I stood out on the deck, staring up at the night sky into the bluish face of the end of the world.
Inside, my family and a large group of their friends drank and laughed and danced to old songs, some I remembered, some I didn’t. Upstairs, my two little brothers and the younger kids of the partiers’ slept—with a little help from Benadryl—blissfully unaware of the fact they would never wake up.
In the valley below, the town sparkled like the Fourth of July, now a month past. The sultry breeze carried the faint sounds of music and laughter up the steep hillside to my family’s summer home.
Was the whole world celebrating?
The president had announced a few months ago that Delaroche, (named after its discoverer) was on a collision course with Earth, but for no one to panic because all the countries with nuclear capabilities would launch their missiles at the comet when it was close enough, and would either destroy or divert it from its course. That hadn’t happened. The firing of the entire world’s nuclear arsenal had scarcely altered its path. Now instead of a direct hit, we would receive a glancing blow; but that sideswipe would destroy every living thing on Earth.
There had been some minor rioting when the president had given his final speech informing the citizens of the United States of the failure to stop Delaroche, and advising us all to make our peace with God and spend the few remaining days with our loved ones. But no one had burned buildings, looted stores, or did all the other things some people would have done under the circumstances. Almost everyone, like the president, left their job and went home to be with family and friends. Televisions were turned off, the internet wasn’t accessed, cell phones were tossed down and forgotten. Now that it was too late, people realized what was important.
Delaroche would strike the earth around sunrise. And that would be it. I knew I should be scared, but I wasn’t. I was a little sad, though. I was fourteen years old. I would never go to a prom, never have a boyfriend, never fall in love, never get married, never have children.
A few years ago, I had decided I wouldn’t even consider a serious relationship until I had finished college, gotten a degree in neurosurgery—specialists like my dad made tons of money—and established a practice. Now . . . well, now none of that mattered.
Behind me, the party noises increased in volume, then I heard the door snick to. Footsteps across the porch. Two hands settled onto the railing beside mine, one holding a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, my father’s most expensive wine.
“Why’re you out here by yourself?”
The bottle went up, and my eyes followed it to the face of my mother’s best friend’s son, Mathew. Though we were the same age and went to the same school, we had never exchanged a word. We moved in different social circles, he with the dorky geeks, me with the honors students and cheerleading squad. Why, I didn’t think I had ever really looked at him before, and if you got past the cooking acne, it was a nice face, friendly and open.
He lowered the bottle, saw me staring. “You wanna drink?”
“Sure.” I took the bottle from his hand and took a big swig—my first taste of alcohol. Wasn’t too bad. I tipped the bottle to my lips again, then passed it back.
“What’re you thinking about?” he asked.
Again, I shrugged. My eyes traveled back up to the sky. Delaroche had swallowed more stars, stolen more of the darkness. “I wonder if it’ll hit before the sun rises.”
“About the same time, I think.” He took another drink, passed the bottle back to me.
I downed what was left, then set the empty bottle on the railing. I turned toward him. “Would you kiss me?”
He looked surprised. Stunned actually. “Well . . . uh . . . Megan, I’ve never kissed a girl before.”
“And I’ve never kissed a boy before.” At that moment, I wanted nothing more on this earth than to be kissed. I turned my body toward his, circled my arms around his neck.
Our eyes locked. I felt the click of a connection in my stomach. I closed my eyes . . . then . . . then felt his mouth, soft and warm upon mine. I tasted wine; I tasted him. It was the best kiss ever.
Slowly, our lips drew apart. I opened my eyes. He was smiling. I smiled back.
“Wanna dance?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
Inside the house, I heard the familiar beat of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, my mom’s favorite song. Mathew crossed his arms over my back while mine stayed locked around his neck. We danced. And we danced. For a long time. Slow. Our bodies tight together.
And over his shoulder, I watched night turn into day. A bright, hot day that held no sun.
I closed my eyes, turned my face into the crook of his neck. And we danced.