Friday nights are usually quiet in the Diaz household. Mr. and Ms. Diaz went to downtown for their weekend quality time, and even hyperactive Star was fast asleep after a busy day at school. The only person awake on the house was Marco Diaz brushing his teeth, as he did three times a day. He wasn't really tired, but he knew having good sleep patterns led to a good health. He let out a yawn like as a cue to go to sleep soon. In the space of that yawn, a dark haired girl wearing a hat and boots materialized on the door of the bathroom. She was the reason Marco didn't care about noises in the roof anymore.
-I guessed you didn't went to sleep yet.
-Janna? How did you get in here this time? -Marco wisphered.
-I got your house keys, remember? Let's have some fun.
-Why did you... what? It's midnight!
-Sure it is -Janna answered, not even caring to whisper. -the best time to have fun!
-What kind of fun are you talking about? And the answer is already no.
-Just going for a walk. Wanna go with me?
Janna's boots were a bit muddy. Mom wasn't going to like that tomorrow. Marco made a mental note to clean up after she dissappeared again. Hopefully soon.
-No, Janna. I'm going to sleep.
-Well then, I suppose I will go home then. I have a lot of things to print out.
-What things? -Marco entered into student panic. -Do we have any homework for Monday?
-Nope! Just some pictures. Old memories. Middle school was such a wonderful time...
-It was a bad time to wear white pants...
Marco blushed. His hands covered his eyes, like they did a few years ago. Why did she carry a camera in middle school anyway?
-Yellow? Tsk. Staying hydrated is good for you Marco. Let's see what does the rest of the class thinks...
-Why do you have to show it to other people?
-Hey, I didn't told anybody! I even was the one who gave you new pants after that.
-You still took pictures.
-It was for the charming school memories...
-And where did you get those pants anyway?
-It doesn't matter.
-I'm still a little concerned.
-You are ALWAYS a little concerned. Just a walk around the neighborhood and you're free. C'mon.
Marco sighed. It was the weekend after all, and there were worse things that spending a night talking with Janna. It wasn't the first time she barged in late at night, and he was becoming rather used to it. Usually it involved more talking about ancient alien civilizations, and less blackmail. Actually, there was almost always a little bit of blackmail.
-Fine. It's a weekend, I guess. But we're back by 1 AM., OK? I want to sleep early.
-You usually sleep a lot later than that on weekends. But I'll leave you early if we get everything done.
-Get what done?
-Nevermind. I'll wait for you on the front door.
-Wait, where are we going anyway?
Janna jumped out of the open window. Marco sighed and went to put on some shoes.
Echo Creek was a quiet and safe city. Even the nights were silent. Only the sound of a few passing cars, the ocassional barking of a dog, and the wild tales of teenagers way past their bedtime broke the monotony of Suburbia.
-So, what does pixie dust taste like?
-I'm not sure, like... cimmanon I guess? I was too busy trying to escape.
-Such an action hero.
-Actually, I tried negotiation first.
-Well, I kinda expected that from Safe Kid.
Janna smiled. Marco smiled too, though he wasn't sure why. It felt good to chat about his adventures with someone that wasn't Star. Before Star came along, Janna used to talk with him all about weird stuff and bizarre tomes of the unknown. He remembered learning quite a lot interesting facts from that, and being a little jealous about her eagerness for taking risks. Now that he had a few adventures of his own, he felt like they could talk face to face in a sense. Janna still teased him, but this time, it felt nice.
-It seemed like a good idea at the time...
-I'm just messing with ya. I'm actually kinda jealous. Going around dimensions and fighting monsters sounds like fun.
-Well, I got my butt kicked to the ground in some of those dimensions...
-It still sounds fun. I usually just go to boring places like cemeteries, or abandoned hospitals...
-Cemeteries and hospitals... where do you actually go? -Marco suddenly started to doubt the wisdom of following Janna this late at night. Or at any time at all.
-Here we are!- Janna paid no mind.
Marco looked. It was the skate park, empty and silent, with only a few streetlights breaking the rather creepy scene. Marco's mind inmediatly flew away to Jackie. He imagined she was there, doing tricks and flips, and... skateboarding stuff. He wasn't sure what skateboarding really involved, but Jackie looked damn cool doing it.
-Hey, Marco -Janna popped his tought bubble. -You like skating, right?
