Teenage boys have really bad ideas sometimes. Sometimes they don't outgrow them even as you'd think they ought to.
I don't know what to sayHe uncovered my eyes. There's a tree in front of me, wider than I can hug, with boards nailed in a makeshift ladder up the trunk. Surprise.
But I'm going to want you till the stars evaporate
We're only here for just a moment in the light
One day it shines for us the next we're in the night
The tree house? I can go up?
But you said it was too dangermouse.
Dangerous. We made it safer.
I climb the ladder gingerly, still managing to scrap my knees and elbows on the edges of the wood as I make my way up. When I get to the top of the ladder I climb through the hole and I kneel on the floor of the treehouse to peer back down but Lochlan is right behind me. There's a few candles, half a case of beer and a blanket spread out nicely, like for a picnic.
This is cool!
Lochlan cracks open a beer but doesn't offer me any. Because he's sixteen and I'm not yet. I know. I think he's in a bad mood though. He sits back on the blanket and pats the space beside him. Come sit.
When is Caleb coming?
Soon. I don't know. Just as he says that Caleb calls Lochlan's name. Lochlan hollers back down the hole that we're up here.
Caleb makes it to the top in record time and then sits down hard. He wavers as he unloads his backpack. More beer. A portable radio. Matches. Candles. I think he's drunk.
What are those things for? I ask him with my ten-year-old curiosity.
Us. So we can have a nice evening. He is drunk. His words are running together and I can't understand him very well. Lochlan frowns as they smash beer cans together. Cheers, brother.
Lochlan rubs my back and acts very territorial. This isn't a first but it's weird.
Did you bring anything for me to drink? I ask Caleb, who stares unsteadily at Lochlan all the while pulling a beer off the stack.
Here you go, Baby.
Lochlan takes it first, opens it and hands it to me reluctantly. I take a sip. It's warm and a little bubbly and not sweet like pop at all. I put it down. I'll just pretend to drink it, I guess.
Caleb finishes his beer in what seems like five seconds. Come here, Bridget.
I listen to him. He's the oldest, at eighteen. I always listen to him. I slide over beside him and he puts his arm around me, pulling me in close. He holds my face up with his free hand and kisses me solidly on the mouth. Then he pours beer into my mouth. Just a little.
I swallow it and sit with a thrilled feeling in my stomach. Caleb is cute and he is the oldest and if he's interested in me instead of Bailey then this. is. magnificent. Everyone loves Bailey. No one has any time for little goofy Bridget.
Speaking of the Devil, I hear a group of people arrive at the treehouse. It's deep in the woods between the lake and Blueberry Mountain. None of the grownups come out here. All of the kids do.
Bailey pokes her head through the floor of the treehouse. Ah. It's occupied I see.
Yeah, we've got some beer.
Shit. We were going to smoke up here.
Come up then, Lochlan seems relieved suddenly that our picnic is ruined. He slides over to my other side and holds my beer, which I go to take from him before realizing he isn't handing it to me.
Are you giving my sister beer? She's ten! Bailey's mad and jealous. She's almost as old as Lochlan. Beer is for the older kids.
No. Don't be silly. She's ten.
Then why is she here?
She wanted to come with us. Caleb lies and Lochlan nods.
I think I'll take her home. Bailey eyes them both suspiciously.
I'm just hanging out, Bay.
Not with these two, you're not, Bridge.
I'll be home by nine.
She stares at Lochlan. He covers easily. We're just having a beer and showing Bridget the treehouse. I'll make sure she gets home by curfew.
You'd better, or else.
Don't worry. You can trust me. Lochlan grins at her so easily I get a weird pang about that too. My stomach hurts now. Great.
She finally looks at me for a long time and then they leave in a big group and it's back to the three of us.
Caleb's eyes and his teeth glitter in the half light. He looks like a wolf in the dark. Finish your beer, Bridget.
I think she's right. I should go.
I'll take you home, Lochlan says quickly while Caleb shakes his head and swears at the sky.
Bye, Princess. Come again soon! He laughs and tilts his beer up. I'll just go fuck myself I guess.
Lochlan punches him in the arm and then goes around me, halfway through the hole. Back out and climb down the way you climbed up. He has his arms around my legs, making a cage as we go down.
It's on the long walk back to our neighborhood that he tells me he's glad I wanted to leave. I thought he meant so he could be alone with me to talk on the way home. Which is far cooler than any attention I can beg from Caleb, honestly.
It wasn't until a few years later that Christian told me they bragged that they were taking me up there to mess around but no one took them seriously because of my age and it was soon after that that Lochlan came clean and admitted he didn't really want to but he knew if he wasn't there I would go anyway. Because of Caleb. Because I could never ever leave well enough alone and have put myself in his sights even as he's painted a big target on my back.
Nothing's changed, Lochlan says as he wakes up. I have my arms around him, my head against his chest, and wrapped around my back holding tight is Caleb, who slept hard again last night. He's been here for days. Nights. Things are different since. That night at the treehouse Caleb dodged a bullet that would hit him square in the heart a year later when Lochlan wasn't there to save us all from this future we haven't escaped yet, even as we run as fast as we can.
At least it's no longer wrong to touch me, I tell Lochlan.
Depends on who you ask.