“This is a really bad idea,” Peridot whispered for the 5th time that night as she ducked to avoid being hit by a loose metal fence.
“Jesus Christ, I swear that if you say that again I’m stuffing this entire pack in your mouth.” Amethyst was probably the least suitable person for Peri to call a best friend, and yet there they were. She waved the pack of cigarettes in front of Peridot’s face in a threateningly manner and turned around again. Peridot just sighed.
Both girls were almost at the center of the junkyard, where they were about to have a late night dinner next to a small fire and drink some beers. For Amethyst this was just another Friday night in her favorite smoking spot; a place she would come eventually to relax after the stressful events of the week. For Peridot, however, this was a nerve-wracking experience. It was her first time trespassing, her first time actually walking into a junkyard willingly in the middle of the night, and of course, her first time experimenting a cigarette. Even with Amethyst’s constant reassurance that she didn’t have to try anything she didn’t want to, Peridot was a shaking mess.
She didn’t know if it was because of the cigarettes or the fact that they were two girls walking alone in a black pitch darkness.
“Are we almost there?” Peridot had to keep herself talking to avoid fainting. The flashlight she was holding moved together with her trembling hand, and she was sure her blood pressure was rising in abnormal levels. She was ready to accept a stroke whenever.
“Yep, it’s right around the corner.” Amethyst adjusted the backpack on her shoulder as she turned after a pile of rusted cars. “And would you please trust me on this? I told you this is the safest place in town, there are guards in the entrance 24/7.”
“Yes, and they are so efficient that you’ve been sneaking up here for the past year.”
“No one knows about that entrance! I know because I cut the fence myself,” Amethyst sounded so proud of her criminal acts that Peridot honestly had no arguments. After a few minutes of silent walking, they arrived at the destination. “And here we go. Welcome, to paradise!”
Peridot looked over her friend’s shoulder just to see a slightly cleaner patch of ground with enough space for them to sit down. They were surrounded by piles of rusted cars and wooden boxes from every corner, and it didn’t really look that different from the rest of the place. To say Peridot was underwhelmed was a stretch. “Is that it?”
“Hey, it’s gonna be cozy after we start the fire. Help me out with the food, nerd.” Amethyst smirked and put down the bag. Peridot grunted all the way to their resting spot and grabbed the blanket first, stretching it evenly on the ground. As Amethyst started the fire, Peridot placed their sandwiches on the blanket, as well as their beers and some cupcakes they’d baked the night before. Amethyst had also insisted on bringing marshmallows to roast in the fire, so it would look like some kind of enjoyable camp. For Peridot, it was still a wasted day off.
“And done!” Amethyst announced as the little fire started gaining strength. She plopped down next to Peridot on the blanket and didn’t waste time on opening a beer. “Whaddya say? Not that bad now that we have luminosity, eh?”
“Psh,” Peridot scoffed, turning her flashlight off and opening a sandwich. “Still looks like a dirty junkyard to me.”
“Come on Peri, work with me here,” Amethyst lifted her can. “Cheers!”
Rolling her eyes, Peridot bit into her food and got closer to the fire. It was getting cold and she had to admit the warmth was welcome. Her eyes drifted to the pack of cigarettes lying down carelessly next to her leg and she felt her heart pick up a beat. “…So, how does that work?”
“How does what work?”
“The—” She caught her tongue, not wanting to sound too desperate. “This thing you do every Friday. Do you just come here alone with a couple of beers, a pack of cigs and start a fire?”
“Pretty much it.”
Peridot doubted there were actual guards at the entrance, seeing as they could probably spot the smoke from a distance, but decided to drop this particular question. Instead she went with, “Why?”
Amethyst gulped down the alcohol and burped, much to Peridot’s disgust. “It’s how I relax, dude. You’ve got your games and computer gigs, I’ve got my beers and clear night sky.” The girl smiled and looked up, making Peridot do the same. The blonde had to admit she wasn’t expecting to see that.
