“Does that lamp work?” I ask.

He wordlessly turns it on, and it casts a diffuse circle of light around us. I’m almost afraid to look at him.

The crumpled papers on the table are fast-food wrappers. Not a secret poet, then. Next to the table there’s a dusty gray tarp covering something, or somethings. The ground is littered with tools—wrenches, wire cutters in various sizes, hammers, and a few others that I don’t recognize. There’s even a blowtorch.

I finally look over at him.

His elbows are on his knees and he’s staring out at the slowly brightening sky.

“What do you do up here?” I ask.

“That can’t possibly matter right now.” His voice is hard and he doesn’t look at me. There’s no trace of the boy who kissed me so desperately a few minutes ago. His fear for me has crowded everything else out.

Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.

“I have pills,” I say.

He’s barely moving as it is, but now he grows completely still. “What pills?”

“They’re experimental, not FDA-approved. I ordered them online. From Canada.” The lie is easy, effortless. “Online? How do you know they’re even safe?”

“I did a lot of research.”

“But still, you can’t be sure—“

“I’m not reckless.” I hold his eyes. These lies are for his own protection. Already he looks relieved.

I press on. “They should give me a few days outside. I didn’t tell my mom because she wouldn’t want to risk it, but I—”

“Because it’s risky. You just said they’re not FDA—”

“They’re safe enough for a few days.” My tone holds no doubt. I wait, hoping that he will swallow the lie.

“Jesus.” He drops his face into his hands and holds it there. When he looks up, it’s a less obstinate Olly staring back at me. Even his voice softens. “You could have told me this five minutes ago.”

I make my best effort to lighten the mood. “We were kissing! And then you were getting angry with me.” I’m blushing from the talk of kissing and from my easy lying. “I was going to tell you. I am telling you. I just did.”

He’s much too smart to fall for this, but he wants it to be true. He wants it to be true more than he wants the truth. The smile that breaks across his face is cautious, but so beautiful that I can’t look away. I would lie to him again for that smile.

“Now,” I say. “What’s under that thing?”

He hands me a corner of the tarp and I pull it aside.

At first I’m not sure what I’m looking at. It’s like reading a seemingly random collection of words before the sentence becomes clear.

“It’s beautiful,” I say.

“It’s called an orrery.”

“This is what you’ve been doing up here? Making universes?”

He shrugs.

A small wind blows and the planets spin slowly. We both watch their motion without speaking.

“Are you sure about this?” Doubt has crept back into his voice.

“Please help me, Olly. Please.” I point to the orrery. “I need to escape, too, just for a little while.”

He nods. “Where do you want to go?”

Aloha means HELLO
AND good-bye, Part TWO

Happy Already

“Mads, be serious. We can’t go to Hawaii.”

“Why not? I got us plane tickets. I booked us a hotel.”

We’re sitting in Olly’s car in the driveway. He puts the key in the ignition, but doesn’t turn it.

“Are you kidding?” he asks, scrutinizing my face for evidence that I’m kidding. He doesn’t find any and begins shaking his head slowly. “Hawaii is three thousand miles away.”

“Hence the airplane.”

He ignores my attempt at levity. “You’re serious? When did you do this? How? Why?”

“One more question and you’ll have a Fast Five,” I say.

He leans forward, presses his forehead into the steering wheel.

“Last night with a credit card because I want to see the world.”

“You have a credit card?”

“I got my own a few weeks ago. There are perks to hanging out with an older woman.”

He pulls his forehead off the wheel, but still stares straight ahead not meeting my eyes. “What if something happens to you?”

“Nothing will.”

“But what if it does?”

“I have the pills, Olly. They’re going to work.”

He squeezes his eyes shut and puts his hand on the key. “You know we have plenty of world right here in Southern California.”

“But no humuhumunukunukuapua’a.”

A small half smile forms at the corner of his lips. I need to make it spread across his entire face.

He turns to face me. “What are you talking about?”

“The humuhumunukunukuapua’a.”

“What is a humu-whatever?”

“The state fish of Hawaii.”

His smile broadens. “Of course it is.” He turns the key in the ignition. His eyes linger on his house and his smile fades, just slightly. “How long?”

“Two nights.”

“OK.” He grabs my hand and gives it a quick kiss. “Let’s go see this fish.”

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