|The Average Fate of Gilly and Mac
Author: HannahRuthie PM
The title is a parody, a foreshadowing of a seemingly cliche story with a bit of a twist. Gilly is a girl who wants to fit in and who is blind to the true love right in front of her. What sets this insightful and thought-provoking short story apart from the crowd? This has secrets, sleepwalking, and a heroine that couldn't be more indecisive.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Friendship - Words: 4,362 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 11-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3074679
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Average Fate of Gilly and Mac
By Hannah Ruthie
"If you were animal what would you be?" I ask Mac on this typical Thursday night.
"A bird. Like a snow owl. Or a hawk." I don't argue; he'd make a good bird of prey.
"I think I'd be a jellyfish."
"You wouldn't be a fish." he tells me.
"Why not?" We're lying on our backs gazing picturesquely at the stars.
"Because you'd be a chameleon." he says without hesitation.
Though it's true I change my highlights often, this stings me in the side. Mac's not talking about my hair; he's talking about the fact that I'm fickle.
Although in elementary school our "secret" referred only to our hiding place, in junior high it translated into our friendship. No longer were we blissfully ignorant children, but we were engulfed by two things: schedule differences and new peers. For whatever reason- maybe it was my hair and petite figure- the cheerleader clique adopted me. Still blinded by the innocence of late-blooming, I agreed to join them. And so by day, my best friend was forgotten. He wasn't angry though; he had new friends too. Perhaps it was his too-tight jeans or maybe it was his scruffy hair but the grungy garage band guys were attracted to him and adopted my Mac. Nothing could have split us more than these radically different social associations, but we didn't understand back then that we should have fought it. By the time we had finally reached high school, we were suddenly light-years apart.
And now, as seniors, at the peak of our adult development, we continue gather like children every night in a valley in the woods behind our houses.
"I don't want to be a chameleon. I want to be a fish. My name is Gilly after all." I say.
He stifles a laugh, "I beg to differ..."
I give him my darkest glare, "Don't. You. Dare."
But he can't help it. "GERTRUDE LAVINIA CARMICHAEL!" He screeches and darts away.
I catch him and pin him to a tree with his hands behind his back, "I'm gonna say it!" I threaten.
"Please officer! Anything but that!" He pleads.
"MACKENZIE WILLIAM FLETCHER THE FOURTH, you're under arrest!"
I let go and he shrugs me off, clearly embarrassed that anyone other than his parents know his full name.
Our sanctuary is a humble one. Stumbled upon in no later than our tenth year, there is a small clearing in the center of the dense woods between our neighborhoods. We have a "tree house" (a large scrap of plywood precariously balanced between two branches with a knotted rope dangling below it) and a deep ditch in either direction, both now filled with rainwater (evidence of our failed attempt at "secret passageways"). The trees are tall with needles at the top that never shift colors; this is comforting, considering everything else changes so often. There's a hollow and fallen tree that we keep an old weather-proof trunk with blankets in for cold nights. It's not much, but it's all we have.
We used to meet in our secluded version of Terabithia from the time school was out until the sun started to sink.
That is, until a strange phenomenon occurred. One morning, when fresh and frigid dewdrops settled on my nightdress, I shivered awake. With blurred vision and a brain convinced that I was still sleeping, I wandered home with pine needles from the forest floor stuck to every inch of my skin. The rest of the day I pinched myself repetitively, what had happened? It must have been a dream. But the next morning I awoke there again. There was only one solution: I was sleep-walking.
I told Mac the following evening, and that night I clicked my dim lamp off sure that it wouldn't happen again.
But this time when I was startled awake, I had a blanket, a pillow, and Mac by my side.
I didn't tell my parents, I knew they would worry. But I didn't worry. The clearing is my home; our home. The only reason I started to sleep-walk was because my subconscious longed to be there all the time.