The sky was the darkest she’d ever seen thanks to the new moon, which enhanced the glow of the billions of stars above. Being a fan of all things space, she could make out pretty much every constellation just by focusing enough, and was ecstatic when she saw her first shooting star.
“Amethyst, Amethyst! I saw a shooting star!” It was her first smile since they left home, and Amethyst grinned at the happy reaction.
“Oh yeah, there are tons of them around here. I used to make a wish for each one, but ran out of wishes.” The chubby girl laid sideways with her head propped by one hand as she drank.
“Ran out of ideas for jobs you could apply for, you mean.” Peri smirked down on her and finished her sandwich.
“Got me there,” Amethyst laughed, unbothered by the harsh reality that Peridot’s job as a bartender was the only thing keeping them under a decent roof for the past few months. “But hey, I applied to most of them, so who knows right?”
Peridot chuckled as she grabbed a beer. “You got this.” She gulped down and sighed contently at the coldness of the liquid burning through her throat. She was starting to see the appeal of that place as she looked at the sky and felt her best friend’s comforting presence next to her in the fluffy blanket. It was good to get away from the noise of the pub she worked in; this day off was proving to be much better than she previously thought.
With her hectic work hours, Peridot very much enjoyed the eventual resting days she got. Working from 9pm ‘til 6am wasn’t easy, and her vampiric lifestyle prevented her from spending much time with Amethyst. When she heard about getting the Friday off, her first thought was to do something with her best friend. Amethyst was excited with the news and said she wanted to take her somewhere important to her, to strengthen their bond. Peridot had immediately agreed to it, but almost gave up on the idea as soon as she realized where they were heading to.
Right now, though, she was at ease.
“Hey, pass me the pack bro,” Amethyst’s voice brought her back to reality and she flinched.
“Oh. Sure. Yeah.” Peridot grabbed the cigarettes carefully and tossed them into Amethyst’s hand. She watched carefully as Amethyst tried to lit one up. After a few tries she finally managed to get it right and breathed out a puff of smoke. Peridot stared intently, trying to capture the exact movements she would have to make.
“You okay, dude?” Amethyst asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Y-yeah, I’m great.”
“You’re doing that thing you do when you’re about to try something for the first time.”
“What thing?” Peridot tried to look casual as she sipped her beer.
“The thing where I can basically see the gears in your head turning cuz you’re making some very methodical calculations to get it right the first time.”
“I don’t do that,” Peridot did that literally every second of her life, and she knew it. But there was nothing she could do about it, it was just how her brain was wired. New experiences were always terrifying, and analyzing every possible detail made it easier to figure out what exactly could go wrong at a particular scenario – so when things inevitably failed, at least she wouldn’t be surprised by it. For a bartender, this was an excellent skill to have, and she wondered if her boss was keeping her on the job because of this particular trait.
“Sure. So, wanna try it?” Amethyst offered finally. Peridot hesitantly grabbed one together with the lighter. “Okay so as soon as you light it up, you suck in the smoke and then release it slowly. You’ll probably end up coughing, don’t sweat about this part.”
“…Right.” Peridot looked at the object and brought it to her mouth. Her sweaty hands were halting her progress, making her unable to work the lighter in her favor. “Stupid lighter.”
Amethyst compressed her now empty beer can and opened another with a smirk. “Hang in there, Per.”
“Why am I even suffering, there’s a literal camp fire over here.” She was about to light up the stubborn cigarette in the easiest way when Amethyst grabbed her arm.
“No, the lighter is all part of the experience, man! Do you think a camp fire will always be available to you in the streets? You gotta learn how to survive in the direst situations!”
“You do realize this will be the one and only time I will ever smoke, right?” Peridot knew that nicotine addiction didn’t work that way, but still felt a little uneasy about it. They could really use the money Amethyst spent on cigarettes every month on something more useful, and having another smoker in the house would really make their situation a lot harder.
“Still, no fire allowed.” Amethyst laid back down with a happy sigh. Peridot tried the lighter again, but still no success. She was about to give up when both heard a sound coming from one of the junk piles behind them.
“What was that?”
