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Water On Fire

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Chapter 1 - Intro

Nick

 “You saved me one, right?”

Suddenly, my lips were curling into a smile. Here came a familiar German shepherd, wearing a ratty old grey t-shirt with its sleeves haphazardly cut off. The hole in the knee of his ripped jeans seemed bigger than they were a few hours ago. In his right paw, he’s holding his guitar case, and as he approaches me he sets it down next to mine.

“You’re too late. The whole pack’s gone,” I say, smirking and pulling a cigarette out of my mouth after inhaling the smoke. I hold it between my fore and middle fingers, grinning with mischief at my newfound company. He crosses his arms and leans against the brick wall behind us.

“Funny. Hand it over.” He holds his paw out, expectantly. I chuckle softly and reach into my pocket, pulling out the small box and dropping into his hand. He removes a cig and places it between his teeth as I give him my lighter. “Thanks,” he says as he lights his cigarette.

“No problem,” I shrug, leaning back against the wall once more. There’s a comforting silence as we stand there, smoking and enjoying each other’s silent presence. The sky is a mix of somber oranges, slight yellows, and quiet purples as the day nears its end. There’s a soft breeze and then the scraping of leaves against the ground as they scoot by us in small twirling cyclones. After a few minutes, the social silence starts wearing on me. “You picked an interesting spot to meet.”

“Yeah, well...My old man got after me. He doesn’t want us practicing in the garage anymore,” the shepherd explains. He has this frustrated look in his eyes like there’s more to the story, but I decide not to press for details.

“What!? But we were so close to mastering Transmutation! I was really hitting the guitar solo.” I frown, kicking a small rock and watching it frantically jump around as if it were surprised it was touched. “What did Boris say?”

“He did exactly what you would expect,” the dog says. “Started suggesting a ton of new places to practice. I told him I’d handle it.”

“Smart choice,” I sighed. “Well, did you handle it?”

“Duh. If I didn’t, you wouldn’t be standing in an alleyway off Main,” he rolls his milk chocolate eyes. He takes another puff of smoke. I stand there, just looking at him for a moment. The smell of smoke envelops us as I think of how strangely comforting it is. My mother always smoked as I was growing up, so I’ve grown accustomed to the strong scent of fresh cigarettes. Now that I smoke myself, I find it highly enjoyable. Can’t say the same for others, though...

Another thought occurs to me, and it’s so spontaneous and out of the blue that my eyes widen a bit. Everything will change. We’ll grow up and we won’t be standing around in alleyways any more. We’ll be wearing suits or tending to our kids or paying the bills. There won’t be any time to enjoy the breeze or share a cigarette, and the moments we do have to think, we’ll be wondering, ‘Where did the time go?’

I blink for a moment, astonished at the sudden growing feeling of wanting to escape the inevitable cycle of adulthood. The band wouldn’t sell out and we wouldn’t go on tour or anything, but there had to be some way out. I focus my eyes again after realizing I’m staring. Focused them on Ty, as the new feeling grew inside my chest.

Tyler Finlay had not actually been my best friend since elementary or middle school, as many would think. I actually met him last year, when I didn’t realize my headphones hadn’t been plugged in, so a song by the band Dormitory played out loud in class for everyone to hear. I was so flustered and embarrassed, I stopped it quickly and just kind of looked down the rest of the period. After it ended, Ty came up to me and told me he'd know that guitar riff anywhere, and that he was pretty much obsessed with Dormitory. I had laughed nervously and told him that I knew all of the band’s discography by heart, and the conversation went on from there. Eventually, we decided to form our own band, holding auditions we honestly didn’t expect anyone to go to.

Surprisingly, there were a good amount of animals that wanted to audition, so one weekend, we spent all day listening to auditioners play and sing, grading their performances on a scale of one to ten. And what could I say other than there is some talent at our school (We both agreed that the members of the band had to be from the school, for convenience)! It was a hard decision, but finally, we had the five members of our band, Water On Fire.