Mac was worried, though. He wondered, where else might I go? What danger could I put myself in? So our visits were shifted to nights. I go to sleep at eight and rise at midnight when my alarm wakes me. Then I sneakily climb through my first floor window and make my way to our meeting place. We stay there, talking and staying free of any pressures to be anything other than ourselves-until the strawberry sun starts peeking up over the mountains on the coast and we return to our homes. I'll then sleep for another hour or two, and wake for school at seven.
It sounds like a sacrifice.
But in reality, every second I'm away is a sacrifice:
A sacrifice to normalcy.
If I could, I'd stay there forever, just Mac and me against the world.
The next day at school I'm followed through the halls by my own personal gaggle of cheerleaders in matching game-day uniforms. The late bell rings and we're still in the bathroom, fixing our hair into high and immaculately straight ponytails.
"So is Ryan bringing you to my party after the game tonight?" Allison, my school-official best friend, asks me.
"Well of course!" I emphasize the 'of'.
"Perfect!" she squeals.
I've gotten used to the overly-peppy and girlishly-exaggerated chatter. In fact, (since they don't know any better) they actually believe that I'm one of them.
Mac is right. I am a chameleon.
Ryan is my boyfriend, but, it's more for show than anything. I play it like it's real (as real as any high school relationship can be). But I don't really like him. I mean he's cute and he's a smooth talker with a charming smile-any girl's dream-yet I'm just not that into him.
Mac knows about Ryan. But I don't think he minds, after all, he knows that it's act.
I arrive to class late even though I've been here for over twenty minutes. My teacher doesn't ask for a pass- after all- I run this school.
"Hey baby..." a low and smooth voice greets me at my locker at the end of the day.
"Hey, you!" I smile.
He wraps his annoying hands around my waist and pulls me in for a hug; as if he just couldn't get through the day without me. "What's our plan for after the game?"
"We're going to Allison's house, remember?"
"After that…?" I think he's joking but it's hard to tell.
"After that, you're taking me home." I say each word slowly.
"Okay." he leans in for a kiss but I turn my head, shut my locker, and strut away to meet Allison at hers.
Allison is tall and blonde and skinny. Therefore, any image that's generated when someone hears that description- is Allison.
"So… no parents tonight?" I ask.
"Psh, no. They're at my aunts wedding."
"Without you? That's smart!" I snort.
"Tell me about it!" As she says this she whips her hair over her shoulder.
At the game we stomp and clap and yell and spirit our little hearts out. It's a victory for our team! In this small Washington town our team doesn't win often, and I can tell right away from the huddled mass of whooping and hollering football guys, tonight is going to be wild.
At Allison's, the party is actually a bust. The couches are parted for a hard-wood dance floor and the music really isn't my type. The people are obnoxious, spilling things and embarrassing themselves and using such disgusting language I actually consider plugging my ears. Everyone else prances and skips around and plays stupid drinking games. However, as usual, I sit planted on the love seat with reluctantly-sober Ryan next to me.
"What do you want to do now?" He sets his empty plate down on a coffee table.
"Hmm well what do you want to do now?" I ask, even though I know exactly what he wants to do right now.
He leans in and kisses me.
And while we kiss I find myself picturing what would be different, if Mac were here.
It doesn't take me long to realize the truth that, well, neither of us would be here.
Around midnight I tell Ryan, "Baby, I want to go home."
He ignores me; after all, he and his buddies are recounting their victory.
"Can you take me home?" I tap on his shoulder this time.
He sighs, "Yeah, whatever." He stands up and grabs my hand for show, even though I'm obviously a huge inconvenience to him.
After saying goodnight, Ryan drops me off at my vine-covered home. I race inside and brush and floss and mouthwash, just to get the taste out of my mouth. I hurriedly exchange my uniform for sweat pants and a thermal shirt. As I jump outside and into the fog I don't bother to look at the headlights behind me.
"I've decided that not all lives are as exciting as the books." I pronounce.
"Did you ever believe that?" Mac replies flatly.
"No. But think about it." I open the trunk and spread the blanket out on the damp ground. "My life will be insignificant in every way."
