|Interrogating the Night Sky
Author: And Unlaced PM
A series of shorts revolving around the twelve months. // ii. February Fortress - For a few hours I was a teenager again, young and carefree, completely possessed by a childhood that had long since passed.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 2,459 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-15-09 - Published: 01-14-09 - id: 2622108
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
February Fortress is about friendship and reliving memories.
Though there's hardly any truth to the words below, there are a few snippets I've torn straight out of my own life. It's extremely personal piece, mostly because of the Goldie Hawn film mentioned in the second part. My friend and I watched it so many times we had each line memorized. Eventually we wore out the tape and had to buy a new one. I still have both copies. My infinite love and respect to whoever knows the title.
"I finished the fortress."
I stared at her over the tops of my glasses. "You what?"
"The fortress," she repeated, grinning. "It's finally done."
I sighed. Was this the Universe's idea of a joke? "You mean the…thing you started building the summer I turned thirteen?"
"The one we were supposed to stay the night in, about four or five years ago?"
"Yes." She couldn't tell where I was going with this. She just nodded dumbly, like the Pluto bobble head I keep on my dash. I took off my glasses, rested them on the desk.
"Look, Tabby cat, you know I love you."
"And I love you too, Care bear."
I felt the corners of my mouth pull up ever so slightly, but I tried to force them down. "You know I'd never want to do anything to hurt you, right?"
"Of course not."
"Right. So, because I don't want to hurt you, I'm going to tell you right now that, if you don't let me finish my paper, I will be forced to staple your mouth shut and feed you to Jackson across the hall."
Tabby had been visiting me at college almost every day since I started, and she was absolutely terrified of the otaku kid that lived across the hall. The first time she saw him she threw a wooden cross at his head, thinking he was a vampire. I still have no idea where she got it.
She pouted. "But you said it was okay I come over today."
"Didn't you bring a book with you or something?"
Her face lit up. "Oh, yeah!" She pulled a paperback from her bag and displayed it to me. "See? It's really good so far. Kinda morbid, but I like it. It's about this guy who—"
"Tabby!" I shouted, and immediately regretted it. Her cheerful expression faltered.
"Right," she said softly, "so, you're busy. I'll just go home and let you work."
"No. Tabby, I'm sorry, I really—"
"No, it's fine. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" She tried to smile, but it ended up looking like a grimace.
And I was left staring at the place on my bed where she had been sitting as the door closed behind her.
"Do you ever think about the past?"
I didn't look up. My pen continued its frenzied path across paper. "No. Why?"
Without any warning, my vision became obscured by Goldie Hawn's face, shocked at the hole in her stomach. I groaned.
"Don't you remember?" she asked. "We used to watch this all the time."
"Yeah, when we were, what, eleven?"
"I thought we could watch it today. You know, for the sake of nostalgia."
So that's what this was all about.
"Look here," I began firmly, standing to regard her at eye level. "I'm in college, Tabitha. I have homework to do. And even if I had the time for it, your beloved nostalgia? It means nothing, okay? There's no point in dwelling on the past. It's not like we can go back."
"Well pardon me, Caroline. How very rude of me to expect a second of my best friend's time." She paused, and her eyebrows drew together. I could see the heartache written on her face. "You really never look back?"
I shook my head.
"Oh, come on, you must. We had so many great times together! Like the first saw the Craft, and we spent the rest of the summer trying the spells and stuff." She gave a wistful sigh. "Remember when your mom walked in on us playing Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board?"
"She made us go to church every Sunday for the rest of the year," I recalled, and almost laughed. My mother had tried to have us exorcised, thinking we were possessed.
My face must have betrayed my attempt at stoicism, because she said, "See? It's fun to remember."
"Fine, so maybe it doesn't suck. But that doesn't change anything."
There was a mischievous little smirk on her face that, I have to admit, had me near shaking with fear.
"Come on. I want to show you something." Before I could protest, she grabbed my wrist and pulled me up from my chair—when had she gotten so strong?—and out the door.
I raised an eyebrow. "This is it?"
The fortress, or so she called it, was made entirely out of two-by-fours, held together with nails and…was that Duct Tape? It hardly looked like it could hold against a light breeze, and the only floor was two large, blue tarps that were tied together that crunched and crackled annoyingly if you put the slightest pressure on them. I had to crawl on my knees just to get inside.
The "door" was a Disney beach towel that featured an irritated Captain Hook, glaring daggers up at Peter Pan.
I didn't want to spend more than five minutes inside this thing, fearful it would collapse on my head, so of course Tabby suggested brightly, "Let's stay the night here tonight."
I fixed her with the gaze of incredulity I had worked so hard to perfect, and she just bobbed her head up and down. The act reminded me of a chicken that didn't realize it was about to become dinner.
"Should we, now," I said dryly.
"Yes," she chirped. "Come on, Care, it'll be fun."
"It's the middle of February," I reasoned. "We'll freeze to death."
"I'll bring tons of blankets in from the house."
"We'll have nothing to do."
"We used to talk for hours without anything else to keep us entertained."
"We'll… Did I mention I have a paper to write?" She could tell I was running out of reasons not to camp out there, besides the fact that it was obviously a house of death. I fought hard not to stomp my foot and whine, "It's dumb and I'll be bored and I just plain don't wanna!"
She put a hand on my shoulder. "Come on. Just do this for me, and I promise from now on I'll let you work in peace and quiet when I visit the dorm."
I was sold.
As it turns out, that night wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be, or, honestly, wanted it to be.
Sure, we were freezing to death, but Tabby brought out a dusty make-up case in which the lip gloss had turned into glittering putty, and a towering stack of magazines from the mid-90s with articles about N'Sync. I had lost track of how long it had been since she and I just sat around and talked about stuff.
For a few hours, I was a teenager again. I was putting on blue eye shadow in such a fashion that it would have put Mimi from the Drew Carey Show to shame. I was talking about celebrities as if they were actually attainable. I was making childish jokes. For a few hours, I was young and naïve again, completely possessed by a childhood that had long since passed.
And when we finally went to bed, at some ungodly hour of the morning, Tabby was holding my hand as she drifted off. Just like she used to.
When I awoke I was a responsible adult again. I didn't wake up and immediately fall back into animated conversation. I moaned and shivered and longed for a nice, big cup of coffee or twelve. But I felt strangely refreshed. Tabby was happy, and kept to her word. Later that evening as I tried to finish my paper, she sat quietly in the corner, engrossed in her book. She didn't mention old memories again after that.
I was the one that suggested we make nights in the fortress a regular occurrence.
Maybe sometimes, even if it's just for a few, fleeting hours, you can go back.