A Short Story by LittleCelyBackground: I asked my sister one day, "If I wrote you a story, what would you want it to be and what would you want it to have?"
She answered that she wanted a love story where the boy had dark hair and blue eyes and the girl had green eyes and brown hair (she was describing herself). Oh and there had to be a meadow. She didn't say why but insisted. So I decided to go with it. But I didn't want just another cliché so I gave her love story a twist and came up with The Meadow in the Park.
part 2 can be found here.
Bracken was sitting at the very front of the bus, first window seat to the right, staring out at deserted block after deserted block incapable of keeping still. His constant fidgeting was so distracting that the heavy-set bus driver spared him a glance from his rearview mirror every now and then. It seemed to be more out of curiosity than concern however, since this particular route heading just outside the city limits was never particularly crowded, especially at this time of day when people tended to be at home, preparing dinner or doing any number of other things that people do at home as sunset starts to take the stage. Few people around these parts were romantic enough to play audience to the sun’s final act so if anybody did decide to head out they would be going towards the city, not the other way around, at least not in this direction.
As Bracken bounced to the double rhythm of his feet and that of the bus on the unkempt pavement, he was keeping an eye out for every coming stop through his graffiti scratched window, doing a quiet count down as they approached his desired destination at the maddeningly slow pace of his large red bearded chauffeur. Finally the next stop was approaching, four more to go after this one and what was more it was empty and nobody had taken the time to press one of the red buzzers evenly spaced throughout the bus signaling their desire to get off. They had no reason to stop. And yet Bracken’s fidgeting came to a sudden halt as he felt the bus decelerate and then stop at the exact point of the empty bus stop. The driver then pulled the lever to his right, opening the bus doors to ghosts. They were given plenty of time to get on his bus and find an empty seat, of which there were plenty. Bracken had an alarmingly silent but brief fit making faces and messing up his dark hair in frustration. The bus had arrived late at the stop were he had first got on and now he had a good idea why. Pulling himself together but no less enraged, he shot a glare at the bus driver with a look of such intensity that clearly said, “ARE YOU FUKIN’ INSANE?!”
The glare and the message were not lost on the driver. He had felt both and while they did take him slightly aback he stared right back through his rearview mirror, at the intense blue eyes of the lanky schoolboy whose wild hair gave him a slightly deranged look. While it did nothing to strike fear into the heart of the driver, it did make him laugh which enraged Bracken all the more. As if in apology, the driver lowered his gaze with a smile and got the bus moving. While he never kept a pace Bracken would have agreed with, he mercifully kept from stopping for ghosts again.
Two to three stops later, Bracken had already returned to his impatient dance in his seat and vigil out the window, sitting on his hands. With one stop to go the buzzer sounded and the bus slowed to allow two middle-aged women and their son to get off. The little boy laughed hysterically as his mothers swung him by his hands out in front of them through the doors at the back of the bus making him float towards the ground and land safely. As soon as the doors closed behind them and the bus started to move again, Bracken reached out to the pole in front of him, lifting himself slightly as he reached for the buzzer and pressed. Had it been any other passenger, the driver would have stopped immediately thinking that someone had forgotten or hadn’t had the time to get off at the stop they were just starting to leave behind. Knowing better and not fancying a physical attack from a teenage boy a fraction his width, he kept driving.
Having his stop finally in view Bracken got up and stood in front of the door next to the driver bouncing on the balls of his feet. As soon as the doors were open wide enough to let him through he launched himself off the bus never even sparing a glance for the red bearded bus driver who due to Bracken, enjoyed his job a little more than that day. Now free from the danger of ensuing that same boy’s wrath, the driver allowed himself a good-hearted chuckle as he got ready to get the bus moving again while at the same time watching the retreating back of the boy running up the way towards an abandoned construction site which, if he remembered correctly, was just in front of a park that would surely be empty around this time. Were boys always this romantic? he wondered to himself, a smile on his lips and fond memories in his heart.
Bracken had reached the ruins of what now looked like half an old outlet mall that he was sure they had passed the last time they’d come by before finding their meadow in the park. The problem was that last time he had been with Olive, who had led the way. The momentary disorientation made him pause for the first time and he allowed himself a look at his watch. Knowing he was late, he still wasn’t sure by how much. On the bus he had refused to check the time. He’d been stressed out enough already with the late arrival of the bus that he didn’t want to push himself over the edge by slowly watching how quickly his own lateness grew. Now with nervousness overtaking him his watch showed him a minute hand six numbers ahead of where he would have wanted it to be.
