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Short Story
No Trespassing
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Writer Ellis Langhorne
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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No Trespassing
A - A - A
Ellis Langhorne
Mar 12, 2018
15 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!c6IQ7iCh8lcZvlbjSVEXposted on PENANA

DANGER.  No Trespassing.copyright protection39PENANARxUyfcbmJ2

We stood there in the yellow dirt ruts of a service trail, one following each wheel’s track.  Before us, the guardian of this forbidden land stubbornly hung rusting on the gate, high enough to lock eyes with headlamps but unable to hold the gaze of a pair of newly whole humans whose perceptions had yet to adjust to their heights.  She gave the gate a push, and the beveled metal square swung away with it, its bluff called.copyright protection39PENANAoV97Lhqoyz

The best way to know that you’re a normal, functioning human being is to consider if there’s something you want to explore.  Izzy and I had been exploring since we were too young to know we were doing it.  You need to crawl to know the flecks of gray in the cement sidewalks as well as we did when we were toddlers, and once our mothers let us it was off to the park, and to school, and all over town.  It didn’t matter that it was a game, we were pushing the boundaries of creation ever further.  Eventually we’d added the woods around town to our little demesne, taking long hikes in the company of Izzy’s father or my brother, and more recently, by ourselves.copyright protection39PENANAKLyg7KzZFe

The power lines were the last unknown for us.  Sure, you could cross them by car, whizzing between the great steel towers on the highway, but that wasn’t making it our own, especially with the both of us years away from driving and consigned to errands or family visits.  So today we’d set out in our shorts and boots, determined not to make it to high school without knowing what lay beyond that post-and-wire fence.copyright protection39PENANAWwLR514hnN

The first steps through weren’t terribly different than the last few before the gate.  My foot made its awkward, boot-dragging arc from one step to another, landing with a faint crunch of sun-baked mud and a little jolt of excitement that made me look and listen as I might not have otherwise.  We were only a low ridge away from the highway, so the wind off the cars reached us easily through the ditch wheat and hogweed hemming in our path.  Birdsong seemed to welcome us as we went.copyright protection39PENANAjMItUuKkTj

The road wound along up a shallow hill, staying near the center of this great golden scar in the forest.  It came right up to the base of each support, a slightly darker spot evident where some chemical had leaked from the maintenance truck.  There was another path, of course, back to the highway, but that would be a disappointing end to our adventure.  And while my heart seemed to be pulling at my footsteps to speed up, to match its pace, I had no intention of turning back now.copyright protection39PENANATD4sTccscS

“Jordan failed summer school,” Izzy announced matter-of-factly, her nearly-black eyes fixed on the wires overhead.copyright protection39PENANAH8ps0ut4LR

“Well, if he actually did that thing with the frogs then he deserves it,” I responded.  I didn’t know what exactly Izzy’s neighbor did, but it had been in the ether of our grade’s gossip for a few weeks now.  “Did he tell you?”copyright protection39PENANAS5EAyy5jTY

“I haven’t seen Jordan in weeks,” Izzy laughed.  “He hides in his room all day, playing games or something.  His mom told mine.”copyright protection39PENANACMBHfvUsX6

Mom gossip, the only faster way to move news than school gossip.  Unless you’d been dragged along to the crafts store, in which case every subject became an eternal torture in the scent of preserved lilac.  But I was old enough that these unintentional punishments were becoming thankfully sparse.  “Sounds like my brother.”copyright protection39PENANAkEeJ7eeBj0

Izzy giggled.  “But your brother’s cool.  Now if only he had a car…”copyright protection39PENANAsb56MEFSYy

I didn’t really know how to respond to this, so we walked to the nearest tower in silence.  The frames looked like wires themselves in the distance, but this close up they were beams thicker than Izzy and me put together, concrete slabs like the foundation of a house, rivets the size of my hand.  I had to give voice to my thoughts, of course.copyright protection39PENANARBlsjAYd2V

“I thought they’d be pretty big, but you’re right,” Izzy agreed.  There was a redundant fence within the first, this one much more effectively guarded by a HIGH VOLTAGE and several cartoon skulls and lightning bolts.  Fortunately, the truck’s path continued on up this almost imperceptible hill without going through this area, so I could walk with no real fear of ticks on my bare legs.  The occasional blade of grass tickled them, but for the most part all that touched me was the August wind, a warm and wistful caress goodbye from the summer.copyright protection39PENANAjnAy7INlj6

