He heard her coming from a mile away, what with the way her boots made the snow crunch loudly beneath her. He didn't turn to look as she crawled into the flatbed of his truck, sliding up beside him and sighing as she turned her sites to join his in staring up at the night sky, curling up tight in her winter weather clothing. They breathed together in quiet unison as the flakes of snow glided down toward them, and he smiled in quiet familiarity. It was sad to think that this was the last time they would be able to do this together.
"It's snowing." She observes, her voice smooth and rough as they stare. "It doesn't snow where you're going."
"I know." Is all he can say as the silence is broken without a greeting to ease it. "I'm going to miss it."
"When do you leave?"
"But you're here tonight."
"Not for long."
They fold back into a companionable silence as they're left to mull over their own thoughts, each afraid to address the other. Then she's raising her arm, spreading her fingers as she begins to wave at the sky, her hand a pale contrast to the darkness that blots and defines the night.
"Hi, Charlie." She whispers, and sure enough, when he looks in the direction she's waving, he see's him too; the constellation they'd made and named together. Charlie.
"Hullo, Charlie." He says, nodding his own greeting as Charlie sparkled, shimmered and shined down at them.
He repositions himself in the truck, folding his hands underneath his head before sighing, watching as his breath crystallizes and disappears before him. He's thinking about how he wishes he was inside her home, warming himself beside their fire as her brother makes them all a nice batch of hot chocolate.
"Where's Arnold?" he asks, his eyes darting behind the cool lenses of his glasses at the stars and the gaps between them, wondering where their usual third partner is.
"Trying on my underwear." Is her smooth reply, non-chalant and normal as he nods in understanding. "I think he's found the silk."
"Are your parents home?"
"Do you think he'd be doing it otherwise?"
He closes his eyes in a light chuckle, shaking his head as she mimics smoking a cigarette, blowing and huffing crystal air between two elegantly poised fingers. He wishes she were smoking those Cloves she loved, the smell that came from them so sweet and nostalgic and toxic all at once. He'd miss them when he left; they only smelled good when she smoked them.
"Barrett," She says as she moves, rolling onto her side to look at him. Her movement sparks interest in him, and makes him look up at her as she speaks. "Barrett, are we in love?"
He stares into her green little eyes before looking back toward the sky and closing his own.
"Yeah, I think so."
She rolls back to lay flat, her short dark hair creating a crown around her head on the rusty red of the truck's bed.
"You better make it big, Barrett." She whispers, so quiet he can barely hear her, but the emotion she never inflects in her voice is clear and evident, making her voice waver. It makes him sad.
She's turned her head, staring at him again. When he turns to meet her gaze, she frowns.
"How did we let this happen?" she asks in a tone that insinuates that what they have is a curse; evil, vile and rotten. "I thought we agreed it wouldn't."
"I don't know. I tried not to, you know."
"I did." He says, smiling. She doesn't smile with him, and he lets it fall. "I'm sorry."
"I'll forgive you if you kiss me."
They search each other's faces, searching for some kind of sign or excuse to back down, but neither of them can find anything, and so he moves in and kisses her gently, for the first and only time.
His lips are chapped and hers are bitten raw, but they meld together in perfect, sweet unison.
When he pulls away, she tries to smile, but it falters and falls into something far too depressing for either of them to handle. She gets up, sitting and staring at her legs in tattered jeans stretched ahead of her before she sidles out of the truck, standing there solemnly before she begins walking away.
He sits up too, a heavy sadness in his heart where before there was none, staring at her retreating form before he calls out, hoping she'll turn. He'd like to see her face one last time, and he'll regret it forever if he doesn't take the opportunity to try.
"Hey." She halts, but doesn't turn around, waiting for what he has to say, and he has to fight the emotion that threatens to spill out. "Tell Arnold I'm sorry."
"He knows." He thinks he can hear her voice crack, and he can tell she's crying even though they promised each other there wouldn't be any tears. "Believe me, Barrett, he knows."
And then she's gone, no bittersweet goodbye just as there were no pleasant greetings. It's the way they've always been, and he's glad that it didn't change then, even on the eve of his departure. He regrets now that he didn't ask for a pack of her beloved Cloves to take with him as a memento, but it's too late now; she won't come back, just as they both know he'll never step foot here again.
He settles back into the bed of his truck, thinking that he'll wait here just a little while longer before he heads out to the train station that'll take him away, because he has time. He glances up into the sky, peering through the falling flakes to look for Charlie, a familiar beacon, a reminder, anything, but Charlie is gone. Gone like the autumn leaves that were golden and brown when he first met Emily Layne, who had always been the one to detect Charlie through the clouds of grey.
Barrett wouldn't cry for her because she wasn't supposed to cry for him. Suddenly, despite the time he knows he has, he doesn't want to be here anymore, and so he gets up, jumping into the cab of his truck through the back window and drives away. He doesn't look back at the retreating glow of her and Arnold's house as he drives, already trying to forget and repress the memories and good times he spent there as he got to know and love them.
Something swells up in his chest as he remembers the things he now wanted to forget, and he has to pull off to the side of the road so he can let his head fall forward onto the steering wheel as he cries.
"I don't want to go."