First off, there was Page Leuzinger, the drummer. A white and black bunny. She actually didn’t do all that well on her audition, but her persistence was the real reason we accepted her. She auditioned multiple times, each time seeming more determined than the last. Tyler claimed she was desperate and we should let her go, but I really believed she wanted to be in the band for another reason, so we accepted her. Page is as cool as cool gets. She sports that rockin’ red hoodie, which gives her character, but she also never seems to be put down by anything, and in today’s society, that’s a rare find. She’s always open-minded about everything and the icing on top of the cake is her lively smile.  

Then there was Boris Downing, the pianist. A dark brown otter. When he auditioned, we had no doubt that he had more than enough talent to be a band member. It was strange to us when he came dressed all fancy as if he thought this was more of a concert style band than an indie rock band. Nonetheless, it just worked. At first, Ty was confused about why we needed someone who played piano for a rock band, and I told him to just trust me. After hearing some other bands that had really pretty flourishes and flowery piano in their music, I just believed wholeheartedly that it was what we needed. I was right.

Boris is the type of guy who envisions everything beforehand and attempts to follow that plan all the way through. If something gets botched along the way, he makes it known that things are going the wrong way. I’m pretty sure he has OCD or something. I can see him standing in the middle of his room, analyzing the space and calculating where the item in his hand should go, making sure that when it got there, it would always go back there if it got moved, like everything in his room.

A while after Boris auditioned, Nora Lynne the white spotted deer came prancing in with her handcrafted violin, her fur almost a golden brown.  I remember the weird face Tyler made when he saw her instrument. He was so confused. I was one hundred percent for having a violinist in the group, and she was the only one that tried out on that instrument. When she was finished, I remember standing and immediately telling her she was in the band, before Ty could argue otherwise.

Nora is the antithesis of Page. She’s quiet and doesn’t say much, and I can’t ever tell if she’s faking a smile or not. They all look so...forced? I often wonder what’s going on in that head of hers. But her quietness has an almost beautiful quality to it.  

Finally, we had our two guitarists; Tyler and I. If there were ever a song to have a guitar solo and you needed someone to tear it up, Tyler was your guy. The dude can nail any guitar solo with shocking accuracy. Watching him play is an experience, so having a band with him is honestly kind of crazy when I think about it.

Tyler is pretty much your average guy. He’s nice and jokes around, he can be serious when he needs to be, he’s passionate about the things he’s interested in, much like me. I can’t think of a better friend. He’s always been there for me when I needed him, and the advice he can give is surprisingly good. Almost makes me wonder if he gets the advice from someone else first...

Then, there’s me, Nicholas Flynn. A hyena. Like I mentioned before, I’m one of the guitarists, but I’m also the vocalist and songwriter. Now, I know I’m good enough at singing, but when it comes to songwriting, I get super self-conscious. It takes a lot of time to make something unique that isn’t about sex, love, or drugs. Now, I’m not saying all of our songs aren’t about that stuff, it’s just inevitable. When I get on that stage to perform them, though, I always get this tight feeling in my chest. What do they think of the songs I wrote? Do people even care that it’s meaningful? People just want to dance, but I want to provide something for everyone. Sigh.

I like to think of myself as the kind of guy people admire but don’t tell him they admire him. Like silent admiration. I feel like I’m cool enough to be admired from afar. I like to think someone other than Tyler thinks that. I’m basically obsessed with all kinds of music, and...that’s about it. Whenever I try to think of what I’m like, music is all I can think of. It kind of worries me, because I bet everyone else can pinpoint their personalities, but maybe music is the only thing keeping me from being a lame bore. Oh shit.

“Should we get going?”

“Huh?” I blink, shaking my head, only really registering that it was Tyler that spoke. “What?”

“I asked if we should get going,” Tyler says, rubbing the charred tip of his cigarette on the brick wall and then flicking it onto the ground. “But now that I think about it, we should probably wait for the others, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“...”

“...”

“How’re you and Adam doing?”

“I told you I didn’t want to talk about it, Nick,” Tyler says, looking the other way solemnly.

“I know, I saw the text, but Tyler, I’m your best friend, and as your best friend it’s my job to know how your love life is going.” I try to smile and cheer him up, but he just looks at the ground like a child ashamed when its parent scolds it.

