This short story was growing cobwebs in my laptop’s Documents folder, where its been forgotten for nearly two years. And what good is that for a story, even if it’s not a great one? It is time for Michael and Emily to see the sun of the blog-world. The story still needs a bit of work (maybe writing always needs work?), but here it is. I’m hanging it out to air. (Feedback most welcome!)
* * * * *
Meeting Emily – Short Fiction
Michael drummed his fingers on his jeans. ‘Wanna meet Friday?’ he’d texted her. How silly it sounded now. Desperate. She’d replied, ‘coffee after school?’. Of course, Michael didn’t go to school all that often. Nor did he like coffee. But maybe that could change.
The train slowed. A cheery voiceover reminded passengers this station was Sunshine. Michael looked outside. The sky had changed. A heavy blanket of dark cloud had closed over the endless blue. At the skate park with Tom that morning, there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky.
Michael had not wanted Tom to know about his meeting with Emily Clark. He didn’t want Tom to think she was like the others. But the question had come. “Did you?”
“Nah.” Tom had stared. “‘Course I will, but. I’d fuck her any day.”
“Yeah,” Tom’d said. The unlit cigarette dangled out of the corner of his mouth. “Who wouldn’t, right. She’s hot. You’d have to be an idiot.”
Michael didn’t disagree. Emily was hot. That’s what had drawn him in. Her long auburn hair. Her smile; the dimples in her cheeks. He would never admit it, but when Emily’s blue eyes locked with his, he wondered whether she’d picked him out especially. Whether maybe she could see into him, the way no one ever bothered to. Emily made him feel different, like he was more than just that gutless Michael, the guy that everyone knew and nobody wanted to know.
Outside it had begun to shower, so lightly that Michael had to squint to see it. He hated this type of rain. Michael preferred hail – at least there was force to it. Drizzling rain was piss-weak, half-hearted.
Sunshine station. The doors bleeped and opened. Michael looked up. A small boy giggled as his dad swung him over the gap between the platform and the train. Stumbling, the toddler approached Michael’s four-seater with a shy smile. “Here?” He pointed to the seat. Michael greased him off.
The party had only been last Saturday night. A house shindig, for Tom’s friend. Nothing special. A fridge stacked with Corona. Carpet that, by the end of the night, smelled of a mixture between puke and beer. Wild adventures in dark corners, on the parent’s bed upstairs. Tom’d had a few. He’d hooked up with nearly every girl there, and more. Or so he’d said.
Michael had gone on Tom’s word – booze, hooks, maybe some girls willing to go down on him. He’d never expected to come out with a phone number and his first real crush.
“Fuckin’ hell,” he’d yelled over the thumping music to Tom. “I need another drink!”
The girl with auburn hair had answered him. “Come dance first.” Their eyes locked.
“I’m Emily,” the girl offered, holding out her hand.
Michael stared at it for a few seconds. Then, he shook it. “Michael.”
She smiled. “So. Tell me about yourself, Michael.”
“Uh,” Michael had paused. He looked around the dim room. Tom was making out with a blonde chick. Drunken teenagers were dancing madly, out of rhythm. “Um. I skateboard alright, I guess. You should come down sometime.”
“Bet you’re really good.” Michael tried not to be dazzled by her gaze. “Okay, yeah. I will.”
Emily motioned to the crowd of bodies and thumping music. “Wanna dance?”
Footscray station was quiet for a Friday afternoon. Michael wondered whether people had seen the dark clouds and changed their plans. Which was stupid, he knew. It wasn’t going to rain.
Michael jogged up the stairs. Two schoolgirls were stepping down. The sickly sweet aroma of their perfume caught in the breeze and Michael’s stomach lurched suddenly. Emily. He was really, finally, meeting her.
As the schoolgirls’ passed Michael their words burned his ears. Bogan. He felt his face flush bright red. He pulled his beanie further over his hair. Of course, Michael didn’t care what those girls thought about him. He didn’t care what anyone thought. Michael spat on the ground. He didn’t care what anyone thought. Except, perhaps, for Emily Clark.
Emily didn’t think he was a loser; she could see that he was worth it. He was worth it. She could see it. He and Emily would spend the rest of the afternoon together, talking and laughing. Maybe she would kiss him, softly, on the mouth.
He crossed the road.
“Ya’ always gonna fuck it up, ain’t you Mike? Already expelled from school, and only 16.” Michael’s father had growled under his breath. It was heavy, lingering of beer. “Gutless. Fucking gutless!” He slammed his fist against the table.
Michael never met his dad’s bloodshot eyes. He thought, fuck off.
His dad cracked his knuckles, a chilling snap of the bones. Michael stared. He knew that knuckle cracking was never an empty threat.
A seagull was gliding above the closing cafés and empty shops. Thunder threatened the quiet street with a deep, foreboding crack. The seagull wavered. Maybe it would rain.
Michael was nearly there now. She was only around this next corner.
He walked faster and faster, like everything depended on this next moment, the moment where he would see her and realise he was in love, and everything in the world, his world, would finally be worth something. He would go back to school, he would stand up to his dad, to Tom, have a future. With her, Michael wasn’t a gutless no-hoper. He was Michael Carter, a courageous, promising young man, and he would prove it to the world.
Michael came to a sudden halt.
Emily was standing outside the café as they’d arranged. She looked peaceful, her auburn hair gathered to one side, wearing a green school dress, nearly long to the knees, and short white socks. Though a matching green ribbon in her hair was falling out of its bow, Emily looked flawless. Not exactly what Michael was expecting – better.
Emily looked around. Before she could turn to see him, Michael took several steps backwards, and then he left.