Lights On The Bay-A scene from ‘Everything That Counts’

Before I fell to deep into despair over Chris’s circumstances we were driving down the narrow brick streets of downtown Annapolis. On each side of us were row-houses. Most were brick, others with wood shutters, and they ranged in color from cardinal red to snow white. You could see large Christmas trees covered in lights in each bay window on the bottom floor, and all the steps leading to the front door were sprinkled with large grains of salt. It didn’t snow often so close to the water, but it always iced. Invisible ‘black’ ice was the worst.
My father parked and we strolled down West Street with a couple dozen other families. The Capital building loomed behind us, the harbor a few blocks ahead of us. The narrow inlet that Kunta Kinte had been brought to was what locals called ‘Ego Alley’ because only people with the nicest boats sail by in essentially a three point turn, just to show off to the entire town.
Tonight the sailors would have a parade of sorts. Their rigs would be outfitted with Christmas lights, and they’d take them across the entire harbor making sure to make a pass through downtown. The displays were innovative: glittering snow flakes forming the outline of the sails, the Grinch climbing up and down the mast with a full sack of presents, gingerbread men doing cartwheels on the deck, and purple lights strung across the entire boat that met at point starboard forming the beak of a raven.
I found it odd how much Maryland used Edgar Allen Poe as the state mascot, when his only connection was to have the misfortune of dying here.
I thought about that until I gazed out onto the sparkling lights from the next boat. The smell of the water, the frozen breeze that whipped my cheeks, and a starry night above me made me feel at ease. Being in nature made me feel at home, at least until I got hungry.
Through the crowd Lilly and Sophie maneuvered their way on the wooden dock towards my brothers and I. She and Lilly seemed deep in conversation but Sophie still threw a glance our way. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to play it cool, didn’t want to let on that I’d stayed up all night polishing a music box. Especially since saying the words aloud would only give my brothers more gasoline to the fire that was their unending torment of me. As Sophie’s face caught the light I realized that my creation could never be anywhere near her beauty.
David wrapped his arms around my best friend before I could say a word to her. “I hear you’re gonna be dancing at the Kennedy Center!”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Sophie said. The girls looked as if they’d just come from rehearsal for Swan Lake. Their faces were perfectly made up with a line of black above their eyes and bright red lips, hair wrapped in a tight bun on top of their heads.
“You’ll have to do the Nutcracker next year so I can get off school and see it.”
“This is probably gonna be my last year, David.”
“Because,” I said. “She’s attending Johns Hopkins next year, duh.”
“Chris always said you were ten times smarter than this dummy here.” David punched me in the arm, and I hated to admit that it hurt. “And just like him I’ll make time away from school so I can interrogate any creep that thinks he’s good enough to date you.”
Sophie rolled her eyes, “Well you won’t miss much school since I haven’t been asked out by anyone. Ever.”
Lilly grinned. “There is Trace.”
My heart stopped beating, and an overpowering need to clean my room took up all the free space in my brain.
“He’s not my boyfriend, Lilly,” Sophie said.
“So what? He’s just been IMing you every night, and says he needs a” Lilly made quotation marks in the air with her fingers, “‘study buddy’ in order to keep his full ride at Penn State.”
I threw up in my mouth a little when I realized that Trace Allen had been accepted to Penn State when he hadn’t read anything more advanced than Cliff Notes.
Sophie shoved Lilly in the ribs. “He’s having trouble in Algebra!”
“Probably because I’m in Calculus and he can’t cheat off me anymore,” I muttered. Sophie shot me a look of disdain.
“Is this guy Gracie’s little brother?” David asked.
“You should know, you took her to Prom,” Mike said.
“Oh, yeah, the blonde, right?”
“No,” I said. “She’s a brunette you idiot.”
“That’s why I want to meet any guy you wanna date, Sophie. Can’t be dating players like me.” David ran his hand through his long wavy brown hair and I noticed a few girls in the crowd began to drool.
“I’m telling you, David. There’s no one.”
Mike chuckled. “I would have thought you’d get a boyfriend before this freak got a girlfriend. Especially one as hot as Zoe Malone.”
“It just doesn’t make sense, you know, Sophie? I mean you’re pretty, and Blake is a total dipshit,” David said.
My jaw was clenched so tight I didn’t know how words came out of my mouth, much less why I chose them. “Zoe’s not my girlfriend.”
“Well you obviously haven’t slept with her because she’d dump you after the worst thirty seconds of her life.” David laughed and Mike high fived him. Lilly giggled and Sophie turned beet red before she looked down at her shoes.
I turned to my older brother, “You’re the biggest as…” I growled.
My mother joined the group and interrupted me. “Lilly will you take a picture of us please?” She nodded and took the camera from my Mom. When Sophie stepped away from us Mom pulled her back and said, “No, stay here, you’re a part of our family too.” She positioned her in-between Mike and me.
Even though rage was still surging through my body, when the tips of my fingers brushed the cuff of her gloves, I wanted to hold her hand. I pictured weaving my fingers with hers as we walked back to our parents cars, and we wouldn’t have to say anything to each other. Simply exist.
Instead I spent the rest of the night sulking.

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