I’d never really minded going back to school, but this seemed to happen every year.  The end of summer felt like a lost opportunity, and the changing of the seasons only served to remind me that I hadn’t had a Boxcar Children adventure or saved the world or even done something that I could really feel proud of.  And I could feel it now, even as Izzy and I were out on a years-planned adventure.  This wouldn’t stop the leaves from falling; even now the trees fringing the cut were beginning to show browns and yellows.  Mother Nature’s first grey hairs.copyright protection39PENANAmMisT57yX5

“So how far do you want to go?”  I said it as much to prevent myself from sinking into that unwanted miasma as to gauge Izzy’s thoughts.copyright protection39PENANA7OGshZ2fd5

“There’s another gate in Whitevale,” she answered, sounding determined where I was unsteady.  A little hamlet over the hill from our part of town, a return journey by asphalt or trail as we saw fit.  “If you can make it,” she teased.copyright protection39PENANAbwsM4AuRVO

A jab at my ego, but no puncture.  Izzy had more stamina than me, this I had to admit.  She was the volleyball player, I the sideline dreamer, but I’d been hiking as long as my legs could support it.  “It might be dark by then,” I warned, looking back over my shoulder at the low sun.copyright protection39PENANAYhAhJumR2j

“Well somebody should’ve come over earlier.”  She meant herself- this was Izzy’s way of equalizing the tease.  She’d never tell you outright that she felt sorry, she’d just kick herself until she felt it no more.copyright protection39PENANAW98DCpDFEQ

“You were busy Izzy,” I responded, a kindergarten rhyme that survived far longer than it should have.  She groaned and kicked a puff of yellow dirt across my path, a challenge that had to be met in kind until the sun-chased air behind us shone gold as Izzy’s hair.copyright protection39PENANAKQmdCrN6jJ

“Everything’s going to be different,” she suddenly cut in.  It didn’t take long to catch that she was referring to high school.  “I know we’ve changed schools before, and I know I’m being a baby.  But everyone has been making such a big deal about this time.  It’s like as soon as you walk into the building you’re supposed to be this new person.”  She gave the dust one last haphazard kick.  “I just need to vent.  It’s just- why does it have to be all at once?  Why can’t we grow up over a few years?”copyright protection39PENANAVi1vzLZVC2

“We do,” I soothed.  “It’s not like you went from throwing fits when Tommy cut your Barbie’s hair to letting him do whatever he wants overnight.  It’s just another school year, and it’s going to be like the last one.  But with older people there too.”  But her doubt was infectious, and I wound up soothing myself as much as Izzy.copyright protection39PENANAfzcncOMPtr

She went quiet then, and I knew I was waiting for it to come up again.  But instead she turned to how Jordan had called her Sailor Moon before his sudden disappearance, and invited me to imagine how ridiculous that would be.  I had to admit, the idea of Izzy in that outfit was amusing… and more than amusing, it piqued my interest.  I tried getting her to put her fists on her head to imitate the hairdo and received a raspberry in return.  Not a real one, of course- we’d eaten a few of those from the bush in Mom’s garden before we left, though.copyright protection39PENANAFeh2sTtg0N

We crested the hill with the sun at our backs, then descended into the shadows of evening.  Here the grass seemed greener, but it might just have been the light.  I brought this up to Izzy, of course, and she just laughed.  “We’ll need to get closer to the fence to know for sure.”copyright protection39PENANAZW51sEMsAp

The conclusion was that we couldn’t tell.  The sun sank lower as we walked, the afternoon turning into evening by the time we reached Whitevale.  A clump of brightly painted houses on a hillside, now lit mainly from within and by the lanterns along the main street.  The sky above was deep blue and wisped with clouds, the gate left red rust on my hand, and Izzy’s Sailor Moon hair was losing its luster.copyright protection39PENANAuPYHcavZ0Z

“Even this is sort of like growing up suddenly,” she mused.  “We’ve never done that before.”copyright protection39PENANArGeJIHDcXE

“Well, do you feel different?”  Since I’d asked, I had to answer my own question internally.  I did, but I couldn’t really explain it.copyright protection39PENANAZXA5Y2JLuk

