Hot Air Balloon, Chapter Sixteen and Chapter Seventeen

Fiction By Clare // 9/18/2010

 

Chapter Sixteen
“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.”
--Vicki Baum
How does one celebrate a new lease on life? How does one express true gratitude to the universe at large?
In Georgie and Cody’s case, it was to go out and buy a seven dollar mini battery operated boom box they absolutely did not need, set it down on the first random sidewalk that looked promising, and danced.
Clearly this is not something everyone does, or would do even if they were given the opportunity. So you need to recall that these two were not average, normal people, nor did they care (to a fairly far extent) what anyone thought of them. And it’s amazing what dancing does to people. Depending on what music you play, you can start a riot. Fortunately, Cody and Georgie didn’t pick anything riotous to dance to; they just danced to whatever was catchy.
And to but in bluntly, for all her other foibles and lack of social grace, Georgie was a great dancer. It takes talent to be able to make a classical ballet move work with a Lady Gaga song. She was born with the ability to jam it out like a mad woman, and she did. She could moonwalk like nobody else Cody knew, not to mention she had mastered something she referred to as ‘the electric noodle’. Between the two of them, Cody could boast to being better at The Worm.
And what happens when you stick your boom box down in the sidewalk and start dancing?
People join you. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you never speak two words to each other. When you start dancing, something happens. To put it in a classical, old movie way: the best things happen while you’re dancing.
“Hey!” A girl walking down the sidewalk cried, grabbing Georgie’s hand. “I love this song!”
“Me too!” Georgie cried.
“I’m Emaline!”
“I’m Georgie!”
By the end of their mutually adored song, they had swapped e-mail addresses, movie star crushes, phone numbers, birthdays, and favorite flavors of Kool-Aid.
Everyone who walked down that sidewalk in Iowa that day either stopped and smiled or joined in. No one frowned. No one thought it was dumb. They never had a crowd bigger than twenty-seven, but they had started something.
Georgie didn’t know most of the songs that spewed from the radio stations everyone randomly surfed through, but she knew how to swallow music and spit it back out through her arms. She showed Emaline all her moves, and they even made up new ones.
They started at around seven in the evening, and it was starting to get dark. Emaline looked down at her watch. “Oh, I’m sorry, Georgie! I have to go!”
“Aw!” Georgie cried, hugging her new friend hard.
“Yeah…but I’ll e-mail you! Bye!”
As Emaline left, several others did, until everyone but Georgie and Cody left. Everyone else had to go home, and couldn’t stay out until ten dancing. Georgie and Cody could, except they were exhausted and needed a break. So they flopped down next to the boom box, quietly getting their breath back. The station had been left on a slow rock station, and the quiet, sappy lyrics were soothing. Georgie smiled. “Today was fun,”
“Yeah,” Cody replied. “I met this girl named Stacy. We both knew how to cha-cha…sort of,” he laughed. “It was fun. We’ll have to call Doug and thank him when we have the chance,”
“Yes,” Georgie said, smiling wider. She leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. “You make my life so crazy, Cody. That’s what I love about you,”
“That’s what I love about you, too.” he said, grinning.
Just then, the song You and Me by Lifehouse came on the radio station. Georgie jumped up, grinning. “Dance to this song with me, Cody! Please!”
Cody grimaced. “Noo…I hate this song, Georgie! And I’m tired!”
“It’s a slow song,” Georgie insisted, grabbing his hands and pulling on him. “Pleeeeease? Pleasepleasepleaseplease pleeeease?”
Cody rolled his eyes, laughing. “Ok, fine,” He got up, and Georgie stood, waiting expectantly. “What kind of dance do you want to do?” he asked.
Georgie gave him an exasperated sigh. “You are wasting precious seconds of song, boy. Does it really matter?”
So he put his hands around her waist, and as Georgie wasn’t tall enough to reach his shoulders, just sort of half hugged him. They were silent for a while, just swaying, listening to the song.
