Mary had this bad habit of knocking on my window too late in the night to be considered normal. The first few times had startled me awake from a nightmare of drowning in a cold, murky, substance. But at some point after meeting her, I had become something of an insomniac, and I grew to expect her visits.
My apartment was on the third floor of my building - therefore unsuitable for window-entry - but she didn’t let that stop her. She would scale the trunk of a tree outside, and throw small pebbles and acorns at my window until I opened it, catapulting her body into the room.
Mary never commented on the cheap nightlight by my bed, but she never seemed to mind when it was off. I quickly found that, at long as she was there, I couldn’t bring myself to care either.
I was strange as a child in that I was never quite afraid of anything; neither the night, nor her countless fear-breeding children could hold sway over my thoughts. However, when I first moved into an apartment by myself, the power of the dark seems to grow in size.
I used to sneak onto the roof with the blessing of the owner’s daughter, and stargaze instead of attempting to sleep.
It was my third week.643Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmx6MtLaw4n
I heard the sound of her skateboard scraping the pavement before I saw her. She teetered to a stop on the street in front of the complex, picking up her board and crossing into the small square of grass that was occasionally confused for a park on our side of the road. Then, she laid down and began to do the same as me, except her stargazing involved a sketchpad that she pulled out of the small purple backpack nestled between her feet.
I remember staring down at the tall, gawky girl with a strange curiosity bubbling in my gut. The crackling street light barely illuminated her figure, and I could just make out the unicorn logo of Marty’s Magic Supermarket on her faded hoodie and the knotting of her brunette hair into something that vaguely resembled Pippi Longstocking-style pigtails. She seemed to be stuck in indecision as to whether or not she should kick her flip-flops off onto the pavement.
At the risk of waking the building up, I decided to call out to the girl.
“See anything interesting?”
She jerked abruptly and twisted around to locate my voice. Her eyes widened she spotted me above her, but then her expression settled into a smirk.
“Orion’s Belt and Sagittarius are the only ones I can recognize, and the second one’s only ‘cause it’s my sign. And I can’t see either.”
“Don’t worry. I can’t find any of them,” I supplied. “But, uh -” I mentally went through the Zodiac from my own. “- happy birthday?” It was early December; it struck me how much time had passed since the summer.
She laughed at that. It struck me then that she had to be at least a year younger than me. I imagined that she had snuck out; my mom certainly had never let me go anywhere past ten, even after I turned sixteen.
"You’re a couple days off,” she replied. “But thanks. What’s your name, stranger?”
I raised my eyebrows at that. “Shouldn’t you offer y-” A loud vibration sounded, followed by the melody of some decade-old pop song.
She checked her phone, and cursed loudly, before returning her eyes to mine.
“I gotta go,” she said. “But you can call me Mary.” She stuck her finger at me with such force that I could almost feel it pressing accusingly into my chest. “I’ll get your name later.”
With that, she picked up her skateboard, hopping onto it and kicking off in one powerful move. I watched her disappear into the night, wondering when this ‘later’ would come.
After our first meeting, Mary took it upon herself to visit twice a month. She believed that she had to keep me company. I couldn’t exactly bring myself to mind, so she became an accepted presence of my nights. Outside of that, I rarely saw her.
Sometimes, we’d stay inside, and I’d read a book while she drew on whatever she could find, or she’d force me to watch movies she hated with an intense passion, or we’d swap stories, or sit in a comfortable silence. I’d inevitably fall asleep before her on these nights, and she’d be gone when I awoke.
Other nights, she’d drag me to the bowling alley, a “teens club”, a marathon at the movies, or really any place two teenagers could go without a car. On one particularly disastrous occasion, Mary attempted to teach me how to skate; her angry shout of, “What the - how… You’re toast!” and the marathon I’d run trying to escape her after I managed to cleave her - now ex - boyfriend’s board in half would haunt me for years.
It was January of my senior year when I first decided choose where to go. Snow was falling lazily outside, and within my apartment, the heat was turned up as high as I thought I could risk and still pay my electric bill - which is to say, my bedroom, in which I had swaddled myself in any blankets I could scrounge up, was not very warm.
Mary usually chose what we did, but it always seemed as though it were more for me than her. So, at 11PM that Tuesday night, seeing glimmering snowflakes begin to float down, I wondered how much she would enjoy going night-skating.
While winter afforded me the coordination of a feline doped on catnip, Mary loved the snow. She had once spent the whole night sketching snowflakes she saw through my window, her excitement infectious as she practically shoved the drawings into my face. Look! They’re all different!