“We’re finished,” he mumbles. “Another guy, gone.”

“I don’t get it.” I feel my brows furrowing. “The other day, you said you were doing ‘just awesome, Nick.’ You told me ‘he’s the one, Nick, and I’m absolutely sure we were made for each other!’ Those were your exact words.”

He looks at me with disdain, and I feel like I might’ve said the wrong thing. Why did I say that? Stupid. “Things change, okay? There’s a lot going on--it’s complicated--and...will you just shut up about it? I already feel like shit.”

“Jeez, okay.”

“Sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. I get it.”

“...”

“...”

“He wasn’t the best person.”

“I know.”

“Then why’re you surprised?”

“I don’t know. Is that why you broke up with him?”

“...”

“Sorry.”

“It’s whatever. I guess I was just meant to be alone.”

“Oh hush with that cliche bullshit. What are you, every depressed person ever? You don’t even have depression.”

“Yeah, I know. After a while of dating and breaking up and dating and breaking up, it just wears on you, ya know?” He turns and faces me, leaning his shoulder against the wall now. His arms are crossed and I can see that he’s thinking. “Nick?”

“Yeah?” I’m hoping he doesn’t say or ask what I think he’s going to say or ask. I hold my breath without even realizing it. He scratches the back of his neck, clearing his throat.

“Let’s never get together, okay?”

“Agreed. You’re not my type, anyway,” I let out the pointless air I’m holding in, then stick my tongue out, teasingly.

“Oh? And what type is that?” He smirks.

“The best friend type,” I say, very seriously. He looks shocked about how not joking I am right now. I mean it, though. This isn’t one of those things where I deny I’m in love with my best friend and we end up together. I hereby swear I will never date Tyler Finlay. Ever.

“Man, you took the words right outta my mouth,” He says. “It wouldn’t be good for the band, but more importantly, it just wouldn’t be good for us.”

“I totally agree. Plus, I don’t even know if I like guys.” We’re both smiling. It feels good to have had this talk. Almost cathartic, for some reason. We talk for a few more minutes, then Boris comes up, wearing his cute fancy clothes, as he does. He pretty much looks like he’s dressed to go the prom, but all the time.

I don’t know how he makes it look like he’s wearing that outfit so casually. When I wear fancier clothes, I almost feel obligated to attend a formal event or something. I remind myself to ask sometime.

“Hey, Boris.” Tyler lifts a paw, not really waving. I smile and wave.

“Hello, Tyler. Nicholas,” the otter smiles, moving his fingers around like weird little worms.

I just watch, probably with a concerned face. “Uh, whatcha doing there?”

“Oh.” He glances at his fingers and then back at me. “Just preparing my digits to play.”

“Is that really how you do it?” I look at my own fingers. “I thought you just cracked your fingers before you played, but then again, what do I know?” I laugh, scratching behind my right ear.

“It works for me and that’s what matters,” Boris said, continuing to do his weird finger-worm thing. “So what’s the deal with having to move practice locations? And are you absolutely positive this new place has a piano for me?”

“Oh, my dad just--for some reason--doesn’t want us practicing in the garage anymore. Maybe we just rocked too hard for him...And yes, there is definitely a piano. I made sure Josiah had what we need. You know, he used to be a drummer in a small garage band like ours, but he switched to more formal piano playing once the band split.” Tyler explained.

I didn’t know that. Josiah, a red fox, had--according to Tyler--told us we could practice in his garage since we couldn’t practice in our usual spot anymore. Not only that; he also said we could use his drums, equipment, and piano. I don’t really know much about Josiah other than that he’s a fox. He’s more Tyler’s friend than mine, but I wouldn’t pass up the generous offer he was giving us just because I didn’t know him. Though, I doubt any of us really know how to use musical recording equipment.

“Ah, I see. Well, that’s unfortunate. As long as we have somewhere else to practice, it’s fine. This is healthy for me, so it would be a shame not to have it.” The otter’s nose twitched and he made a face. “What’s that smell?”

“Oh, we were smoking before you came. Sorry,” I apologize, shrugging because there wasn’t really anything I could do.

