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Water ran down the porcelain sink onto the newly polished floor. It splattered her calves and soaked her sneakers. The cold bite of the splashes broke Dylan’s focus on her reflection that glared at her lifelessly from her shattered mirror. Her eyes, now less glazed and more alert, took in the scene around her. The shards of glass scattered on the floor and the cuts on her knuckles told the story that her brain couldn’t remember. With closed eyes, she took a large breath into her lungs that burned viciously. Dylan couldn't decide if the pain was from the cigarettes she’d found under her brother’s mattress, the vodka that was stashed in her father’s liquor cabinet, or from the heated argument that her and her mother had shared hours before. She decided to take the answer that seemed the most correct. After all, that’s what her tutor would instruct before sliding his hand up her thigh. Dylan would make sure to fill in the bubble completely when she chose all of the above. After gathering all of the broken pieces and wrapping them in a towel, Dylan crept down the stairs. As she rounded the corner to the kitchen, she ran into her sister, Alice, causing the towel and the shards to fall to the ground. With a gasp, Dylan scrambled to gather the pieces before Alice saw. Her eleven year old sister would not hesitate to rat to her mother about something else being broken. This would no doubt evoke another argument from her mother and Dylan would struggle like usual to bite her tongue at the insults thrown her way. Even though Dylan’s movements were full of haste, she was not quick enough. “What are those, Dylan?” “Nothing Alice. Don’t worry about it.” “You broke something again didn’t you. I’m totally telling mom. She’ll never let you go out again.” “You’re such a little rat! Do really want to be know as the snitch for the rest of your life?” “At least I won’t be the seventeen year old who sleeps with the lights on and takes special pills every morning. Speaking of that, did you take it today?” Pink flooded Dylan’s cheek and soon Alice’s looked the same as Dylan’s hand struck her. Alice turned quickly and pounded on their mother’s door that was permanently locked. Determined not to be yelled at again today, Dylan grabbed her keys and slammed the door behind her. Tears flooded her eyes and clouded her vision as she drove through their neighborhood. Thoughts raced through her head and she begged for them to stop so she could catch her breath. She knew she didn’t belong in this town made for the young and the problemless. These girls with fake hair, fake lips, and fake emotions mocked her with every swing of their bony hips. And the fake boys chased these bony hips until they found a new pair that interested their hormones more. Dylan slowed as she approached the run down house she knew too well. Smoke filled her nostrils when she stepped inside and her eyes began to water. She was surprised she hadn’t gotten used to it by now. “Carsen! You home? I need something. Now.” “Diana? That you?” “Dylan. Dylan Jacobs.” “Oh right. Dylan. I remember.” Carsen came out of his room and shut the door quickly behind him. He swept his eyes up and down Dylan’s long frame until he decided he’d had enough and settled his focus on the frown she was wearing. “Oh, I get it. You need product. Come on..” He led Dylan into his back room that contained many cardboard boxes and a few plastic bags scattered on the floor. “How bad is it?” he asked with a low voice “Do you remember that night when got rid of all your whiskey and our throats were raw and our minds couldn’t think and our bodies couldn’t feel? He didn’t say anything back to her, but gave her a bag full of white powder instead. He looked into her eyes, shook his head, and went quietly back to his room. Though he didn’t ask for payment, Dylan took three of her many hundred dollar bills and placed them on his coffee table when she left. Driving high was never something Dylan had risked before and as much as she needed to be released, she wasn’t willing to put anyone else in danger just because she wanted to be messed up. So, before she could change her mind, she drove to one of the only places that didn’t cause her to cringe when mentioned. The sun was going down and the swingset at the park cast a glare into her eyes. Dylan sat down on the plastic seat attached to chains and thought to herself. This is my life. Something plastic and limp bound by chains. All I can do is swing in the hopes that I might fly. With her nose burning and her heady made fuzzy, she pumped her legs and watched as the golden sky became closer with every swing. She kept going until the stars made an appearance and the park was quiet. When brought back to reality, fatigue overwhelmed her. She realized she wasn’t as messed up as she wanted to be anymore. As she got off the swing and reached toward the bag, she heard a voice. “Hey! Is someone there?” a man’s voice called