“One of the things that I want to say/ just aren't coming out right/ I'm tripping on words/ you've got my head spinning/ I don't know where to go from here…”
 “So…I was thinking,” Georgie said. “Do you remember how when we met…when we wrote that first story, we wrote we would be best friends forever?”
“Yeah?” Cody said.
“Well, I wanted to talk to you about that. About forever,”
Cody raised an eyebrow, grinning. “Why?”
“Because,” Georgie said, leaning back so he dipped her. When she came back up, she continued. “We’re going like seven years strong…maybe we should think about it,”
“Oh,” Cody said, nodding ponderously. “That might be like trying to prove the theory of the space time continuum, Georgie,”
“Well, we do excel at pointless conversation,” Georgie replied.
He twirled her, “True. So, where do we start?”
“How about right now?” Georgie asked. “Doesn’t forever mean all time, now, yesterday, future…you know?”
Cody shrugged. “You’re looking at the guy who flunked and had to redo 8th grade,”
Georgie laughed at him. “I’m also looking at the guy who is my very best friend,”
They got quiet again. The song was over half over. “There's something about you now/ I can't quite figure out/ everything she does is beautiful/ everything she does is right…”
“So this is figuring out forever?” Cody asked her.
“Yep,” Georgie replied, grinning at him. “Isn’t it fun?”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter Seventeen
The days after their dancing spree weren’t nearly as fun. Five solid hours of playing had wiped the little boom box out for one thing, and for another, rather than tapering off, the heat was worse. All they could do was sit in the shade with cold water bottles and talk. And both of them were getting very worried that they might actually run out of things to say to each other.
After splurging on the now useless boom box, they agreed their spending had to be monitored and budgeted carefully. No more larks. No more craziness. At least, not craziness they had to pay for. It had become obvious a while ago that two unaccompanied minors would eventually run out of money and be stranded for good. And that meant going home…or turning themselves in to a friendly police station. Neither of them were very keen on that idea. Besides, if they came home on their own accord (not in the back of a squad car), they might be able to think up a plausible explanation that would bump their sentence of a lifetime of being grounded to just until college. One could always hope.
And that was, of course, assuming they didn’t strangle each other first.
A week passed, and they were getting lower and lower on money, and even lower on tolerance for each other. A hundred dollars goes faster than you’d like to think, especially when you haven’t eaten well in previous weeks and you’ve worn out a lot of your blankets and clothes. They were forced to buy a new backpack for Cody, too, as his ripped all the way down one side and all his belongings spilled out onto the sidewalk.
Having nothing else to die, and desperate to beat the heat, they lay out in the shade of a big oak and watched clouds, something both of them agreed was stupid, but brain-numbing enough to suit their needs.
“That one looks like a turtle,” Cody said. “A turtle wearing a Stetson,”
“Mm,” Georgie said. “I think it looks like a walrus with a floral sunhat,”
“Where are you getting walrus?”
“See?” She pointed. “It’s too flubby to be a turtle…and look at the tusks!”
“Oh…it’s an elephant in a bowler hat!”
Georgie frowned. “Get your hats right, boy! That’s a fedora!”
“Oh…yeah,”
Very, very soon, this lost its charm. So they got to their feet. They needed to travel somewhere. With no particular destination in mind, they walked and walked and walked a ridiculously long time until they came to what is referred to by local people of Iowa, the ‘south side’.
You could tell just looking around that this was the tough part of Des Moines. The streets were shabby despite the nearby college and plentiful businesses, and the people who sauntered down the sidewalk were scary enough to make you want to avoid them entirely. It certainly wasn’t the place Cody and Georgie wanted to be. It was the place that they were. And until they had some sort of backup plan, they were stuck there was nothing but their backpacks and $25 left from the kindness of Doug’s heart.
They lay low, walking from store to store to keep off the streets. But it’s not very easy to hang around stores all day when you can’t spend any of your money. It also ticks off store owners and makes them cough loudly and point to the NO LOITERING signs.