Marco saw Janna and wondered where did the skateboard and black-and-skulls helmet she was wearing came from. Her hat was thrown somewhere at the floor. Actually, where the whole skating thing came from?
-Well, actually, I don't know how to skate...
Janna's face changed from her usual smirk to one of... dissapointment?
-Uh... no matter! I'll teach you! Just look and learn...
The girl adjusted her helmet and jumped at the skateboard, almost falling over, while smiling to Marco the whole time. He watched with curiosity. He never knew what to expect with Janna, but this was certainly different. She was carefully watching over the movements of her slightly tanned legs that were covered only by her kakhi skirt, trying to find balance to not roll away. Marco couldn't help but look too.
-You like that?- the girl teased, with what almost looked like a wink. -Now look at this!
She tried to do a kickflip. The skateboard escaped her feet tough, and rolled away to the nearby skating bowl. With a fair bit of arm waving and pure reflexes, she managed to land on her feet. She regained the confident smirk that always went with her. She got close to Marco and put a hand on his shoulder, leaning on him to fix her boots.
Marco wasn't sure what to think.
-I know you loved that. Wanna try it? - She almost whispered to his ear. Her hand moved a little to his chest. Her brown eyes were piercing, and when she closed them a little, it somehow made the look more energetic. Marco looked away.
-I'm not sure...
Janna's face soured again. He was obviously confused. But she was confused too. A thousand thousand words were on the mind of Janna, most of them about the boy besides her. But she did not spill any of them. No. Not yet.
-Relax, Marco. Look at this!
She smirked like nothing was wrong and jumped on the bowl to get the skateboard. Marco walked to the edge, seeing a stranger than usual Janna frantically trying to get in the skateboard. Was this some sort of weird dream? No, doing this kind of weird stuff this late at night was just like Janna. But why was he here? He watched as she did her dance over the skateboard again, and now held it with just one feet.
She started accelerating toward the edge of the skating bowl. Marco didn't know what kind of trick she wanted to make, but what he did know is that she didn't have enough running room to do it. She wasn't going to make it.
As she climbed, the skateboard slipped out of her control. She fell to one side, trying to walk in air and avoid breaking her legs completely. At the end, she crashed on the pavement, knees first. Marco ran to her, as she grabbed her knees. They were bloody. It could've been a lot worse, but Janna didn't seem to care. Marco pulled a couple of wet-wipes and tried to hand them to her. She laughed, though it was real obvious that she was containing the pain.
-Wet-wipes? Seriously? You're really the Safe Kid, Marco.
-Not right now, Janna. Are you ok?
-Yeah, I'm fine, calm down. I've had worse.
Marco decided not to ask. He put the wet-wipes over the scrapped knees, and slowly massaged them. Now THAT was something Janna didn't expect. She blushed a little, and a couple tears squeezed from her eyes. Marco was blushing too. Little did her know he was trying his best to avoid looking under her skirt. Why was he even thinking about that? What was this night all about anyway? He decided to stop right there.
-Heh. I think that's enough. We don't want any infections or anything, don't we?
-Infections are kind of cool.
Feeling Marco touching her legs, even indirectly, made her more than a little flustered. For Marco, this was unknown territory.
-O-ok. Thanks Marco. -She rose up. Janna adjusted her helmet and returned to her usual smirk. -So, how about you try it now?
-No thanks. I... think we should go home. It's late, and you're hurt.
-It's nothing, I told you. I have some more tricks to show you...
-Maybe other time Janna.
Was this a good idea after all? She was having a good time but... it definitively wasn't what she used to do, and she felt a little out of place. And Marco seemed very unconfortable with the whole thing. What's the point on spending such a nice night together if he wants to leave? What was she doing wrong?
-C'mon, just a little while more. I'll let you borrow my skateboard.
-Since when do you have a skateboard anyways?
-W-what do you mean? I always had one. Don't you want to try it?
-Are you trying to get me hurt?
-Do you think I'm that evil?
Oh no, Marco thought. Janna frowned and crossed her arms. That little pause seemed to have ruined her mood completely. Her smile still looked cocky, the helmet and her messy hair underneath it still gave the of 'bad grrl'. But a closer look at her eyes and they seemed melancholic, almost pleading.
-No. You're not. But what is this night all about?
-What do you mean? I just wanted to have some fun with you.
-You blackmailed me!
-But you accepted! Aren't you having fun?