Behind the mall! He reminded himself. Yes, behind the mall and then…
Ignoring the announcements inviting him to the grand re-opening of the Buy Stuff outlet mall taking place three months ago, he ran round the place making it to the back and caught a view of the park not fifty steps away. Giving the park entrance a quick scan he remembered that he had to enter from the right. Bracken picked up the pace once again and jogged into the park and then headed towards a playground to his left. There next to the swing set were the two large containers that would lead him where he needed to be. However, he stopped at the swing set to catch his breath and reached up to flatten his hair. He had to be cool and composed. She couldn’t see him blundering in like an idiot in the secret spot they had stumbled upon. The magical spot where they could be alone. Where they could be together.
Finally satisfied with himself and unwilling to wait any longer, he took another deep breath and walked quickly past the containers, preparing to apologize profusely for his lateness. Except that he walked into emptiness. He was in the right place. He had reached the very top of the hill, in the middle of their beautiful meadow of tall grass and wild flowers looking out towards the city in the valley below. Some lights were already visibly twinkling in the coming twilight. But the picture wasn’t complete and would never be complete without her. He must’ve missed her on his way in. He began to call out her name turning to look around and as soon as his left foot had taken all his weight in mid-turn, was when she decided to strike. Bracken was tackled to the ground by a wild mass of curly honey colored hair and caught off balance, they fell together. Olly laughed as Bracken only managed to let out the “Oll” of her name.
“You’re late!” Olly declared playfully smiling down at her captured prey.
“Yeah, well… So much for being cool, huh?” Winded and just slightly sore, Bracken accepted the defeat willingly as his smile played witness to his being the happiest man in the world at this very moment looking into the dark green eyes of his most favorite person in the world. Reaching for her he pulled her face towards his and kissed her, then held her, and she returned every kiss and every embrace.
Olly sitting up was looking out towards the city as Bracken with his head on her lap looked from her face to the sky blanketed in stars and back again. He had her hand grasped in both of his and turned to examine it instead and soon began planting soft kisses here and there. She smiled as she turned to look at him and took her other hand spread it wide and plopped it on top of his face as if it were demanding its own kisses as well. He let out a laugh and obliged the jealous hand as Olly returned her gaze to the blinking lights of the city and they began to talk about nothing for a few more hours.
The meadow was playing host to a soft breeze that danced with the flowers, tall grass and the stray strands of hair of the two young people sitting back-to-back in contemplative silence. They formed a parallel line to the city as they leaned into each other. Olly, whose hair was more prone to dance than Bracken’s, enjoyed their occasional silences very much. They were comfortable. Safe. Feeling the solidity of his lean back against her own she was very aware of his presence and reveled in the fact that she could simply be with him and forget everything else.
“I saw your Dad today,” Bracken said. He would remember more often than she would have liked. “Marty. I saw him.”
Olly took her time before answering, contemplating the flowers growing around her feet. She chose one, plucked it and crushed it in her closed fist.
“Bracken, you see him everyday.”
“Yeah. I know.” He allowed the silence to envelop them again but it wasn’t the comfortable one of before. Olly felt the solidness of his back waver just for a second and she immediately turned to him. Visible even in the little light left to them she could still make out the silent tears running down his face. He turned his head trying to hide them from Olly and her fist slackened. She leaned in closer and kissed the tears off his face as the crushed flower scattered into the wind.
Bracken sat in his usual seat by the window at the front of the bus with his heavy backpack in the empty seat to his left. They were meeting a few hours earlier that usual today but all the same he was later than what was common for him. He had barely caught up to Aster, the TA, asking him how much the penalty would be for turning his gender relations essay in late: one letter grade per day. Well, thought Bracken to himself, I can live with a B. Right leg bouncing to a rhythm all its own, he took a look at his window examining the information scratched into it, hoping it would somehow make the trip shorter. While rude words and pictures tended to be the norm with scratched messages, Bracken found himself tracing the form of a heart enclosing the initials C & M with 4 Eva etched below.
