Brodie sat on Joe’s bedroom floor, holding her pen between her teeth and resting her chin in her hand. Outside, golden sunshine was bursting through the spaces in between tree branches and the popular kids were at the park, drinking cherry coke and smoking Marlboros. Joe stood in the doorway with iced coffee for them both. His silhouette was outlined with a pale yellow glow. Brodie looked at him, then back out to the light between the leaves on the trees and thought how very beautiful they both were.
Joe flicked through his collection before putting a record on the turn table. Soon, the sound of a folky female singer trickled through. Her voice was smooth. It sounded of the summertime.
“What’s up?” Joe asked, crossing his legs on top of a pile of Aztec print cushions put in place to pad out the wooden flooring, “You look glum.”
“I ache” Brodie sighed, stretching her arms above her head. Joe pulled an oxblood cushion from beneath him and held it out to Brodie.
The right side of Brodie’s lip curled upwards. “No. I ache for love. I ache for adventure, for freedom, for the ecstasy of feeling alive.” Her eyelashes batted down to examine the dark wooden floor as the words passed her lips.
“It’s the weather” Joe replied, “Look at the sky. It’s begging you to do more, live more, be happier; something about the shade of blue and the white fluffiness of the clouds.”
“Hmm. It’s pretty how the sunlight spills between the leaves on the tree in your garden” Brodie observed, before taking a sip of coffee.
“Who says the observer lives less than the participant, huh? Observers live much more fully and each day the sky is a different texture and the trees change shape and the poems become more beautiful. Life’s paralysing in one way or another so we may as well lie around and philosophise.”
“But if something’s happening I wanna be a part of it” Brodie said.
“I know what you mean but there’s so much pressure to BE something and I dunno if I’m ready for that. It’s easier to talk some poetic shit about the sky than try to start living” Joe said.
“Perhaps” said Brodie, despondently.
“You don’t really think that those posers at the park are living their lives more than us?”
“No. Not more, just more” she paused, “More, well, we’re in here. And they’re. They’re out there” she said disjointedly.
“I don’t like hot weather” Joe said.
“Ooh, how edgy!”
“Seriously, Brodie, those guys just get drunk and fuck each other. You can dress it up however you want, y’know? Make it seem glamorous. Like some big adventure. But it’s not. It’s nothing like One The Road and none of them have ever even heard of Jack Kerouac.”
“Yeah, but it’s more adventurous than this.”
“Shut up. This is a good record.”
“And you do make great coffee” Brodie smiled, “Plus your deep, meaningful insights add a gorgeous ambience.”
“Well I’m afraid my gorgeous ambience is going to have to leave you” Joe said before downing the remnants of his iced coffee and standing up.
“Where are you going?”
“Yeah, I’m really sorry but I’ve got to go to college this afternoon” Joe explained, “But you can stay here if you like. There’s food and drink in the kitchen. Just don’t open the Aero, it’s mine. And you can listen to records or watch a film or read something. Or you can go home if you want. I probably won’t be back until this evening but the house will probably stay empty til then.”
“Right. Well. The main toilet’s broken. You can use the one through Tyler’s room if you need to.”
“Can’t you stay?”
“No. Sorry. Deadlines. Today’s been nice though.”
“Alright then” Brodie shrugged, “I’ll walk to the door with you.”
Brodie held the front door open and watched Joe walk down the road. His tall shadow danced along behind him. She closed the door only when Joe’s figure was out of sight.
She stood at the front door for a couple of minutes before turning round to go back upstairs. She walked through Tyler’s room to the toilet. Tyler had always fascinated Brodie, in a way that she was annoyed at herself for being fascinated. The few times she had been in his presence, he hardly spoke, but stared menacingly ahead in a brooding manner. He always gave the impression that he was thinking very hard about something very important. However, Joe had confirmed that this was not the case because the only things that Tyler had any time for were girls and drugs.
Brodie had never been in Tyler’s room before. There was a stark difference between his and Joe’s room. Joe’s smelt of the candles he always burnt, whereas the overwhelming scent in Tyler’s room was a heavy, musty odour that its inhabitant had unsuccessfully tried to mask with a faint fragrance of Lynx. The walls were bare but stained with blue tack and marked where sellotape had ripped off the paint. There were a few clothes draped across the room and the bed wasn’t made. Brodie walked through to the bathroom.
As Brodie washed her hands, the sound of the front door opening and closing reached her ears. She unlocked the bathroom door but, before she could leave, Tyler was entering the room, dragging a girl behind him. Tyler was busily confirming that they had the house all to themselves as they undressed. Brodie tried to speak or make a noise to make them aware of her presence but found that she could not. She tried to at least look away but, as much as she willed herself to, found that she could no more look away than leave the bathroom.
