Anna

I sit awkwardly in the middle of the school bleachers, my back hurts and so do my eyes from squinting at the faraway numbers on the jerseys of the basketball players. Searching for number five, Jake's number, I find him right as he hurls a dirt orange ball into the basket.

I spring to my feet, cheering. This is the first time I have ever been to a school-teamed game since I was almost nine.

Jake sprints down the court, he leans low and goes so fast the opposing team doesn't even see him coming. As he dunks yet another basket, the score board reads 22 HOME, 5 AWAY. We're HOME.

This progresses until the score is 32, 12. We have won and Jake looks exhausted, his forehead shining with sweat. I shuffle in the milling crowd with Pixie, who's bright service dog harness parting a path in the mass almost immediately. I duck into a little hallway by the boy's locker room, waiting.

I wait like this until I hear deep, joking voices coming out of the corridor. I stand up and linger awaiting the last one of them to pass, then I creep along afterwards. I think I can spot Jake, his calm walk and his hair strewn over his forehead, damp with sweat.

As I follow the group of boys, I think I see him look back at me; just a flicker of a glance. He explains to the group that he left something in the locker room, not to wait up, and he doubles back.

I pull Pixie into the opening of a classroom, hiding in the shadows. As I hear his heavy footsteps coming for me down the hall, a wave of emotion washes over me. My chest aches for the need to see him, to talk with him. About what, I don't care. But also there is an overwhelming sort of grief, of despair that I just manage to hide before Jake appears in front of me.

"Fancy meeting you here," he teases.

I jump, even though I knew that he was coming. Jake has that effect on me.

All my dispositions melt away; this is Jake, understanding, loving Jake. I have no need to worry. I smile.

"Hello, stranger."

He takes my hand, leading me down the hall. "Come on, I'm exhausted."

"You did great, Jake."

He glances back at me again, grinning. "I love basketball," he says. I smile, squeeze his leading hand. We duck in to the boys locker room; into a little cove of lockers with a long, thin bench right smack in the middle. I drop Pixie's leash and tell her to stay as Jake straddles it, my hand still in his, and I sit between his legs. Leaning my back against him, he wraps his arms around my waist.

The lockers are a sickening shade of orange, with a little pink mixed in for good measure. Random locks hang from the handles. Jake's breaths are slow, deep, like you breath just before you are about to drift to sleep. I'm so short that his chin rests on the top of my head; it's nice to have the weight on my neck.

In the silence, I am left to think, and the one thing that is on the brink of my brain is not what I want toponder at all. But I need to tell him. I have to tell him.

But here is such peace, such wholeness. I want nothing less than to disrupt Jake's calm breathing, the weight of his arms on my hips. He is tired; I don't think--even if I tell him--that he'll be able to cope. So I do not tell him my secret, the one thing that I do not want to admit to myself.


I don't know how long we stay there, but he glances at the clock on the opposite wall and tells me that he's gotta go, his sister is coming to pick him up.

I hoist myself out of his lap, swing my leg over the bench. Me looking up at him and him looking down on me, we are on separate sides of the cave of lockers, divided by one yellow plank of wood. He leans over the barrier, kisses me delicately. He reaches out his hand for mine. We walk out of the locker room together, fingers entwined.

Surprisingly, his sister's waiting for him just inside the door, puffing on a cigarette. She raises an eyebrow at Pixie as Jake hangs back with her and I walk out the door; we wave at each other.

In the parking lot, I spot Benny's headlights. I lead Pixie over, and she takes a seat in the back.

I slide in the front seat, watching nothing but my hands as I go. I don't meet my brother's gaze as he says, "What took you so long?" I stay silent; an agonizing moment goes past. Then, tentatively, "Did you tell him?"

I shake my head softly, guiltily.

He closes his eyes in exasperation, gripping the steering wheel of his beloved Jeep. "Anna--"

I cut him off: "I know, Benjamin. I'll tell him, I will. Just not today. It's… just too much."

He shakes his head. "It'll be harder later, you know."

I sigh, and fold my hands in my lap. "I know… But what am I supposed to do? I haven't told him today, I won't tell him today."

I don't look at him when we drive away into the dark night, forever chasing the horizon, but instead watch my hands intently like I have just found the meaning of life in the creases of my fingers, the lines embedded in my palms, telling of future things.

I wish.