Smoke curled into my eyes as I lifted up the rusted hood of my brother’s car. My stomach lurched with fear and the fumes shot up my nose, making my eyes water. He was going to kill me. “Be careful,” he said. “Easy on the breaks,” he said. This morning had been a blur of indecipherable noise banging around while I tried to make coffee. Only now could I hear him, He was always obsessing about his car like a lunatic, how was I to know that I had to take him seriously?
The mess of tubes squished inside the hood meant nothing to me, so I plopped myself down on the curb and swiped through my contacts, searching for anyone who might know about cars. Unfortunately, my brother was the person I went to for these things. Most of my friends’ skills were limited to editing photos for Instagram. While scrolling through the T’s, it hit me that I had class in five minutes, and I had to cut through the freaking cemetery if I had any chance of making my exam on time. Great. I heaved myself up, rummaged in the back-seat for an old sweatshirt to protect my hands, and tried to slam the hood before more smoke got in my eyes. Before I could, I heard a voice behind me.
“Automobile trouble?” it asked. Though it was a nice voice, warm and sort of crackly like a bonfire, it made me jump. I jumped so hard that my head whacked the hood as I tried to turn and see whom it belonged to. Eventually I turned around blearily, fairly certain that I had a concussion.
“Sorry to scare you, is your head all right? That was a nasty sound.”
I mustered an awkward “Uh, yeah,” and found myself staring at a tall, thin guy with a concerned face that matched his voice. He looked young, but he was dressed in an impeccable, old fashioned suit that would fit better in “Downton Abbey” than on a twenty-first century Chicago street.
“Are you sure?” deep brown eyes, burning with otherworldly light, fixed on me as he spoke. The intense gaze made me uneasy, so I shifted my eyes away.
“Yeah, its fine. It’s just that it’s my brother’s car and he loves it and he will absolutely kill me if he finds out.”
“Do you mind if I take a gander?”
“Please do.” He didn’t notice my shaking voice, and glided past me with an unnerving gracefulness. His eyes peered intensely into the jigsaw puzzle of car parts, gently tinkering with his elegant, leather-gloved hands. Amazingly, his suit remained clean and wrinkle free when he reached into the greasy mass, as though it somehow existed in another dimension. After a few minutes, he abruptly twisted something, a jagged smile seeping over his face. The steam slowly disappeared and he triumphantly exclaimed “A-ha!” theatrically brushing off his hands.
“You fixed it!” I screeched, and relief blossomed in my stomach as he gingerly closed the hood, turning his fiery gaze on me once again.
“It wasn’t that difficult. My car does awful things like that all the time,” he said. “I wouldn’t use it right away,” he frowned at the car. “It needs time to cool down.”
“That’s fine, I have class in—” I suddenly remembered the test I was missing and checked my phone. “Ah, lame, I’m already late!”
“Oh, dear, I’m—”
“Don’t say it. You just saved me! What can I do to repay you?” My chance at passing decreased with every second, but I couldn’t tear myself from the conversation.
“You could let me walk you to class.”
His voice heated my face into a blush even as the cold wind whipped it, and my heart jolted.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, alarmed by my own enthusiasm.
We made our way through the crumbling headstones in a stirring sort of silence, his long legs moving fast yet never falling out of step with mine. The strangest feeling came over me as I walked beside him, a mixture of comfort tinged with electricity, an energy that almost frightened me.
The sun was setting as we reached my classroom, and the sky was bleeding shades of orange, pink and red through the windows, like a demonic Bob Ross painting. I turned to say goodbye, and saw his white skin and dark hair glowing vividly in the eerie light. Before I could walk in, he tugged off one of his gloves, and extended a long, pale hand to me. I grasped it in a handshake, feeling that dangerous electricity burbling through his hand like a hot coal. I never wanted to let go.
“It was lovely to meet you. My name is Vincent, I hope to see you around sometime.” His crackly voice warmed my ears, and I could feel my mouth twist into a dumb smile.
“I’m Mary. It was pleasure to meet you, thanks for helping me with the car. See you around!”
Vincent doesn’t know this is a lie. After he drops me off at class he can’t keep his mind off me. Although he had a volume of Poe to finish, he found himself wandering back by my classroom, eagerly waiting for me to come out. I never did. When he asks about Mary, nobody can remember me.
“Mary?” one guy scoffs, “There isn’t any Mary in this class.”
Vincent stops him as he tries to shuffle off. “But, I just met her! I walked her here from her car,” Vincent points towards the cemetery. The guy just laughs and walks away, leaving Vincent with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
As I hear this I think about those other years and those other boys. I get that familiar, painful realization that Vincent can’t see me anymore, that I am alone yet again. It makes me want to cry, to cling to those warm, dangerous, alive feelings that I had with him, the feelings that are always gone so fast. But they are already fading away. I guess I’ll just have to wait for next year.