Seeing Red

"She wasn't new in school, or in town, I'd just never noticed her. How I managed that, I have absolutely no idea."
Red wasn't the type of person you forget. Colleen realized this as soon as she met her at the beginning of her Senior year at high school. Extremely ready for a change and extremely intrigued by Red, Colleen finds herself effortlessly immersed in an entirely new lifestyle brought on by this unique girl. When underlying feelings come to the surface, will Colleen address them, or run away from her own confusion?
Rated yellow for strong language and adult themes later on.

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3. Magical

 

I didn’t see her for the rest of the school day, not that I had expected to, but I thought about her nonstop. She was so interesting. So... different. It was amazing. An extremely welcome breath of fresh air. I wanted to see her again, talk to her, find out more about her. Find out everything about her. Just... interact with her in literally any way at all. I wondered if the feeling was mutual. I mean, I was definitely not as interesting as she was, but she had sure seemed attentive.

 

At the end of the day while I was waiting near the front doors for my ride, my eyes scanned the crowds of my fellow students, wondering if I’d spot her. At first there was just the same people I saw all the time, but then I noticed a little flash of orange. She was over in a corner near the gym entrance, standing with those two from earlier at her lunch table. She was chatting with them and laughing, y’know, basic stuff. A smile came to my face without even realizing it. I watched as she playfully shoved the guy’s shoulder, then turned to the girl and pinched one of her cheeks. Her happiness spread to anyone near her - they were both beaming as well.

 

It wasn’t like the trio didn’t look approachable or anything, but something held me to the spot. I could’ve walked over, it would’ve been awkward at first since her two friends didn’t know me, but I’m sure she would’ve somehow incorporated me seamlessly with them. It was too daunting, though. Besides, another selfish part of me just wanted to hangout with her alone.

 

When I got home, I sat down on my bed, took out my journal, and started to write like a maniac. I had so many new emotions, a lot of which I didn’t understand, and my usual method of coping was to write it, so I did. Page upon page of what I read later as absolute gibberish - a lot of unfinished thoughts or sentences that just didn’t coincide. Regardless of whether or not it made sense, she had managed to effortlessly consume my thoughts, I’d never experienced anything like it before.

 

After literal hours straight of constant writing, I had to stop since I felt like I was spontaneously getting carpal tunnel syndrome. When I looked at the clock I saw it was eight at night. Knowing that I needed to fill in the mandatory daily family interaction time, I went downstairs and ate some food with my parents, blathered out some vapid nonsense about my school day, and went back upstairs. Halfheartedly I tried to do my homework, but honestly I was way too distracted to focus on anything besides her, and it startled me.

 

It kept me awake. I wasn’t even drowsy at midnight. My sleep schedule was fucked up enough, at this point I had just given up on hope. Instead I just watched some random stuff on Netflix. Eventually, though, I kept getting bothered by this weird noise. It was like an inconsistent sort of tapping. Too lazy to get up, I grudgingly let it continue for a minute or so before I finally had enough.  

 

After a ten second investigation I realized it was coming from my window, which was odd. When I stared at it for a little while, I noticed what the noises actually were: pebbles. Someone was throwing pebbles at my window. What the hell?

 

I immediately moved to look, opening it up, only for the cold, near-winter wind to blow straight into my room. I shuddered. It was really dark and it took a second for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I gasped quietly to myself. It was Red.

 

She stood on the grass by the side of my house, staring up at me with this big grin on her face. She looked... adventurous. My brow furrowed and I squinted, wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me, if I’d fallen asleep and was having some type of dream.

 

My parents were undoubtedly asleep and I didn’t want to wake them up, but I was too intrigued to control the volume of my voice, “Red??” She giggled to herself at my blatant lack of comprehension, but frantically gestured for me to be quiet. I spoke down to her in a harsh whisper, leaning slightly out my window so she might hear me better, “What..?” I didn’t know specifically what to ask.

