"Ira, listen. Listen."


He was walking away, quickly. She hurried beside him.

"It's two months, Ira. Then I'll be back."

"For a day."

"For two days."

His head was down and he didn't look at her. How could such short legs move so fast?

"Could you wait for a second?"

"No." That again.

She stepped in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders to stop him. "Listen to me. I will be gone for two weeks. Getting pissed at me is not going to change that."

He looked up. ""Won't change, but I'll feel better." His eyes were very blue. Blonde hair falling into his face. He'd look like God's own child if he wasn't so short. He pushed her out of the way and kept moving.

Her hands clenched into fists and called after him. "No, you're going to feel like shit tomorrow and by then I'll be in Prague."

He stiffened and turned. His light blue hooded sweatshirt moved a little in the breeze. It looked so old. She felt like she had seen him wear it when they were kicking the shit out of him on the bus in fifth grade.

"Why the hell didn't you tell me about this before?" He was yelling from ten yards away. She closed the distance a little. The wind was picking up. One of the last summer storms.

"I didn't know until this morning! The letter just fucking got here!" She had explained this already. He was being obstinate.

His feet were planted far apart on the sidewalk. He looked kind of like a girl that way. He always looked kind of like a girl. She could see him still wearing little kid shoes. The ones that light up when you walk. Or have wheels in them. He looked sort of adorable when he was angry. He was too small to look real when he was angry.

"Will you at least come back here so we can talk about it?" She was tired of yelling over the wind. Also, it looked like it would rain soon and she wanted to be as close to his house as possible without screaming in the foyer so his mom could hear them. She probably already could. She was probably listening from the other side of the stone wall around their yard. Crazy bitch.

"No." He looked suddenly unsure. It was probably the impending rain. It would ruin his hair. He had probably spent hours on his hair. Cute little fag.

She sighed and started walking toward him. He looked like he would bolt, but didn't. He let her walk up to him. His little, chubby face looked fierce. He looked like a ten year old. He was seventeen.

"Can we please talk?" She suddenly didn't feel so snarky. She suddenly felt like shit. She really had hidden this from him. She had signed up and not told him. She had written a really excellent essay and totally hidden it from him. She was ashamed, like she knew she would be.

His shoulders drooped. His mouth drooped. Even his hair seemed to droop. That glorious hair. She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and he met her eyes. He really had to look up.

"Why do you even want to go to Prague?" She could see the beginnings of tears in his eyes. His cheeks were getting red. Don't cry, don't cry, you're a boy, albeit not much of one. She bit her bottom lip, willing her own tear ducts to obey. She could feel her face getting very hot.

"They offered me a scholarship. And I can study literature. In goddamn Prague." She swiped at her eyes with a shaking hand – not at all smooth.

He looked at the ground and she heard him sniff. If he did that again she would probably start bawling. Prostrate herself. Beseech.

"I'm just – surprised." He wiped at an eye without looking up at her. "I – I'm sorry. I wanted…"

She knew what he wanted. He wanted her to go to State College. To visit every weekend. To ask about his senior year of high school. He wanted her to give him inside tips on college life. She could probably have done that. She could maybe have made that work.

She could never have made that work. She could never have come home and hung out every weekend with her best friend from high school. She could never listen to all of his meaningless high school problems. What boy he was too afraid to talk to. What some kid in the hallway called him. And that was why she hated herself and probably would for a long time. Because she loved him a lot. And she had done this on purpose.

He wrapped his arms around her middle and started sobbing against her chest. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and put her head on top of his. She closed her eyes and let her tears fall into his stupid hair. She could feel the beginning of a very long headache in the back of her mind. Raindrops began to hit her back very slowly, and somewhere in the distance thunder trembled like the slow opening of a fugue.