The Lies That Define Us(13)

By: Micalea Smeltzer


Lately I took photos to clear my mind. Something about being behind the lens gave me a clarity I didn’t normally possess.

While I was partial to my DSLR camera, I also had a thing for old film cameras. I loved finally getting to develop the film and seeing photos I’d forgotten I’d even taken. I loved the mystery of not knowing what was going to turn up.

When I couldn’t sleep, I spent a lot of time in my darkroom.

That’s where I was, lost in the tasks that had become effortless for me, going through the motions—but my head wasn’t in it like usual—when I ended up ruining the film by exposing it to a small amount of light.

“Fuck,” I groaned, throwing my hands down on the table. Something fell, but I couldn’t be bothered to see what it was.

I stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind me. I stomped up the steps, my anger a vibrating force around me.

I topped the stairs and turned to my left to head for my room when a door at the other end of the hallway opened. Ari poked her head out and looked at me with wide shocked eyes.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “I heard a door slam.”

“Just peachy,” I snapped.

She shook her head once and disappeared into the room.

I was sure she was wondering what she’d gotten herself into by staying with me.

I opened the double doors into my room and yanked my shirt over my head. It fell to the floor in a useless pile as I nosedived into bed. Lying on my stomach, I wrapped my arms around my pillow as I willed sleep to come. It was already after three in the morning, and I’d promised to meet Ollie and some of the guys for an early morning surf session. If I didn’t go to sleep soon, I’d fall asleep on my board. It’d happened before, and the guys had made fun of me endlessly.

Rolling to my back, I stared up at the ceiling.

“Dear Sleep, it’s me, Liam, and I kind of miss you,” I mumbled beneath my breath. I sounded like an idiot, but I didn’t really care. My body couldn’t keep running on so little sleep. Eventually, it’d give out.

I began to count sheep like a total loser.

What felt like forever later, I finally drifted off to sleep, but it was a fitful, restless kind of sleep, and I awoke a few hours later feeling more tired than I had when I dove into bed.

My alarm was blaring loudly from my phone, and I quickly swiped my finger over the screen to stop the obnoxious noise.

It was only six in the morning. I’d probably only had two-and-a-half hours of sleep if I was lucky.

I stumbled from my bed over to my dresser and pulled out the first pair of board-shorts my fingers landed on. I changed into them quickly and grabbed a t-shirt and sweatshirt. Something I learned pretty quickly while surfing was how cold you could get out in the water, hence the need for a sweatshirt. A lot of times I wore a wetsuit out in the water, since I could be in it for hours at a time, but I knew that today I wouldn’t be there long.

I glanced briefly at the closed door at the end of the hall when I left my room. I didn’t know why I found myself worried about Ari. I didn’t worry or care about most things or people, but there was something so fragile about her, while at the same time there was a quiet strength that told me she’d been through a lot. I couldn’t allow myself to care, though. Caring equated to a pain in the ass later. It was better to walk through the world with blinders. Few people ever broke through my walls, and that’s why I had so few friends.

Downstairs I grabbed my keys from their designated dish on the kitchen counter and headed out to the garage.

I loaded my board onto the top of my Jeep and slid behind the wheel. Before I could back out of the garage my phone was beeping with a text from Ollie making sure I wasn’t flaking.

I’d like to say that I didn’t bail on my friends often, but that’d be a lie. I texted him back that I was on my way, and tossed my phone onto the empty seat beside me.

Thirty minutes later, I turned onto a gravel road, leading back into what felt like the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t a designated place to park, so you had to make it work. Ollie’s van was already there, as was Jeremiah’s truck, but Brady’s SUV was missing, and I did an internal fist pump that I’d at least beaten one person to our spot.