Finally, they had been everywhere they dared go, and still had no new ideas on how to keep their heads above the water. Georgie had passed the point of being miserable and just accepted everything as it came, sometimes more cheerfully than others. Cody wished he could have the same attitude, as running away had been his idea in the first place. They walked another mile, and finally, we’re too hungry, hot, and tired to keep going. Cody, looking around, saw they were coming up on a Kum & Go and an Arby’s was just beyond that.
“Ok,” he said. “You stay here. Go in the bathroom and stay there for as long you can stand. I’ll stick my head in and call you if I get back before you leave. Stay in the gas station. I’m gonna go get something to eat at Arby’s,”
“See you later,” Georgie said, and went into the Kum & Go. She smiled cheerfully at the lady working the cash register and hurried into the bathroom, where she holed up in the stall that was furthest from the door. She leaned against the wall and let thoughts consume her, confident she could wait it out.
Georgie stuck her head out of the bathroom five times to check the clock on the wall through the course of a whole hour. She was pretty fed up. The bathroom smelled like too much air freshener and girls kept coming in…it was just boring and weird. But she decided to wait it out a little longer.
Where was he!? Georgie thought three minutes later. Whatever, she thought, and left the bathroom. She hurried out of the gas station, heading up the road towards the Arby’s. She looked around. Cody wasn’t anywhere to be seen in the parking lot. She sighed. It was getting dark, and she didn’t like sitting around a gas station or fast food place trying to look like she wasn’t loitering. So she headed back down the street, past Kum & Go, and into the main town. Maybe Cody hadn’t been able to find anything cheap enough and was going to another fast food place. There were plenty of them around. Georgie wished she had a watch. It felt like hours since she’d last looked at the clock, but who knew how long it had really been? The hot sun was getting further west, but it didn’t look like it would set for awhile still. The East Side was quiet, almost like it was ganging up on her, and even the stream of cars was dying down.
“It must be getting late,” Georgie muttered. She was hungry and tired and wished Cody would magically appear somewhere with some food. She came to a corner where she could cross the street two different places or turn left and keep going on the sidewalk. There were enough cars waiting to go right at the stoplight still that Georgie didn’t feel like waiting to cross, and heading straight, nothing looked very promising. A mall, lots of car…Georgie doubted Cody would have headed that way. So she hiked up her backpack and turned left. She yawned, rubbing her face, watching the stores and gas stations turn to townhouses and apartments.
“Hm,” she said. Most of the houses had the curtains over the windows or looked like they hadn’t been lived in for a while. Cody probably wouldn’t have come this way, either. Then again, there was only an occasional car going down the street…maybe he would come this way with the food. At that point, Georgie didn’t even know what to think. She was tired and just wanted to rest a little while. So she kept going, hoping to come to some deserted alley or something where she could sleep. She walked and walked, crossing the street only twice. Finally, she came to the end of the road…nothing but one last, ugly, pathetic, old apartment building. It faced sideways to the street, so at the end of the road, Georgie could see behind it. There was a small parking lot with a few cars in it, and several large dumpsters overflowing with trash.
“Ugh!” Georgie grumbled. She let her backpack fall on the ground, and kicked an old beer can out of her path. She plopped down on top of her backpack and glared at the dumpsters before her. Nothing. She should have stayed at Kum & Go for all the good walking all that way had done. She didn’t want to turn back, but didn’t see any point in staying around where she was, either. She got off her backpack and unzipped it. She pulled out her water bottle and took a drink. “Yuck,” she grumbled. It was hot and tasted old.
“This stinks!” she said loudly. Sighing, she closed her backpack and picked it up, steeling herself for the walk back. She turned around, and stopped short. Right in front of her, blocking her path back up the street, were three very tall, very scruffy, very mean looking boys.