Afterwards, Tyler lay on the bed whilst the girl got dressed and ready to leave. The whole scene jarred depressingly, but still Brodie could not look away. Once Tyler was alone again, he put his arms behind his head, looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Then his eyes slowly surveyed the room, from left to right; until he reached the bathroom door. There, his gaze froze and his mouth opened in shock. He did not try to cover himself. Instead, his eyes narrowed and the corner of his mouth curled up in a sneer. Brodie looked around her in mortification as he fixed his stare on her.
Tyler got up from the bed and walked to the bathroom. “Did you watch that?” he said, tilting his head to the side in a spiteful curiosity.
“What? Wha? No. W? I” Brodie began.
“You’re lying” said Tyler, “You watched the whole thing.”
“I was just” Brodie struggled with her words again.
“Do you wanna do that with me?” Tyler asked, raising his dark eyebrows.
“What? I” Brodie cursed herself for not being able to articulate a full sentence. Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck her. How was she supposed to speak properly in a scenario like this? She tried to piece her thoughts together and, in doing so, consider the proposition. Tyler was very good looking and her summer was turning out to be very dull. This would make it more interesting again. She would no longer ache so badly to start living. This would be living. She stared into Tyler’s shadowy brown eyes and pouted her lips with a newly born confidence.
“Well?” Tyler inquired once more.
Brodie nodded slowly, still somewhat stunned by what was happening. Tyler undressed her then wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the forehead. Brodie thought that he was treating her much more kindly than he had treated the girl he was with earlier. Perhaps that’s because he knew Brodie better or because he always thought of her as his little brother’s friend.
Brodie got up to leave when they had finished but Tyler held her arm and said, “Stay.”
“But” Brodie began. She had not assumed that he would want her to stay. Like Joe had said, all he was interested was girls and drugs. People like that don’t make for the liveliest conversationalists.
“No. Stay. I want to talk” Tyler said, “Just lie back down.”
Brodie did as he said and stared at the ceiling; trying to see why it currently held Tyler’s attention so unwaveringly. She was suddenly very aware of the weight of her body and the way she was positioned. She moved around a bit but however she lay, she still felt awkward and uncomfortable. Tyler had said that he wanted to talk but it seemed like a lifetime before he opened his mouth again.
“You know, I don’t wanna be like this” he said, “Like, with that girl you saw earlier.”
“It’s just, you know, a distraction, isn’t it?” he said, “You and Joe have your books and whatever else it is you do and talk about. And I have this” he paused, “And I know you don’t necessarily approve but I’m not trying to please anybody. I’m selfish and mean and bad.”
Brodie, once more that day, found that her lips were locked and she could not reply. She had never imagined that Tyler would confide in her this way.
“It’s alright. You don’t need to say anything” Tyler said, sensing her discomfort, “Just stay here a while longer.”
Brodie succumbed to the same self-consciousness as before as they lay in the brightly lit room in naked silence.
Then Tyler spoke again, “I don’t know, don’t you ever feel down about being you?”
Brodie finally found herself able to reply, “Yes. I think everyone does” she paused and added a more personal observation, “In many ways I wish that I was more like you.”
“Oh really?” Tyler said, turning onto his side to look at Brodie, who was still staring at the ceiling, “Why?”
“You’re right. I do use books as my distraction, as you put it. But there’s only so much you can read before you need to actually start living. I read about people like you; people who actually do things instead of just sitting round reading about them. I’m so tired and bored with my life and who I am. Sometimes I just wanna run away and start anew. Somewhere completely different where no one knows my name or what I’m like. Or just never stop anywhere and just keep travelling. Just drive and drive and drive.”
“Let’s do it then” Tyler said, alertly. Brodie turned to look at him now. “I’m serious. I’ve got a car. I can drive. Let’s go wherever we want.”
Brodie didn’t answer.
“You don’t hate me, do you?” Tyler asked.
“No. No. In fact, I think I’m beginning to quite like you” Brodie admitted.
“Good. Well, I like you too, so let’s run away together. We don’t have to ever come back” Tyler said.
“But I need to go and pack some stuff” Brodie protested.
“No you don’t” Tyler said, “You don’t need anything if you’re gonna start a new life.”
“We don’t have any money” Brodie said, still not convinced.
“Yeah we do” Tyler explained, getting half dressed then pulling out a box from under the bed. Inside were wads of cash.
Brodie wrapped a blanket that was lying on the floor around her and rushed over to the other side of the bed. “Where-?” she began.
Tyler sighed. “I sell drugs. Do you hate me now?”
Brodie shook her head.
“Great, well we’ll take this and get out of here. Get dressed. I’ll take some food and drink from the kitchen then we’ll drive” Tyler explained.