 

She beckoned me down excitedly. She wanted me to go down there? Why? What for? Even though the logical part of my mind was understandably asking these questions, something else told me to ignore all that. Something else was practically demanding that I go down there immediately. I wanted to be spontaneous, I’d always wanted to, but I just didn’t have anyone to be spontaneous with. Now the opportunity was presenting itself to me on a silver platter. If I didn’t take it I was a total idiot.

 

That was enough for me to practically run down my stairs and out the front door. Edging along the side of my house in her direction, when I rounded the corner and she spotted me, her face lit up so bright my cheeks warmed. She was so excited I came down. Genuinely excited, just to be near me. Maybe my weirdly intense feelings were mutual.

 

I was walking over, but she didn’t have the patience for that apparently, as she closed the space between us in a straight up run. I was startled, but just smiled at her, laughing once.

 

Once she reached me, she stood with her hands clasped in front of her, grinning so wide I was worried it might hurt her cheeks. It was absolutely adorable. I found myself using that word a lot to describe her, “Hi.” That was all she said, slightly twirling left and right.

 

I raised a disbelieving eyebrow at her, she was so casual. Excited, yes, but also nonchalant. Like this was as everyday as a basic greeting. But we weren’t in school, we were outside my house, in the middle of the night in early-December, “Uh... hey?”

 

Red started to bounce up and down, literally giddy, eyes somehow managing to sparkle even in the darkness of night, “Are you free?” She asked politely, almost to a comical extent, sort of as if she were asking me on a date - even lowering her voice slightly to impersonate some sleazy dude at a bar.

 

I tucked some of my hair behind my ear, since the wind was blowing it around, and I scoffed, “Dude, how did you even get--”

 

She shoved her hand toward my face with an extended index finger, stopping just before my lips, “Shush! None of that,” I shut right up, taken aback by the gesture, and becoming even more so when she reached and clasped my hand. My smile faded slightly as my chest lightened. Was this really happening? As if not of my own volition, once her hand was in mine my grip on it tightened slightly. She didn’t seem to notice, instead starting to tug me down the hill a little ways from my property line, “C’mon!” She was going at such a suddenly fast pace that I staggered, and she suppressed a laugh, “C’mon, Colleen, pick up the pace lets go!” Even though I almost fell a second time, I couldn’t stop quietly laughing along with her.

 

“Where are we g--” I once again tried to ask any type of question, but it was a futile effort.

 

“--No questions! Jeez, don’tcha trust me?” She said it like it was a joke, and I knew that it was, but for some reason I started to seriously consider my answer. I had no way of justifying it, but when I thought about it, I did trust her. I refrained from saying so, however, not wanting to seem as naive as I admittedly was in this situation.

 

Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, we were facing the backs of only a few houses. They were few due to the extent of their designated land - they each had huge fields. I’d never really come down here, I had no reason to. Maybe that was why I’d never met Red before. I regretted my lack of exploring instantly.

 

We headed toward the ranch-like house furthest to the left, and then onto the actual road in front of it. Red released her grip on me once we were on the sidewalk, before heading toward the porch. My attempt to follow her was immediately prevented by an emphatic gesture to the contrary. I just sighed in playful frustration before complying - staying put and crossing my arms. She entered the house with a key, so it was hers. God, she lived so close to me. This whole time. I kicked myself over and over again. How could I have overlooked her?

 

She mouthed to me that she’d only be a minute, before disappearing out of sight into the darkness of the interior. True to her word, she came back outside in even less than that time - now wearing a bomber jacket and carrying a heavy leather one in hand. She jogged back to me and shoved it into my hands, “Put it on n’ lets go,”

 

Before I could even fully process the command, she was already heading further down the sidewalk. Confused, but understanding that it was pointless at this stage to question, I just sighed (though thoroughly amused) and slid the unfamiliar jacket onto my shoulders. It was warm and I could tell it was well-worn, as it had subtly been shaped into the rough outline of Red’s torso, and the leather had slightly lost its luster. I grasped its sides and tugged it closer, doing my best to catch up without seeming overly eager. She spun smoothly on her heel to walk backwards, facing me now.

 

Her eyes drifted to the jacket, “Warm enough? It’s colder than I thought,” Her concern was genuine and very sweet. Feeling my cheeks start to burn, all I did was nod. She pursed her lips as if considering her next words more closely than she normally would, “It looks good on you.”