"Did you really want a story book life?"
I look down at my boots. "No. Those are too complicated."
He laughs, and I have to laugh too. "Then what do you call this?"
"I don't know!" we giggle.
"I was thinking about the same thing a while ago." he says.
"But I came to the conclusion that if everyone was special, really no one would be special, would they?"
I look at him, really look at him. He needs a haircut and he needs to buy a new coat. He's skinnier and taller than ever, but other than that he's still my old Mac.
"I think you're right." I declare. "Destiny is always described as being 'special', but I think fate can order you to be average too." These are some of my favorite conversations.
Neither of us says anything for a while; until Mac swiftly lies down on his back with his hands tucked behind his head. He says, "I know that I'm not special because I'm too sour."
I lie down the same. "What's that mean?"
"Well, in movies, like the Grinch and Mr. Scrooge, they were only special because in the end they were somehow sweetened."
"What's the difference?" I ask.
"The difference is that I'm not sour because I choose to be. I just am. So really, nothing can make me change my mind because my mind was never made in the first place."
"You think too much." I tell him.
"Yeah, and you don't think enough." He lightly shoves my shoulder as he says this, flashing me one of his goofy smiles.
I drift in and out of sleep, until a haunting voice sends a wave of chills running down my spine. "Gilly?" It calls out into the dark. My eyes dart frantically trying to see through the fog. Mac jumps up, sending his cell phone into one of the muddy ravines. I instantly sit upright.
"Hello?" I call out. I'm thinking, no, no, no, no, no.
This wasn't something Mac and I had planned for. Of all the years we had been coming here, not one person had ever found us.
"Hello?" Mac and I are standing back to back as if prepared for battle; we're tensed from fists to toe. There's no reply, but I can feel that someone is in the mist not far from us. No, no, no, no, no. I'm starting to sweat. I know that voice.
How could I have been so stupid? I thought he was gone.
Ryan's steps sink and squish with every step as he nears.
"Oh my god." his jaw is hanging open and I'm trying to fight back tears.
What must this look like to him?
"Ryan..." I can't look him in the eye; so I look at Mac, who looks like he might cry too.
"What's going on here?" Ryan is looking between Mac and me, trying to comprehend.
Well, honestly, Ryan, what's going on isn't describable. Obviously Mac Fletcher and I were conversing at one in the morning while getting soaked in rain without complaint. Until a barbarian charged in without invite.
"Nothing." Mac says,
"Shut up." Ryan rudely steps in front of me, blocking my view of Mac.
He makes me look him in the eye. "What's going on here, Gilly?"
Gulp. "How did you find me?" is all I say.
"I was driving away until I look in my rear view and see you running out into the woods like a maniac. I thought something was wrong so I've been out here trying to find you.
I can't find any words. "I...I..." I only stutter. "Ryan, this isn't what it looks like I can promise you that."
"I can promise you that you have to trust me." I beg.
"Why should I?" he challenges.
I don't have an answer. He turns and looks at Mac, who is nonchalantly fishing for his phone in the murky ditch.
"Promise me you won't come back here again." He spits.
"Okay." I agree, crossing my fingers behind my back.
It's a long walk back to my window.
"But really," he starts "why were you there with him? Mac Fletcher? What does he have that I don't?"
"Mac Fletcher has nothing on you. I guess he lost his dog and when we were in the car he texted me and asked me to help him look for it." I babble.
Ryan surprises me by calmly saying, "I'm not stupid."
He pulls me into a hug and suddenly I've got more respect for him, if that's possible.
But I still don't like him.
"I'll pick you up Monday for school." he slowly saunters back to his car.
"Bye." I wave and shove myself through my window.
I wait an hour and crawl out again. It's nearly three a.m. by now, but my sixth sense tells me that Mac is still there. The woods somehow look different on the way down. All at once it's like I'm having a life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment, like déjà vu. I've walked this path so many times that the grass is starting to wear to dirt in places. My insides are constricted by a serpent the instant I wonder if this is my last trek down this slope.
