by Ashly Curtis
“You have to tell them,” he said.
She stared off into the stars, naming the constellations, pretending she hadn’t heard. The small boat gently rocked them back and forth, like the cradle people always sing to their children about. She’d decided on this boat ride with him in the middle of the night maybe as a subconscious subterfuge, or maybe she really did want to spend time with him again. Either way, there they sat, each on one end of her father’s old boat, lingering somewhere between the shore and the middle of the ocean.
“Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus.” Her hand moved eastward along with her eyes.
“Come on,” he said, grabbing her hand. “You can’t hide this forever.”
“You know, you’re really just great at desecrating the stars,” she said, shaking free of him. “I’m not going to tell them. There’s no need. It’s ineffable, really. There’s nothing I can say.”
“Have you even told the father yet?”
“The father? Of course not. Why would I do that?”
He looked at her, disbelief contorting his normally handsome features. They’d been what some would call ‘childhood sweethearts.’ Next door neighbors and all of that, but they lost touch with the school district line running alongside the fence separating their backyards. She’d gone off to East York Middle school, he to West, and by high school they wouldn’t have recognized each other at a diner. She inevitably fell in with the wrong crowd, with her striking blonde hair and effortlessly curved figure. It was the summer before college before she became near enough to rock bottom to call her old friend and invite him out for a midnight boat ride.
“Well, I think he needs to know. He definitely needs to know. Who is he? Do you want me to tell him?”
“Jesus, Tony. No. I didn’t bring you out here so you could spill the goddamn beans all over the place!” She shook her head. “This wasn’t a good idea. We’re going back. This never happened.” She reached for the motor cord.
“Why did you bring me out here?”
“Because. You’re smart, I mean, you’re going to like, Harvard or something. I figured you’d know what to do. I sure as hell don’t.”
“Well I do. Tell them. At least your parents. I mean, what are you going to do? You’re keeping it right? You have to.”
“Like hell I have to. No, I’m not keeping it.” She leaned back, laced her fingers together, and placed her hands around her stomach with extra care. “I’m not telling. What else ya got, bub?” Her foot started tapping to some invisible music. He sighed.
“I can’t believe you just called me that.”
“Why not, bub?” She sat up and poked his shoulder.
“Stop. I’m being serious,” he said, pushing her finger away.
“Me too, bub.” She reached into her sweater pocket for her pack of cigarettes and pulled one out with her mouth. She lit and puffed, then looked for his reaction. That ugly contortion again. “Come on, bub, try and stop me!” She stood, making the boat shake. He grabbed both sides with either hand, pleading with her to sit down. “Come on, Tony! Come on and stop me!”
He closed his eyes and stood up. She was walking back and forth, waving the cigarette in front of him, coaxing him to take it. “I’m not doing this. You’re going to flip the boat over.”
“No, Tony. You’re going to flip the boat over.”
“Will you just stop? That’s going to kill you, not to mention–”
“Here’s what you’re supposed to say to smokers, Tony. You have to say this with me, or you’ll never get anywhere in your life. Okay? Say this: ‘That shit’ll kill you.’”
“I am not saying that.”
“You’ll never get anywhere in your life.” She smirked. Then, seeing his disdain, smiled real big, put one hand on her stomach, and brought the cigarette to her open mouth with her other hand. “I’m doing it,” she said.
“That shit’ll kill you,” he said.
“I know,” she said, taking his hand. “I know.”
My name is Ashly Curtis and I am a senior in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I have enjoyed writing since I can remember and am pleased to be able to further my education with something that I love to do. This is the first piece I have published, and I have a whole folder full of fuel for the fire.