 

I just looked down toward my feet to prevent myself from blushing even more, shaking my head back and forth slightly to myself, “So will you tell me where we’re going now?”

 

She turned around again and slowed to be at my side, “I think a better question would be ‘where aren’t we going?’ Hey, so how long’ve you lived here?”

 

“Five years, why?”

 

I saw her look up at the sky in my peripheral vision, “Well, I’ve got you beat by a solid decade. I bet you’ve never actually explored the town, huh? I mean like the whole town, even the sketchy parts.” Her hands delved into the pockets of her jacket when a particularly chilling breeze blew past us.

 

“Nope. I mean I’ve walked around main street with friends sometimes, but there’s not much there after a while...” My ears were beginning to sting and I reached up to one, rubbing it in an attempt to warm up, “... And my parents always said not to go too far into downtown. They didn’t specify at all, which somehow just made it seem even scarier.”  

 

Red chuckled at my blatant inexperience, “Scary? God, Colleen, if you live your life bein’ scared of everything ya ain’t gonna have much fun.” Coming from her, that statement held particular weight, since she somehow managed to seem like she was always having some kind of fun no matter what. Like I mentioned before, she was really living. I wanted to do that too.

 

I contested her, “I’m not scared of everything, Jeez. I followed you, didn’t I?”

 

Red laughed aloud, entertained by me with little effort exuded on my part, “Well I wasn’t aware that I was so scary. Intimidating? Maybe, but it’s still a stretch.”

 

“I didn’t mean...” She wasn’t scary in any way whatsoever. She was one of the most welcoming, approachable people I’d ever met, “...You aren’t intimidating. Just the opposite, really.”

 

She hummed a brief tune to herself, making her steps more rhythmic for a few moments, “And you’re kinda like... a cute, fluffy little bunny that you just wanna cuddle with. Compared to that, I think I’m the one more prepared to head into the ghettos.”

 

I scoffed at her - was that really what she saw me as? “A cute fluffy-- seriously? Hey little Miss, if I remember correctly I’m the Senior here. You’re just a baby, y’know.” My mind was only then just starting to register that she’d basically admitted she wanted to “cuddle” with me. I was getting this weird sort of fluttery feeling in my chest that had been building up ever since she grabbed my hand.

 

“Oh-ho, whoa there, don’t you dare go about with the age thing, it’s only by a year!” Her offense was feigned.

 

“So you can call me a fuckin’ bunny and I can’t call you a baby? Well I see how it is then, What a double standard.” Our banter was... fun. Natural. Our senses of humor coincided effortlessly, things just worked well. It was nice to have someone you just, y’know, had chemistry with. I’d never experienced it before and it was bordering on euphoric.

 

She scoffed but was suppressing a laugh, “Will you just be quiet, already? It’s really nice out, here, listen for a sec...” Her pace slowed and she held up her hand to indicate I do the same, which I did, albeit being pretty confused. I didn’t hear anything.

 

It was actually nice out, despite it being cold. There were still leaves from Fall being gently tossed around by the small little gusts of wind, and it hadn’t snowed yet so you could see all the dying grass. It was really late. Nobody had any lights on in their houses - the only way we could properly see was by the occasional street lamp. They were really spread out in this side of town, but when we did pass under one, Red’s face would get illuminated in such a way that all her features were especially defined. It made her even more magnetic to me, and every time I gravitated slightly closer to her as if entirely against my own will. I don’t think she noticed.

 

After a minute or so of silence I understood why she wanted to stop talking. If you really took the time to listen to your surroundings, it was like you could hear everything. I heard the passing of the occasional car on other streets, the subtle buzzing of the street lamps when we were beneath them, every piece of rock crunching underneath our shoes with each step we took. It was sort of entrancing. Whatever nerves I still had seemed to get drained straight out of me.

 

Neither of us said a single word until we got to the end of the street, turning onto Hudson, which was just as empty as the last road. Once there, Red was the first one to pipe up with something, “See? It’s nice, right?” Her voice was nothing more than a thoughtful whisper.

