Chelsey Blair--YA Contemporary
Outside of Boston’s South Station I became the anonymous girl-with-the-guitar again, the person I’d been when the streets of Paris had been mine to fill with music. The chords I played reaffirmed my choice to flee my suburban exile. Once I got where I was going, no one would want to take my music away.
I misfingered a chord at the sound of my name. My E-string let out a low moan, like it knew we were in trouble. The late-April sun blinded me, but one silhouette on the other side of the crosswalk was obnoxiously familiar. Kyle Baker. What the hell was he doing there? Had he followed me all the way from Fernsgrove?
I didn’t plan on sticking around to find out. I dropped to the ground to lay my guitar in its open case and concrete bit into my knees through the holes in my jeans.
As if fate wanted me to get away, the light turned green before he crossed the street. With the noise of Boston’s heavy downtown traffic buzzing in my ears, I pressed my palm against the right clasp on my guitar case until the metal almost broke the skin on my hand. It had bent when I broke the lock Uncle Rob put on it. It finally snapped shut, but wouldn’t hold for long.
I stood, slinging my guitar case over my back. The WALK sign had begun to flash and I could see Kyle’s Fernsgrove High School letterman jacket clearly. It symbolized everything I was running from. I picked up my duffel bag and fled.
The Roman numerals on the clock in the lobby of the station told me my train wasn’t due for two hours. I dove for the staircase to the T, Boston’s convoluted subway system. I’d ride it as far away as possible and double back in an hour. My pursuer would have given up, and I could be on my way.
“Meridian, Natalie’s hurt!” Kyle’s voice rose above the noise of shoes and suitcases squeaking across the floor. I stopped midway down the stairs, which caused me to collide with a man’s over-stuffed suitcase. He yanked it to the side, removing my only support. The golden railing sparkled out of my reach. Score one for gravity.
“Merde!” I yelled, before I toppled down the stairs.
I was met with a sickening crunch when I landed. It wasn’t my spine shattering, at least. My guitar case had broken my fall. Key word: broken. The worn left clasp hadn’t withstood the impact any better than the shattered right one. The case had flown open and my weight had smashed my guitar against the ground. I brushed my blond hair out of my eyes and began piling the shards of guitar into the case so disinterested commuters couldn’t grind them into the dirty concrete.
Kyle knelt next to me. “Are you okay?”
Every fragment I dropped onto the heap of splintered wood represented a European city my mother had dragged me to or a day in Fernsgrove I’d battled through, armed with the promise of the day I’d escape with my guitar. I stared at the finished pile and squeezed my eyes shut, giving the splintered wood time to meld into a whole guitar.
“Come on, Meridian. Can you get up?”
I opened my eyes. No guitar. I fiddled with the less-broken clasp. It snapped shut, but I had no idea how long it would hold. “What happened to Natalie?”
“She fell at gymnastics.” Kyle tugged my arm. I stayed limp on the ground. Maybe I could still go to New York, but what would I do once I got there? My guitar was my livelihood. “They called the school looking for you.”
I used the banister to drag myself upright. “Did she sprain her ankle, or something?”\
He rolled his green eyes up to the ceiling and shook his head like I just wasn’t getting it. His strong grip tightened on my arm. “I think it must be bad. They didn’t send her to Fernsgrove Memorial. She’s here, at Children’s Hospital.”
An image flickered before my eyes; a body in a pool of blood. The only person I loved taken away. Down the platform a train charged in, and I took off for it. The wreckage of my guitar bounced in my useless case. I didn’t realize Kyle had followed me until he slid through the closing doors of the Red-Line train. He didn’t matter. Natalie mattered.
Natalie listened to my music when no one else did.
We burrowed as far into the crowded train as possible. I couldn’t reach the handhold, so Kyle looped his arm around me. My heart pounded against my chest so hard that he must have felt it. There was no way he didn’t, since it was going to pop out of my ribcage at any second.
“How’d you find me?” I asked, realizing that focusing on the horrific images in my head wouldn’t make the train move any faster.
“All anyone talked about this afternoon was you storming out of French. Then the people from the Y called during my shift in the front office. You always said you’d escape one day to land a record deal. I figured you’d made today the day, and you’d be somewhere between Fernsgrove and New York.”
“You listen to me?” He sat by me in English, and had born the brunt of some of my more infamous rants, but I’d never thought he paid attention.
“Always.” His breath tickled my ear. Then he dropped the debonair tone. “Plus, Lance Ellis told me he dropped you off at the commuter rail station before sixth period.”
“I knew he was a rat.”
Kyle smiled, and a dimple appeared on his left cheek. I cast my eyes down and tried to ignore the way his hips crashed into mine each time the track curved. The train jerked to a stop at Park Street, where we had to change to the Green Line. We flew across the station, but the Green Line train waiting at the platform was a D-train, and we needed the E. Boston’s convoluted subway system was not doing me any favors.
“Merde,” I spat, and then added “Shit,” in English, to emphasize my point.
“I knew we should have taken my car.”
I whirled around so fast that my duffel bag hit Kyle in the shin. “You have a car? We could have been there by now!”
“You’re the one who took off for the T. Don’t worry, I’m sure your aunt is already bossing doctors around.” The next train approached, but it was a C. The spidery subway system refused to do me any favors.
“Aunt Caroline won’t be there unless you’ve invented teleportation. She’s—.” A rush of wind interrupted me. The E-train, finally. I let the disembarking passengers pass and leapt on. Kyle followed in my wake.
“She’s where?” he asked.