English assignment a-go-go. I think we were supposed to write about a semi-taboo topic without addressing said topic directly. Not sure if I managed, but the prof liked it.

If It Meant I Would Never Stop Dreaming

"And he said that it was okay, as long as I'm back before it rains."

"It's going to rain?"

"Well, that's what he said."

The young man looked up at the sky, which was the same, stark blue it had been for most of the week. The sun was a cold orb of yellow, nesting heavily in the branches of a barren tree, which for all its age did not seem to notice the extra weight.

"Well, I was kind of hoping for snow."

"Not around here." The girl's laugh burst into the air and settled on the chilly breeze, where it eventually drifted away and down to the grass, which was turning itself shades of yellow and brown to match the dirt. The boy watched it fall for a moment before turning back to her.

"What did your mom say?"

"Nothing, really. Let's go, okay?"

"All right."

She started walking ahead of him, bare feet slapping firmly on the beaten dirt. "I'm glad it's a three-day weekend. I think if saw Pritchard's ugly face again I'd snap and throw my history book at her."

"Are you still flunking that class?" He came abreast of her, looking at her face.

"Ha ha. Shut up."

"I was just asking."

"Well, don't."

"Did they yell at you about it?"

"No. They didn't say anything. They just looked at me."

"I'm sorry."

She shrugged. "Hey, has the stream come up any since we were there?

"I don't think it's rained."

"Then maybe it will today."


She took off ahead of him again, disappearing over the top of a hill where another scrawny tree stood, a rope hanging from its lowest branch. When he caught up with her, she was crouched at the foot of the hill, letting the fingers of her right hand dangle in the trickle of water that tripped hesitantly along the side of the road, eventually running out of breath when the pounded dirt turned into asphalt. He stood and watched her silently, then walked over next to her and sat down.

"Say," she said, gaze still fixed on the ripples of water, "have you ever thought about running away?"

"Not really. I don't think I could support myself, for one. For another, I wouldn't want to do that to Mom and Dad, even if they do give me a hard time sometimes."

She looked at him and sat back, wiping her hand dry on her jeans. "You remember when Mrs. Paul told us to write a paper about what our lives would be if we were successful in everything we ever wanted to be successful in – or something dumb like that, I don't remember."

He nodded, and she looked back at the stream.

"I wrote that I didn't want to be successful, and I wanted to grow up to be a dirt-poor farmer, like my dad."

He nodded again and watched her pull her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them in a loose embrace. "I got an F on the paper, and she called my parents."


"Sometimes I think the only time I'm happy is when I'm sleeping, you know. Well, except when I'm here with you."

He didn't answer.

"When I'm sleeping, I dream I'm always here, making up a perfect life." She paused. "Don't get the wrong idea, though, it's not like I'm asking you out or anything dumb like that – I just mean … why are you laughing?"

"The thought hadn't even crossed my mind."


She let the silence hang for a moment before continuing. "They say they only want the best for me. But all I want is this place and my friend and my dream."

"Paradise?" he asked, with something like a laugh. He leaned forward and picked up a twig, setting it upright in the stream and pressing it into the mud at the bottom.

"I guess."

He continued to watch the twig, which strained against its muddy prison until the water tore it free and swept it down and out of sight.

"I don't think I'd mind dying, either."

He looked over at her. "I would."

"If it's anything like when I sleep, I wouldn't mind at all."

"I would," he said again. "I'd mind if you died, and I'd mind if I died."

She smiled at him. "I'm not going to do anything dumb and off myself. I was just saying."


"But if it were like sleeping, I could still –"

"Shut up about it, okay?" He flopped backward into the dry grass, eyes searching out the sky. The sun languished behind a stand of gray clouds that rolled sluggishly in from the east.

"I'm sorry," she said.

He didn't answer, but when he felt her stand, his gaze sought her out, and he sat up again.

"I guess I'd better go."


She started to walk away, then stopped, half-turning to look back at him and at the stream and at the sky. He waited, but she turned away and started walking, words almost lost on a gust of wind. He watched her go, then lay back, letting the grass scratch his arms and his legs and his back through his thin shirt.

"I could sleep forever –"