“The music makes me feel alive,Eds. So do you.”


1. one

11:42 p.m.

Richie’s dirty beat up shoes have a committed relationship with windowsills. Every night for the past year, Richie has propping himself up in the window frame, glancing back at his bedroom door, and jumping the ten foot drop down to the garden residing around his house. The windowsills creak and groan under his weight, but still, their relationship with his old Chucks does not falter. Even when Richie’s shoes intimately dig into the soil seconds after he jumps.

Once he’s stabilized on the ground, he reaches to pull his rusty bike from the rose bushes he uses to hide his evidence. The handles tremble and shake as Richie mounts, yet they continue to steer and persist underneath the boy’s iron-fist grip.

Tonight has been bad, but it will be okay soon. It’s always okay. She makes it better.

The streets are empty around this time of night, as if the world has been put away from the outside and every traffic light has gone to rest. Richie feels it creep up on him, with each kick that his legs make against the ground to gain momentum, he feels the loneliness of night time. It slithers in like the cold, and he knows its irrational, but the boy can’t help but wonder if the world is hiding from him. Sometimes, that’s how it feels.

“Tozier you’re late!” He hears her shout from down the block. The cold is instantly diminished, being replaced with the warmth that only comes from the sparks and embers that reside within Beverly Marsh’s hair.

“Got a bit caught up fuckin’ your mom, Bev,” Richie calls back. He pedals into the view, the fluorescent street light opening up the world around him. Then, Bev is there, illuminated just like the angel that she is. She laughs at Richie’s crude comment, and for a second, he mistakes it as heaven’s choir.

“Your watch stop working? I do believe 11:30 is our usual rendezvous time,” she tells him.

Richie dumps his bike against the curb, staring down at the girl who he has assigned as his personal savior. He won’t ever admit it, but he would surely be dead had he not met Beverly.

“My watch works perfectly fine, yours is just too early,” he shakes his head. Bev smiles at him, a trusting smile, one that ignites something in Richie that he never feels with anyone else. She believes in him. Not many people can say the same.

“Alright, then, come on,”she grabs him by the wrist and starts dragging the lanky boy across the street.

It started a little over a year ago, when the temperature was just on the cusp of cool whispers. The leaves had yet to decay and turn brown, but chilly air had nipped at their young cheeks all night. Beverly Marsh has phoned the Tozier house and kindly requested to speak to Richie, who didn’t get many callers. She said to meet her across the street from the QwikStar gas station once his parents were asleep, and the boy had not asked why. He simply agreed, and watched the clock for the rest of the evening, silently urging his parents to succumb to their drunken slumbers as they did every night.

Upon arrival, Beverly had smiled up at Richie, and said “Shall we eat?” Her hair was still long at the time, and Richie will never forget the way she pulled her ponytail over her shoulder to protect her neck from the cold.

Beverly had figured that Richie did not consume the correct amount of food for a growing 15, 14 at the time, year old boy. She was right, in fact, spot on. Beverly had picked up on the vague hints her friend would drop when it came to his parents’ behavior, so it was only her first instinct to begin feeding the boy and picking up where his parents slacked off.

Every night, they meet at 11:30 pm, run to the QwikStar gas station and get as much junk food as they can, and then splurge in the 24/7 laundromat next door. Nobody does their laundry at night, and certainly nobody would expect to find two kids there either.

Tonight, Beverly had a crisp $20 bill clenched in her small hand. When Richie asks where she got it from, Bev just shrugs and mentions some favors she did for her boyfriend’s friends.

Richie hates that. He hates it more than he will ever admit, only because he knows it’s unfair to Beverly for the thought to even cross his mind. He is happy for her, he is, but he still can’t stand the idea that Beverly has a million other people that she could easily replace him with. Richie doesn’t have anybody; no friends, no family, just Bev. Bev…Bev has everybody. A boyfriend, friends, her boyfriend’s friends. It drives him mad knowing that she could easily start feeding someone new if Richie were to disappear without a trace.

“Earth to Richie, earth to Richie! Ground control, Houston, we may have a problem!” Bev giggles, knocking on Richie’s head as if she excepts the echo of an empty chamber.

Richie blinks a few times, his surroundings coming back into focus as his composure. It’s not uncommon that Richie will drift into his own thoughts, but Beverly never seems to mind. She puts up with a lot, and Richie is eternally grateful for her presence.

As if on cue, he defensively says “Sorry, I was thinking about what’s bigger; my wang or your fat head?”

