The Moon Instead

by kiley reid

I told my mother I was going on a mission trip but I went to the moon instead. It was as simple as not getting off the bus, and I didn’t even pretend to be sleeping.

“Did I just mess up my eyes?” The girl in the seat ahead of me turned around and closed her eyes. She had freckled shoulders and looked like Spring Break. That night she would become the only girl I’d ever meet who cut grapes in half and remembered the Pythagorean theorem.

“No.”

“Good. I always sneeze when I put makeup on. It’s so dumb.”

“I’m Anna,” I shouted. I knew that this was the only way I’d get it out.

She smiled before she said, “No you’re not.” She pinched her cheeks in her mirror. “Trust me. Let’s get you a new name, sister.”

Her name was Lark and her friends had a key to her room. They were there before we arrived. They asked me why I had such a big backpack. They smeared glitter along my lips and chin. Vodka on the moon was slow like a canticle. You could steal a shot if you were fast enough. The beer glowed pink like slapped skin.

When we floated down the street in jean cut offs and more mascara, Lark and her friends picked out my new name. O’Keefe was trying too hard. Lu sounded fat. I felt cool fingers around my elbow when Ayn, the one who’d asked me why I was so tall, said, “Let’s call her Friday. Cause she’s finally here.”

We played red rover without meaning to, shoving each other into the boys we’d met on the rooftop of someone’s dad’s friend’s apartment who was out of town for the whole weekend. A guy with two different colored eyes tapped his beer on the top of mine, and mine started to fizz over.

I bent my body away from it. “Ohhh, well, there it goes I guess.”

“You’re supposed to drink it!”

“Oh right.” I licked foam off my thumb. I missed some and it soared towards Jupiter.

“No, not like that,” he tried. “You’re supposed to like-”

“What?” The music was too loud.

“Never mind.”

“Sorry-”

Fingers at my elbow. “Can I show you something real quick?” I knew it was her and said, “Absolutely.”

Ayn watched me take careful steps down the ladder and into a bedroom with teal tapestries. There was a mug filled with sour coffee on a nightstand. On the side it read I Woke Up Like You.

“I did something kind of crazy.” She closed the door and grinned. She unhooked the suspenders holding up her denim overalls and let them play on her knees. She lifted up her tank top and showed me her stomach. The right side was bleached in gold.

“Is that a tattoo?”

“Jesus, Friday.” Her hands stayed at the hem of her tank top as she let her head tip back and laugh. I watched her hair shake behind her elbows. “No one calls them that anymore. So come on, do you like it?”

“I think I love it,” I said. And it felt like the first true thing I’d ever said.

“No one knows,” she swore to me. “And you can’t tell. I can’t trust anyone but you.”

I sat down on the bed and couldn’t tell if I was very sad or finally tipsy.

“Why?”

She pressed her lips together woefully and raised her shoulders in an I-don’t-know.

Ayn started to button her suspenders back but stopped at the second one. She shivered like she’d just heard a creepy story and said, “Man, I feel like we should kiss or something, don’t you?” She sat down next to me and put her palm up to my temple. “What’s your real name?”

“Oof…” I scooted half an inch away. “I’m just- I don’t know. I don’t really know how to do this.”

She laughed and said, “Of course you don’t.” She put both of her hands on my shoulders, like she were checking to see if I had an eyelash, and said, “No one does. That’s the whole point.”

Ayn kissed me, and I felt my face lift far away from all the times I’d said ‘I’m sorry’ when I really wasn’t. My heart hovered just beneath my tongue.

On the bus ride home everyone was high on Jesus and miracles. I decided not to listen to my IPod; I didn’t want any song to capture this feeling. I wanted it to last a little longer by itself. But then someone started singing Oh you can’t get to heaven (you can’t get to heaven) on roller skates (on roller skates). I tried to look into the sky, but all I could see was my own reflection.

 

 

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Kiley Reid’s fiction has appeared in The Other Stories Podcast, One Throne Magazine, Corium, and others. She is completing her second novel and currently works the front desk at a design firm called IDEO. More at Kileyreid.com

 

Art: “Cassini Looked Back, But I Wasn’t There” by Audrey Knight
Audrey Knight is a former animator and current writer and illustrator, living and working in and around Los Angeles. More can be found on audreyknight.com.