Molly tucked the pencil behind her ear, chewed on her thumb for a moment and smiled. On the table in front of her were eight pictures all of the same man. The pictures were black and white – some soiled with coffee, others ripped and torn at the edges and one so violated that you could barely see the man in the photograph. She picked up the most wrecked picture and stared at it. Behind the rips and cracks, her granddad stared back at her. He was young and handsome and on his head was a slovenly hat. Molly couldn’t see the colour but she had always pictured the hat to be green, probably because her granddad had always spoke of his time in the army and the colour Molly most associated with the army was green. Army green. But in the photograph she was currently looking at, her granddad wasn’t wearing uniform. He was in a suit and wearing shoes that most people would probably don to a special occasion. Molly squinted and put her hand over her eyes to block out the sunlight. She looked at the faded scuffs on the shoes which her granddad had once worn and wondered what it would be like if he was still here. But then she looked at the cigarette in his lazy hand and remembered that he wasn’t here at all.
As the wind picked up, Molly gathered the pictures together, tucked them into her dungaree pocket and removed the pencil from behind her ear. She sat down on one of the four wooden chairs bordering the table in the garden and sighed.
“If we do it now, we can take off and she’ll never know it was us!”
“Keep your shitting voice down and pass me the shitting balloon, would you?”
Reuben gently passed the water filled balloon over, “Careful, I just filled it.”
“Shit, you don’t say.” Ethan, his blue bordered sunglasses blocking the light which had only come more ferociously throughout the afternoon, took the balloon and cupped it gently in both his hands.
“I find it easier to hold it by the tie at the end,” Reuben said, “It just makes things easier. And that way, you’re less likely to drop it.”
“If you don’t put a sock in it, I will throw this shitting thing at you. Now, listen, if she makes a move for us, we run.”
Reuben nodded, slicking back his hair in anticipation. “Throw it, man.”
Ethan threw it.
Molly was dreaming. In her dream, she sat in a puddle of boiling water. She could count five trees around her but figured there would be a hell of a lot more hidden behind the cramped wall of yellow leaves. They were big trees. The types of trees you see and think “they-were-here-before-me-and-they’ll-be-here-when-I’m-gone-too.” The trunks of the trees were big enough to hide at least 3 average sized adults behind, but behind the closest, Molly saw just a single hand. The hand was wrinkled and a part of it was torn. The palm looked as if it had been split in two down the centre and Molly felt a cold shiver of dancing goose pimples creep down her own arms as she saw the cigarette lazily hanging from the tips of the fingers. The man which the hand belonged to stepped out from behind the tree. It was her granddad. But he was different, somehow. And then the realisation hit Molly - he was appearing to her as he had done in the photo earlier that afternoon. He was crinkled and his face looked like a piece of paper which had been crumpled and smoothed back out again. The scuffed shoes were there and the smart suit and the wonky hat and the coffee stain on his left arm. Molly tried to push herself up from the water which, she now noticed, had gone from painfully hot to unbearably cold, but she couldn’t move. And her granddad was moving closer. She pushed herself harder but still remained in the same damn puddle in the middle of those horrible trees. And her granddad was stood in front of her, looking down on her with his crinkled face and his smart suit and his coffee stained arm and the lazy cigarette holding fingers. He opened his mouth to talk but no words came out, instead, a gash full of cold water came out and hit her in the face.
Molly shot up, fully aware that her dream had ended. The cold splash of water brought her back to reality and she squirmed upwards in the wooden chair only to fall back down again after a stab of cramp hit her in the arm. By the time she spoke, Molly had forgotten all about her dream and the crumpled old man she’d once called granddad.
“What the fuck?” she squinted upwards. The sunlight was brighter than it had been a few hours ago and at first it was hard to make out the two guffawing figures in front of her. Reuben and Ethan, two of her best buddies, apparently. “Are you fucking kidding me?” After stretching her arm to make sure the cramp had ridden itself, Molly stood up, grunting as the water from her face dribbled down her neck and into her bikini top. “You stupid idiots!”
Reuben clutched his side in laughter, the pain Molly had felt in her arm was now greeting him in his stomach. “Your face was a picture, Molls!”
Ethan was laughing just as hard when Molly began stripping off her wet dungarees. The blue of her bikini top contrasted nicely with the tan of her stomach and very suddenly he found himself thinking about the curves of her waist and how they were in all the right places and how he had met her in year seven and how they were now in college together and how he still hadn’t gotten over his stupid childhood crush. He felt a throb in his pants down below and immediately stopped laughing. Molly threw her dungarees to the left and rubbed the remaining water into her skin.
“Wasn’t her face a picture, man?” Reuben hit Ethan in the ribs and earned himself a punch in the arm and Molly wondered how long it took boys to mature. She was a year younger than the both of them and ultimately, at 18, she felt 10 years older.