 

I couldn’t deny that, instead nodding at her. She gave me a warm smile, before nudging my arm with her elbow, “I had no idea you were so insightful...” I sounded awed, which I guess I sort of was. She kept surprising me.

 

She emit a dragged out sigh, sounding incredibly content, “I dunno if I’d call it that,” She moved to be further ahead of me on the sidewalk before spinning around in slow circles with her arms slightly outstretched, staring up at the stars again, “I just like nature. Not in a hippie way, though.” She added on that last bit with considerable haste.

 

We fell silent again. Time was passing faster than I’d ever thought possible. Pretty soon we wound up in the dead center of town, which was eerily vacant. After living there for a pretty sizeable amount of time, I’d never once seen it so void of life. Everything about this entire scenario was just further solidifying in my subconscious that I was just dreaming.

 

Our local ice cream joint was actually still open. I rarely ever went there myself, but I guess they had some pretty weird hours. Only one dude seemed to be working this graveyard shift and, ironically, he looked like a walking corpse. It was the only place on the entire street with any lights still on, making it this sort of beacon amidst all the dark windows. Without her saying anything, I knew she planned on heading in.

 

She held the door open for me and I just smiled at her. The bell above it jingled when we walked in, so the one employee stuck there turned to look at who the hell was trying to get ice cream at such an ungodly hour. Weirdly enough, he gave Red a look as if the two were moderately familiar.

 

“So... you’ve got a craving, I guess?” I questioned her, still hovering near the entrance. The little shop was small, only containing a few tables, some stools at the counter, and the cashier area.

 

“Just sit down, would ya?” She asked, sounding playfully annoyed with me. She really didn’t seem to like me asking her all this stuff - presumably wanting as much of this little escapade to be a surprise as was possible. I lingered for a few seconds before doing as she said once again.

 

There was some very quiet music playing on a speaker I couldn’t see, but it was just loud enough for me to not understand what Red said to the guy. She had charmed him enough to earn a smile, though. After she ordered whatever she’d planned, he turned around and started to fiddle with stuff to make it. While she waited, she turned her head over her shoulder and wiggled her eyebrows at me. The grin that was plastered to my face literally couldn’t seem to fade when I was near her.

 

I wasn’t too surprised when she walked over with two milkshakes, having paid the guy with some money from her own pocket. Instead of sitting with me, though, she headed out the door. I followed.

 

Upon returning to the cold outdoors, she shoved one of the shakes forcefully into my hand, but not before I made sure to protest, “Hey, why didn’t you tell me to bring money?” Her response to that was a devilish smirk. She was getting way too much enjoyment out of this, “I would’ve paid, y’know.”

 

“I know.” She proceeded down the street with a spring in her step, sipping her shake through her straw. .

 

“Then why...?” I sighed in irritation, “God I hate when people buy shit for me, I feel like such a freeloader.”

 

She turned around and stopped walking, which startled me, and I almost stepped straight into her, instead barely managing to screech to a halt on my heels roughly a foot away. Her words were serious but her voice wasn’t, “You aren’t a freeloader, I’m treating you.”

 

I couldn’t help but stare at her for a few more seconds longer than what may’ve been commonly acceptable - we were beneath one of the street lights at such an angle that her skin seemed to be literally glowing, “...Why, though?” In reality, that question ran deeper than just the circumstances of this particular instance - I was as a whole just incredibly confused as to her motives for this entire night.

 

My subtle hidden meaning wasn’t caught, not that I’d expected it to be. Instead her explanation only served for the surface level of my inquiry. She smirked at me smoothly as she spoke, starting to walk again, though backwards, “I always pay on the first date.”

 

My heart seemed to stop completely, but not before swelling to three times its size so fast I was worried it may break through my ribcage. It was a joke, right? Banter? Why was I so jarred by it, then? Why was I reading into everything so much? I was so rattled I couldn’t even bring myself to proceed forward. She obviously noticed this but didn’t stop, instead just slowing down.