When I get to the clearing Mac's up in the tree house, barely visible through the gray mist.
"I think we're busted." I don't look at him when I say this.
"Romeo! Oh Romeo! Where for art thou Romeo?" he squeaks in a falsetto sing song voice down to me.
I laugh; he always knows how to lighten the mood, despite the circumstances. He jumps down, ignoring the rope.
"But really. Your Romeo is right here."
He's standing one step closer than he's ever stood before- one more inch and we could be touching. I'm scared. We agreed in the fourth grade that we had cooties, and therefore would never "like-like" each other. As far as I know, it's not something either of us has considered since.
"What, Gilly? Why are you with him?"
"You know why I'm with him." I step back and I look desperately in his dark eyes.
"So you can be popular?" his words hurt like a punch in the gut.
"I thought that you understood." I beg.
"You know what? I don't. When you come to me and you talk in circles, I'm the one that's supposed to save the day and read your mind, figuring out what your words are trying to say. But why am I not allowed to expect you to read mine? You came up here a month ago and declared to me that you have a boyfriend and then confess that you don't like him, but you stay with him because it's Allison's boyfriend's friend? And then you let him tell you what to do because you think it will help you be better friends with Allison, who isn't really your friend because you just let her boss you around all the time." he pauses and I've got nothing to say. "You won't talk to me in the halls but at night what am I, your diary?"
He's stomped on me; I'm as small as an ant. I'm insignificant. I'm dirt. I'm lower than dirt- because he's right.
Ryan calls me multiple times and leaves messages, "Hey Gilly baby I'm so sorry I got so mad last night. I do trust you. Me and you are fine, I love you."
I want to laugh but I'm too angry…Love? I don't love him. And I don't think he loves me, or even knows what love is, for that matter. Love is listening to a song you don't like, just because that person does. Love is hanging on every word and not being able to predict what they'll say next. Love is knowing that you'll be there for someone no matter the consequence.
Love is... Mac.
I don't return Ryan's calls.
Tonight, I turn my alarm off. If Mac is waiting in the woods, I don't want to see him. If I sleepwalk, I hope my parents catch me.
Somehow, I make it through the night without even the slightest toss or turn. I think that my body and my brain are too exhausted to make the trip a third time tonight. Besides I don't think I'm welcome there anymore.
It's Monday, and Ryan picks me up for school ten minutes after the late bell has already rang. I don't mind though, I've got first hour with Mac and I don't think I can look at him; he's disgusted with me. Thank the Lord that his phone is probably still in the ditch, if not it's surely broken.
"Hey Allison!" I skip to her locker, actually relieved that I can stop being real. Today, for the first time, it's going to be easier for me to be a fake.
"Why are you talking to me?" She stops in her tracks.
"What?" I smile, for she has to be kidding.
She's not. "Why did you cheat on Ryan with Mac Fletcher?"
"Huh?" My head is spinning, my world is unraveling.
"You heard me." She slams her door and struts away.
So that's it? I'm off the squad? I'm kicked out? Ryan really wasn't different, he tricked me. He lied.
The other girls get quiet and laugh under their breath when I pass. And in this moment, in my tight uniform, I'm no longer feeling invincible: I'm inferior.
My day is worse than usual.
In sixth hour, I'm sitting in front of two sophomores. They're whispering about me.
"Yeah I heard she totally cheated on Ryan with Mac Fletcher." They snicker.
"EW! Why? Ryan is so hot, and Mac is so... Not." They giggle some more.
I want to reach back there and smack them; they don't know me, they don't know him.
"But seriously. I think something is wrong with her."
"Mac Fletcher is gross and I hear he does drugs."
"Ewwww," they laugh, not even bothering to whisper anymore.
I can't take it; I get a pass to the bathroom.