“I don’t know,” she admitted.  “I feel like things just happen to me on their own.  Like, I took all those steps, but I had to come here with you.”copyright protection39PENANAaY98Gmjcmj

“So now I’m controlling you?” I teased.  “Puppet Izzy on my string?”copyright protection39PENANAcNZqxI7aU5

She had to giggle at that.  “We’ll see who has who on the string.”  As her mind caught up to the bubble of joy, it melted away from her face.  “It’s not like that.  You didn’t make me go explore the power lines.  It’s just… I’m thinking too hard about this.”  She suddenly clammed up.copyright protection39PENANAOU2oZ0qJLV

We walked side by side past the little roadside fountain, three passing cars and a patch of tiger lilies.  Izzy was acting strangely, and I wasn’t completely sure what she was trying to say.  She had to go with me.  We were friends, of course we had to do things together.  But why?  As I pondered further, I realized she was right.  We had to do this together.  To explore the unknown with someone to look out for each other, to keep each other grounded.copyright protection39PENANA3WUd4AAoMW

It had all fallen together in my mind.  She didn’t know it, but Izzy was the puppet after all.  I stole a glance at her, brow furrowed in thought, nearly a silhouette against the window of a purple house.  I had the power to drastically change her young life with just a few words.copyright protection39PENANAIYKHphqwsl

The truth was that I liked Izzy in a way I wouldn’t claim to understand for another few years and can now admit that I probably never will.  Whether I wanted to or not, it was at this ironic juncture that I realized what she meant to me.  And in that heady rush of new sensation, my mind interpreted this discovery very strangely.copyright protection39PENANACgfEFfE6Zq

I could bottle this up and never say anything.  That was the easiest thing to do.  Pretend everything was as it had been yesterday, when I wasn’t aware of my own intentions, and keep Izzy in the dark.  Keep what could have been as a shining memory, a private well of bittersweet in my mind.  Just the thought sent a rush of warm heartache up the back of my throat and nearly forced tears to my eyes.  We spend so much of our lives trying to feel something.  The sadness called out to me, promising an eternity of regret, whispering seductively in my impressionable ear.copyright protection39PENANA13nVgsvRQh

And the other way, of course, was fraught with danger.  One misstep and I could ruin such a dear friendship.  Did I want to risk that?  Was it worthwhile?  What could come of telling Izzy how I felt even if she fell for me on the spot?copyright protection39PENANANygygFQGci

Well, the sort of thing that makes life worth living.  “If I offer you a choice, does it still count as something happening to you?” I asked slowly, measuring the weight of each word as it slipped past my lips.copyright protection39PENANA1Ozhtew8kw

She didn’t answer at first, and an irrational fear that I’d managed to ruin things already crept into my mind.  I couldn’t look at the downcast face bobbing along beside mine, though I might see it as that of a beautiful stranger now.  I was setting us down a path of no return, every word like jumping off a cliff.  I was sure I was pale with fright by now.copyright protection39PENANAylzVhQnMHe

An uncertain noise caught in her throat, and I nearly jumped at the tiny sound.  Almost immediately I felt like the elephant in the old story who fears a mouse, and a redness that would better suit the elephant chased the pale from my cheeks.  Izzy wasn’t looking at me either, though.  “Yes.”  My heart had time to plummet at a rate that, my summer homework assured me, would have sent it to the scratches on my shin just above the boot by the next syllable.  “But at least then I can pick what comes next.”copyright protection39PENANA4vNl330UKd

A nervous silence as I tried to figure out what to say.  Grand words and metaphors danced through my mind, each darting away when I tried to snatch at it.  “This doesn’t have to all happen to you on your own,” I blurted out, frustrated at my own tactlessness.  “If you want, we can deal with it together.”copyright protection39PENANAcM2M3v0ADl

“Well of course we will…” Her voice trailed off, her eyes suddenly coming up to mine, pinning them in place before I could retreat.  “What are you saying?  Let’s figure this out in case we’re not talking about the same thing.”copyright protection39PENANA6cHG8YwwKe

Dread fell over me then, a groaning and unescapable call drowning out the plaintive cry of my heart.  She pointed us off to the right with words muted by my terror.  Whitevale Methodist Church’s door was always open, a light always shone in the welcoming room, even when it was unoccupied.  Somehow, the thought of discussing this in the sight of the abstract that was God to me then made it worse.copyright protection39PENANAKPJxaNBbHl

