THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION
It will be serialized over the next several days, and the finale will be marked with the traditional…THE END
Aaron fast forwarded to the last time he was inside the same phone booth; the summer before his first semester of college, about a month before he made what he’d judged the worst decision of his life. The movie theater was still open then. He was leaving one of dozens of forgettable films with Charlsie, who was wholly unforgettable. He couldn’t remember anything about the movie they’d seen, but he relived every detail of the time he’d spent with her with startling clarity.
It was a sweltering, late July dusk, and the humidity was oppressive. After the short trip from the car, both of them were overheated. He smirked, watching her dramatic relief as he opened the theater door for her to enter the air conditioned lobby. She sighed audibly and closed her mesmerizing eyes, relishing the cool burst she normally complained about. She habitually dressed in jeans and brought a sweater to the movies, even in the summertime. This film, however, was a whim fulfilled, lacking all forethought. They’d left right from a day of swimming, their skin still smelling of chlorine and coconut-scented sunscreen. She was in just shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals.
She started wearing shorts again the summer after he’d made the errant January phone call that jump-started what he still thought were the best two years of his life. She felt secure exposing her legs, unevenly tanned due to scar tissue, because Aaron liked them, and his pedestaled opinion devalued those of any strangers that lingered too long with curious stares. To that point in her life, the time she felt most loved was that first eighty degree day with Aaron. He ran his fingers over her knees and shins, tracing the lines left by persistent youthful stubbornness with care and esteem, as though he idolized them; both the physical imperfections of the flesh, and the quirk in character that caused them.
She watched the movie, knees curled up to her chest, as close to Aaron as humanly possible, trying to usurp his body heat without actually moving to his lap. He watched HER watch the movie and sidle closer to him for warmth, and wrapped his arms around her arms and bent knees. When the credits rolled, she couldn’t wait to exit into the muggy night air, but an unpredicted thunderstorm trapped them inside.
“Future reference: spontaneous movie…bad idea. I’m freezing.”
“I’ll keep you warm. Not hurting my feelings to hold you close a little longer.” He stood behind her, enveloping her, resting his chin on her shoulder and whispering in her ear.
“Making my heart pound. But I think I’m gonna make you cold at this point.” She shivered, goose bumps raised on all her visible skin, and she talked through gritted teeth to keep them from chattering.
“I’ll make a run for it with you, but it’s pouring.”
“I can’t be in this icebox too much longer. I’ll turn into a Popsicle.”
“Can’t have that! Out in the storm it is, then.” He stooped, and she jumped onto his back.
“Go when you’re ready, boss. Take me out.”
He held her legs behind her knees and treasured the soft, sunned skin of her cheek against his for a moment before kicking the door open with one foot, and dashing out into the driving rain.
“Shit! Another bad idea! Why in the hell did you listen to me?”
“I’m just tryin’ to make you warm and happy, Princess Chuck,” he teased her, yelling over the din of splashing footsteps and rain beating down on car roofs.
“Make a pit stop! Please?!”
“Where? We’re in a damn parking lot!” They both laughed.
“Phone booth on your left.” He pushed the doors open and backed in with her still riding piggy back. “Oh my gosh. Drenched,” she huffed as he closed them in. She wrung water from her shirt tail, pulling the fabric tighter against her form.
“Yep,” he agreed, watching her, and passively dropping water into a small puddle at their feet.
“You’re totally waterlogged,” she said, finally looking up at him.
“Drowning? That bad?” She ran her hands down his chest, drawing the surplus water from his shirt too. The sound of rain pounding the glass around them forced their intimate conversation louder than normal.
“Shit, Chuck…when you touch me like that…pulling me under.”
“Sorry.” She closed the already small distance between them, and reached for his hand, lacing her fingers between his.
“Don’t be sorry. Save me.” He pulled her closer until she was right against him, the only barrier between his bare skin and hers were the clinging, second skins of their saturated clothing. Droplets of water hung from the ends of her hair, and one ran down the bridge of her nose, like she’d cried it out. He cupped her jaw and wiped the artificial tear away with his thumb.
“Who’s gonna save me? I’m drowning too.”
The dewy tension in the claustrophobic space finally precipitated into a kiss, more passionate and momentous than even their first. When they exited at the storm’s end, both of them raced toward a finish line that seemed much further away before getting caught in the weather together. The raised stakes made the next three weeks ecstatic, and turned the week before they parted ways for college into them parting ways for good.