Bev just laughs her lovely laugh and pushes Richie’s shoulder. She’s used to these snarky remarks, but she’s also used to the reason he makes them. Not as a way to be funny or mean, but as a coping mechanism.

“I don’t know, Rich, that’s a tough one,” she picks up her packet of peanuts, offers it to him, then places it back down when he shakes his head. “If that’s the case, my head must be pretty minuscule.”

“You wish Beaver-ly,” he puts emphasis on beaver. “My dick is so colossal that-“

“Beep beep, Richie,” she snickers again.

Fuck up, he thinks to himself. Fucking annoying, again.

Beverly is going to grow tired of saying beep beep one day, and he knows it. Richie is terrified of the day that he is left completely, entirely alone, but for now, he needs to appreciate what he has while he has it.

Richie grabs a packet of Skittles, hands then to Bev, and then grabs another per her request.

“What favors were you doing?” Richie grows curious.

“Oh you know...”she trails off with that delicate air to her pixie-floating words. “Favors.”

“You weren’t letting them nail you, were you?” Richie scoffs. His loudmouth earns the attention of the store clerk, who looks more than tired with the children’s routinely presence.

“Richie,” Beverly says harshly. “Shut up!”

Richie recoils in on himself, wincing at the words and mentally degrading himself for what he’s said. How could he be so stupid? So insensitive?

Bev’s tone seemed to soften up a bit. “No, I wasn’t. None of those boys have ever seen a boob in their life, I doubt they would survive ‘nailing’ someone. I was helping them with their dungeons and dragons campaign.”

“Dungeons and dragons?” Richie scoffs, laughing to himself easily. “What are they, fucking nerds? For fuck sakes, Bee. You really let Ben drag you into that?”

“Ben didn’t drag me into anything,” she shakes her head, short curls bouncing against the nape of her neck. “I love being around them, they’re just as much my friends as they are his. If they want me to help their campaign, then I help their campaign.”

“Fucking geek shit,” he shakes his head again, hands trembling at his sides. Richie can’t recall a time Bev has ever said she loves being around him. “At least you got twenty bucks from it.”

Bev doesn’t say anything else, just silently takes their snacks to the counter and pays while Richie fumbles through the stack of magazines near the door, Beverly watches him fondly, feeling nothing but love for the friend she’s had since she was thirteen.

Richie has changed over the years, certainly grown a whooping nine inches, let his hair grow past his jawline, unruly and curly, and his jawline has sharpened as puberty takes its toll on his body. Despite all these changes, he’s still the bug-eyed, lanky, talkative wreck he has always been. A few disorders and traumatic experiences, sure, but he’s still the same deep down.

“Hurry up, Bev. I could be banging your mom right now,” he groans from the door. Bev ignores him, smiling at the clerk and taking their bags of junk food, before turning to him and leaving the gas station they’ve become regulars at.

“Oh don’t worry, you wouldn’t need much time. We all know how premature you are, Rich,” she chuckles, leading him down the sidewalk to the laundromat entrance.

“Nice guys finish first,” Richie shrugs, stepping ahead so that he can open the door for her.

“Not quite sure that’s how it goes,” she shakes her head, but laughs regardless.

The two sit at their usual table in far back, dumping bags of junk food down onto the initials B-R etched into the surface. Richie grabs the first thing he sees, desperate to get something in his stomach.

After a few bites of the sickeningly sweet Twinkie, Richie brings his eyes up to Beverly, his sweet best friend, and feels guilt run through his body.

“They were fighting,” he says quietly, in a muted tone. He doesn’t want anybody to hear him, and it’s very rare moments that Richie actually lets his volume stray thus far from its usual projection. “They were fighting again. I couldn’t leave because I needed to be there if he...if he started hitting her. That’s why I was late.”

Bev is silent, absorbing the vulnerable side that she doesn’t get to see very often. She knows Richie has it rough at home, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. She thinks he’s embarrassed by it, but she doesn’t know why he would be.

“It’s okay,” she says quietly, reaching out to brush her honeydove hand against his. “It’s okay. He...He kissed me today. A...a deeper kiss. I couldn’t move.”

Richie feels disgusted with himself, shaking his head and pulling his hand away from Beverly’s. How dare he complain about his problems when he knows she has it so much worse? Richie feels sick from his own ignorance, so, he shakes his head and changes the subject.

“So, you excited for your birthday?”

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