Mary didn’t show up by midnight, nor did she appear by 1AM. I continued to wait, but the most uncomfortable feeling of dread was building up in my abdomen, tracing up my spine and leaving worrying tingles on the back of my neck.
I tried not to worry; she wasn’t great about punctuality, but she always showed.
I ran out of good music to listen to by 2:30 and discarded my headphones under my pillow.
I finished the book I was reading at 3:15.
At 3:20, I tried to sleep.
At 3:40, the familiar sensation of asphyxiation having jolted me awake, I began to count the snowflakes hidden around my room. I clenched the bracelet around my wrist, my name written in painted charms.
I threw off my covers, practically sprinting to the windowsill, and pushed open the doors, ignoring the cold air that seeped in to claim my apartment as its own. Mary didn’t even wait for me to get out of the way as she leapt inside, and, despite my diminutive stature, I managed to catch her.
The first thing she did when she stood on her own two feet was interrogate me. “Why are you still up? You should be sleeping!” she lectured. I sighed, running my fingers through my hair as I slammed the window closed.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I replied. “I was waiting for you.”
She frowned at that, but there was something deeper to the expression. I took in her appearance. In the light of my nightlight, I could see that her boots were on the wrong feet and her eyes were red. I gently took her skateboard from her arms, placing it on the floor by the wetness she had tracked in.
“C’mon,” I said. “It’s cold.” I led her to my untidy blanket fort, and she immediately collapsed onto it. I laughed, and managed to coax her into helping me bundle us up on my bed.
When we were comfortably blanketed, I asked the dreaded question. “What happened?”
Immediately, she stiffened, and then further curled into my side. She was taller than me so it didn’t work that well, but I reached an arm around her shoulders for comfort.
“I was planning on showing up early because I had something awesome planned out, but then Alexander Sebastian Servington called up and my parents made me go hang out with him.” Mary never called her ex-boyfriend by anything but his full name. I had never had the displeasure of meeting him, as I lived on the opposite side of town from the wealthier neighborhoods and elite private school, but I had decided early on that I would give him a physical bruise to match the number Mary had done on his ego when she dumped him.
“I met him at school at 10, and he told me that would change himself to match my ‘delinquent tendencies’ if I would love him or something like that.” I tried not to groan at her words.
“And then I waited for two hours while he and his friends tried to figure out how to work a spraycan. When they failed, I did all the work for them ‘cause I couldn’t let something like that go unfinished.” Of course she did.
“After that, he proclaimed that he had gotten his mother to get the school to turn off the security cameras for a day, and the goons attempted to break into several different classrooms. One of them tore a hole in his expensive pants and started crying. It was around then I tried to leave, but, of course, they didn’t let me.”
“And then I flirted with one of them until Alexander Sebastian Servington got pissed and punched him, and I got outta there.” She paused for a moment. “And then my parents got pissed that I ditched the date I didn’t want to go on with my ex- that I only dated ‘cause they wanted me to and started screaming so I left.”
The last part came out in a jumbled rush, but I had heard the story before enough times to get the jist of it. I squeezed her shoulder.
“Let’s get your mind off things, then,” I said because that’s all I could really do. “One of them tore a hole in his pants?”
“Right leg, right next to the crotch, she confirmed. “Some people just don’t know how to land correctly.”
We continued to talk, laughing, swapping stories we’d both heard before for a while. At some point, I dozed off.
My dreams were chaotic, mixed with screams and the icy blue of the ocean and the painful constriction of my seat belt. Someone was lifting me up, but I was also falling, and screaming out hysterically. My mother was shouting, but her words were garbled, like children making bubbles with their mouths in a pool.
Then, there was an unfamiliar sensation on my neck. It was distinct, so separate from the clashing feelings I was experiencing, that I was shocked into reality once more. My eyes blurred as they opened, and I blinked a few time to see Mary hovering over me.
I opened my mouth to apologize, and she shook her head, brushing my hair off of my neck again.
“Shh, Sammy,” she whispered. “Don’t worry. I’m here.” Immediately, her voice soothed the nervousness that was causing the hairs on my body to bristle, the cold sweat that had settled on my forehead. I closed my eyes with a contented hum.
I could feel her chapped lips press against my forehead. I smiled as they ghosted down to rest against my own.
“Good night.” I cracked my eyes open just a bit to see light beginning to peek through the clouds of night. “Or, I guess, good morning.”643Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡeW4Ktdhu9N