Lily has been doing creative writing since she started high school. She likes writing mostly short stories, but seeks to branch out.
I’m sitting on the grass in the cold autumn air, doing the best I can to make myself comfortable. In the distance, I hear the sounds of balls on the ground and frantic shouts. Mostly, I’m surprised that they’re still playing soccer in this weather.
I shift my legs around a bit and settle with propping my back up against a pine tree, my legs outstretched. A bit rough, but I’ll live. The wind rustles through my hair, sending a shiver through my body. I zip my fluffy white jacket up a little bit more and pull my knees in towards me. Another rustle of wind sends my hair aflutter, so I brush the long wayward strands out of the way.
I could be doing almost anything else right now. I could be sitting at home watching Netflix, I could be writing some story about the coming winter. But no, I’m waiting outside for my friend Amber. I sigh and am rewarded with a wispy cloud of vapor. I’m a bit annoyed. She said she would be outside in 10 minutes, but I’ve been outside for 20. And I can’t even browse my phone, check the notifications that pile up. My fingers are ice cubes incapable of movement.
Actually, I am an ice cube. I let out a protracted groan that is partly frustration, but mostly impatience and desperation, calling out to the faceless grey clouds above.
It feels like an eternity until I feel someone tap me on the shoulder. I must look like a fool right now, slightly stoned. I glance towards the source of the tap, but there’s no one there. Despite my annoyance and cold, I can’t help but smile. Another tap, but this time I don’t turn my head. In the corner of my eye, I see black hair with streaks of orange and an infectious smile of white teeth.
My heart skips a beat. I wave. “Took you long enough,” I say with mock annoyance.
“Hey! Sorry bout’ keeping you waiting! I promise, I really didn’t think the meeting would drag on for so long with the administration and all....” she rolls her tired eyes with genuine annoyance, “I thought I’d be waiting there forever!”, she says, dragging the r out for good measure.
“Oh... the admin,” I nod my head. “Makes sense.”
She takes a seat next to me, somehow making herself comfortable in the span of ten seconds. If only I could do the same. “But enough about me,” she says, her smile coming back as quickly as she had lost it. “How have you been? School and all, and who knows,” she continues, winking at me. “Maybe some drama. I know you’re usually not one for tea, but ya’ never know. People do change sometimes, am I right?”
I pause for a moment to think. The air smells like dead leaves and peppermint.
“I’ve been fine. Sleep deprived and anxious, the usual,” I say just in time before I hear someone yell “GOAL!” in the background. “Somewhere else?”, I ask, and she nods. We both stand up from the slightly damp grass and make our way towards the bus stop. The wind rustles through my hair again, but I’m used to it now. I’m comfortably numb.
Behind me, I hear a prepubescent teenager cuss angrily.
“So, Riley, about the whole sleep deprivation thing?”, Amber asks me in a slightly chiding, motherly tone. “I swear to god, if you’ve only been getting five hours of sleep, you and I both know that I’m gonna have to poke you in the sides really hard or something.”
I can’t help but blush a bit as I stare at the ground sheepishly. I’ve been running on four hours of sleep for the entire day, and if there’s a witty response to be had, it sure isn’t coming. I stare at the ground aimlessly for a bit longer and laugh nervously. “Lower.”
“Four?!”, she exclaims. I nod meekly and am punished with a forceful but friendly elbow to the ribs. “Well, to be fair, it was a necessary sacrifice for a 92 average,” I reply in protest. My voice suddenly sounds very hollow in the howling wind. Another express bus passes us by, kicking up a frenzied cloud of leaves and exhaust. My hood stops the brunt of the cloud from getting into my eyes, but Amber is a little less fortunate.
She coughs conspicuously, far more than is warranted. Dramatic as always, but it’s hard not to smile and laugh a little at her dramatized agony. “Well, you’re not just going to stop procrastinating if I don’t nag you,” she replies. “After all, you and I both know how much time you spend on non-biology activities, if you know what I mean,” an air of mischief creeping into her voice.
I put a finger on my lips and shush her, trying my best to sound intimidating. She bursts into laughter, a clear sign that I’ve failed at doing so. “No, you,” I reply, making a second attempt at sounding somewhat menacing. “No, no you,” she shoots back defiantly. At this point, I give up on trying to pull this tone off on 4 hours of sleep.
Another chilly gust sweeps through the streets. “Fine, you win. I’ll procrastinate less,” I say between involuntary clatters. I try to compress myself into an ever-smaller space, pulling the zipper up until I’m basically a walking marshmallow. I stuff my hands into my pockets, but it’s mostly futile. I’m still frozen.
Amber flashes me a bright smile and finger guns, bubbly as always. “Ay, that’s what I like to hear!”, she exclaims triumphantly, extending a hand out for a fist bump. I shake my head. “Too cold.”
“Aww. On the bus, maybe?”, she asks, and I nod my head. “Gloves?”, she asks, and I nod. They’re wooly and warm, but not enough. We spend the rest of the time waiting for the bus in peaceful silence. I continue to try not to freeze to death. She hums the tune of some song I don’t know, probably twenty-one pilots. The wind sings along.
The air smells like the Christmas market - cigars and peppermint. A stray leaf floats by.
The long-overdue bus wheels screech by. “Hey, bless up,” I hear in the corner of my ear. “Let’s get on.” I’ve been staring at the ground for the past few minutes, somehow not dead yet.
We make our way onto the bus. “Praise be to heating,” I mutter under my breath as we sit down on the bus seats. “Didn’t think that you were the religious type, Riley,” she said sarcastically. “Especially not someone that would worship a capitalist creation like heating,” I’m still too tired to answer.
“So, where you wanna go tonight?”, she asks me.
“Somewhere inside, please,” I put as much emphasis on the “please” as I can muster.
“Aight, consider it done.” The cars are lined up on the road. Stagnant and unmoving. I yawn. “Sorry, I’m a bit tired today.”
“Don’t even worry. Pretty sure we’re gonna be stuck here for a really long time, so feel free to take a nap. I won’t get offended, promise.” Thank goodness.
I point at her shoulder. “Can I?”, I ask her. “Course you can,” she replies, and I rest my head on her shoulder. Far better than resting my head on my bag, which smells like dead leaves and sweat and school. It smells like misery. Her jacket is soft and fluffy, not unlike mine. Above me, the lights of the bus shine warily.
I close my eyes. It smells like flowers and peppermint, like someone put spring and winter together. A pleasant thought. Even through the jacket, I can tell that she’s far warmer than me somehow, despite the fact that I’m wearing a full layer more than her. I lean in a little closer, the tiredness of the day finally hitting me.
Remembering the fist bump I promised her, I remove my hand from my pocket, only to realize that I’m too lazy to open my eyes and follow through with it. I’ll do it later, I tell myself as I succumb to my tiredness, asleep at last.