18 Things (My So-Called Afterlife)

By: Jamie Ayres

To all the teachers out there,

you show me every single day that there is such a thing as immortality

because you go with us on our journeys in our hearts and minds, touching lives forever.

This book is for you because all the thanks in the world will never be enough.

“The Universe is but one vast symbol of God.”

―Thomas Carlyle

he best sight on the lake was Conner after he slid out of his shirt. I hid behind my Seventeen magazine, an effort to conceal my ogling. His sandy colored hair swept low over his forehead, just a gleam of sweat under his eyelids. His lashes are obnoxiously long, I thought, before I noticed his quizzical stare. He leaned in close to me, lips parted. The scent of his energy drink still lingered on his breath, drawing me closer. I licked my lips, dreaming of our first kiss.

He strained, like he was trying to look around me. “What smut are you reading, Olga?”

Typically, I’m not a Seventeen reader, but the magazine was an impulse buy at the bookstore where I worked. Better study your enemy, since half the girls at school are in love with Conner too.

The breeze blew around us, my hair flying in all directions. After placing the magazine on my lap, I took the hair tie off my wrist and secured my curls in a ponytail before answering. “I just flipped to this month’s featured friendship quiz; it’s about honesty.”

He yanked the pages from between my thighs. “Okay. Number one: Tell me honestly, do you remember how we met?”

Looking upward, I took a deep breath of fresh air, thinking back through all my memories of Conner. “In kindergarten; I hid under the slide every day at recess because some boy would call me Olga Ugly. One day you stopped him. Just like magic, I found my guardian angel to protect me through harsh years of pre-adolescent angst.”

I placed one hand over my heart and pretended to wipe a tear with the other.

He beat his chest. “That’s me, Defender of Justice. Number two: What song reminds you of me?”

At first, I thought about answering with a quip remark; the choices were endless, and I was scared of giving away too much about how I really felt. Then, I remembered the quiz title.

“Easy. Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.” The song spoke of home being wherever I’m with you, one of Conner’s favorites.

“Interesting.” He looked down at the magazine, blushing.

Is my honesty making him nervous?

“Next one. Oh, this ought to be good. What do you hate about me?”

That I’ve been in love with you for almost a dozen years now, and you still haven’t asked me out! “You date too many cheerleaders.”

We both laughed until I gestured with my hand for him to continue.

“Give me a nickname and explain your reason.”

I scratched my head. “Forrest. Because you run fast and act slightly retarded sometimes.”

Crossing his arms over his abs, he laughed deeply. “Not bad, not bad at all. I’ve taught sarcasm to you so well that I think my nickname should be Master Yoda.”

“I’m not calling you anything that involves Master.”

Leaning forward, he delivered the last question with a devilish grin. “Have you ever wanted to tell me anything, but couldn’t?”

I shoved him backward in the boat. “It does not say that!”

He flung the magazine at me. “See for yourself.”

I glanced at the page. “Well, seeing this is the fifth question, I think I’ll plead the fifth.”

He waggled his finger. “Nuh-uh. Give me the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“You can’t handle the truth!” I yelled in my best Jack Nicholson impression.

“Try me.”

It was my idea to go sailing today. We always took our first spring sail together when the weather got warm enough. Now I curled my arms around my knees as a shiver ran through me, wishing I’d just gone home to study instead. My heart sped up to a million beats per second, telling me I so wasn’t ready to finally tell Conner I was in love with him.

A smile flitted across his face as the sound of thunder rolled across the dark clouds coming in from the north, and a flash lit up the sky. “Guess you’re saved by the bell. We better head back.”

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