 

“Da--...? I-Is this supposed to be...?” My brain was too terrified to finish any of my sentences aloud. Was I stupid to assume things? Should I automatically just treat every comment of hers as a sarcastic remark?

 

She didn’t seem fazed, or at least not initially. It was then that she started to understand how seriously I was actually taking it, and she spoke up quickly, face falling slightly, “I’m just messin’ with ya.”

 

Even after her reassurance, there was this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. It took me a second, but I abruptly realized that I had butterflies. She was giving me butterflies. It was way more intense than I’d ever had them before - it felt like they were multiplying more and more with every second. My chest felt lighter, my senses seemed dulled, and the only thing I could focus on was her.

 

It scared me. I barely knew her. Why was I feeling like this? What was I even feeling like? If I tried to put just one word to it, nothing seemed to fit right. I mean, I know that you’re supposed to have messed up, confusing emotions when you’re a teenager, but at that moment, I felt like I had no idea what was happening in my head and absolutely no control over my feelings. It was pretty unsettling.

 

She had finally stopped walking altogether, staring at me with a raised eyebrow while I internally experienced this really in depth thought process. I could barely manage to start following her again, and it took a solid three seconds before I could talk without my voice shaking.

 

“Fuck, you scared me...” I found myself saying that before I could process the words, and as soon as they left, I so wished I could somehow catch them in mid-air and shove them back into my mouth. That was not what I wanted to say. There was a recurring theme that I started to notice with Red - I was really bad at lying to her, or just keeping things from her in general. That scared me too.

 

We were side by side again at that point, but she slowed her pace at what I said, while I was too busy trying to prevent myself from cringing. Instead I just decided to actually start drinking the shake she’d bought me, trying to force some nonchalance. It didn’t do much.

 

When she scoffed, my shoulders untensed ever so slightly - she didn’t take it too seriously. We could brush it off, pretend it was banter, “Again with the scaredy-cat routine? Jeez, I’m startin’ to think I won’t be able to shake that outta you,” Normally my response would’ve been to playfully defend myself from the slight jibe, but after my last fumble I was pretty damn close to just sewing my mouth shut. She was looking at me, I could tell, but I just kept my eyes on the sidewalk like my life depended on it.

 

Since I was dead set on remaining dead silent, Red took it upon herself to say something else. But her voice was different than it had been all night. The tone was... she just sounded a bit more serious. Maybe serious isn’t the right word, but I could tell that her words were not at all meant in a jokey way, “... Didn’t know the concept of goin’ on a date with me was such nightmare fuel...” She trailed off, speaking quietly as if half-hoping I wouldn’t hear what she said, then trying to hide from the awkward by sipping her shake casually and avoiding eye contact. I heard, though.

 

You could tell how discouraged she felt. My heart wrenched, finally turning my head to look at her. It seemed like we switched places, since she was now staring down at her feet. Oh god, she looked so fucking sad. She was trying to hide it, but I could tell. I’d never felt so guilty in my entire life.

 

“No--” I spoke up so fast that my volume exceeded what it should’ve been, so I toned it down before continuing, although everything I said was just a total jumble, “--No no no, that’s not what I-- I-I just was worried that-- I mean I wouldn’t have been prepared and I-I--” Christ I sounded pathetic while I just stuttered out fragments of explanations, none of which made any sense. I was just so mad at myself for making her upset. That was the last thing in the world that I’d want to do, ever.

 

I guess she kinda thought that my rambling was unneeded, because she looked over to lock eyes with me. That was enough to make me stop. She still looked a bit off, but it was a lot better than before, “--Hey, whoa, chill.” She sounded like normal. That was a relief, “Take a breath, how ‘bout?” Traces of a smile were returning to her face. My chest was still uncomfortably tight, though.

 

Doing as she said, I let myself inhale deeply for a second or two, watching as my exhale turned into small wisps of faint smoke when they left me, “... Sorry. I just... get nervous sometimes.” Again with the uncontrollable honesty. Drinking our milkshakes seemed to be like some type of coping mechanism for the both of us. We kept doing it whenever any type of silence arose.

 

Red edged closer to me on the sidewalk, “Do I make you nervous?”

