He had built a rocketship. They were all the rage, after all, and Locke was always swayed like a bath toy by the waves of trend. He had built himself a pair of stilts once, when carnivalesque was the word on everyone's lips. He wore dresses and rouge regularly when the Frock Rock came through town. He would and could do anything, so long as it was ostentatious, of course. This was mostly because he was a bright and craftily capable individual, however his tendency to fall into whatever pit was deemed popular was a result of his deep desire to be liked. Mostly, his desire to be loved by Mara, the girl who rode her bike.
She was the only girl who rode her bike everywhere. No one knew if she had a family or a car. All they knew is that she didn't speak often, and when she did her voice was dry and cold, like a night spent in a Californian desert. But she was funny, and her smiles were precious and white. Of course, Locke had never succeeded in making Mara laugh. Alas. His only wish for years had been to make her gaze upon him with respect, or gentle appreciation, or even just a quick, little laugh would have been enough. So one day, after Locke had listened to the radio tell him that rocketships were the latest thing and real estate on the moon was in, Locke began to make his preparations. He finished his creation, which he painted in a bright blue (so as to blend well with the sky, he said, lest he cramp nature's style) with a goldish trim. Its propellation through space would be enabled by what Locke referred to as "the twister" which simply caused the rocket to rotate intensely and therefore propel itself through the stars. It all made perfect sense at the time.
On Monday, Locke had just put the final touches on the twister, just testing it to make sure that it would provide a melodious noise-- indeed, the sound of what Locke had heard was Mara's favorite song, Clair De Lune would rise from the inside of the ship. Feeling rather pleased with himself, Locke had a sudden burst of energy and decided that now that his latest masterpiece, sure to gain his interest's attention, was completed, he should step up finally and provoke the girl into accepting a genuine invitation. Making sure his freckled face was appropriately dotted with rocket engine grease, Locke began his stroll along the central bike path that only Mara seemed to use. He checked his watch. Like clockwork, Mara came peddling along at a lazy pace, her system only slightly thrown off by the appearance of Locke. As he stepped in front of her smooth road, Mara extended her large foot and used it to slow to an elegant stop. Locke admired her technique and smiled widely. Mara only stared, blankly, in return.
"Hello," said Locke, cheerfully, like a child who has just stuffed a handfull of sweets down his pants. Mara only nodded, suspiciously, in reply.
"Well," Locke coughed. "I, ah, I wanted to tell you that I've built something. In your honor. I thought perhaps you'd like to come to see it?"Mara's eyebrow raised itself by a tiny fraction of a centimenter.
"What is it?" She asked, though the tone of her voice was not interrogative.
"You'll have to come and see," he said.
Mara just looked at him, skeptically. Locke nearly shook with delight, just being in her presence. She was exceedingly tall, over six feet, with long, fluffy red hair that seemed to fall in tangles here and there. Her eyes were small and brown, like buttons. Locke thought they looked edible. Her forehead was smooth. Her clothes were ill-fitting to her stick-like body.
"Maybe," she finally said. Locke's heard sang an old Irish drinking song.
"When?" He asked, trying to mask his excitement.
"Tomorrow," she said, lifting her foot to begin peddling again.
"Alright," Locke said, beaming like a goat that's butted everyone off his side of the mountain. He moved aside, and without a nod, she was gone.
The next day, Locke waited beside his rocketship for Mara to come. He had stragetically placed a giant tablecloth over the ship in a dramatic effort. He had dreamed of pulling aside the sheet and displaying Mara's name, artfully etched into the rocket, upon the girl's arrival. He had named it for her, and she would be there on his maiden voyage into space.
But Mara didn't come that day. Nor did she come the next. In fact, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all days of absence for Mara. Locke feel into despair. He began to resent this hideous rocket. He even kicked it a couple of times, only to hear Clair De Lune hummed softly back at him through the layers of metallic protection.