out. “Uh. Yeah. I was just leaving.” She hastily replied. “No you weren’t. You’ve been here for more than an hour. I’ve watched you.” Dylan gathered her things more quickly and started to rush towards her car on the other end of the park, but as she turned she saw the man was blocking her path. He slowly stepped toward her into the light of the street lamp. Now, she could see he wasn’t the gross man she was expecting, but a boy that seemed her age. He had light blue eyes and brown hair that looked like it hadn’t ever been fixed. His ripped red t-shirt and faded jeans gave the impression that he didn’t shop at the usual stores. He opened his arms wide and smiled. “Come on,” he said, “Just stay. No one ever stays.” “There’s a reason for that you know. You could kill me and no one would even hear me scream.” The boy chuckled then and Dylan decided that she liked the sound of it. It could’ve been the drugs or it could’ve been the fact that she hadn’t liked the sound of someone’s laugh in a long time, but she stayed. “My name’s Dylan Jacobs. In case you were wondering.” She said with a small smirk. “Luke Fletcher. And just so you know, Dylan, I’m not planning on killing you.” He smiled again. Dylan noticed Luke smiled a lot. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled genuinely. “So Luke,” Dylan took out her plastic bag again. “what are you doing at a park this late at night?” He watched her snort the powder but didn’t seemed phased. “I am looking for a reason to go home.” he said confidently. “What about you?” “Well if it wasn’t obvious already, I was looking for a quiet place to forget about home. With a little help of course.” She pointed toward the bag that was now sitting on the ground next to her. Luke nodded his head as he moved to the ground beside her and gazed up at the stars. He stayed quiet for a few minutes before asking another question. “Why choose the park of all places to do this?” Instead of responding, Dylan gave him his own question to answer. “What’s it gonna take for you to go home?” “I’m just waiting until I stop having fun. Then I can go back. I’m not leaving until I find something I don’t appreciate. And I appreciate you. I don’t know you, but until I do, I don’t plan on stopping the questions. You might as well answer a few.” He smiled again. “You’re very pushy for someone who smiles so much.” And just like she thought he would, he smiled. She envied him. Someone who could be so happy because a screwed up girl said he was pushy at a park in the dark. “Okay. I answered your question. Now answer mine. What’s special about this place?” He persisted. “Fine. When I was little I would come here with my family and my brother didn’t smoke and my sister didn’t say mean things, and my father didn’t drink and my mother stilled kissed my cheek and told me to be careful on the monkey bars.” They shared questions and answers until they both grew silent. Luke took his eyes off the stars to stare at Dylan’s hand that had moved over to his as she talked about her family.The decision was quick and he grasped her hand tightly while pulling her to her feet. “Luke! What the hell man? What are you doing?” “Well, my dearest Dylan Jacobs, we are going on an adventure.” “I don’t like adventures. If you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t come here to meet strange boys and have fun.” “I know. You came here to forget about your awful life. That’s what we’re going to do.” Hearing her situation stated so simply and without sympathy felt like a slap across the cheek. Luke couldn’t possibly understand what she had gone through, but she glanced at the ground where his converse had become dust covered from the deserted playground that surrounded them. He had to have his reasons for being here all alone and Dylan could see as they spent time together that they weren’t the ones he’d made up when asked. She had figured out before when you got to know them, a kid with problems wasn’t hard to spot. The distance in his eyes when he talked about himself and the way his words would jumble until his sentences ended abruptly reminded her of herself. “You can’t make me forget. Trust me, I’ve tried.”She explained “ I don’t think you’re a hopeless case, Dylan. I haven’t given up on you just yet.” “Don’t worry, it’ll happen.” Dylan mumbled under her breath. He pulled her across the park to the lot where Dylan’s car was. When he asked her which one was hers she pointed to the black mercedes that filled one of only three spots taken. “THAT IS YOUR CAR? Dylan...What’s your middle name?” he asked loudly. “It’s Beth.” She replied with a small smile. “DYLAN BETH JACOBS! You never once mentioned you were filthy rich.” “We were trying to forget about home, remember?” “Oh yeah, Sorry. It’s just..I’ve never actually seen one of these in person.” “Where are you from again?” “Around.” “I see.” “Give me the keys.” “What? No. Can you even drive?” “Of course not. That’s why you’re going to teach me.” The thought of Luke