Mia flicked the cigarette butt into the air, burning end, a cancerous firefly, drunk on the night air. The boy, four years younger, and eager to impress, darted forward, shoulders pushed back, kicking loose rocks that scattered across the abandoned parking lot. This is his fourth attempt and he continues to miss catching the butt. Mia thinks he’s a fool, but no one older wants to bother with her. There are rumors. Blowjobs and witchcraft, but the boys are scared of her make-up, her stares, the way she hides her body at the pool, and loves to sit in the middle of the skate park, wheels whizzing by her outstretched fingers. We’re all just inches away from harm. But this boy, twelve and smirking, his eagerness as common as a dog’s wagging tail. Most nights he met her here, told her he could keep her secrets, that maybe that was all there was to love.
The fuck do you know about it.
Can’t you feel it? There are moons between us, pulling us closer.
He pulled out a thick black book, cover half-ripped, glittering with fake stars. He believed in science. Controlled chaos, and the power of coincidences.
Mia lit another cigarette, the red spark of fire just another planet between them. She was agnostic toward anything she couldn’t see. She blew out the smoke. And waited for the scream to bubble out of her throat and into the open air. When nothing erupted, she flicked the butt again, wondering if love was something more than physical.
Butt pinwheeling, a roulette wheel without numbers. The boy dove, elbows catching on the abrasive concrete, hand outstretched. He rocked onto his knees, cigarette caught between his knuckles.
Told you I could do it.
Well, aren’t you Joe-Fucking-Cool?
The stoplight changed from green to yellow to red, casting its colors onto the sidewalks and against the dirty windows of out of business shops.
Now get off your knees before someone sees us.
He reminded her of that show, The Bachelor. Everyone playing out a fantasy, and getting depressed when they gave into the thought of the world being just another nightmare. Dark shit, her mother would say. And keep it to yourself. But here was the boy, swiping his hair out of his face, his smile cracking at the edges of his lips, holding out, hoping she’d forget about herself for just a minute.
I won’t tell anyone. I swear. It’ll be just a thing we did.
The street was empty, full of possibility, and she hated it. How the sidewalks weren’t any safer, but still she clung to them.
It can’t just be any kiss. She yanked on his arm, got him flailing to his feet and into the street, stopping in the middle of the cross walk, the stop light bronzing them in yellow.
You’ve got until a car comes. She closed her eyes and waited for the stars to fall, for her moon to fall out of orbit.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. His interviews have been previously published in New Flash Fiction Review, The Rumpus, CRAFT Literary, and The Town Crier (The Puritan). He led writing workshops for the Barrelhouse Conversations and Connections conference, The Lafayette Writer’s Workshop, Bending Genres, and for Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash. Find him @TommyDeanWriter.