Carpe Noctem

Like the beginning of a dozen cliche romance stories, Hana lives next to a cute boy, it's summer, and they're bored. Unlike a dozen cliche romance stories, Hana hates romance. Fortunately, this is no love story.


10. Ten: In the Dark


"The perfect lover is one who turns into a pizza at 4:00 AM."

-Charles Pierce


    “How long do you want to stay up here?” Sebastian asked sometime after the sun had begun to sink behind the buildings. 

    I checked my phone and found it was almost eight o’clock. Between talking, watching the people, and drifting off on the huge green blanket, we had spend the entire afternoon on the roof. “Oh, did you want to go?” I replied, ready to get up.

    “No, no. I could stay here all night. I love it up here; it’s just so…” he trailed off, looking over the edge with a little smile. “But of course, I’ll take you home any time you want.”

    I pushed myself into a sitting position and admitted, “I don’t really want to go home.”

    “Ah, I feel you.” Sebastian’s tone wasn’t prying or comforting, it was matter-of-fact. He understood, and I took a second to wonder why. I said nothing. A question like that seemed best left for the dark of night. Sebastian added, “If you want to talk, though, I’ll listen.”

    I gave a half smile. “I know. We’ve been talking for, what, four hours?”

    Sebastian nudged me with his shoulder. “Yes, but I’ve been listening all that time. Unlike someone.”

    “You have one of those voices that just puts me to sleep.”

    “Silky smooth velvety tones?” he prompted, grinning. 

    I gave him a look. “Nah, think more boring algebra teacher.”

    “Ouch,” Sebastian replied, pressing a hand to his chest. “You wound me.”

    I laughed and he smiled and the moment passed. A car honked on the street below, and somewhere in the distance a siren went off. I closed my eyes, breathing in the machine oil smell that seemed to waft up from the city. I didn’t mind it as much as I would have expected.

    After a few minutes of silence, I finally spoke, “My dad’s getting married.”

    “Oh,” Sebastian responded. He sounded hesitant, tentative. “Is that… a good thing?” 

    “Yes. No,” I answered. “Yes… Yes.”

    “That’s three yeses, one no. Yes wins,” Sebastian tallied.

    I smiled a little. “Yeah. I’m really happy for him, it’s just… it won’t be a yes when my mom finds out, you know?”

    Sebastian answered honestly, “I don’t know. I don’t know much about your family. But I can imagine it won’t be pretty.”

    Sighing, I replied, “Yeah. Divorces are like that.” Sebastian had no response, and I didn’t expect him to. There was no response to that. “Sorry. We don’t have to talk about this.”

    “We’ll talk about anything you want to,” he assured me, meeting my eyes. “That’s what friends are for.”

    I felt something flutter in my chest, and I felt it tighten. I swallowed hard and willed my eyes to dry. “Thanks.”

    When it was clear that I wasn’t going to say anymore at the moment, Sebastian clapped his hands together. “Well, if we’re camping out here for the night - which I’m totally cool with - we’re going to need some provisions.”

    Thirty minutes later, Sebastian’s phone rang. He answered it. “Pizza’s here,” he mouthed to me, then said into the receiver. “What floor? Oh, uh, the roof?” There was a pause. “Yes, I’m serious.” I stifled a laugh with my hand, pulling my knees up to my chest. “It’s not a pran- You know what? Look up.”

    Sebastian stood in an abrupt sort of action, unfolding his lankly limbs and striding to the edge of the roof. He waved his arms at the road. “Believe me now?” he demanded into the receiver. “Okay, yeah, we’ll meet you by the elevator on the 50th floor.”

    After he hung up, Sebastian strode back over to me, offering his hand. I took it and stood, brushing off the back of my jeans. “You’re getting sunburned,” he remarked. 

    I looked down at my arms, and they were bright red. “I’m too pale for this. Maybe we should stick to night activities.” Sebastian raised a brow, and I hurried to backtrack. “Not- not like that. You know what I mean.” He was trying valiantly not to laugh. I glared. “Let’s go get our goddamn pizza.”

    “Aw, you said our pizza.”

    “Shut up,” I muttered, stalking over to the rooftop door and jerking it open. Going down the stairwell with my phone’s flashlight wasn’t nearly as eventful as going up, but I was fine with that. Sebastian checked the hallway before we exited the utility closet, and I commented, “If you’re so worried about being caught, how come you ordered a pizza to the roof and waved to the whole city?”

