The small brown house on Cheever Street was very brown. The door to the small brown house on Cheever Street was also brown. Maryon Zeeks slammed it, and the entire brown mass shook like it might topple over and crush her.
To that, she sighed, gladly.
She needed to leave this town. This town needed her to leave.
To her right, the mountains seemed pissed or something: black and gray and shoulder-bladed and like angry pencil zigzags reaching into the sky, which was equally pissed. Maryon’s hair blew around and snapped at her cheeks. The air was warm, but it was not jovial.
Shoes padded behind her, down the old steps that sought immediate revenge on feet that used them.
Quint Higgins stood at the foot. His blonde hair was unruly as hers. He wore his sneakers that didn’t do their job anymore, and his hands were shoved casually into the pockets of his black pants. Of all the black pants he owned, Maryon thought—he had to choose the ones with the tear worn into the everywhere. They were gross. He rose a hand; his fingers held a peace sign.
“For God’s sake,” Maryon muttered, looking him over, “You’re mute not blind. You get dressed in the dark?”
Quint made a gesture that was not so friendly as the peace sign.
Maryon grinned sparklingly and slung her bag up higher over her shoulder. “That’s the kind of ASL I like to see.”
The road to school was mild and tired. Lazy houses popped their hips in the sweltering humidity. Maryon guessed the water in the air was fairly usual for this late May, but she hated it nonetheless. She pushed her hair behind her ears and stared straight. “My dad told me last night that I was not doing so well.”
Quint responded, though not immediately. Maryon liked that.
“No, I know that’s not for him to tell me. But he did.” She kicked at a chalk-sketch on the sidewalk as they passed over it; blue dust flew. “Am I doing well?”
Quint responded, tilted his head up at the dark sky indifferently.
“No, I know that’s not for you to—you know what, never mind.” The county’s one high school was looming like her dad might when he got angry, and Maryon wanted to focus on its concrete walls and how she was going to one day deface all of them; she did not want to focus on the looming.
At lunch, Quint spilled his milk on himself. Maryon laughed and rose to get him a napkin. When she returned, he lay on the floor of the cafeteria—or, at least, what she could see of him did. Three boys—no, four—circled his figure and cackled maniacally, like every bad noise Maryon could recall. Like her own cackle. She hated the connections she drew.
“Hey,” she started, nearing the party, “Hey! Cut it out!”
One boy turned around, midway through the words pissed his pants. She bulled though torsos and took Quint by the arm, half holding him up and half letting him lay where he was on the orange linoleum, milky and sans tears. He wore a stern line in place of his lips Maryon liked so much. She despised the people that took things she loved. Like God.
On the way home after school, the stern line was still there.
“You know, those guys were just trying to make a point out of you.” Maryon frowned at the mountains again. Rain hadn’t yet come.
“I get that, but you know it’s not because of who you are. It’s because of the fact that you can’t say anything to stop them. And that’s not the same thing as who you are.”
Quint responded, but not immediately. Maryon would always like that.
She smiled. “Talking’s overrated, anyway,” she said. “My mom told me one time that I can’t ever forget what I say because it’s who I am, like it’s that valuable. I love her, but that’s the stupidest shit.”
Quint roughly signed that he agreed. He was tired.
Maryon hopped over a flowering weed growing from a crack in the sidewalk. “Though I do wish I could remember half the stuff I say.” She looked at the brown house before her, all defiant of popular color palette with its equally brown door. It was a two-dimensional cardboard piece of theatrical set, neglectfully unpainted, ready to blow over whenever Maryon caught the breath to do so. “I wish it was worth it, though,” she said.
Quint said with his hands that he thought it was worth it, to remember what she said always.
Maryon missed it. “What?”
He said it again.
“Well, maybe I’ll start writing that kind of stuff down.” She considered. “My handwriting’s really bad, though.”
That night, they sat in the yard with music. Quint loved music. Maryon didn’t really care; she only cared that Quint loved music.
Quint wore a thin white t-shirt that accentuated a lot of things Maryon liked. The music was quiet so her dad wouldn’t hear it; this made it easier for her to whisper: “I like you a lot, Quint.”
Quint stopped looking at the sky and closed his eyes. He said that the sky didn’t look very nice tonight. Not as nice as it has lately.
Maryon frowned but thought he was sort of right, like usual. Was he ignoring her? Maybe. She closed her eyes thusly. “Some nights it is, some nights it is not.”
Quint nodded; she heard it in the grass. She heard him shift his arm, too, and then a scratchy noise.
“I thought that was a pencil,” she said as she rose up and looked at the blue thing in his left hand. “What are you doing?”
Quint let the tiny notebook rest on his chest.
Maryon stared at it then realized he didn’t plan to answer. She lied back down. The music was suddenly too much sound because her mind suddenly was very loud on its own.
She rose back up again. “I don’t want to sit around for the rest of my life listening to Microwave and wishing I was part of Microwave. I want to go out and do something.”
Quint signed: why don’t we go do something.
“I don’t mean tonight, Quint, I mean like—in life. Yeah? In life.”
Quint signed something again.
“I want you to come with me, I don’t care if you’re ‘unsure if you’ll be free’ for the rest of your life. Don’t give me that.”
Quint scribbled in his notebook.
He signed: well what if I have plans for the rest of my life. what would you do then.
“Nothing. I’d do nothing.” Maryon did not think she had much to give without Quint. She did not think much about herself or the things she could say to make anything better.
He lay there, silent. She was unsure if he was at peace or not. This scared her; she could usually tell.
He did not answer but put the notebook back on his chest and shut his eyes.
Maryon got up and went inside. She would brush it off. She did not care.
She did not care for three days. It still did not rain.
The third night, she looked at herself with a toothbrush stuck between her lips. She thought about Quint’s lips and wished they could talk. She never wished that. She wanted his voice. She just had his hands, the paper he scribbled on—
“Quint,” she said.
He looked up from his desk, where a notepad sat still.
“Give me that notebook.”
He responded with no.
Maryon did not take it. She wouldn’t take it.
“Is it things you want to say to me? Are they things that are hard to sign?”
He responded: how can I say anything when I have no voice and you have no ears really.
On the bed, Maryon laughed. “I have ears.”
He said she did not. Not even for herself.
“What does that even mean?”
He tossed her the notebook.
Inside were things she said. She liked them. They were things she could see being worth remembering.
He said that they were worth it to him. He read her mind and she didn’t know how.
She smiled sparklingly. Her sparkly smile she thought might appeal to him.
“Do you think others would read this? If you keep writing them. You could be my writer. My paper-mate of sorts.”
Quint enjoyed her play on words.
“Quint,” she said, “I really, really like you.”
Quint did not respond right away. He did not respond at all. Maryon told herself she liked that.
It is not something she’d get Quint to write down in the notebook, though.
For one, she wouldn’t say it out loud. And for two, it was not true.