“I hope you’re not planning on scratching any public service announcements while you’re visiting my workplace son,” the bus driver, large in height and dark in skin, gave him a warning look through his rearview mirror not at all unkind.
“No sir,” Bracken answered calmly and with complete honesty. The driver nodded his head in approval and continued the slow pace that Bracken will never approve of. He turned his attention to how the driver had decided to personalize his “workplace.” He had known other bus drivers to do the same but this one, he decided, was now one of his favorites. He was a family man. Little figurines obviously made by children littered his dash and a handmade necklace dangled from the rearview mirror. Bracken could just barely see, on the driver’s left hand side, a picture of his family. It held two small children, one dark, another light, flanked by their parents who stood like guards protecting precious treasures. They looked happy. Bracken let out a sigh and looked out his window staring at nothing.
One stop to go. He waited until they were half a block away before reaching for the buzzer. Bag hanging from his already complaining shoulder Bracken headed for the exit but before taking his leave he turned to the bus driver and gave him a small, “Thank you.” Warm smile on his lips, the family man gave a nod of farewell before closing the doors to his office behind the young man.
Walking briskly past the outlet mall frozen in time, Bracken took the familiar path through the park towards the playground into the most perfect place he had ever known. He had barely stepped past the containers when Olly snapped her head around receiving him with a beautiful smile on her face. Sitting in the middle of the meadow she looked like the wildest of the wild flowers surrounding her. Her hair was making a halo around her head that only added to her beauty. She hadn’t changed a bit and she fit in perfectly. The perfect person in their most perfect place above the world. It was enough to make him lose all composure. He let his bag drop to the ground with a thump and he softly tackled her, taking her down with him. She started laughing before he even reached her. She had had plenty of time to evade his pathetically cute attack but she decided to let him believe that this was his win to take.
They kissed and held each other like starving men eat when presented with a feast. And if it weren’t for the need to breath they might have stayed like that for hours on end. Bracken had Olly pinned under him when he finally pulled his face away from hers. Flushed, they adored each other with their eyes as they stopped to catch their breath. “Goddamn you’re a good kisser,” Bracken said playfully as she laughed and rolled her eyes at his line. Not missing a beat he lowered himself and softly kissed her forehead before adding in a whisper, “and goddamn good to kiss.” He then allowed himself to slump by her side and took her hand in his.
“I heard you were invited to a group date this Friday,” Olly said in an offhand voice regretting the words as soon as they left her mouth. She felt him tense up as she lay with her head on his lap while the hand that had been playing with her tangled mane hesitated for just a moment.
Trying to make up for his body’s betrayal Bracken answered her a little too quickly. “You know about that?” he asked trying to sound unconcerned, “news sure travels fast,” he added with a nervous laugh. He was right of course. Having their daughter home for brief visits throughout the year, Olly’s parents loved to keep her updated on all the gossip going on around the neighborhood. She knew about Bracken’s date, Mrs. Kennedia’s five new cats, and how the Johnsons were filing for divorce.
“It’s okay Bracken,” she said apologetically and brought her hand up to the side of his leg trying to reassure him. “ I understand.” His body had relaxed in defeat more than reassurance but he nodded his head all the same at the blinking lights in front of him.
After a moment of silence he managed to say, “Fil is going too.”
“Good old Filbert,” she addressed her speech to the sky, “he’s always been a friend.”
Olly closed her eyes and allowed her bubbling rage to take over. She got up and yelled at Bracken, at each of their parents, she yelled at freakin’ Filbert, but most of all she yelled out at the blinking lights mocking her from the city. How dare they keep her away from him! How dare they force on them their “rules” and “morals” whose foundations crumbled into dust with careful logical consideration! She hated them! And she hated herself for even mentioning the stupid date at all. As she finished, she took a breath and allowed herself to open her eyes. Bracken had been looking down at her with concern and caring etched on his face, with eyes the same shade of blue as a cloudless summer day. She reached for those eyes and kissed him defying society and all it stood for.
This short story is on the longer side so I decided to split it in two. The second part is here.
Also for avid readers out there, this story is one I included in my Stegner application. If you have any constructive criticism on my writing I would greatly appreciate it. In fact critique it even if it's your first time reading any kind of short story at all! Please!