“Hey,” One said. He wore a large diamond earring in both ears. Georgie knew he was bad news. Only real shady characters wore diamond earrings. When they were guys. “What you got there,”
Georgie didn’t answer. She stood, frozen, staring up at the one with earrings. Oh no oh no oh no…what should I do!?
“What, can’t ya talk?” Another one said. He wore a backwards baseball cap and had a lip piercing. Those with lip piercings weren’t to be trusted, either.
“She looks stupid to me,” The third one said. He was probably the scariest, because he was the biggest, and his piercings were by far the most intimidating. He had a double piercing in both ears, several eyebrow piercings and two lip rings besides. “Just take the bag from here,”
“No!” Georgie cried, backing away. “Just…leave me alone,” She tried to sound tough, but it came out in a squeak.
The boys all started laughing loud, harsh laughs. Georgie’s hands started to shake. Oh God, please help me! She prayed silently. She didn’t know what these boys wanted, but she knew they would hurt her to get it if they had to. She looked around. Where could she run? They were all bigger and definitely faster than she was.
“Hey, wait,” Double piercing boy said. “Let’s have some fun with her first!”
“Yeah,” Backwards baseball cap lip ring boy said. “We haven’t had much fun lately,”
Multiple piercing gorilla guy smirked. “Yeah, sure, I guess so,”
“Leave me alone,” Georgie repeated, taking another step back. She was all alone. No one was there to help. She was either going to die, or she was going to have to find a way to run. “Just…go away,”
They laughed again. Georgie never thought she would hate laughter so much, but they weren’t laughing at anything funny. They were laughing at something truly horrible…the thought of tormenting a girl less than half their size.
“Just…take the backpack,” She said, slipping it off and dropping it on the ground.
Backwards baseball cap lip ring boy snatched it up. “That’s nice of you, girl,”
Georgie was silent. She had never in her life felt so small and vulnerable before. She took another step back, and tripped over a pile of garbage bags. The mean boys laughed as she flipped over backwards.
“She’s pathetic,” Multiple piercing gorilla guy said. “Look, Drew, Ken, what’s the point?”
“Getting soft, Rod?” Either Drew of Ken asked. “She’s a wimp, sure, so what?”
“He’s right,” The other one said (the one with the lip ring…he looked like a Ken to Georgie, but she could have been wrong). “Just have some fun with her, ok?”
Georgie took the opportunity and bolted. She ran sideways past Ken/Drew with the lip ring because he was the shortest.
“Get her!” Rod shouted.
Georgie screamed as she was snagged very suddenly from behind by the wrists. “Lemme go!” She screamed.
“Shut her up,” Rod said.
She’d been grabbed by double piercing boy. He clamped a large, grimy hand over her mouth, and she tried to kick him in the shin. If he even noticed her foot banging against his leg, he didn’t let on.
“Hey, Drew, look!” Baseball cap lip piercing boy said. He was digging through Georgie’s backpack and pulled out her MP3 player.
That was expensive, Georgie thought bitterly.
“Nice!” Drew said. “What else she got in there?”
Rod smiled, seeming to be satisfied already. Georgie’s heart started doing a mad jig in her chest. Why hadn’t she stayed at Kum & Go? Why did she have to be so stupid!?
“Nice camera,” Ken said, pulling it out. “I was actually wanting this model,”
Georgie glared at him over Drew’s hand.
“So, what are we gonna do with her?” Ken asked, tossing the camera back into the backpack. “If it were cold, I’d wanna take her to the pond and throw her in,”
“Well, it’s not,” Rod said. “I got a better idea,”
Georgie saw her life flash before her eyes. She would never see her parents again. She would never get to tell her siblings she didn’t really hate them, and that she was sorry for being mean to them. She would never get to thank Cody…truly thank him, for taking her on this trip. She would never eat ice cream at Jim’s again. Her toes would never curl up happily inside her shoes.
Maybe I’ll go to heaven, she thought. Then I’ll see Dad…my real dad. She started to cry.