“Ugh, do you have to?” Boris groaned, covering his nose. “I hate the smell of cigarette smoke.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry.” I wave my hand around to clear out the smell, but honestly, I just did it so I would at least look like I was attempting to solve the problem.

“Oh, was someone smoking?” Nora asked, coming up to our little group of three-now-turned-four. She’s wearing a simple short dress with a white to sunset orange gradient, but it looks absolutely stunning on her for something so plain. On her back was her black violin case, holding her most prized possession inside.

“Nick and Tyler,” Boris commented, jabbing his thumb at us. Note to self: Smoke somewhere other than the meeting place next time. I wonder if Tyler is making the same mental note, but why does that matter?

“Oh,” Nora just waved her a hoof around a bit before placing her hoof on her arm, glancing at the cigarette on the asphalt. “Just try to do it a little earlier next time,” she mumbles.

“We get it. Smoking bad,” Tyler rolled his eyes.

“Agh, I’m the last one,” Page says, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. She’s mysterious like that. Good Ol’ Page. “I got caught up with something, sorry.” She has her paws in the pockets of the notorious red hoodie she’s always wearing. She doesn’t mention the smell, because she probably doesn’t care.

“It’s no big deal,” I say, waving her off. “Nora just showed up, like, thirty seconds ago, so...You’re not late.”

“Yeah it’s fine,” Tyler says. “Should we get going?”

“Yeah, we really need to brush up on that one spot in Transmutation,” Boris reminds everyone, as he is known to do. Seriously, he makes sure to point out all the places that need work. It would be annoying if it wasn’t so beneficial, to be honest.

“Are you talking about the part where Nick’s voice always cracks?” Page asks, poking my shoulder. I frown.

“It’s a hard note to hit!”

“The problem is you guys always break out laughing during that part, which is something we can’t do on stage! We have to learn to remain composed,” Boris says, tapping his foot.

“Psh, you do it too, Boris,” Page laughed, enjoying Boris’s reaction.

“O-only because you guys are laughing!” he argued. “Let’s just get out of here.”


 

“Okay, okay. That was me that time. Sorry.” Tyler smiles sheepishly, holding up his paws.

“It was you the last three times,” Boris points out. “What’s going on?” I already know the answer to this question. The breakup must be distracting him. I feel weird being the only person that knows.

“Oh,” the shepherd blinks. “Uh, it’s nothing. I dunno.” He looks at me for help. I shake my head, signaling I have no clue what to say or how to assist him. This was his own thing anyway, so he should be the one to figure it out. Of course, then the otter has to be the worst person ever at that moment.

“Well, now you just made it obvious there’s something going on between you two. Spill the tea,” the smaller animal demands as we all turn our bodies to face him.  My eyes glide over to Tyler, whose face says it all. He’s going to have to come out to them.

On the topic of coming out, I never really got why Tyler wanted to hide his sexuality from everyone. Then again, none of the band members really knew each other, like, at all. Apart from Tyler and I, we don’t talk mono e mono. Sure, there’s a group chat, but it’s pretty much strictly for band stuff. During school, we give nods and such to each other when we see one another in the hallway, but other than that it’s like that one person you were friends with for two years and then all of a sudden you come back next year and they just completely cut all ties with you but there’s still that little nod of recognition or kindness you share. It’s nice but also uncomfortable. Here we are in this band together, having great chemistry, and yet, I don’t even know Page’s favorite color, or Boris’s favorite song, or Nora’s favorite food.

Oh wait. Maybe I’m the problem. I mean, I complain about not knowing my fellow band mates, and yet, what have I done to warrant such knowledge? Yikes. Also, yay songwriting inspiration.

“Dude,” Tyler taps my shoulder. “That’s the second time today.” I blink, looking down at the guitar in my hand and then at Ty, as if I was just realizing where I was.

“Sorry, I get distracted sometimes,” I say.

“We know,” Boris says, and I make a face at him. He shrugs because he knows he’s right. Damn.

Page sets her drumsticks down onto one of the snares, accidentally pushing the pedal with her foot, causing the mallet to smack the bass with a soft thud. “Should we just call it a day? I mean, it’s obvious that not everyone’s in the right headspace. Maybe we should--”

“I’m gay,” Tyler says, turning to look at everyone, his eyes sliding across the room at each of us, as I blink because that was weird timing.

