This is a first chapter I wrote in the middle of the night… I like it, I’m either gonna develop it into a short story or novelette.
Two Stoplights, Three Lighthouses
“I would like to be called Estella now.” Estella said, clutching her copy of _Great Expectations_ to her chest. “Estella resonates with me deeper than I knew possible. The way Havisham brainwashes her into becoming a cold, heartless yes-ma’am is no different than what society has done to us as Gen-Y. They want us to lay down and take the brunt of the failed economy, Social Security’s collapse, the environment, to fix it all when the boomers finally croak. I say no. I want to continue Estella’s story into my own life and break that great expectation. I choose to say no.”
Estella’s friends all nodded and said, “you are so right Estella.”
Days later they were sitting on the beach. The kids let the water wash over their bare sunburnt legs and watched pieces of plastic bags and aluminum cans get stuck in the pebbles at the edge of the water. The sun hung low in the amber dome, and despite the clear sky, the beach felt shady.
Estella pulled a tiny green sprout out of the ground beside her. “I’m bored out of my mind. There is nothing to do here except go to the beach and get divorced.” A thin black salamander ran over Rudolph’s leg. He shivered and glanced at Estella out of the corner of his eye. He was planning what he could say, it had to be good, it had to be fun.
He surprised himself by saying out loud what he was planning on saying out loud. “My sister has the keys to the school greenhouse, we could go hang there I guess…” He knew his voice had shook. The group responded with the sound of crashing waves, seagulls, and otherwise silence. He watched the silhouette of a seagull dip down to the surface of the water and kept talking. “I know a guy who hides his weed under a pot in there. He wouldn’t notice if we…” Estella seemed not to have heard, as she snapped a twig in half and discarded the two pieces in the thin tide surrounding her legs. Audrey brushed her hair out of her eyes and turned toward the water. Silas looked like she wanted to say something, but she too was watching Estella. The kids were all quiet. Rudolph was thinking of anything else he could say to break the sounds of the beach with his voice when Estella clapped him on the shoulder, sending a cloud of dust out into the orange sunset air. She stood, brushing the sand off her long freckled legs.
“Great idea, Rudy. Let’s do it. You’ll drive?” She said it as if she was giving him permission, and didn’t even finish speaking before striding across the wet beach to the sand covered parking lot, already headed towards his van. Dust and sand fell off the back of her patchwork sundress, and the other three kids chased after her, as if they were trying to catch stardust off a comet. Maybe if they gobbled up enough of it they could keep pace. Rudolph blinked hard and wiped his eyes. The sun warmed the back of his neck as he followed the others to his car.
The halls of the high school were deserted. Even teachers go on summer vacation, but why they did this was beyond the kids. The greenhouse, however, was still humming with life. Vines in fifty shades of green spilled out of jars and cans and halves of water bottles. They clung to the steel framework of the structure and reached like spiderwebs across the panes of foggy glass. The air was wet with precipitation. They found the weed as the sun was disappearing behind the bleachers through the frosted glass windows. “Damn, there’s enough here for us to each have our own!” Rudolph said, pulling the paper bag out of the terra cotta pot. The greenhouse was close quarters, and the verdant room smelled like warm soil and steam. Estella knelt on the floor and tore pages out of _Great Expectations_ to roll the blunts in.
“Don’t you ever want to read that again?” But from the way Carter eyed the hemp it was clear he didn’t care what it was rolled in. Audrey took the first blunt from Estella and eyed it like a virgin.
“It’s a library book.” Estella answered, tearing out another page. Once she had rolled four blunts to her satisfaction, she took out a silver lighter with a skull on it, stolen for her from the gas station by Rudolph.
“Why don’t I get one?” he was the one who got them in, after all.
“I don’t really like it when you smoke, Rudy. You’re cuter sober.” Rudolph looked disappointed, so Estella said she might share hers with him. “Besides, you have to drive us home.” She flicked off her flip flops, buried her yellow painted toes in the dirt and lit her blunt.
A half hour later the five friends sat in a circle on the floor, metal table legs and withered vines surrounding them like stonehenge. In the middle of the circle was a poppy plant in a lentil soup can. There were three small flowers on it that Estella was holding her lighter to, one at a time. The group watched with fascination.
“Poppy flowers make opium. Opium makes dead soldiers. Dead soldiers in Vietnam. Fuck poppies. Wizard of Oz and shit.” The group nodded in fervent agreement. “Fuck poppies.” echoed Carter. She was wearing stars as a crown and the moon sat in her eyes. The delicate red and yellow petals wilted and turned brown before completely burning up, and pools of black water appeared all around them. The water was warm and fluffy and light, like the soil, like a soul. The poor flower shriveled in its can. When there was nothing left to burn, Estella held the lighter up in front of her and stared into the tiny blue flame. The group did the same. After a minute she clicked it shut and fell onto her back with a heaving sigh. Rudy dropped beside her and pushed the right side of his face into the floor, cement covered with a half inch of topsoil. It smelled like dirt. It was after all, dirt. Estella was pinching clumps of it between her fingers and letting it drop onto her chest. He watched her drop it onto her forehead and rub it into her skin. She giggled.