As soon as I step out the door I see Mac leave his classroom too. I watch him look both ways as if crossing a street and then hastily dash out the back door of the school. I follow. Like a spy on hot pursuit, I lag behind him; I don't want him to see that I'm on his tail. Of course, I didn't have time to grab a windbreaker and the newly-cold coastal winds sting. Mac gets in his rusty car. It shakes when he starts it and I see him rub his hands together while he waits for the car to warm up. As silly as I might look, I get down on my hands and knees and crawl across the parking lot. I pop up from the ground and open the passenger door.
"What the heck are you doing?!" I've scared him so bad his voice cracks.
"What the heck are you doing?" I answer his question with a question.
"Geez Gil, at least shut the door 'cause you're letting all the cold in here!" I smile and sit down, doing what he says.
The car jerks, the tires spin, and all of the sudden we're peeling out of the lot. I think we're going to get in trouble but I don't mind, I've done worse.
"Where are we going?" I ask as the wipers beat away the heavy mist-that-isn't-quite-rain that you can't find anywhere else.
"I don't know yet, but you'll need this." He reaches behind him into the back seat and pulls out a thick argyle sweater; it's one of my favorites that he wears.
I put it on and we're silent. I had thought that we were going to go back to our usual spot, as spilled as the beans may be. Instead, we park in some unfamiliar and seemingly abandoned road that's thick with overgrowth. I'm confused, and I roll down the window.
They say that smells are the best for bringing back memories, and I think that that is true. It's like three air fresheners explode into my nose at once-After the Rain, Pine Forest, and Sea Mist. Before he even has the car in park I jump out of the still-rolling vehicle. The panorama laid out before me is one of my favorite sights, one that I've neglected to see for a long time. Thousands of small and smooth stones sit waiting for the ashen tides to roll in that bring tiny eels and gigantic starfish. The most extraordinary thing is that the sea looks as if it would stretch on forever, but it's an illusion. The white mist on the other side of the bay blends in with the white color of the misty sky. If we wait here long enough, and if the sun happens to shine, even for just a minute, it will reveal that we're actually on a little inlet, and unbelievably close mountains lay just across the water.
I sit down next to the tide, pulling my knees in to my chest. "Mac?"
"Yeah?" He comes and sits down too.
"Are you mad at me?"
He plays with the rocks at his feet, keeping his hands in his pockets, "No."
"Ryan told everyone that I cheated on him with you," I blurt.
"Well, didn't you?" He turns and gives me a sideways smile.
I laugh, "I guess… but not in the way that the other cheerleaders think."
He doesn't say anything while he stands up and throws a flat stone into the swelling waves, and it bump-bump-bump's before it sinks.
"I quit cheerleading. And I broke up with Ryan." I stand up and try to skip a stone too.
Mac picks up another and tosses it into sea but this one sinks. "It's about time."
"We can't actually be together, though." He announces.
"Yes we can. I don't care about impressing anyone anymore, remember?"
"It's not that."
I pause, "Then what is it?"
Mac walks over to a boulder and sits down, I follow. "Individually, we're incredibly unstable. Together, I think we'd implode. "
I know exactly what he means. "Well then... What now?"
He laughs, and puts his hand on top of mine.
"We see how long we last until something blows up."
Mac and I sit like that, thinking quietly and watching the sea and sky stretch on infinitely. I start to wonder if maybe Ryan isn't as bad as I thought he was, that maybe him telling everyone wasn't just for the satisfaction of gossip. I really think that Ryan knew he was giving me a loophole, an escape, a new beginning.
I silently ponder this, this new decision we've so easily fallen into. Without warning, the fog begins to subside. It rapidly rises up into the clouds. A brilliant lemon light explodes through the gossamer sky and right before our eyes, great and jagged mountains appear. The sun is intensely hot compared to the chilling breeze that was smothering us less than a moment ago. I long to swim across and steal away into the massive and forest-covered stone giants. Even when the sun was to be eclipsed and produce a never-ending sky, it would be okay- because no one would ever, ever find us.
"I think we've found our new hiding place."