“Okay,” Nora had been continually fiddling with her instrument as the conversation went on, but now she put it down, a hand on her hip.

“Okay? Aren’t you surprised or something?”

“Um...It’s not surprising anymore. You do realize there’s barely any straight people at our school, right? Except for Boris.” She attempts the joke, and I have to give her props for that. Though, it looks like she immediately regrets saying it.

“Boris is like the leader of the small group of straight people at school,” Page laughs, tapping her fingers on the snare, clearly itching to play.

“What? You don’t know that!” Boris says. “I don’t know that.”

“Hey...” I say, looking at him sympathetically, “Me neither.”

“I love Scott Pilgrim!” Page says, her face glowing.

“Oh my god, me too. Don’t you love that part when--”

“Guys! We need to focus!” Tyler bursts. “Josiah will be back soon and then we’ll have to leave. Well, you’ll have to leave. I need to stay behind and learn how to use some of this equipment he left for us.”

“Right, right.” I nod, putting my paws back on my guitar. “Don’t forget to tell him thanks for letting us use his garage.”

“I will, I will. Now can we please continue?”


 

“Hey, Nick, wait up!” Page says, catching up to me as I walk down the sidewalk after rehearsal. This is the first time anyone from the band, besides Tyler, has wanted to talk after a practice. I smile a bit because it feels like a small victory.

“Hi,” I say, my voice cracking against the cold breeze.

“Wow,” the bunny laughs. “You have the golden voice.”

“Praise me,” I look down at her. “The Golden Boy.”

“All hail Nick,” she says, moving her arms up and down while we walk and snicker. Page looks up at the bleak and lifeless sky as her nose twitches. “Looks like it’s gonna rain.”

“Yeah, I can smell it.”

“Where were you going?”

“Food.”

“Alone?”

“As usual.”

“You usually eat dinner alone?”

“Mhm.”

“Ah, I see.” She looks down and I don’t notice it, but she’s stepping over every crack in the sidewalk. I also find it interesting that she didn’t further question why I eat alone.

“You wanna join?” I offer, because heck, why not. She looks up at me with a smile, but not an overly eager smile. Just a chill smile, no big deal.

“I’m thinking sushi,” Page comments, as if we already had plans this whole time, and I respect her so damn much right now for that.

“You read my mind.”

“Good, because if you didn’t like it you could just get miso soup or something.”

“Well, I like both. Food is just good in general.”

“So you’re not picky?”

“Nah. What’s the point?”

“I guess to be satisfied. I don’t know. If you’re going to eat something you need to survive, might as well like it, right?”

“Huh. At least I know why picky people are the way they are now. You learn something new every day.”

“Unless you sleep through the whole day.”

“You do that?”

“I’ve done that.” She hops over a patch of grass poking its green tendrils out of the cement and I don’t really understand why she does what she does, but that’s fine.

“You wasted a whole day of your life,” I comment, frowning.

“Maybe. Or did I?”

“You did.”


 

Page and I must have been fated to meet or whatever, because she didn’t even say where we were going, and yet we strolled on into my favorite sushi place. No discussion needed.

“You ever been to a rotating sushi bar?” She asks, watching the food go around in circles from their little domes. I think about that one Stephen King book I haven’t read.

“Yep. This is my favorite sushi place, actually.”

“Damn, I’m good.” A smirk.

“No kidding. You do realize that we’re gonna have to wait a while, right? We didn’t get our names on the list yet.” There’s a feeling of knowing she’s going to pull out her phone with that artsy case I admire and say; “It’s cool. I thought of everything.”

“Welp, I guess I’m not as good as I thought,” she laughs.

“It’s fine. I can put us on the list.” I step up in line.

“I’ll be sitting over there.” She points, and I nod as she walks over and takes a seat. It’s amusing to me how her feet don’t touch the floor, being a bunny and all.