Amethyst sat back up quickly, ready to bail if somehow it ended up being the police. Peridot was about to bolt right there, her head already creating thousands of terrible consequences for their actions. She would have to pay for their release from jail, which meant less money for food, which meant Amethyst would have to live on without her cigarettes for at least a month, which meant headaches for both of them since the girl became insufferable if she went on without smoking for more than 5 hours. She really was not looking forward to a cranky Amethyst.
Soon they managed to see a silhouette climbing up a bunch of wooden boxes, using a cellphone lantern to guide them. As the person reached the top of the pile, she sat down and turned off the light.
“Oh, it’s just her.” Amethyst sighed relieved, sitting back down.
“Her?” Peridot hissed. Cranky Amethyst crisis avoided, another concern popped up, “You said you were the only one who knew about that entrance!”
“Relax, it’s just my mystery companion. This girl sometimes comes here to chill and smoke up there too. We never talked, but it’s always nice to know you’re not the only crazy person who thinks this place is relaxing.”
Peridot looked over at the girl, unable to see anything in the darkness. Then her face quickly became visible through the orange glow of a cigarette she’d light up; the outline of her features very clear as she sucked in the smoke. It was a brief exposure, but Peridot was completely entranced by it. It lasted barely a second though, and then she was consumed by the night once again. After a few moments, the girl inhaled again. Each time the cigarette was brought back up and the girl breathed in, Peridot could make out new details on her face.
“Peri?” Amethyst’s voice sounded so far away.
“And some freckles, I think.”
Amethyst frowned and followed her best friend’s gaze just to land on the girl above them. For a few seconds there was just darkness, and then she sucked in the smoke again, lightning up her expression. “Ohhh.”
“Brief. Like a shooting star.”
Amethyst finished her beer with a smile as she heard the blonde rant about whatever she was seeing. Peridot did that a lot – trying to put images into abstract sentences. It was like pouring out her feelings into random strings of words that didn’t really make sense most times. Amethyst really appreciated that in her best friend. It was one of the things that made her so damn pleasing to be around.
“You should make a wish.” Amethyst teased.
“What?” This broke the spell, making Peridot blush at how intently she’d been watching the girl. “Shit, you think she saw me?”
“Probably. This is the only bright spot in this whole place, kinda hard to miss the both of us.”
Peri ran a hand through her hair and sighed. She’d had worse situations at the pub with beautiful girls, but this was a whole new level of nervousness for her. The mystery of the whole scenario made it exciting, and the fact that the girl was probably watching her make a fool out of herself added to the thrill. Shaking her head to get rid of weird thoughts, she grabbed her beer and gulped in all down in one go.
“Wow there, try to make it home in one piece, yeah?” Amethyst laughed.
“Some of us have self-control,” Peridot retorted, trying to focus again on the task of making the damn lighter work. She stopped for a second to look over her shoulder for the last time, and widened her eyes at the sight.
The girl had lit up her lighter and was holding it close to her face, staring straight down at Peridot. Her expression was difficult to figure out, but the soft curve upwards on her lips was apparent. Peridot froze with no idea of what to do, her brain working at full speed. Her eyes moved intently, trying to capture the beauty of the girl as fast as she could before it disappeared forever. Blue eyes, blue messy hair, definitely freckles, beautiful cheekbones, huge bags under her eyes, probably no makeup.
She looked like someone who would frequent her pub alone and leave past four without talking to anyone. Peridot was mesmerized.
By the time she figured out what to do, the girl had put down her lighter and was nowhere else to be seen.
“She’s gone,” Peridot mumbled. She looked down at her own lighter and noticed she’d stopped sweating. Pressing the lighter once, she managed to make it work on the first try. Bringing it close to the cigarette, she lit it up and breathed in. The smoke made its way into her lungs in seconds, but she didn’t cough at all. Peridot closed her eyes and puffed it out slowly and steady, immersing herself in the sensation of it all.
“Nice one,” She heard Amethyst say. “So? How does it taste?”
She opened her eyes and looked over at the pile of boxes above them. “Bad.” Then inhaled again. “…And like freedom.”