 

I sighed, kicking a large pebble that was in my path, “Well... not exactly. Everything makes me nervous, not you in particular.” Even more inherent integrity. And to top if off, I was running out of shake. I knew it was dumb but that actually kinda stressed me out.

 

She hummed, curious, “So... what, you’re just nervous all the time?” I noticed her edge closer again, being hyperaware of her movements and her proximity to me.

 

We passed a trash can and we both tossed in our shakes absentmindedly, while I was trying to think of a way to describe my anxiety without sounding either like a nutcase or a whiny baby. It was harder than you’d think, “Well... I mean... yes and no. I’ve always got this sort of underlying nervousness in my head just like all the time. If I actually think about it, there’s probably been only about... three times in the last four years when I’ve felt one hundred percent calm.” That came out way more depressing than I’d anticipated but it was too late to take it back now.

 

Our mutual paced slowed on her accord and she stared at me - I could feel her eyes boring holes into my cheeks but I couldn’t bring myself to look at her.

 

She spoke cautiously, assuming that this was a more sensitive topic than it really was. Sure, I didn’t broadcast my minor mental instability very often, if at all, but that didn’t mean I’d suddenly break down if it was ever brought up, “That ain’t normal, Colleen.” Her words were solemn and grave.

 

I chuckled bitterly, “Yeah, you don’t have to tell me.” My words lacked impact and substance, simply leaving me on my next breath as if they had been trapped in my lungs.

 

Again, she subtly moved to be closer to me. My body was getting more and more tense the closer she got, “Are you nervous right now?” She was concerned and it was endearing. I was still finding myself awed by her level of sincerity and honesty.

 

An ironic smile stuck to my face despite the heavy topic being discussed. I was so used to just brushing this anxiety thing to the side, pretending it wasn’t as serious as it very well may have been, but deep down I knew that it was bad, and it was getting worse as the years went on. I didn’t know what to do, though. Revealing my condition to my parents would either make them overreact or underreact, and I wasn’t sure which one I’d prefer.

 

Regardless, as a whole my nervous tendencies remained unspoken. Talking about them freely like this felt... off. But I found myself doing so nonetheless, albeit with a lowered voice and an introspective tone, “Red, everything makes me nervous. Some things more than others, but seriously, it’s like I forgot how to not be on edge all the time.”

 

Red didn’t like how bleak my answer was. She was a natural optimist, that much was prevalent to anyone who was around her for more than five minutes. My attitude at that particular moment was very contradictory to hers, but instead of getting put off by it or something, she just got worried.

 

“Well, what right now is especially makin’ you nervous? Maybe I can help.”

 

In reality, she was the primary source of my nerves - only not in a bad way. These weren’t the types of nerves I was used to; the ones that made my stomach hurt and my hands shake. They were... lighter. Fluttery, small little worries that made my heart swell and my cheeks warm. It was almost pleasant. I finally managed to match her gaze for a few lingering seconds, but I didn’t say anything until I’d looked away again.

 

Lying wasn’t an option when it came to Red, but I could at least try and express the truth carefully. I didn’t want to come off as weird, but with my track record I didn’t have too much faith in how well this would go, “No, it’s...” I sighed in frustration, “I don’t want to say that I’m perfectly chill right now, because I’m not, but I feel way more relaxed than I have in a long time when I’m around you--” I trailed off abruptly, startled at my own sentimentality that had just come out without my consent. I pursed my lips slightly, embarrassed at how often I was fucking up in terms of communication.

 

She then startled me by suddenly quickening her pace so fast I couldn’t react to it - then standing in my path so that I almost walked straight into her again. I had to skid on my heels, my previous folly forgotten when she was barely a foot away from me. A sweet smile had come to her face that made my chest lighten after all of that unanticipated talk of my anxiety.

 

It took effort to keep my breath from hitching when she swiftly reached forward and grabbed both of my hands in hers, even tugging me a bit closer, “Well c’mon, I’ve still got some stuff to show ya,” With that, she released her previous grip and instead intertwined our fingers together, letting one of my hands go.