“How did you get in here?” she pulled the shades off Ethan’s face and put them over her own eyes. “The doors are locked.”
Ethan flinched, still paranoid about the bulge which had made itself apparent in his pants. His signature arrogant confidence had left. “We, uh - ”
“We climbed over the fence,” Reuben grinned and nodded towards the highest part of the fence, “Not bad, huh?”
Molly raised an eyebrow and barged past them both, “I guess not. But you really shouldn’t do that. My parents would kill you if they found out.”
“Yeah? Well your parents aren’t here.”
“Yeah? Well they could have been!”
“Yeah? Well they weren’t!”
“Shit, do you ever shut up?” Molly turned around to a smirking Reuben and couldn’t help the small grin which passed over her own lips.
“Guess not,” he said.
“And what about you?” she turned her shaded gaze on Ethan, who stood at an awkward angle just behind Reuben. “Cat got your tongue?”
“I – no.”
Molly laughed and scraped back her hair, tying it up with the blue bobble she always kept around her right wrist. “I guess you’d both better come in.”
The kitchen at Molly’s had always been known for the heat. Reuben called it the Greenhouse Effect. In winter it was warm, in summer it was hell. And since the recent refurbishment, it was worse. Molly had poured out bottled lemonade for the three of them and was now sat on the modernized counter with her legs dangling against the top of the cupboards. Reuben leant against the fridge. He looked comical and Molly had to fight back laughter every time she took in his gangly legs and dark, sweat-filled hair.
“What is he doing up there?” she said, more to herself than Reuben. She swirled the lemonade around in her glass, watching the tiny sparks of fizz and listening to the clink of the ice cubes every time they hit the side of the glass. Ethan had excused himself to go to the bathroom as soon as they had gotten indoors and he was still up there. His glass of lemonade sat untouched on the side of the counter and every time Molly looked at it, she felt uncomfortable.
“Probably taking a-”
“Stop right there. EW. I really don’t want to know, Reuben,” she grimaced.
“Well,” Reuben shrugged and chugged down the last of his lemonade, “Either that or he’s, you know…” He made a circular shape with his palm and rocked his hand back and forth in front of his crotch.
Molly’s eyes widened as she grabbed the towel from the top of the dishwasher and hit Reuben with it. “You’re disgusting!”
Reuben threw back his head in a howl of laughter which pierced Ethan’s ears although he was a floor up from his two friends. The bathroom was the smallest room in the house and he was fighting an unexpected stab of claustrophobia. After thinking the queerest, most volatile thoughts he could think of, the bulge in Ethan’s pants had gone down and now, sat on the edge of the bath, he listened to Reuben and Molly laughing downstairs and thought of the full glass of lemonade waiting for him. He got up, flushed the chain on the toilet and washed his hands.
Ethan joined Reuben and Molly in the kitchen after explaining that he had had a terrible bout of stomach cramps, which, for some reason unknown to those other than Reuben and Molly, caused another round of laughter. Ethan rolled his eyes, ignoring both of his friends and soldiering back the glass of lemonade in a few quick gulps.
“Steady on there, fella!” Molly said through hiccups of laughter, “Don’t want you getting anymore stomach cramps!”
This earned a hearty belt of laughter from Reuben who rewarded Molly with a heartfelt high five. Ethan grimaced. “You two are shitting jerks.”
With a clever remark on the tip of her tongue, Molly growled as her mobile sent off a shrill ping. “I should get that,” she said, jumping to the floor and brushing past Ethan as she walked through to the living room. Ethan shivered. Molly unlocked her mobile.
Kayleigh: OMG! Coming over a.s.a.p.!!!!!!!!!! Just got BIG news!!!!!!!!!! CLOVERFIELD = ON. YAY! Have called Addison and will both meet u at ur place in 10, call the boys!
Molly: How do u know Im home?
Kayleigh: Ur always home! ON MY WAY.
Molly threw her phone on the couch and lumbered herself down after it.
“The girls are coming over!” she yelled. Ethan and Reuben’s footsteps sounded on the new linoleum tiles before they appeared in the doorway. “Apparently, Cloverfield is on.”
“What? How do they know?” Ethan frowned. Last time he’d heard, the college trip had been cancelled because of the recent back to back murders and knowing that the school class would be taking a trip up there the following week didn’t fill him with glee.
“Well, it was Kayleigh and she just texted me so, I don’t know,” Molly stood up, “She’s told Addison and they’re both coming round in a minute so I’m pretty sure they’ll explain themselves then. I’m just going to throw on some clothes.”
She slid past the two boys and into the garden. Her dungarees lay on the grass and Molly wasn’t surprised to find that the heat had dried them off. As she slipped into the denim overlays and stuck her hands in the front pocket, Molly didn’t notice that all eight of her granddad’s pictures had gone.