The other kids were watching her, waiting for a queue. I could tell it was more than weed they were smoking, because there was an extra smell in the room, like paint and gasoline. Audrey was incredulous at the similarity of her left hand to her right. After an hour it was time to go.
As soon as Rudolph dropped the kids off at their respective houses smelling like weed and dirt and that extra special ingredient, Estella shouted that she had left her book at the school, and if they found it they could ask the library who checked it out, and they would know she broke in, and- but Rudolph had already turned around, they could go back to get it.
She picked it up with both hands and dusted the dirt off the cover. The greenhouse felt different now that it was just them, alone, in the dark. “Lets do something fun.”
She grabbed his hand and led him out to the football field, where she more or less shoved him to the ground. She knelt over him and before he knew it she was kissing him, and his mouth was full of fire that was sinking down into his gut. He was burning from the inside out but he would manage it, because her mouth tasted like weed and maybe strawberries, and the grass around them was growing so tall, it covered them completely.
“You are beautiful.” She said into his neck.
He kept his eyes open, and focused his blurry vision just past her wild hair on the full moon above them. Little pieces of starlight dug into the bottoms of his arms, and the cold wind hitting his chest made him realize his shirt was off. He felt his body sink further and further into the grass, and he let himself be taken by the Earth. The would go together. Silver smoke was billowing out of the hole in the sky where the moon was, falling on them like a spotlight. Venus was falling in to retrograde.
Rudolph Hesso lost his virginity at the fifty yard line and would live to remember as little of it as he could while still knowing it happened.
Then it was over and they were walking to the car, shaking moon dust off of their clothes. Rudolph’s eyes were still blurry with light and sound and feeling.
When they got to her house, Estella waved to Rudolph as she ran up her front steps. His eyes were fogged over and projecting stars. He rolled down the windows and was about to pull out of the driveway when he saw an un-smoked blunt in the passenger seat, wrapped with a page from _Great Expectations_. He stuck it in his pocket and drove away.
“I love you.” Rudolph told Estella the next day, sitting in front of the grocery store in his car. The air conditioner was on and the windows were open.
“Two stoplights, three lighthouses.”
“What?” He turned to her. She had reclined her seat all the way back so her head was basking in the light coming through the skylight. She blew smoke from her camel out through her nose, which today was adorned with a white gold nose ring; a birthday present from her aunt, a convicted drug dealer.
“In this town, there are two stoplights and three lighthouses. We live in a beach town on the coast of North Carolina, there are more lighthouses than stoplights. There are more seagulls than people, more garbage on the streets than high school graduates, and more fucking volcanoes than original thoughts.” She lifted her legs to rest them on the dashboard and rested her sunglasses on the bridge of her thin sunburnt nose. Her black toenail polish was chipped. Her sunglasses were cracked. “How stupid does a man have to be do take a town with a booming tourism industry and render it an empty wasteland after a mere decade in office? Really, I’m curious.” She threw her cigarette out the open window and sat up, her matted brown ponytail whipping the ceiling.
“Did you hear me? I love you.” Rudolph said it quieter this time.
“You don’t love me.” She lit another cigarette. “Even if you did, I couldn’t let myself love you back. I could never be someones first love, it’s too much pressure.” She threw put out the cigarette on the arm rest and stuck the butt behind her ear.
“Well what am I supposed to do?” Rudolph stared blankly ahead, watching a young woman with white hair fight a seagull for her sandwich in front of the store. The seagull wanted to kill the woman, all the woman wanted was her sandwich.
“Love someone else first, I guess. If you had already loved someone I could love you back.” The seagull was winning, but the white-haired woman would not give up easily. “Like Audrey. If you went out with Audrey I wouldn’t feel so lousy about you loving me.”
“Estella, I’m not into Audrey, I’m into you-“
“But you feel that way about me, right? So could you do it for me?” He sighed and put the car in drive. “C’mon Rudy. If you could just go out with her for a while, I wouldn’t have to be your first.”
“You _were_ my first…” he muttered.
He sighed and resigned himself. “Ill ask her out, if it means that much to you.”
Estella smiled and lifted her seat upright, re-lighting the cigarette from behind her ear.
They drove aimlessly for a long time, in silence. Estella ripped pages from _Great Expectations_ one by one and threw them out the window. In the rear view mirror, he could see the pages littering the road behind them, like confetti.