© 2018 THE LONG ISLAND LITERARY JOURNAL

 

Fire Alarm

By Taylor Rossics

     It was midnight when she took out her electric lighter and lit a piece of paper just slightly ablaze. She held it beneath the fire alarm until the whole house was looking in her direction. She wasn’t drunk or anything, just bored. Whatever boy she had in tow that night clearly hadn’t paid her nearly enough attention, thus, the fire. When she had everyone's attention, she took down the alarm, removed  the batteries and told us all we needed to toast, to friendship. None of us were about to argue, so we raised our various drinks, mixed or otherwise. She handed me the singed piece of paper and grabbed my hand and pulled me outside. I folded the paper and placed it in my pocket with the marker that she’d handed me a month before, and forgot about it. Later, I’d add it to my collection of things she’d handed me that I didn’t know what to do with, but couldn’t part with. In the February cold she lit a joint and passed it to me. I didn’t know where she got it and I didn’t ask.

     “Are you having a good time?” Anna asked. She leaned in, her eyes looking me over intently.

     “Yeah.” I answered.

     “Lighten up a little then. Come on, Al,” she grinned. She always said my name in a way that made everything taste just a bit sweeter.

     “I really am having a good time.”

     “Good,” she grinned. She had a smile that no one could resist. She was chronically insecure, and paradoxically the most confident thing I’d ever seen.

     As we passed the joint, out stumbled Marcy. Marcy was a drunk menace, beautiful but only if you didn’t look closely. She was dating a 49-year-old who had little money and fewer teeth. She told us how mature she was, as he’d often told her. Marcy often told us how she considered herself a vixen, a goddess among men. We never were going to correct her; low self-esteem was something we tolerated far less well than overconfidence. I’d dated her for a while.  She tore me to pieces. I wrote her long poetry and I wonder if those line breaks were what caused our breakup. Now, all she talked about how sensual he was when they were half naked on his dirty kitchen floor. I never knew what it was she wanted. She was the sort of person who should have smelled like gasoline, constantly begging for someone to take a match to her. Tonight, like most nights, she was drunk. She always thought her sex appeal went through the roof when she was drunk, which made me wonder if she’d ever seen someone as drunk as her.

 

     “Want some?” Anna asked.

     “What strain is it?” Marcy asked.

     “Does it matter?” Anna asked.

     “Indica gives me headaches.”

     “No, it doesn’t. That one-time sativa did because you were hungover and hadn’t had any water in two days.” I corrected her.

     “It sometimes does.”

     “Do you want it or not?” Anna asked, relighting it. The wind had put it out, and that same wind was now cutting into my bones. Anna never seemed to be bothered by the cold.

     “I’d love some.”

     “There we go.” Anna passed it to her after taking a hit. Inside the music changed.

     “Fucking cold out.”

     “It’s February, Marcy,” I said.

     “Yeah I know, but like, why does it have to be, like, this cold?”

     “Your fault for coming to the coldest part of the state,” Anna stated blandly.

     “Also for coming outside,” I added.

     “I guess.”

     Anna recognized the tension settling and immediately rectified that. “Marcy, how’s your boyfriend? What’s his name again?”

     “Gerald. He’s great. He’s working on a set for a local theater right now. He’s a professional set builder you know, so he’s been really busy.”

     “How long have you guys been together?”

     “Two months.”

     “How did you meet, again? I know you told me.” I indulged her.

     “He saw me in the show he built the set for. He’s so great, you know? I’m the only woman he’s been with since his wife and it’s so cute.”

     “Is it?”

     “He thinks I’m perfect.”

     “Have you told your parents?”

     “Definitely not, I asked Ma the other day how she’d feel about me dating an older man, and she said only if he was also Muslim so really there’s nothing about him worth mentioning to her.”

     “Uh huh.” I pulled out my pack of cigarettes. I generally didn’t around her because she’s smoked more of mine than I have, but she’d stressed me to a point where I didn’t care if giving her one meant I could have one.

     “You owe me one right?” she asked.

     “I think you owe her like 50 by now. Right, Alice?”

     “Somewhere around there.”

     “I’ll get you back.” Marcy promised.

     “No, you won’t.” I handed her one. It was a little irritating, because she had her own pack inside, but they were a shittier brand and she just liked the taste of my things better than she liked than her own.

     “Got a lighter?” Marcy asked.

     “Don’t you have yours?”

     “Not on me.”

     “Don’t.” Anna lied. She gave Marcy a challenge in her look. Marcy checked her pockets and miraculously produced a shitty dollar lighter.

     “He really is good, but you know? He never really does what I want him to.” Marcy started.

     “Who?” Anna asked.

     “Gerald. Everytime I see him, I bring him his favorite coffee and he’s never once bought me one, and I told him he should just once buy me a coffee, and I know money’s a little tight but money’s tight for me too!”

     “Is a coffee that big of a deal?” I asked.

     “Well yeah, because I always get him one.”

     “Yeah, but does he ask you to?” Anna questioned.

     “Well no but I just think that I deserve one. I’m always going out of my way for him. I just don’t really think it’s a lot to ask.

     “Then buy yourself one,” Anna responded.

     “I just, I try so hard you know, I always try so hard, and no one ever notices what a good person I am,” Marcy whined. I bit back a laugh. No one ever had issues seeing the good in her, it was the everything else about her that people always missed initially.