 

The waiting was good. We talked some more and I found out she has a nuclear family. Her father is an engineer working at some company I’ve never heard of. Her mother is a singer who kids that listen to indie rock know very well. I almost couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Page said not to make a big fuss about it, but how could I not? Her brother is younger than her, and he’s the typical younger brother. He plays clarinet in the band, which I admire.  Other than that, the waiting period was a lot of talking about random things, mostly about school. Soon enough, we were sitting down.

“I still can’t believe your mom is Elle Leuzinger,” I say. “I have all the albums by that band, except Judication. They really fell off the deep end on that one.”

“I actually think that’s her best album,” Page comments, picking up a menu and observing it, as I furrow my brow. I don’t question it but if she wanted sushi there was no need to look at the menu. It was right there floating on by us.

“Huh. I guess I was being closed minded when I heard it.” I glance to my left and see the waiter approaching us. I already know what I want. I always know what I want because it’s always the same thing.

“Can I get you anything to drink?” the cat asks with a heavy accent I can’t quite pin down. It’s definitely Asian, but I don’t want to assume a specific country.

“Just water for me,” Page says, which surprises me because she seems like a soda kind of girl.

“And I’ll have a coke, I guess.” The ‘I guess’ part throws me off because why would I say that if I already knew what I want? Nonetheless, the waiter writes down our drink orders and walks off.

“You should hear it again,” Page says, ripping into a pack of chopsticks.

“What?”

Judication. I swear it’s a really good album.” She turns her head as the sushi passes by dome by miniature dome, and I can see the hunger in her eyes.

“Alright, I believe you.”

“Good, cause I’m right.”

I smile at this. The way she holds herself and the amount of confidence that just radiates off of her is astonishing.

“You know...I know how to use that music equipment,” the bunny tells me, leaning on the table with both of her arms.

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because if the band breaks up and Tyler wants to continue on in music, he’ll know how to use shit.

“What? You already think the band is gonna break up?” I laugh.

The smaller animal turns her head toward the conveyor belt. “I never said that. I said if the band breaks up. We definitely have chemistry, we just need to learn how to put that chemistry to good use.” And she’s right. Getting distracted isn’t very good if you’re trying to get better at something. It’s like an artist who has all the ideas for these beautiful paintings and drawings but procrastinates so much that they never get things done. Sure, we have the ideas and basis of what we want our music to be, but we don’t get nearly as much done because we get sidetracked or start arguing. Luckily, Boris helps us get back on track, but I feel bad because Nora usually just watches us quietly when we go off the rails, probably wishing she was in a more productive group.

“So what kind of sushi are you thinking about getting?”

She stays silent for a moment, as her eyes trail a particular sushi dome. “Not sure...Might just start grabbing them and shoving ‘em into my mouth.”

“Hahaha, go ahead.” I can’t believe how relatable this person in front of me is. I think about the band and how I haven’t really grown my connections with them and this leads me to thinking about today’s practice. “Practice was pretty shitty, huh?”

She reaches forward and opens a dome, sliding the plate out and setting in front of her. It looks like she got California rolls, but I’m not sure. It definitely has crab. “You said it, not me.” Her eyes move to me and I realize I’m making a confused face. “I think any practice is good practice.”

“It was hardly practice,” I remind her, picking up a package of chopsticks and ripping it open. “We got way more distracted than usual.”

“Yeah but…” Two cracks as our two pairs of chopsticks become four individual ones. “...Think about it. Practice is so a band can grow and get better, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Tyler came out to us, and I think the band grew because of that. It brought us closer.” She explains this to me and I really wonder why I’ve barely been talking to her. The bunny picks up one of her rolls with her chopsticks and takes a bite, leaving half and setting down on her plate.

Wow. I thought she would just put the whole thing into her mouth. “Dude, you’re so right. Damn.” I must constantly look like a shocked idiot.

“Dude, I know. Anyway, pretty successful practice, if you ask me. More successful than others.”

“For real.” It’s my turn to grab sushi, so I decide on spicy tuna. I set the plate down in front of me and admire the spicy mustard since it’s the best part. The breading sprinkled on top gives the roll a kind of perfect balance between crunchy and soft. Page finishes her first roll as I completely devour both of mine. My eyes are already scanning the conveyer for more.

