Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 30
Wednesday

When I wake up I'm moving, or rather, someone is moving me. There's a strange swinging sensation, and I unglue my eyes to see the blackness above and the dirt rocking beneath- Lindsey's house. Aubrey is carrying me, and when he sees I'm awake he grins down.

"Aubrey!" I say, surprised. "You're- you're-"

"You fell asleep." He says. "I didn't want to wake you up."

I'm still speechless. Aubrey laughs.

"Though I have to say, go easy on the french fries next time," he jokes. "You're not exactly the lightest load."

I try to smack him with a laugh, but then remember I'm the one being carried, and stop myself. We reach the porch, and he sets me down gently. My head spins a little as I try to recover my balance.

"Okay, well, goodnight," he says, brushing my cheek, making to go.

"Wait!"

Aubrey spins back around with a questioning smile. "Hmm?"

I scuff my shoe against the grain of the porch. "Thank you," I say, blushing to the floor.

He comes back to me, tilting my chin up with a finger, and our eyes meet. "You're welcome," he says, and kisses me. Then he lets go and fades away, and as I stumble to the screen door a chuckle floats through the dark.

 

 

I dizzily mount the stairs to my room, swinging the door shut and collapsing on the bed. I'd love nothing more to relive every moment of our night, from the way Aubrey looked to the sky to the food to the...I can't help it. I fall asleep.

 

 

The alarm beeps loud and shrill. Ugh, how I hate that thing! Rubbing my eyes sleepily, I toss on the bed, the warmth beneath the covers escaping. Finally I manage to un-glue my eyes and squint into the stream of bright light pouring through my window. Argh. Its Wednesday.

I knew a girl back in L.A. who called herself Wednesday. I guess she thought it sounded cool; maybe she just didn't like her real name. Either way, I didn't like her or the day of the week. Wednesday, I think as I force myself out of the warm comfort of my bed, is the hump of the week. Never-ending and forever.

I pull on some clothes and drag my hair up into a ponytail, then take it down. Its hard to believe that this time last week I had friends- well, more than one, anyway. Now I can count them on one hand. Its a depressing thought.

I stumble downstairs and into the kitchen; surprisingly, Lindsey's not there. The lights are off, the linoleum cold under my bare feet and the refrigerator humming quietly to itself. My eyes sweep around the room, across the wiped clean wooden table to the burnished copper spoons. Then my eye catches a note taped to the cupboard. Curiously I read:

'Aurora-

I didn't have a chance to tell you last night, but I told Aubrey earlier yesterday. I'm visiting my sister in Utah who's come down sick with the flu- someone has to take care of her five rambunctious grandkids. I should be back in about a week, I'll call once I get there to check in with you. There's plenty of food in the fridge and some tuna noodle casserole in the oven for you (make sure you put the foil back on!). I told Aubrey to check in on you once in awhile, but I've no doubt he'll be doing that anyway. Keep yourself safe and lock the screen door at night. And remember, to turn off the stove, turn the knob to the left. Talk to you later.

                                                                                            -Lindsey'

Wow. This will be interesting. As I walk around the silent kitchen, I realize how empty my morning feels without Lindsey's acerbic conversation and gruff but caring smile. True enough, there's the casserole in the oven, and before I eat I draw the blinds away from the glass door and let the early gold light flood in, spilling onto the floor and pooling in rings on the patterned linoleum. I haven't even been sitting three minutes when the doorbell rings. I have a feeling I know who it is.

I swing open the wooden door and look through the screen one. I can see Aubrey grinning at me, his face gridded with iron.

"Good morning, beautiful," he says. "Want to let me in?"

 

 

Aubrey and I get to school pretty early- too early. There's at least 15 minutes till the first bell, and from our spot in the parking lot I can see Emma and Frank, their group congregating by the lunch tables, talking, laughing.

Aubrey makes to open the door but I stop him. I feel the knot in my stomach twist already.