But God had no intention of intervening as we made our way through the pews to the stairs, then up to the balcony.  This was where countless children had hidden over our short experiences, taking refuge from their parents behind a wooden railing now too short to obstruct our view of the altar, or indeed of most of the building.  We sat back center, side-by-side, our eyes darting toward one another and caroming off whenever contact was made.copyright protection39PENANAoU7qGbWGLz

“You’ve read books.”  I could almost feel my brain trying to slap my forehead from the inside at how awkwardly I was introducing this, but the whole thing was like diving into a bramble and hoping to come out unscratched.  “High school is all about… crushes… turning into things other than sighing from across the room and maybe one song at a dance that never feels as good as it does in your head.  And that was bad enough in middle school.”copyright protection39PENANA2SMJyUH5qs

“It was,” Izzy agreed.  I could see those gangly, underappreciated legs drawing up into the pew.  Curling up into herself.  I could recognize the signs of fear, but at this point I’d already jumped.  And she knew it.  “Are you saying…”  She trailed off, not willing to bring this out into the open.  Waiting for me.copyright protection39PENANAjah2IrPjCx

“I’m saying we can skip all that.”  I couldn’t back out now, and only the incessant repetition of that mantra internally kept words coming out of my mouth.  “We can be each other’s… and deal with the rest together.”  I hadn’t said the words I’d meant to, but they’d been the size of softballs in my throat, and somehow the ones which were meant to come after had squeezed around.copyright protection39PENANAF1rMs7XoOJ

Izzy was silent for a few eternal seconds.  In retrospect, I probably could have had entire lifetimes’ worth of thoughts in those moments of abject terror, but all that remains is the fear.  Finally, those lips – so familiar, and yet so utterly alien – parted to pass their judgment.  “How would we tell people?”copyright protection39PENANAYQBKzaEhf5

No agreement.  No denial.  “However you want,” I offered.  I wanted her to answer me.  I craved that answer, with the sort of feeling you get in your chest when you’ve been holding your breath underwater for too long and the inside of you starts to itch.  Like it was life or death.  The first time you do anything is always so magnified.  “You get to choose, Izzy.  That’s what I want to give you.”copyright protection39PENANAJyf0BYsrh5

“I… I could do that.” copyright protection39PENANAYW6pJzxHYm

Anxiety is like a balloon inside you.  It can pop, or it can leak out slowly.  For me, it seemed to be leaking through my hands, which trembled so hard I had to sit on them.  “You really mean it, Izzy?”copyright protection39PENANAqWd2HNcm4s

“I think so.”  I still couldn’t look directly at her, but she seemed to be uncoiling.  “So what do we do now?”copyright protection39PENANArN0HOCFg3X

“Do you want to pick?”  The anxiety was back, but my hands were still vibrating.copyright protection39PENANAm1UtrE2Zl1

“I want you to,” Izzy responded shakily.  “But let’s get out of the church.”copyright protection39PENANAmMXzPFm21r

God was watching.  We’d said our maybes before God, with all the solemnity and all the stress of most of the weddings I’ve seen since then.  It’s important to remember your perspective; at that age, you’ve been able to love for such a short amount of time that you don’t really know, and that first commitment is something you never get back.copyright protection39PENANAusfv937Pkb

“We’ll be late for dinner,” Izzy mused, sounding like she was talking for the sake of talking.copyright protection39PENANAMHcGaEldEG

“You can come to my house,” I offered.  Gingerly, as though my skin were some caustic substance, I reached out to Izzy.  She jumped a little when my fingers brushed hers, but then let them slide between one another.  We were equally clammy, but now we were holding hands with our fingers interlocked, which everyone our age knew meant we were serious.copyright protection39PENANAe0tcziRWkS

It was fully dark now, only the intermittent streetlamps breaking the gloom as we passed along the forest road back to my house.  I was still terrified.  There had been a sign warning me against trespassing back at the power lines, but this had involved far worse consequences.copyright protection39PENANAnPkDkuGsj1

Izzy turned to me, a flash of gold under the light.  “We’re still growing up too fast, but thanks for letting me choose to do it, Hannah.”copyright protection39PENANAD5IQMSu768

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