My Skylar(10)By: Penelope Ward
“Yeah, well…it was a mistake.” I took out my phone. “Hang on.” I texted Ava that I wasn’t coming back to the party. She’d whine about it and demand an explanation, but I had no interest in continuing what we had started. “I just told her something came up. Now, let me walk you home.” I took my jacket off her shoulders and opened it. “Here. Slip your arms through.”
She did, and I zipped it up slowly, careful not to catch her hair. My fingers brushed lightly against her breasts on the way up.
Well, those were new.
“Thanks,” she said, looking up at me.
My hand was still on the zipper, and I squelched the urge to pull her toward me right before I let go.
Her tiny frame was swimming in my hoodie, and that made me smile. “Let’s go.”
We walked side-by-side at a slow pace, and I chuckled at the fact that she was a good foot shorter than me.
She was the first to speak when she asked me the question I knew was coming. “So, what have you been up to the past five years, Mitch?” It came out sarcastically casual because we both knew that question was the elephant in the room.
“I’m sorry I never contacted you.”
The tone in her voice tugged at something deep inside me when she said, “I just wanted to know you were okay.”
“I know. I—”
She interrupted me. “I mean, I would see your grandmother and ask about you. She would always say you were fine, but I wanted to hear it from you, because I knew you didn’t share your true feelings with her like you had with me. So, I never knew whether what she would tell me was really the truth.”
“Listen…I’m not even going to make an excuse for not calling or writing you. I was a dumb 11-year-old. The situation got really bad after I got home. Things with my parents were way worse than I imagined, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even you. I was ashamed of certain things. But you need to know something.”
“Everything you told me back then stuck with me: that it would get better, that it wasn’t my fault. I kept replaying everything we’d talked about and reminded myself that I wasn’t alone…that you had been through the same thing and survived. It was the only way I got through it. So, I really need to thank you, Skylar.”
The rest of the walk home, she listened as I told her things I hadn’t ever told anyone. I explained that shortly after I left my grandmother’s, I found out the real reason my parents were getting divorced: my father had a secret girlfriend and had gotten her pregnant. I now had a four-year-old half-sister whom I barely saw because my father eventually took off to live in Pennsylvania with his new family. When I was twelve, my mother had gotten so depressed that she had to be hospitalized, and I had to go to live with my uncle temporarily.
Over the past couple of years, things had finally gotten better. We were getting used to the new normal with my father gone from the picture. When Mom lost her job, the shit hit the fan again, and that’s how we ended up here. My mother and I were now back in her childhood home trying to start over.
By the time we got to Skylar’s door, I was mentally exhausted from rehashing everything, but it was a relief to have finally let it all out. How ironic that the only two times in my life I had really opened up to someone, it was to her. What was it about Skylar that made me want to pour my heart out?
“Thanks for being open about everything,” she said as she stood on her front steps facing me. “I’m sorry for freaking out and running earlier.”
I nudged her with my shoulder. “It was fun chasing you again. And thank you for listening. You know…” I looked down at my feet and shook my head. “Never mind.”
“This is gonna sound kind of corny, but I always knew I’d see you again, that I’d be back here somehow and that we would still be friends.”
She smiled. “To be continued…”
I didn’t get it at first but then realized she was referencing the comic I made her when I was eleven. I had forgotten about that. “You still have that book?”
“Of course, I do. It’s not everyday you get a starring role in a story about S&M.”
I bent my head back in laughter. “Holy shit. When I realized the meaning a few years back, I nearly died. Clueless little kid.”
“Well, I better go inside. My mother thought I was at the mall, which closed a half hour ago.”
“Oh, yeah…you’d better,” I said, backing away. “See you around then?” I pointed across the street. “In case you didn’t know, I’m right over there, so…”