Brodie put on her clothes to the sound of Tyler’s feet rushing down the wooden staircase. She got ready as quickly as possible, for fear that she would change her mind if given a second to be still and think. She decided to write a note to Joe so she went back into his room for a pen and paper. Sorry she wrote. Then, thinking it sounded more like a brief suicide note than a goodbye one she threw it away. Instead she wrote, Gone away for a bit. Speak soon. Sorry. Goodbye xxx. Brodie started to have second thoughts as she looked around the comfort of Joe’s room. She would be safe in this familiar place instead of going away with a boy she hardly knew who was sure himself that he was bad. It would be easier to rest within the books and the records and the candles than to dive into the unknown with Tyler and his brooding personality. She was about to sit on the bed and rethink her decisions when she heard Tyler’s voice calling her from downstairs, “Brodie. We’re ready to go.”
With a rush of adrenaline, she propelled herself forwards, before rushing downstairs to join Tyler. Tyler was holding a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and six pack of beer. “Ready?” he asked.
Brodie nodded vigorously.
“Let’s go” he said.
Once strapped in the passenger seat, Brodie thought, “There’s no way back now. It’s like when you get on a rollercoaster and the bars go down.” She looked behind at the house she used to pass on her route to school every morning and watched it get smaller and smaller until they turned the corner.
“Where are we going?” Brodie asked.
“We’re just gonna drive” Tyler shrugged.
“Got any music?” Brodie asked.
“Have a look down there” Tyler said, pointing at a compartment on the inside of the car door.
Brodie looked through the five CDs that Tyler kept in the car and decided that she’d rather sit in silence. That’s what they did.
“It’s getting dark now” said Tyler, “We should stop off overnight somewhere. We can sleep under the stars.”
Brodie frowned, “Sounds dangerous.”
“I thought the new you was all about danger. You want adventure, don’t you?” Tyler asked, his eye sparkling under the moonlight.
They drove for a few more miles longer before turning onto a country lane. There, they pulled over and Tyler opened the door. Brodie followed. Tyler opened the boot and took out the beer before carefully making his way through the boggy land.
“There should be a dry bit of grass somewhere along here” he shouted back at Brodie, “Just follow me.”
Brodie got out her phone to use as a torch but found that it had run out of battery. She would just have to keep Tyler in sight.
“This is the sort of place where horror films begin” Brodie observed.
“It’s fine. There’s no one around for miles” Tyler assured.
“Exactly” Brodie said quietly.
Tyler found a spot of dry land and sat down. He opened a can of beer and passed one to Brodie. They drank quickly and in silence.
“What are you thinking?” asked Tyler, a while later.
“I’m thinking that this adventure of ours is in the wrong place at the wrong time” Brodie said.
“What do you mean?”
“I just took up my first opportunity to get out of town” Brodie explained, “Perhaps I should’ve waited, that’s all.”
Tyler didn’t reply, but stared angrily into the distance.
Then there was a gun shot. “Who’s out there?” shouted a bellowing voice, “I know someone’s here.” Another shot.
Brodie turned to move closer to Tyler. Then she realised that the second shot had been fired by him.
“Where the fuck did you get a gun?” Brodie screamed.
Tyler didn’t reply. He put the gun into the back of his jeans and stood up to find his victim.
“Where are you going?” Brodie shouted after him, “We need to get out of here. They could still be out there.”
“They’re not out there” Tyler said.
“How could you know?” Brodie said, and then caught up with Tyler and realised what he meant.
Tyler was standing over the farmer’s dead body. “You killed him” Brodie said, “You killed him. You killed him. He was just a farmer. He didn’t mean any harm. You killed him. You killed him. You were right, you are evil and selfish and bad.”
Brodie turned and ran back in the direction of the car, but she fell on the uneven ground. She cried out and grabbed her ankle. Tyler rushed towards her and picked her up.
“Get off of me!” Brodie shouted.
“We need to get out of here” Tyler whispered, “Keep your voice down.”
Tyler carried Brodie back to the car and lay her down on the backseats. Then he got in the front and started the car. He sped away from the scene, with Brodie crying in the back.
As daylight approached, all Brodie could think about was how foolish she had been. She felt nothing but bitter, crushing disappointment. This wasn’t what she had wanted. She had wanted some magical story that was never going to happen. She would be back home soon and all she had gained was a twisted ankle and the knowledge that she had seen someone be murdered. She felt dirty for sleeping with Tyler and angry that she had not just stayed in Joe’s room.
Brodie sat up as the sun rose. It looked so beautiful. Joe was right about the observer living just as fulfilled a life as the participator. Now, however, the unadulterated beauty of the sun rise was tainted with Brodie’s haunting thoughts of the night before.
“Tyler” Brodie spoke for the first time in hours, “Where are we going?”
“Home” he said harshly, “The adventure’s over Brodie. And don’t you tell a soul about last night.”
Brodie rested her head back on the seat and cursed herself once more.
(originally published in Cherry.)
(originally published in Cherry.)