-I... I don't even know why you invited me. Are you trying to make fun of me because I'm the Safe Kid or something?
-No! I like to, sometimes...
-You aren't helping your case.
-I was bored at home and thought, hey, Marco must be bored too, how about we go to the skate park?
-That's so... weird. I know you're weird. In the good sense, I mean, but this isn't you.
-What's wrong Marco? -She raised her voice unknowingly, her tone now matching her eyes -I thought you liked dumb skater girls!
She said too much.
-Why did you said that?- Marco was asking more out of concern than anything. He never saw Janna like this. Also, was she trying to prank Jackie? To prank him? To prank both? Did she know?
-I... I just wanted to have fun with you. Sorry.- She already said that several times. It was like a codeword by now. And Marco was starting to pick it up.
-Do you... do you know about me and Jackie?
-Who told you?
-It wasn't that hard to figure out, Marco. But Star told me.
Now this was unexpected. Marco imagined the breakfast table tomorrow would be a little awkward. He was a little dense, but he wasn't stupid. Janna liked him. He used to think she just loved to tease him, like she did to everybody else. But it was obvious she really, really liked him this time. What no-
-Do you like her?
Marco gluped. He was hoping to be the one asking the questions here. But he was blushing even more than Janna, and wasn't in a position to get answers. Janna was weird, a little stalkerish, sometimes a bother. But she was a friend, and she wasn't evil. And he had it on his chest for so long that...
-Yes. I like her.
-I see. Well, no problem then.
Silence. Janna removed her helmet and mindlessly put it away. Her messy black hair looked beautiful under the streetlights. But her eyes were still broken in red.
Marco missed the other Janna, the Janna that had not qualms on breaking into his house, or spent hours telling creepy tales of her contacts with the unknown. He had fun with her. Now, all he could feel was a tangled mess of... stuff. All just in one night.
Janna said nothing and sat on the edge of the skating bowl. She looked at the sky. The streelights dimmed most of the stars at the city, but some of the brightest could still be seen. She was almost crying, but she refused to let her head down. She tried, and that was all that mattered.
Marco sat beside her. It wasn't that late, after all. He decided to ask something.
-Were you trying to impress me?
-I don't need to impress nobody! -Suddenly, mysterious, too-good-for-you Janna returned. -If you don't like spending time with me, that's fine.
-I never said that!
-You said you wanted to go home...
-Well, it's because this is so... so... awkward!
-Sorry. This isn't how I wanted it to go.
-How did you want it to go?
-Don't worry. Just go home if you like.
-How did you want it to go?
Janna kept looking at the stars while talking.
-Well, it would have ended much like this. Both of us, watching the stars. The few that are there, at least. And laughing. Because we were suppossed to have a good time, you see. - She continued in a sarcastic, almost condescensing tone. Marco felt that the condescencion went mostly to herself.
-After skating? -Marco asked.
-That was a dumb idea. Actually I was thinking we could go look for frogs in the pond, I got a new book about frogs. We'll have to mess in the mud for a while though...
Janna blushed. She didn't know if Marco was making an innuendo, but she liked the idea.
-But I like frogs.- Marco continued. -And then?
-And then we'll sit on a bench or something, and... just talk. About stuff.
-You know, the kind of stuff I always talk about. Aliens, ghosts, monsters. The stuff you don't listen to.
-I listen to all of it and you know it. And then?
-We'll look at the stars. Just like now.
-And then I would ask you 'Do you like me, Marco?'
Marco was paralyzed. He knew something like that was coming, but hearing it was another thing. Janna looked at him again, those big brown eyes that avoided her gaze, but now not out of fear, just... because. She knew he had a lot on his mind, but it was now or never. She was on control again and she wasn't going to lose it again.
Yes, this was her, this was Janna. Her devilish smile returned. She ate up Marco with her eyes, who was completely entranced by her sudden takeover, and moved her hand to his.
-And then... you'll answer...
Marco had to answer. He knew. The touch of Janna's hand felt good. His hand turned around, finally taking her's, despite his sweaty palms. Janna's skin wasn't as soft as he imagined. But her hand was warm, and... alive...
She looked at her, eyes half-closed as she leaned to him. Her lips were closed in a small smile. Marco leaned and kissed her.