     “I see exactly what you are Marcy,” Anna said, passing her the joint.

     Marcy became teary and sat down right in the snow on the porch, where hadn't been shoveled yet, soaking her cotton dress. “I just, I just want to feel like he loves me? Fuck, why is it so cold?”

     “You shouldn’t have to ask someone to love you the way you want them to,” Anna responded.

     “I just-” and then she started sobbing.

     “Come on, Marcy, I think you’ve had a little too much.” Anna started picking her up out of the snow.

     “No, I’m fine!” she screamed, batting Anna away.

     “Marcy, we’re going to go inside now,” Anna stated.

     “No, leave me out here.”

     “I’ll be right back,” Anna said. Most people would have taken the time to battle it out and slowly convince Marcy to go inside, but it was just attention she wanted at this point, and attention she would receive. She entered the house and returned quickly with Lowie in tow. Lowie was a large dude with a big heart. He played rugby and hockey and would have played football if our school wasn’t too small to have it as a regular sport. He had no love for Marcy after she poured an entire cup of iced coffee on him when he dumped a mutual friend of theirs, but he believed Anna hung the moon.

     “Marcy, we’re goin’ inside ok, either you get up or I get you up.”

     “No, leave me here, the snow understands me.”

     “What?” he turned to Anna in confusion.

     “Please, just bring her in, I’ll take care of getting her to bed,” I said.

     “No, I’ve got it. Grab another drink. She’s not your problem anymore.” Anna shooed me away. I happily complied, going back into the warmth to pull another twisted tea from Anna’s box in the fridge. She’d told everyone I had at least three cans reserved, which to my surprise, had been respected. Lowie carried a screaming Marcy to the downstairs bedroom, where she’d get the shittiest mattress in the house. She was lucky though, not everyone got a mattress on nights like tonight. Lowie would be sleeping on blankets near the fire. He loped back up a few minutes later with a smile. He leaned against the counter and we watched as Mark closed his eyes, pounding the drum he had between his knees. He’d long since lost his shirt and he swayed slightly as Courtney played her ukelele with no real tune.

     “She’s a fuckin’ piece of work.” he grinned at me, mentioning Marcy.

     “Sure is.” I half yelled over what could only loosely be considered music.

     “Having a good time?”

     “Definitely.”

     “Anna’s here with Jackie right?” he investigated.

     “I think so?”

     “Any idea how close they are?” he asked, attempting a casual tone.

     “I mean have you seen them together for more than five minutes? I’d say she’s not too attached.”

     “Fair enough.”

     “Where even is he?”

     “I think he’s passed out on the stairs right now?”

     “Classy.”

     “Want some whiskey?”

     “No thanks,” I held up my can and shook it.

     “Oh come on, just a shot.”

     “I guess.”

     I always forgot how gross whiskey was until it’s running down my throat. I coughed and he laughed as he took a long swig from the bottle. Anna finally came up the stairs and loped over to us.

     “She’s laying down, on her side. Someone should check on her in a bit, but I’m not too concerned.”

     “Was she difficult?” I asked.

     “Of course,” Anna responded, plucking the can from my hand and downing the last half of it. Lowie looked at her like she’d just stripped down for him.

     “Want some?” Lowie offered her the bottle.

     “No, I’m set for now, thanks. Al, let’s go for a walk.”

     “Mind if I come?” Lowie asked.

     “Sorry Low, yeah, kind of. I need to talk to Alice about something personal.”

     I followed her outside after giving Lowie an apologetic expression. Anna strutted down the stairs. I followed on her heels. She walked lazily, striding as though she had nowhere to be and all the time to get there. You could always tell her mood by the way she walked. She wore every feeling she had on her skin, you could smell the happy on her some days. We strode down the small neighborhood that had no sidewalk. The neighborhood seemed like a mishmash, some driveways decorated with minivans and basketball hoops and voting signs, and others adorned in rusting car parts and one with an antique bathtub that you could see when it wasn’t buried in a few feet of snow. I had pictures of her leaning on it with the moon behind her. I’d been nervous that someone would see us, but she promised it wouldn’t be a problem, and it wasn’t. Anna stopped me and pointed at the sky.

     “See that one?” she asked. I assumed she was pointing at a star.

     “Yeah?”

     “You’re not that one.”

     “Oh?”

     “No. You’re the moon.”

     “Excuse me?”

     “You have a lot of phases.”

     “Oh, ha.”

     “But you’re always around when I need you.”

     “I try.” I shrugged. I didn’t tell her that she was the sun. She was, and I wanted to, but that felt hokey.  

     We walked back to the house. As we entered she became the life of the party again. It was probably about 4 am when she walked in and found me asleep, and woke me gently. She locked the door and unlocked it again, then popped her head into the hall. Again, she locked it, and now somewhat awake I asked what was going on. She grabbed the sides of my face and kissed me square on the mouth. I tasted whiskey on her breath and her vanilla cigarillos. I froze and didn’t kiss her back for a few seconds. She put one of her hands in my hair. I kissed her, and then she pulled away too soon.

     “I just had to know,” she said.

     The next morning she said nothing. We found our belongings amongst the piles of sleeping students. Later she’d mention with a laugh the one time we kissed. I waited for the next time.

 

Taylor is a college student who grew up in Southern Maine. She is currently attending the University of Maine at Farmington with the creative writing major. She has long enjoyed writing and plans to continue to enjoy writing.