“Here,” Rod said. He yanked a large, black plastic garbage barrel out of the pile. “It’s empty,”
“Awesome!” Ken said. Drew took his hand off Georgie’s mouth and threw her over his shoulder.
“Let me go!” Georgie screamed. “Let me go!”
They ignored her. Georgie tried kicking Drew, but he grabbed her arm and twisted it backwards.
“Ow!” She cried. The tears started streaming faster. “Stop it!”
“Quit kicking me!” Drew said, and roughly removed her from his shoulder and tossed her into the trash bin. Georgie landed hands first and it felt like her wrist popped. The barrel might have been empty, but that didn’t mean it was clean. And it was hot besides. It smelled so bad Georgie nearly gagged on the stench. Before she could even reposition herself, the lid had come back down on the trash can.
“Oh no,” Georgie breathed. Before she could get herself or her thoughts oriented, the barrel was suddenly moving. Georgie yelped as her head banged against the side. “Stop!” she cried, trying to straighten out and push the lid off. “Please! Let me out of here!”
There was no answer, only laughs from the boys. The barrel started to move again, violently, back and forth.
“Ahhhh!” Georgie screamed. “Stop! Stop!” She was thrown from one side of the barrel to another, screaming and yelling at them to stop. They just kept laughing. “Please stop!” she shrieked. She could barely breathe. Panic welled up inside her. I’m gonna die…I’m just gonna die.
“Let’s go up the hill a ways and roll her down!”
“No!” Georgie screamed. Her arms were aching from pressing against the sides of barrel in an attempt not to roll around so much, and her whole body felt bruised and sore. “Please stop!”
All she got in reply was more laughter.
“Stop!”
Again she was ignored, and she felt the barrel being lifted up. They were carrying her up the hill.
“Help!” she screamed. “Helllllp!”
She cried out as the barrel was dropped  back onto the ground. Her head smacked against the barrel, and she suddenly felt like she was going to faint.
“Hey!”
Everything got quiet. The barrel stopped moving. Georgie wondered if she was dead.
“Whaddya want?” Rod’s voice said angrily.
“Get that girl out of the barrel, that’s what I want,”
Georgie’s heart leaped into her throat. She spread her hands flat and shot her arms out against the can lid. It popped off, and her head popped out after it.
“Cody!” She cried. He looked mad enough to kill a rattlesnake, but there he was! She had never been so happy to see anyone in her whole life.
Her joy was short-lived as Drew shoved her face back into the can and slammed the lid back on.
Cody felt a jolt of hatred go through him that both scared and excited him. “Get her out of there.”
“Make me,” Drew said. “What, is this shrimp your girlfriend?”
“Yeah, she is,” Cody said. “I messed up the last guy who picked on her,”
Georgie had to admit this heroic speech of Cody’s flattered her, but all the while she was also thinking, You idiot! You’re gonna get yourself killed!
“Whatever,” Rod said. “We’re just having fun with her,”
“I don’t think she’s having fun,” Cody said. His voice was quiet and calm in a dangerous way.
“Three against one, loser!” Ken said. “Get lost!”
Cody didn’t move an inch. “Tell you one more time. Get her out of there and let her go.”
“And what if we don’t? Rod asked mockingly.
Cody was silent. He didn’t know what he would do, but he would do it. Something about seeing Georgie being literally tortured by these shallow lowlifes made him want to beat a brick wall up if necessary.
“Ignore him,” Rod said. “Roll her down the hill,”
Georgie suddenly heard somebody howl in pain. “Cooody…” She mumbled. “What are you doing…yiii!!” She yelped as someone went flying into the barrel, practically crushing it and her. As soon as the weight lifted off, the lid popped off, no longer able to fit the barrel that had been squashed. Georgie crawled out and was met by the sight of Cody punching Ken in the face, sending him flying into the street. Rod had blood pouring out of his nose, and Drew was laying on the ground clutching his hand. Cody didn’t look so great either. His hair was disheveled, his eye looked bruised, and his lip was bleeding.