It wasn't a long kiss. But Janna had waited for it so long, and it was him at the end that stole it from her! So much time lost, such long nights of seeing Marco from afar, teasing him to avoid blushing and stammering, all those days wasted searching for ingredients for complex and occult love rituals, and all the awkwardness of this night, including the scrapped knees. It all paid off. In this incomphrehensible world, Janna managed to find, if only for a minute, someone who comprehended her.
And he was so hot.
Meanwhile, Marco did not regret the decision he made at all. For a little while, the only word that flew through his mind was Yes. Yes. He liked Janna. This Janna, the one that was kissing him. Yes, she was full of flaws, and this little stunt tonight proved it. But as he ran his hand through her hair, as she felt her hand closing on his, like in the desesperation of finally feeling it whole, Marco knew that Janna was real. She really liked him. She wasn't just an ideal girl on his mind like Jackie. He could speak to Janna. He could laugh with Janna. He could touch Janna. He liked Janna.
For a couple minutes, the skateboard park was the most peaceful place in the whole world.
-I like you.
-I like you too. For a while now. I like you a lot Marco. - Janna started to rub his hair. Her other hand went to his shoulder. Marco was hypnotized by her eyes. -I like your hair, I like that cute mole of yours. I like the way you're so kind, so funny... - Her hand moved to his chest. Her breath was heavy and noisy, and even more easy to feel when she was so close. Marco's forehead was a little shiny from sweating. -...I love the way you sleep...
Janna shut him off with another kiss. This time her hands had no bindings, going inside Marco's jacket and all over his face. Her tongue played with Marco's, with no restrain. The boy was sweating like crazy, and the warm weather and jacket did not help. He drew away his hand from her hair. Eventually, Janna broke the kiss.
-Was that too much for you? -She asked devilishly, but also out of concern. Did she go too fast?
-Don't worry -She returned to held his hand like it was a natural thing to do. -We can go as slow as you want. -She kissed his forehead. She watched that on a movie once, before the monsters ate the couple alive. -As long as we keep going and going...- she whispered almost to herself.
Marco kind of enjoyed that last commentary.
-Thanks Janna. But I liked it, don't worry. Can I ask you something?
-Why skating? It's because of Jackie, right?
-Y-yeah. I think it's dumb. But since you probably thought of me as that creepy girl who likes dead things, I thought that maybe you'll see me as...
-Cool like Jackie... I guess?
-You're already cool! Cool like Janna.
-I'm not sure it is the way you like, though.
There was a short silence. Janna looked away to the sky. She did that just for dramatic effect; her heart was already up in the stars. As Marco grabbed her hand tighter, any insecurity she had flew away.
-Well, you're a little unconventional. And we need to talk about privacy...
-What privacy are you talking about Marco? The government and their Elder Gods overlords already watch our every move!
-...anyways... But, I do like spending time with you. You don't need to do anything else. And also, you are so...
-I prefer "alluring". But thanks, cutie.
Marco kissed her. It was a quick kiss.
-Oh, I should try to call you cutie more often.
-It's better than you teasing me.
-I think you like it.
They sat down and watched the stars for what it seemed whole nights, helding hands. There was still too much too think. But for now, the only thing that mattered is that they were here. Together. Without a clock to tell time, with their heads resting on each other, the silence of suburbia and the still streetlights painting a scene that only the two of them could enjoy, and would ever enjoy. Earth was a nice dimension to be after all.
-Are your knees ok?
-Yeah, don't worry. Do you want to go home?
-We could walk a little more. I'm not in a hurry.
-Sure, let's do that.
Janna grabbed Marco's arm and they started to walk from the park into the empty streets. She rested her head against Marco's shoulder. Marco raised his head and looked ahead. He felt happy.
-You'll have to delete those pictures one of these days.
-Oh, I'll need some convincing for doing that...
-Uh... we'll... I'll... see how I can convince you.
-You're such a dork. Hey, did you ever heard about the mutant albino tribes that live in the hills around here?...
-No. But I'll suppose you're going to tell me all about them.
-Get ready to hear it then... -Her tone of voice went to her 'scary tale mode'. Marco smiled. -...There are some things, horrible things, only found in this particular dimension...
Behind the bushes, a certain princess was watching the whole scene. Trying to contain her giggles, she looked at her cellphone, switching between furtive pictures of the brand-new couple.
-Hehehe, my dear little Marco. I TOLD you I'm the best matchmaker ever. Just according to keikaku*.
*Translator's note: Keikaku means plan.