“Transmutation is absolutely beautiful, by the way.” Page says, smiling. I hold my breath because it’s such a pure smile.

“Thanks. I worked really hard on it.” I blush a bit. “Like, the day I had the idea for it and started singing some of the lyrics and rhythms, I completely went into overdrive and worked on it all night. I was so tired the next day, and I woke up drooling on my desk.”

“What’s it about?” Still loving the fact that she doesn’t question my actions.

“I’ll tell you later,” I say this because I don’t know the answer...yet.

Her ears flatten and I feel myself smiling more. “Aww...Well, I can wait.”

There’s no talking for a whole minute as we just down sushi rolls. It really is nice, and I constantly wonder what Page could be thinking about. Finally, I decide to spill the tea. “Tyler broke up with his boyfriend and I guess it really messed with him. I’m worried, but I get it.”

“Ah, now I get why he was acting like that,” Page nods. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You blanked out too. He got on you because of it.”

“Oh, that’s just how I am sometimes. Sometimes I just get so lost in my head that I completely check out. People worry about me a lot because of it. My mom calls me an ‘active dreamer,’ but I don’t really know what that means.”

“Ah, I see. You’re gay too, or…?”

“I don’t know,” I sigh. I really don’t. I don’t even know how to describe where I am with my sexuality other than that.

“Cool.”


 

“That was nice.” I turn to the bunny with a soft smile as we stand in the soft glow of the restaurants light outside. It rained while we were eating, and I could feel the humidity stick to my fur. The sky is dark and the stars are dim, many of them invisible because of the city lights, but if it were up to me, I’d take city lights over stars any day.

Dad told me the country was where you could see billions of stars overhead, and it was the most glorious sight one could see. I don’t believe him. The country is so isolated and eerily quiet, I feel like I would go crazy without the constant hum of urban buzz. Plus, if you’re murdered, it’s way harder to find your body out there.

“Well gee you don’t have to go crazy or anything,” Page says sarcastically, “I can’t handle it. If you didn’t have a good time, you can just be honest with me.”

“What? I mean it!”

“I know, I know.” Eye roll. “I really gotta get going, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“But we have school tomorrow.”

“I know. Guess I’ll see you in the halls.” She runs off, leaving me alone. I immediately begin walking home, plugging my headphones into my ears and using YouTube to hear Judication. I pay attention this time...

...And wow is it magical.


 

I’m soaked. Completely. The rain, of course, had to start again while I was heading home, drenching my happy little ass. I feel so uncomfortable because I can just feel my wet shorts pressing against my inner thighs. Yuck.

I get inside after wiping my feet on the mat and feel grateful the lamp is on. My parents know I feel anxious walking into the house if it’s pitch black. The large clock on the far wall ticks softly as I shut the door, the sound of the rain muffled now.

“Hello? Guys?” No response. “Anyone home?” I check all the rooms--it’s a relatively small house, three bedroom, one bath--before realizing that Dad and Mom are at the movies. I wasn’t freaked out or anything. Really. I smile. “And with that. It’s shower time.”

I grab my comfy silk pants which were previously nonchalantly tossed onto the bed, a pink shirt which was smaller than I remember, and some grey underwear, then head to the bathroom.

I let the water run as I strip down, humming. Once I’m inside and the awesome feeling of the hot water running down my back is in motion, I sing.

I usually sing in the shower, doing this thing where I just make up songs on the fly. This time, I create a rhythm that sounds a lot like Crown of Love by Arcade Fire. Before I know it, I’m completely invested in singing the original, realizing it sounds good with me instead of Win Butler as the vocals. Maybe even good enough to cover. After all, covering the band you’re inspired by isn’t uncommon with artists.

I’m still humming the song as I lay in bed and curl up under the covers, staring at my phone screen like the teenager I am. There are no interesting emails, so I browse YouTube for anything new. I could have texted Page, but I feel like it just isn’t the right time yet.

A few movie reviews and one vine compilation later, I am completely and utterly attempting to keep my eyes open. There’s a point every night when I feel like this, and that’s how I know it’s time to conk out.

As I sleep, I dream of running away, to anywhere else but here.