We were 14 when we killed a man. Not just any man, not just for shits and giggles. He hurt your brother, this man did. He had your brother's trust and took advantage of it and hurt him. He hurt your brother so much that your brother decided that he didn't want to be hurt anymore, he didn't want to feel anything anymore. So your brother, he went away. He didn't get to blow out the 19 candles on his cake, because he went away. That man went away as well, for a long time. And then he got out.
You, you were consumed by anger and rage and hate and confusion, you sought revenge. I tagged along, because I was always tagging along, because we were friends. And friends don't like it when their friends are hurt and angry. You told me that maybe I should go home, that I should probably finish off that maths assignment if I wanted to keep up my A in maths. But I didn't like seeing you angry, so I stayed. And we killed him. Well, I tripped him over and you, so full of rage and darkness, had found your dad's gun and shot him. Three times. There was so much blood, just so much. I didn't know you knew how to shoot. But he died. Because we killed him. Well, you killed him, I tripped him, but I said I killed him too. We were friends after all, and friends stuck together.
They decided to put us away 3 months later. There was some new fandangled government experiment, where the worst of the youth, just like us, were going to be sent far away. In space. The juvies here on Earth were filling up fast with bored kids who committed misdemeanours, like grand theft auto and robbery. We weren't misdemeanours. We were the worst. And they didn't want the bad seeds like us here on Earth. I wouldn't blame them.
Your parents sobbed when the judge banged his gavel down and said you were going to be sent into space. I remember that sound, it was a painful anguished noise that escaped from your mum's mouth and a short sharp gasp from your dad. My parents sat stiff and silent next to them, either in shock or shame that their little girl grew up to be a monster. I tripped him, you killed him. I was still a monster. You looked at me and whispered, "We're going on an adventure Lily. Together. Best of friends, out in space." I wanted to smile back, because that did sound a bit fun. But I didn't, because I didn't want my parents to be more ashamed of me. I didn't smile, because I was a bit scared.
They didn't even know if it was going to work. Send a bunch of bad bad kids up into space, into an old space station that had been refurbished into a juvenile detention centre. I'd never been in detention before this. You had once, for swearing in class. They didn't even know if we would make it pass the atmosphere. We did. We didn't burn up, the rocket made it past the layers and then we were out, in space. Best of friends, on an adventure, out in space.
They really didn't think it through. Send a bunch of bad bad kids to live together in a juvenile detention centre until their sentence was up, when we were all around 21. You got 7 years, but because I was 5 months younger, I got 8 years. The rocket to send us home only came once a year; that made sense I suppose. We were going to be taught a lesson. Like how to clean the station from top to bottom, how to break down old space junk into the salvageable parts and the parts to throw back into space. We learnt to admit our guilt, to get past our anger and darkness and rage, to become new again, or at least salvageable. You did, I did too. Well, I tagged along.
We grew up in this old refurbished space station, this funny little world. We ate funny food, processed to the nth degree, that were considered army reject food. We didn't get to read much, just words here and there. A book was considered gold in here and the supervisors would taunt it over us, an incentive for good behaviour, or at least fast and thorough cleaning skills. I was always the best at cleaning. It was funny really, I had always wanted to be an academic when I was younger, but my dreams upon returning to Earth always revolved around me getting lots of cleaning jobs.
They really didn't think it through. Throw together a bunch of bad bad kids, all in their adolescence, to live together. The people who were teaching us how to become better people and how to remove that tarry stain from the floor weren't equipped for teenagers. They forgot to teach us about sex. Everyone, including you, was fumbling through it; condoms, lots of condoms, were hastily thrown our way because really, it was inevitable. I don't know where they got so many condoms from. I didn't tag along this time. I was scared, why would I want anyone to stick that inside of me? The others would tease me, albeit affectionately and without heat, but I wasn't going to be swayed. You pulled me aside and told me it was okay, I didn't have to do it just yet. And even offered to be there when I was ready, because we trusted each other, being best of friends on an adventure in space. I think that was when I fell in love with you a little bit.
And so we grew up there. New people, just as bad as or even worse than us, came in. They brought news of home, if you could call it that, how things were changing, but not really. Governments were declaring change left and right, but they never mentioned us, what their plans were for this old space station floating out here. They forgot about us.
I was 18 and 4 months when we first had sex. Everyone, even the new kids, had done it, except for me. They were impressed by my virtue, or at least my restraint. I remember sitting next to you while sorting out an old dusty wing of a satellite and whispering, telling you that maybe, just maybe, I wanted to have sex. You nodded and we finished dismantling the wing, sorting out the salvageable parts from the rest. I remember there were a lot of screws and nails in that one, it took a long time.
Later that night, you took me by the hand and led me to one of the rooms that were now specifically designated for sex. It smelt musky, like someone had been in there not too long ago. You weren't perturbed. We stood in front of each other and then you leant in and kissed me. Your lips were nice, rough and soft at the same time. They moved against mine perfectly and you let your tongue slip into my mouth. That felt really nice.
