We run, jumping over tree roots, my flip flops sliding on the mossy stones, we run until we reach the clearing, where we lean over, hands on our knees, breathing deeply and you shrug your backpack to the ground, unzip it, and pull out the vodka we stole from your dad’s garage but you don’t open it, and I turn towards the creek and wander over, the quiet rushing, the stones on its bed bending through the water’s lens, its icy touch creeping over my flip flops, darkening their pink fabric, and I look back at you lying in the grass and call to you, Hey, come dip your feet in, and you are quiet so I kick off my wet flip flops and join you and you say, I wish he hadn’t told me, and I know this is true but it doesn’t feel right because I feel like you should know, but I also know what knowing has done to you and he was your friend, he is your friend, and you love him and I love him, and he’s funny and kind and sweet, but how can he be sweet if he did that, but he is, and we know he is, and everyone knows he is, and he’s torn up by this too, but what was he thinking, and I think all this and I know you do too and so I say, I know, and I really do know, as much as I can know when it wasn’t me, but I also know that you’re not the same since he told you—since he did that—and I know he told you because he didn’t realize you didn’t remember and he thought it was okay and he called you the next morning and you didn’t know what he was talking about, and then he knew nothing was okay, and you told me and no one else, and we keep this secret and you cry and say, I wish he hadn’t told me, and he doesn’t hang out much anymore and we bring vodka to the woods that we don’t drink—but why shouldn’t we because it’s not the drink that was the problem—and you say, He’s not some monster, and I lie next to you and in a while we will talk about something else, maybe cool off in the creek, maybe wander home, stopping by the general store for slushies, and then at some point later today or this evening, or perhaps not until the morning, you will say to me, I just don’t know how to feel, or, I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking about it, or, It would be easier if I hated him, or I wish he hadn’t told me, and I will say, I know, but for now we lie back and I hear the birds and the creek and I wait for that night to leave you in peace for a while, just a while.
Originally from England, Jo now lives outside New York City. She is the creative nonfiction editor at X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine and creative nonfiction contributing editor at Barren Magazine. Her short stories and creative nonfiction have recently appeared in PANK, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Pithead Chapel, JMWW Journal, and others. Jo has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best Small Fiction, and is working on her PhD. She can be found on twitter @jovarnish1.