Issue 33 Feb 2016
Kat and I, we had a code. When things got too real, and one of us didn’t want to talk about it, we’d say four little words: Save it for later. Sometimes “later” never actually arrived, but that wasn’t actually the point. It was just a way to make space. To breathe.
Neither of us could remember when it started. Kat lived across the street from me, and we’d been best friends for as long as I could remember. But it might’ve been when her parents split up, back in the sixth grade. One day, I saw her standing on her front porch with her little brother, and she had her hands over top of his ears. I couldn’t see their folks, but I could hear them.
“I don’t want them, you take them!”
“The hell I will!”
Kat was crying, but being quiet about it. I crossed the street, not sure what I could do but pretty sure I should do something. She shook her head at me, and mouthed one word: Go.
“What’s going on, Kat? Are you all right?”
“I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Jilly.”
“Save it for later, okay?”
Kat’s dad moved out that weekend. Her mom kept the shades drawn on all the windows for months, and we stopped hanging out at Kat’s place after school. She always had an excuse for why we should be somewhere else.
Their lawn grew into a weedy, overgrown mess that spring. Eventually, my dad went over with his mower and fixed it up. Mrs. Archer must have taken it as a sign or a hint, because things started to get a little better after that. She stopped crying all the time, anyway. That’s as much as I knew about it, because Kat wasn’t talking.
Save it for later wasn’t only about the big stuff, though. We used it on little things, too. Like when I had a crush on Danny Wright but didn’t want anyone to know. Or when Kat got a test back with red pen all over it, and she didn’t want to tell me her grade. We were best friends, but even best friends sometimes have limits. Borders. My walls were never as high as hers, though.
Zach Turner swung his backpack over his shoulder so quickly that he stumbled over. His face grew red as he muttered barely comprehensible apologies and pushed in his chair. He zigzagged through rows of impatient students and once he made it to the door, he let loose and blurred past flat cities of green lockers. The light of the open door at the end of the main hall grew larger and larger until he immersed himself in fresh October air.
“Last call for Bus #12,” a voice boomed over the PA system.
Zach looked over to the bus in question. The bus driver revved up the engines. Zach ran towards the yellow bus. His face was greeted by a stomach of titanium.
“Hey, Freshman! Where are you running off to?” The stomach of titanium was being rubbed by none other than a snarling Braden James. Braden crossed his varsity jacket-sleeved arms. A group of Senior football players, Braden’s minions, gathered around Zach.
“What does it matter to you?” Zach pushed through the group.
“That’s right! Go cry home to your mommy. Oh wait, she’s never around!” Braden turned to face his minions and all of their voices cackled. Braden spit in right in front of Zach’s feet. “You’re worthless.”