“Cody!” Georgie cried. He was hurt! She had to help him somehow!
“I’m gonna make you sorry!” Rod bellowed, his hands balled into fists. Cody didn’t even flinch.
“Cody!” Georgie screamed. She tried to get to her feet, but found her feet didn’t know how. Her head felt like it was going to explode.
Rod stopped, and his eyes rested on her. A nasty glint shown in his eye, and he headed towards her.
Cody moved faster than he’d ever moved in his life getting in between Georgie and Rod. “Don’t you dare touch her!”
“Fine, I’ll crush you, too!” Rod said. “I’ll make you regret you ever set foot in my town!”
“Georgie, run,” Cody said.
“No!” Georgie cried.
“Go!”
Rod charged at Cody. Cody grabbed Georgie’s hand, yanked her to her feet, and ran. After three feet, he realized Georgie wasn’t running…she looked like she was in pain. He picked her up and took off up the road as fast as he could, knowing exactly what was right behind him.
“Cody…put me down!” Georgie said, trying to ignore her head. “I’m fine…Cody he’s gaining on us!”
Cody just kept running. “You really need to stay out of trouble, G-girl!” he panted.
Behind him, Rod soon ran out of steam and settled with yelling a long stream of curse words at them. Cody hoped he was panting loud enough that Georgie didn’t hear. When he got to the top of the road, he turned right and kept going until he came to a cluster of stores. He slowed to a walk, gasping. He plopped down on the steps leading up to a pawn shop that was closed, Georgie still in his arms.
Georgie put her hands to her forehead and pressed, trying to force her head to stop hurting. “Thank you, Cody,”
Cody wrapped his arms around her and hugged her so tight it hurt. Georgie relaxed, and the pain in her head dulled to an ache. She put her arms around Cody’s neck and just sat there, shaking and crying, for how long, she didn’t know. She’s never known she could feel so safe.
Finally, Cody pulled her away from him and glared at her. “Don’t you ever, ever do that again!”
“I won’t!” Georgie swore, still shaking. “I was so scared…so scared…” She buried her face in Cody’s shoulder and started sobbing all over again. Unfortunately, sobbing made her head start throbbing again.
Cody hugged her again, feeling shaky himself. “Your hurt, aren’t you?”
Georgie was gasping a little as she slowly stopped crying. “I…I dunno. I think I’m ok…”
“Open your eyes,” Cody said, pulling her away from him again. Georgie blinked. “Wh-why?”
“Just open them, wide,” Cody said. She looked up at him and gasped.
“Cody! You’re hurt!”
He looked terrible. His face was bruised in multiple places. The cut on his lip looked sizeable, and his right eye was now significantly blackened.
“Calm down, I’m fine,” Cody said. “Just keep your eyes open,” After looking hard at both her eyes for a minute, he sighed in relief. “If you have a concussion, it’s not bad,”
“How can you tell?” Georgie asked.
“Your pupils look fine,” Cody said.
Georgie blinked. “Pupils?”
“My mom does this every single time I get a concussion,” Cody said. “If your pupils are different sizes or don’t change back and forth in the light, you probably have a concussion,” Cody was somewhat of an expert on this. He’d had twelve concussions in his lifetime.
“Is that…a good thing? That I don’t have one?” Georgie asked.
“Definitely,”
Georgie sighed in relief. “I think I’m ok now…will you let me help you?”
“I’m fine,” Cody said, ignoring the sudden pulsing sensation under his bruised eye. “Let’s go get some food,”
“Looking…and smelling like this?” Georgie asked.
“Are you hungry?” Cody asked.
Georgie considered this. “Yeah…go get food,”

Comments

OMG

OH MY GOODNESS!!!

Cody is now my hero!

Kassady | Mon, 11/15/2010

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

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