"Let's...not go out just yet," I say, poorly disguising my nervousness. Aubrey raises an eyebrow, cocking his head to one side. The bruises from the fight are just beginning to fade, but his perfect aquiline nose is just a little crooked. He'd refused to go to the hospital, and I think that in ten years, if everything falls apart between us, he'll always be able to look at his reflection and see the mark I made on him- ruining his perfection.

"Aurora?"

His brown eyes float before me and I shake my head, calling myself back to the present. "Yeah?" I say, biting my lip.

"Are you okay?"

He looks so concerned, brows drawn, the laugh in his eyes a moment ago gone. I nod vigorously and turn away, my hand on the door.

"Wait." I turn back to him. Aubrey touches my cheek, tracing his thumb on the corner of my lips, the ghost of his half-moon smile on his. "Where's that beautiful smile, sunshine?"
I drop my eyes from his. "I- I feel so stupid." I say.

Aubrey tilts my face up to his. "Don't. Tell me what's wrong."

I study his eyes as I formulate my answer, and he waits. They're like glowing orbs of warm brown, ringed like the skeletons of thousand year old trees. At the very edge the brown frays into gold, hazy like the shimmer on the edge of the horizon before the sun dips down for night. I could study them all day, and think of different ways to describe the dilating blackness of his pupils, like vortexes in the universe, or the little flecks in the iris like someone was painting with the sun and flicked their brush, little droplets of light spraying everywhere. But right now I have to answer, get this weight off of my chest, even while I realize how tiny and insignificant I sound.

"I...I feel really bad...about Frank."

I see the muscle in Aubrey's jaw flex, but he doesn't say anything, for which I am grateful, and our eyes stay locked.

"I just think I acted really selfishly, and now I feel so terrible about it."

Aubrey shakes his head gently but firmly, his hair shifting and filtering the light now pouring through the windows. "Aurora, you didn't do anything wrong. You need to understand that."

"I led him on!" I interupt, dropping my eyes. "And then I dropped him."

"No," Aubrey says, drawing my attention back to him, "No, you didn't. Aurora, I've known girls like that, trust me, and you are not one of them. Whatever misconception Thompson was under was completely his fault. You never led him on. I know that, he does, and you should."

I bite my lip, but a tear, hot and insistent, still bubbles over and falls onto my cheek. "But then why is he- why are they acting like this?"

Aubrey scowls, but his fingers on mine are gentle. "Because he's mortified, embarrassed. But that is no excuse to treat you like this, and for that alone I would jump at the chance to fuck him up, again."

I shake my head slowly, but I can't help the little smile that lifts the corners of my mouth. "Aubrey, that didn't solve anything, that fight. All you got for your trouble is a broken nose and a couple of ugly bruises."

His eyes are blazing though, and he speaks eagerly, words tumbling out fast as they can come. "Don't you see, though, Aurora? I don't care. And this-" he gestures to his face, the purple bleeding out around his jaw and eyes, "-this just shows him, me, what I would do for you. I don't care if he beats me to a pulp as long as he has the chance to, because I'm standing up for my girl, and if he wants to mess with her, he's gonna have to mess with me."

"But, Aubrey, you don't have to do that to show me, or Frank, or anyone-"

Aubrey shakes his head, and the intensity of his voice is enough to make me believe every word that comes out of his mouth. "But I want to. Aurora, I may not be the smartest guy out there, or the smoothest, or the best for you. But I can stand up for you, and I will- because even though I know I don't deserve you, I love you- I love you."

I'm speechless. "Aubrey-" the words are choked in my mouth, but my heart is screaming them, "Aubrey, you know I- you know I love you."

He smiles that half moon smile, and its all the more beautiful for the cut on his lip and the rainbows around it, and he touches the tip of my nose. "So don't cry, beautiful. Show me that sunshine smile, come on."

I can't help it; my lips crack into a smile, and I have to laugh when he does. "That's better," Aubrey says, leaning close to me, "much better."

He kisses me while I'm still smiling, and when we get out of the car and walk through the parking lot with our fingers entwined, his bruises the badges of our love, I can't even care when we pass their table, and heads swing by and whisper. I know I've made the right choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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