And then you slowly, slowly removed my clothes, and then yours and we lay down on the old lumpy mattress, naked. You ran your fingers all over my body and encouraged me to do the same to you. Your skin was soft, your hands were rough and it sent these wonderful tingling sensations all through my body. I let you touch me and it felt amazing, making me wonder why I didn't do it before. I touched you, you were hard and hot and throbbing in my hands and I heard your groans and felt you grip my hips as I touched you. You slipped on a condom and hovered over me, murmuring gently that it was going to hurt and that I better hold onto you. It hurt. And I held on. You kissed away the tears.
We did it twice that night. And plenty more times after that. It was always with you.
Still, life went on and we cleared more space junk from the galaxy and cleaned all the nooks and crannies of this old arthritic grandfather of a space station. I remember that day when someone managed to open the door to an old old room and there was a window. We could see the stars. That was my favourite place. We had sex there three times, remember?
You were 21 when they processed your file to send you home. You lost your old name, gave yourself a cool new one that suited you a lot more. You were given a new state to live in, a new history, a new shot at being a better person. You were excited; you were always up for an adventure. I refused to cry when you told me about it all; how they let you close your eyes and let your finger determine what state and city you were going to live in. I refused to cry, knowing that this was an adventure of your own, one where I couldn't tag along. I suppose it was for the best, really. You'd been dragging me along all these years, this was your one shot to do it alone.
I cried. You didn't see me, I was cleaning a particular grimy corner of the space station when it hit me. You weren't going to be there anymore. I remember the tears cascading down my face, my nose all runny and gross, my eyes stinging and my throat a little raw from the crying. That was the first time I had properly cried since being told I was going away.
You were one of four to leave that year. The detention centre was buzzing that day. I made sure you had everything with you; there wasn't really much anyway. As I was fussing over you for the last time in this funny little place, you gave me a big hug. You held me tight and we stayed that way for a long time, just us two. You whispered that I was the best and that maybe you loved me. I whispered back, "Maybe I love you too. Have a good adventure Sam." And then someone tapped you on your back and you had to go. I missed you a lot that year.
I was almost 22 when they sat me down in the special room. They pulled out my file, told me I had made excellent progress and that I was one of the star graduates from here. I wanted to tell them it wasn't like school or anything, but it was rude to interrupt someone who was wearing a nice clean suit. They told me I could point to anywhere on the map and they would somehow transfer me there. They told me a social worker would take care of me, maybe get me a cleaning job, or a job at a scrap yard. They sounded like good prospects.
I couldn't help it, I asked if I was allowed to be sent near where you were. They looked at me, a little pitifully and told me it was for the best if I wasn't in contact with you. And so I let them randomly pick a city for me to work at, and I chose a new name, a bit odd, one that didn't suit me at all. I looked at the file the next day. They gave me a better name. I think they pitied me, having lost my best friend and all. I sat in the room and stared at the stars that night. They were so beautiful. I wondered if you saw them too.
I was 22 when they sent me back to Earth. The man in the rocket wouldn't look at us; he probably thought we were monsters. We were. But we were the salvageable ones, the ones that came back from it all, a little bit worse for wear, a little bit humbler. I remember watching our funny little home get smaller and smaller, as I held onto our friends' hands. I saw the fear and anxiety and excitement in their eyes, felt it in their grips, heard it in their voices. We all fell asleep holding onto each other's hands, getting ready for this great big adventure that awaited us on a planet that didn't want us.
I remember coming back. It felt strange, I threw up a few times, not used to being back here. My social worker gave me a piece of fruit, did you get one too? It was delicious, the first fresh food I had eaten in 8 years. I grew up again, back on Earth. I learnt new social behaviours, my case worker was so kind, so patient. I thought she would have gotten rid of me after a month, but she stuck by my side, to help assimilate me back into the society, to make sure I made some new friends. I did, but they were never as special as you.
I was 26 when I went back to where we grew up. It's funny, I thought I would have forgotten my way down the streets, but the minute I stepped off the bus, my feet knew where to go, even after more than a decade. The houses are all different now, our parents must have moved away a long time ago, there's no way my parents would have those ghastly flamingos on their lawn or a bright orange letterbox either. Your house is different too, the new people knocked down your tree house and built a high fence around the property. It's a cold place.
I was 26 when I saw you again. You had the same idea as me, it seems. My feet led me to the cemetery, to see your brother's grave, to see him, the one who started it all, even though it was never his fault. I saw you there, I knew it was you, even after all these years. You looked good, like a man on an adventure. I didn't go up to you; that would have been disrespectful and just not right. You stood by his grave for a long time, I lingered around for even longer, to watch you leave. I went over to his grave and lay down a little flower I found growing outside your house. I talked to him, a boy forever stuck at 18, told him about you, how special you were to me, wondered if you knew I was there, wondered if he was in a better place. I left his grave, a little sadder, a little more hopeful, a little less alone.
I'll be there tomorrow. Will you be there too?
A.N. Yeahhh, don't really know where that came from, but it's here now. Hope you've enjoyed it and you know that reviews are my literary crack. So feed my addiction and I'll love you right back (rhyme completely unintentional).