being taught to drive in the middle of the night by a total stranger was too humorous to resist. However, the more Dylan thought about it, Luke wasn’t a stranger. She had told him more about herself than she had told her own parents in months. He even knew her middle name. Something she didn’t share with anyone. They climbed into the car and Dylan explained the basics the best she could. “How old are you anyways? Shouldn’t you know how to drive by now?” “I’m seventeen and I don’t have a car to drive so I didn’t see the point.” “Fair enough. You think you’re ready to start?” “Um. Yeah. I think so. This one’s the gas right?”He said as he pointed to the brake. Dylan was about to give up on him when she saw his lips struggling not to turn upwards attempting to contain his laughter. “Alright then, Mr. Know It All. Let’s do this.” Dylan snickered. Luke started up the car and took a deep breath. He switched to drive and the car lurched forward. He quickly slammed on the brake and they both jerked against their seat belts. Luke let out a huge laugh that infected Dylan. Soon, they couldn’t contain themselves and the snort that Dylan had hated since she was little made an appearance. “Oh my god. Dylan. What was that?” Luke asked incredulously while trying to catch his breath. “I don’t want to talk about it.” She mumbled quietly. “That may have been the cutest sound that I have ever heard.” Dylan’s cheeks burned and she turned towards the window. She tried to remember when the last time a boy made her blush was and came up with nothing. “Oh. It’s okay. I didn’t mean to… Let’s try again. Okay?” He stammered. “Yeah. Sure.” The car sprang forward again and he turned out of the parking spot. Once he had driven in circles a few times without flaws, he spoke up. “So, you wanna go somewhere?” “Surprisingly, I think I do.” She directed him to a diner only a couple miles from the park. She knew it would be open. When she first began to drive and she was friends with the barbies with bony bodies she found herself here with them late at night. While they only knew about the fizz in the diet cokes, she could feel her mouth start to water when imagining their french fries. They sat down in the torn red booths, ordered their food, and listened as The Shins played overhead. “Luke, why were you really at the park?” He closed his eyes and folded his hands in front of him. “I guess you deserve to hear my story now.” he nodded and looked down at his hands. “My best friend died last year in a car accident. I was walking home from school today and I saw the for sale sign was gone from where he used to live. I couldn’t take the thought of someone else living where he did. It just built up inside me. My body shook and I couldn’t think straight. So I ran. I ran until I found the spot I had met my best and only friend. I really did want a reason to go home. I know he would want me to be able to walk past his house, but I can’t. And I don’t know how to fix myself. Then I met you. I thought that if someone this beautiful could be this sad, I had to help her. But I’m not. You’re helping me. I can feel again.” Luke looked up and smiled until he saw the tears that threatened to spill from Dylan’s eyes. “I’m so sorry. This isn’t what I wanted to happen. Dylan, please stop.” “No. I’m just. I don’t help things. I break them apart.” she whispered “You break yourself apart.” Tears fell down her face, but she smiled up at him. “Do you want to know how I got my middle name?” “Of course.” “When my mom was 15, she had problems like mine. Her parents found the scars on her wrists so they took her to see a therapist. Of course at that age she didn’t want any help, but while she was there, she met a girl that struggled with the same issues she did. She stopped her from hurting herself. That girl, Beth, she saved my mom’s life. Luke, I think you’re my Beth.” She said this, smiling up at him. He reached across the table and held her hand as they watched the sky grow brighter and the dark start to fade. Dylan felt as if the sunrise was happening within her. The darkness was still there, but the light was turning it into a strong red and purple color. Colors of a warrior. “I think I found a reason to go home, Dylan.” Luke whispered. “Yeah. I think I did too.” Luke drove them recklessly back to the park and shut off the engine. The silence was uncomfortable because neither one of them knew if they’d see each other again. “This was a really good night. Thank you.” Dylan spoke slowly. “I know. We should do it again sometime.” Luke smiled again. “Maybe.” “I’m here for you if you need me. I’ll be around.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “ I know. Me too.” “You’re going to be okay, Dylan. You’re going to get through this and you’re going to be happy someday. Just like I’m going to walk past that house and feel okay someday.” “I know.” And for the first time, in over three years, she believed it.



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