Just Listen

Author: P Hana

Page 54

   

I told Owen all this on the ride over, explaining how since then, I'd been convinced that anything sounded good at the car wash. He looked dubious, however, as he pushed quarters into the cashier station, and I had to wonder if my theory was about to debunked.

"So what now?" he asked as the machine spit out his receipt and the red light beside the bay dropped to green. "We just drive in?"

"You've never done this?" I asked him.

"I'm not much for car upkeep simply for aesthetics' sake," he said. "Plus, I think there's a hole in my roof."

I motioned for him to drive forward and he did, over the slight bump and up to the yellow line, faded over time, that said stop here . Then he cut the engine. "Okay," he said. "I'm ready to be impressed."

I shot him a look. "You know," I said, "this is your first time, so for full effect, you really need to recline."

"Recline."

"It adds to the experience," I told him. "Trust me."

We both eased back our seats, settling in. His arm was resting against mine, and I thought of being at his house the other night, and how I'd come so close to kissing him, twice. As the machine began to whir behind us, I reached forward and turned on the CD again. "All right," I said as the jets came on overhead. "Here we go."

The water was pattering at first, then began to move down the glass in front of us in a wave. Owen shifted in his seat as a drop fell from over his head, landing on his shirt. "Oh, great," he said. "There is a hole in the roof."

He grew quiet, though, as the next cut on the CD began with a soft murmuring, followed by some plucking of strings. There was also a bit of buzzing, but with the water moving over us, the inside of the car seeming smaller, then smaller still, it seemed to dissipate, fading out behind us. I could hear the hum of the brushes as they moved in closer to the car, intermixed with the sad, sloping chords of a violin. Already I could feel it happening, that slowing of time, everything stopping for this one moment, here, now.

I turned my head to look over at Owen. He was lying there, watching as the brushes drew big, soapy circles across the windshield in front of us, his gaze intent. Listening. I closed my eyes, focusing on doing the same. But all I could think was that it felt like my whole life had changed—again—in just the few weeks I'd known Owen; and not for the first time, I wanted to tell him so. Find the right words, string them together in the ideal way, knowing that here they would have the best chance of sounding perfect.

I turned toward him again, thinking this, and opened my eyes. He was looking right at me.

"You were right," he told me, his voice low. "This is great. Seriously."

"Yeah," I said. "It is."

Then he shifted, moving closer to me, and I felt his arm press against mine, his skin warm. And then, finally, Owen kissed me—really kissed me—and I couldn't hear anything: not the water, the music, or even my own heart, which had to be pounding. Instead, it was just silence, the very best kind, stretching out forever, or only a moment, and then it was over.

Suddenly, the car wash was quiet, the music finished. Above me, I could see one big drop, dangling precariously over our heads. I kept my eyes on it until dropped, landing with a plunk on my arm just as a horn beeped behind us.

"Whoops," Owen said, and we both sat up. He cranked the engine as I glanced back at a guy in a Mustang who was waiting, windows already up, by the entrance. "Hold on."

When we pulled out of the bay, the sun was bright, catching the pools of water as they broke up, sliding off the hood. With the kiss, and the dark, I felt like I was still underwater, the brightness startling.

"Man," Owen said, blinking as he pulled over by the curb, "that was really something."

"Told you. Everything sounds better in the car wash."

"Everything, huh?"

He was looking at me as he said this, and I had a flash of his face just moments earlier, staring up at the windshield, listening so carefully. Maybe sometime, I would be able to say everything I'd thought at that moment. And even more.

"I wonder," he said now, running a hand through his hair, "if it works for techno."

"Nope," I said flatly.

"You're sure."

"Oh, yeah." I nodded. "Positive."

He raised an eyebrow at me. "Yeah, well," he said, pulling away from the curb and starting around the building again. "We'll see."

"Did you hear?"

It was six o'clock on the Saturday of the fashion show, and I was sitting in the makeshift dressing room at Kopf's, waiting. For the last few hours, while getting my hair and makeup done and my outfit fitted and tweaked, I'd managed to ignore the chatter around me. Instead, I focused on getting through this show so I could move on to the one I really cared about, at

Bendo, with Owen. It had been working just fine. Until now.

I looked to my left, where Hillary Prescott had just sat down beside a girl named Mamie. Like me, they were already done with hair and makeup, which left them with nothing to do but drink bottled water, examine their reflections, and gossip.

"Hear about what?" Mamie asked. She was a thin girl with a long face and high cheekbones. When I'd first seen her I thought she looked like Whitney, somewhat, although she was more pretty than beautiful.

Hillary glanced over one shoulder, then another, the classic double-check. "What went down last night at Becca Durham's party," she said.

"No," Mamie said, dabbing a finger over the gloss on her lips. "What happened?"

Hillary leaned in a little closer. "Well," she said, "from what I heard, there was total drama. Louise told me that about halfway through the party—"

She stopped talking, suddenly, staring at the mirror facing us just as Emily Shuster walked in. She had her arms crossed over her chest, her head ducked down slightly, and her mom was with her. I only got one quick glance, but that was all it took to see Emily looked terrible: Her face was puffy, her eyes red, rimmed with dark circles.

Hillary, Mamie, and I all watched as she and her mom passed, continuing toward Mrs. McMurty, who was on the other side of the room. Then Hillary said, "I can't believe she showed up here."

"Why?" Mamie asked. "What happened?"

Not my problem, I thought, turning my attention back to the history notebook I'd brought with me to get some studying in during the downtime. As I did so, though, I felt a piece of hair stick to my cheek. I looked up at the mirror to brush it away just as Hillary leaned in a little closer.

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