I pull the car off into the dirt gravel path down through some trees. The thicket starts getting denser. The sound of birds calling out fills the summer air as they swoop between branches. I bring the car around slowly to a clearing. An outdoor park with all the amenities, playgrounds, stationary grills, and bathroom stalls. I park and turn off the car.
Everything is still. Only the faint popping from my car breaks the natural silence. Birds chirp their songs, the wind blow through leaves, and the Fox River bubbles off the far side. The clearing stands deserted except for us. Jill gets out of the car, finger to her lips. She sits gingerly on the front of my car. I follow her lead and quietly sit next to her. The playground looks a little overgrown as if they had closed the space recently or forgot.
Jill takes out her pack of cigarettes and offers one to me. I shake my head declining. My heart tightens as she lights the end of hers. The black stick glows a contrasting amber red.
Jill turns to me smiling. The sun casts a glow over her as she motions me to move over, trading places. I raise an eyebrow trying to read her mind. She eyes me briefly and takes a drag. She blows the smoke lightly towards me but the smoke gets carried the opposite way by the wind. Jill laughs to herself, laying down on my car. I scan the clearing. The overgrowth has taken much of what’s unpaved. I can’t help but wonder how many animals call the park “home”. Something forgotten by human invention.
I close my eyes and take in everything around me. Soft sounds of nature, the slight movements of Jill, her clove cigarette smoke hangs in the air until the wind comes. I lay my back onto the hood, eyes still closed. The heat of the car warms my back but the slight breeze keeps me cooler. I realize the weight next to me, the closeness of Jill.
“This place. I come here to get away from the world. Night’s peaceful too. Fireflies come out and it’s a bit out of the way, so you can star gaze.”
“Yeah, It’s beautiful here.”
Jill shifts her weight and the car bounces with the movement. Opening my eyes, I see she is looking directly at me. My heart starts to race.
“Are you feeling okay? Your face is red.”
“Allergies,” my stomach twists as soon as the lie leaves my mouth, “it’s kinda hot too.”
I do want to stay, at least for a little while, in this peace, even if Jill makes me question myself.
“We should get going then. Or at least I need to get back to my car. Gotta get stuff done at home before tomorrow. And hopefully I won’t get fired.”
“If they do, they’re definite assholes”
“Yeah,” she sighs, “Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a downer.”
We get into my car and leave the serenity behind us. We get to the bookstore parking lot. Jill directs me to the far side, right next to a worn down classic car.
“Voila, lovely isn’t it? Not a bad year either.”
“I don’t know much about cars, sorry.”
“It’s cool no worries. Most guys try to hit on me just to get inside this baby. Erm, not me. Well, not directly,” she clears her throat, “Anyway, it’s a ’69 Camaro and definitely seen better days.”
“It is a pretty car, even with the rust.”
“Thanks, I’m still fixing it up. My dad wanted to sell it but I convinced him not to. He’s helped me work on it.”
We exchange numbers.
“Talk to you soon Lia.”
I watch Jill get into her car and fail to start the engine. Junker may be right but she seems to love her car. She waves to me and I go on ahead.
I sigh heavily, my mind going over today’s events. Rolling down my windows, I start my drive back to the dorms. Jill seems really nice, but something about her feels off that I can’t place my finger on. Why was I having such a reaction to her? My stomach starts doing back flips every time I think about her.
I pull into the parking at school and shut off my car. I take a deep breath, the warm air filling my lungs. I close my eyes attempting to calm my nerves. It’s like I’m back in high school with new experiences and something scary around every corner. I push my fears away. I try to bring myself back into reality and put on a confident front. Emma will likely have some insight. She seems the maternal type, more so than me, and infinitely more than Tori.
I start walking back to my dorm and remember I haven’t written a thing all day.