    “While I doubt the pizza man is going to turn us in to the authorities, if someone were to catch us here, they’d lock this door,” Sebastian said. “And I like the blanket that’s up there.”

    “Uh huh,” I muttered.

    While Sebastian collected and paid for the pizza, I stopped by the bathroom, taking the opportunity to splash cold water on my face and question my life choices. I hoped I wasn’t leading him on.

    “Breathe,” I told my mirror-self. “You’re fine.”

    I was fine. 

    I met Sebastian in the hall, a box of pizza in one hand and a two liter of Coke in the other. I took the Coke from him without comment and followed him back up to the roof. By the time we got up there, the sun was setting.  

    “Look, dinner and a nice view,” Sebastian said. 

    I nodded in agreement, but I was looking at the sunset and he was looking at me. “A true gentleman,” I deadpanned, brushing over whatever implications that might have held. 

    “I try, I try,” Sebastian replied, graciously offering the first slice of pizza to me. I took it without comment. “Your cheeks are really red,” he commented. 

    For a second I wondered if I was blushing, but it didn’t feel like it. I touched them, and they felt tight, sensitive. “Either it’s the light of the sunset, or I have pretty bad sunburn.”

    “Probably sunburn. You’re so pale.”

    “Thanks,” I muttered, wiping my greasy fingers on my bare leg in absence of a napkin. 

    Sebastian looked at me. “It’s not a negative thing. Why are girls always so sensitive about that?”

    I shrugged. “A golden tan is a standard of beauty.”

    “Standards of beauty are all bullshit.” Sebastian took another slice of pizza. “Don’t listen to them.”

    “Whether I listen to them or not won’t change how much this hurts tomorrow,” I groused. 

    Sebastian laughed, bumping my shoulder with his. “Not to mention those nice tank top and short burn lines.”

    I groaned, “This is what I get for hanging out with you on a roof. Last time that happens.”

    “Like you suggested, we could always just come up here at night,” Sebastian pointed out, but there was nothing suggestive in his voice. It was just logical - no sun, no burn. 

    “I was joking. I don’t do things at night.” I reached for the bottle of Coke and snapped the plastic cap open. 

    “Why?” Sebastian asked, snatching the bottle from my hands before I could drink. “What?” he asked after taking a sip. “Nobody said I actually was a true gentleman.” I glared at him, and he handed it back. “Why, though? The night is great. It’s the best part.”

    “The best part of what?” 

    “The day. Life. Everything.”

    I scowled. “I don’t like it. I think it’s lonely and cold and forbidding.” Like me, lol, I thought.

    “So why are you here, then?” Sebastian asked, closing up the pizza box with two slices left. He pushed it to the side and reclined on the blanket, looking up at the purplish orange sky. 

    I didn’t move, just looked down at him. After a pause, I answered, “I don’t know.”

    Sebastian nodded as if he had been expecting that. “I’ve gotten worse answers before.” Snorting, I positioned myself beside him, a decent distance away. “You’re wrong, though,” he continued. “About the night being lonely.” 

    “It is,” I protested. “You can walk out in the street at night and not see a single sign of life. You can lay in your bed in an empty room and know no one is thinking of you. It’s like everyone in the world ceases to exist and you’re all that’s left,” I whispered, turning my head to look at him. “How is that not lonely?” 

    “I don’t think it’s lonely, I think it’s peaceful. You’re the only one who exists in the world. No one else is there to interfere. You can be one hundred percent you.” Sebastian’s tone was wistful. 

    “Can’t you be you all the time?” The words sounded absurd the moment they left my lips. He laughed, and I laughed, and we both knew how ridiculous that was. 

    No one could ever be themselves. 

    As the color faded from the sky, it got cooler. Sebastian seemed closer than he had been when I had laid down, and I could feel the heat radiating off the arm closest to mine. There was some light pollution from the city, but it was a clear enough night that we could still see stars. As his hand brushed mine, a knot formed in my stomach. I pulled away and rolled onto my stomach, propping myself up by my elbows. 

    I locked my eyes on Sebastian’s. “I have something I should tell you.”

    He stared back at me, unblinking. “I do too,” he admitted. We stayed like that for a second, and then something broke, shifted, fell away. 

    Neither of us said another word, just rolled onto our backs and stared at the stars. 

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