Friday, Locke had finally had enough. He set foot on the bike path that Mara had pratically worn into a gutter, and followed it as far as it could go. A few neighborhoods and parks later, the trail came to gradual end at a small, farm-like house. The structure was poorly conceived, Locke reckoned, harkening back to his Frank Loyd Wright phase. It was also old, chipping, and sagging in the middle so that, with the windows taken into account, the whole house seemed to be making a tearful face. Just as Locke was thinking he might have made a mistake, a dish came flying through the window. An angry woman's voice flew from the place like so many bats-- "I HATE YOU!!" Locke flenched and lept aside, as though he were dodging a soaring piece of dishware. But the woman, Mara's mother, was not yelling at him, but in fact someone else on the inside. And she continued. Occasionally a male voice would chip in every now and again with some defense, but this would only cause the mother's voice to grow to outrageous proportions. Locke had never heard hatred drip from a woman's words before. He stood, stunned, teetering on the edge of the bike path, pondering what he could do now. Double back? Hope that he found Mara's actual residence somewhere along the way?
As he was wondering to himself, he heard the faint sound of something leaking. A drip-- he had trained his ears to be sensitive to such a thing when he was in his automobile phase. It also helped when the family was in need of plumbing assistance. Now he perked at the hint of it, even amidst the vocal hammering that wafted from the house. Eventually, he realized that the sound was coming from under the house, from Mara, from a water leak that dripped from a pipe onto her pale arm. The moment he spotted her, Locke's eyes met with Mara's.
"Hi," he said.
Her reply was a nod, as per usual, as though their situation had not changed, as though she were on her bike, hovering above him and not now cowering below her parents basement with pipe water on her arm and in her eyelashes. Locke crouched to her level, and took a finger to smooth the water droplets from Mara's elbow. They stayed, crouched there for some time, until the screaming ceased. It was then Mara looked up at the boards above her head with a deep sadness that Locke had never known that someone as beautiful as Mara could possess.
"I have a rocketship," he said. It was all he could say.
Mara looked at him very seriously.
"Can we fly in it?" She asked.
Locke nodded, without a thought. He did not need a thought.
And then, it happened. Mara looked at him with a beautiful glint in her button-eyes and an appreciative smile began to sneak up her cheeks. Locke nearly died of happiness.
"Shall we go now?" He asked. Mara, still smiling, nodded in reply.
Moments later, Locke and Mara were within the ship. Mara took great delight in the cold, softness of the metal to her touch. The inside of the rocket, though decorated to look like a tree at Christmas, reminded her of the coveted cold side of the pillow-- the one that you can never quite get to. She pressed her cheek, now, against the insulated walls of the flying machine. They remained cold, even against her flushed skin. It was wonderful.
It was then Locke started the engine, and it all began, the spinning, whirring, musical ascent. The gloriously cold room, packed carefully with sweaters and raisin snacks, began to rotate slowly, then wildly, like a carnival whirligig, until both Locke and Mara were pressed to opposite sides of the rocket room with their eyes tightly shut. They seemed to stay that way for hours until the engine's song began to fade, then slow and stop entirely. The only sound that remained was the gentle quiet of space.
Locke peeled open his pressed eyes, feeling slightly woozy. He gazed across from him to see Mara, on the floor, now doing the same. Fuzzily, they began to focus on each other. Locke's thick, curled blonde hair now had a touch of white, and his goggles were poised above his head like that of a mad scientist. His giant blue eyes looked as though they were about to dance about by themselves as he moved towards Mara, extending his hand to lift her from the ice floor. Her hair seemed to have grown larger in the past few minutes, and now emerged from the top of her head in a fluffy, fiery arrangement. Her feet were still just as large, and as she rose to her feet Locke could tell that she would always tower over him. She was still smiling, however, and smiling because of him. Locke would always, always have that, even if he never grew another inch.
Together, the two space children pulled open the shutters to the rocket-windows and took a gander at the stars as they faintly floated past. As they did so, softly, Locke recalled that the motion of the spinner ceasing was indeed just that-- a stop. The engine had stopped, and now the rocket was akin to a rowboat in the mirror of the ocean. If his immediate calculations were correct, Locke surmised, the rocketship Mara would be doomed to float forever. Or was it doom, indeed?
Mara's aged face turned to Locke's, and her dry voice whispered, with reverence, into his ear. "Where are we going?"
Locke gazed at her sacred teeth, then at the stars who seemed to literally pale in comparison. She repeated herself. "Where are we going, do you think?"
Locke took her hand in his and, squeezing tightly, hoped that she'd forget that question.