Warmth, Withholding

By Olivia Cleveland

With a half hour to myself before the buses came, I pulled on a very violet and puffed coat that my grandmother had fished out of her closet for me a few days prior. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and looked at myself. At twelve, I was sandy haired and gawky, my grey eyes peering out at myself from behind a pair of thick rimmed wire frames. At that age, I never felt the need to look at myself for very long, and so after turning out the light, I laced up a pair of tennis shoes and headed across the street to the bus stop.

The bus stop was a little shed made from pressed wood sheets, that was painted grey and which stood on the street corner. It had sat there on that corner, unchanged in its shabbiness, for as long as I could remember, and with heavy feet I made my way there. Nestling down on the bench inside of the bus stop, I waited in the crisp winter morning for the bus, alone. Aside from the coos of the mourning doves that roosted in the boughs above the shed, it was quiet.

After a few minutes, I heard the shuffling of footsteps out on the street. One of the older neighbor boys walked into the small bus stop and sat down beside me on the bench. After a moment of silence, he sidled up closer to me. Glancing at him out of the corner of my eye, I saw that he was wearing a thin grey jacket with a hood pulled up over his ears. He turned towards me, only a few inches away.

“Your name is Olivia, right?”

“Yes, it is.” I said. A pause. “What’s yours?”

“James,” he said. His eyes bored into me. “Do you want to kiss me?”

I moved away, into the corner as far as I could, retreating into my coat. “No, I don’t think so, no thank you.” My hands were sweating now, but I felt very cold.

“Come on, kiss me,” he said, moving closer until I could feel the warmth coming off of him.

“I really don’t think so, I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

I could feel my heart throbbing in my fingertips and I turned my face as he pressed his warm lips against my cheek, and then again against my tightly pursed lips. He laughed to himself as I buried my face deeper into my jacket.

There was the sound of more footsteps and a few more kids walked up, more neighbor kids, some with their young siblings in tow. James stood up and walked to meet them and, my face hidden, I dug my fingernails into my palms.

A little while later, there was the screech of the bus brakes as it reeled to a stop in front of the shed. Laughing, the other children piled on and I made my way up the dusty steps to find a seat. As the bus moved on, I could feel the heater scorching my ankle beneath the seat, but even so, I kept it there. It would not warm me up.

 

Olivia is a student at the University of Central Arkansas and an aspiring writer. While presently building a poetry anthology and looking into freelance writing, becoming a fiction novelist is at the forefront of her mind. She can be reached at any time for commissions or inquiries at oliviahcleveland@gmail.com, and she publishes some of her developing poetry on Tumblr.

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