He chuckled and kissed the top of my head. “Love you, Dessy.”
“I love you too, Daddy. Thank you for taking me here.”
“Hey, are you okay?”
I snapped out of it. Noticing that Jonah was staring at me again with a weird look on my face, I shrugged.
“Are you sure? You’re crying,” he pointed out.
Raising my hand to my cheeks, I realized that I was, indeed, crying. “Um.”
He stared at me in silence, not pressuring me to say anything.
When I stayed silent, he looked out, taking in the view. “It’s really amazing up here,” he said quietly.
My first instinct was to nod, but for some reason, it didn’t feel right. “Yeah,” I said quietly, “I used to come up here all the time.”
“Well, I can see why. It feels like the town’s really far away.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of what I like about it. I feel...” I searched for the right word.
“Like you’re in another place?” Jonah offered.
I turned to look at him. “Yeah, exactly.”