 

We resumed our walking, but we were going a bit faster and she definitely had a specific destination in mind. But unlike before, she wouldn’t release her grip on me. The longer that the contact was held, the more I felt those same butterflies in my stomach going absolutely insane. She didn’t say another word for a good while, and neither did I, since my ability to normally function had greatly lessened. At one point when a particularly biting gust of wind blew past us, she notably pulled me even closer - so that our sides were inches from touching. Jesus Christ I was getting goosebumps, and they weren’t from the cold.

 

When I was with her, it was like nothing around us mattered or was even there at all. Normally, I would’ve been paranoid - I was out late, if either of my parents found out I was gone I’d get in huge trouble, we were in some of the seedier parts of the neighborhood that I wasn’t at all familiar with, and as a whole I was just out of my element. But instead, as Red stuck beside me, cracking jokes, telling stories, sharing thoughts, it... it felt like I was in a movie or something, or a fucking John Green novel.

 

She led me to an old factory littered with graffiti and damage from years of disrepair. There were even signs that said trespassing was off-limits; you’d get fined or arrested or something. She went right in anyways, though, finding a hole in a fence, waltzing in like she owned the place, radiating such confidence that I barely hesitated in following. She showed me all of the various tags that people had spraypainted around, talking to me about how she’d met up with a few, or she’d collaborate with them on bigger pieces, that sort of thing. It astounded me. She was literally exposing me to an entirely new layer of our town’s underground structure. Prior to meeting her, I considered any kind of street art type stuff just petty vandalism, but her work that I saw was exceptionally intricate and beautiful.  

 

By the time we’d left, it must’ve been around 2 AM. The streets were completely empty by that point, no cars, no people, barely any signs of life whatsoever. It was like we were the only two humans left on Earth. A park that I’d passed by a couple times before was abandoned too, and Red brought me there with a skip in her step, elated. She pushed me on the swing and asked me all about my school schedule, my opinion on teachers, then she asked tiny little things - like what my astrological sign was, my last name, my favorite color - all the while maintaining a bordering on comical level of genuine interest. She acted like I was some type of exclusive museum exhibit. It was flattering but confounding all the same.

 

We sat together on the edges of a dilapidated sandbox as the air got colder and the moon got higher. The wind bit at our noses and ears. My eyelids were drooping and while I rested there, I couldn’t help but doze off for little intervals of five minutes or so. She didn’t say a word - never tried to wake me up. Instead, I’d come to just to find her staring at me, head tilted ever so slightly, inquisitive, looking almost... awed. It made me blush and smile. I’d always just blink a few times, still dazed and half-asleep, and ask “What..?” She’d just shake her head back and forth innocently and grin.

 

She only started to show signs of drowsiness two hours later. Yawning on occasion, slurring her words a bit. Meanwhile at that point I could barely form a coherent sentence and my vision was starting to blur. I can still barely remember what exactly transpired on the walk back to her place. She did say, though, something along the lines of thinking I was “cute when I was so sleepy.” I was too out of it to react as stupidly as I normally would’ve. So instead I just dopily laughed.

 

I could barely stand when we got to Red’s doorstep. I’d reached that level of tired where you just want to lay down on the nearest flat surface and pass out, not at all caring where you actually are or who’s around. It was pretty evident that I was a mess, and she refused to let me walk anywhere else. Nope, instead I have some vague memories of her dragging me through her dark house into what I could only assume was her room, and depositing me onto her bed. I was out as soon as my head hit a pillow.

 

The mattress shifted at my side as Red laid down next to me. I felt her scootch closer, making sleepy little mumbly sounds that were absolutely adorable. As if automatically, I turned onto my side to face her before losing consciousness completely.

 

That was the day that I first met Red. In less than twenty-four hours, somehow I could already tell just how much she was going to be in my life. And it made me feel... fucking magical.

 

Authors Note: Sorry for the long chapter, it's just to make up for the short one last time. Not a lot of people like when I write longer things, at least that's what I've gathered from my experience on this website, but I'm tired of constricting my writing to be more bite-sized cuz it's frustrating. Please give me some feedback guys, it's what keeps me going honestly.

 
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