He wakes up to the sound of rocks hitting his window – scarcely more than pebbles, not enough to do damage, but enough to wake him up. Sure, Dylan’s a light sleeper, but it’s still a ridiculous maneuver and that can only mean one thing. Harper McLeod, childhood best friend and platonic soulmate, is back in action and needs an accomplice.
It’s a quick dash from his bed to the window and a few tries before it opens. “Two minutes,” he calls down, the absolute minimum amount of time for him to put on actual pants and shows and get downstairs and out the front door.
In the full-moon light, Harper gives a thumbs-up. He can see her car at the end of the driveway, the barely-functional lime-green Beetle that functions like an extra limb for her, and he knows this night will end in disaster but it’ll be such a fun way to crash. Always is with her, which is why they only interact on special occasions anymore.
Dylan’s got a boyfriend now, Harper found her life’s purpose while watching one too many episodes of White Collar, and they both just finished their first year of college a couple weeks ago and two hundred miles apart. In three days, Dylan’s off to work at a summer camp with no wi-fi for two long months, and Harper will probably find at least four new ways to terrorize their sleepy suburban town while he’s gone, and maybe tonight’s the groundwork for it but he doesn’t care. If this is their last hurrah, so be it.
But then again, he said that about the incident on Christmas Eve with the illegal fireworks and Harper’s older brother, and clearly that didn’t end anything.
“What’s the mission?” Dylan asks, making sure the house door is locked before running across the yard and pulling his friend into a hug. She’s half an inch shorter than him – they’re both in the respectable bracket of five-foot-seven-and-something – and usually he teases her about it but tonight he can almost smell the ambition on her. Later, he decides, after whatever mayhem she’s got planned.
“What, am I not allowed to just want to hang out with my friend?” Harper laughs, reaching up and playfully ruffling his hair.
“At two in the morning?”
“Okay, fine. It’s actually a charity mission.”
Dylan rolls his eyes, holding her just a little closer so she definitely can’t see. “You? Really?”
“I am allowed to be a good person sometimes, Malone.”
“And I’m allowed to be shocked,” he mutters, breaking the embrace. “What’s the ulterior motive here?”
“We’re kidnapping a kitten.”
Another eye-roll, this time with a solid shake of his head so she takes the hint. “And this is a charity mission, Harper? Really?”
“We’re rescuing a tiny ball of fluff from the neighbors of the people I nanny for. They really should not have a pet. It’s so cute and needs a better home.”
“With you?” Dylan can’t help asking.
“For tonight, yeah, but in the morning it’s moving in with Bree Thomas. You remember her, right?”
Dylan has a brief mental flash of sequins and a feather boa and nods. “So why do you need my help? I mean, other than your desire to get me arrested…”
“I need a getaway driver. All you have to do is hang out in the car and then drive back to my house as responsibly as you can while I cuddle with the cat.”
“And then how am I getting home?”
“I ditch the cat in my bedroom, come back outside, and take you. Problem solved. You literally do not leave my vehicle except to change seats, Dylan. This isn’t gonna be like the fireworks, I promise.”
“Better not be. We almost killed your brother.”
"Not my fault Chris is twenty-four and doesn’t know not to stand right in front of cheap explosives,” Harper shrugs. “Now c’mon.”
In situations like this, Dylan has learned over countless experiences during the last fourteen years, it’s best to just shut up and do what his friend wants. In this case, what she wants is for him to curl up in the passenger seat of her car and sing along to dancey pop songs on the radio with her as she drives to a slightly nicer neighborhood. This part does not scare him. This part is the most normal thing he’ll do all summer, and he’s sure he’ll look back on it fondly in a few weeks when he’s covered in mosquito bites and contemplating murder. It’s the next bit that might be an issue.
“I want you in the driver’s seat when I get back,” Harper orders as she parks in front of an elaborate house, and then she takes off running.
Dylan gets out of the car and watches her for a few moments, until she vaults over a fence, before following instructions. He hates this car, with its vivid personality and too small everything, for about the same reasons Harper loves it. If he’s right about where they are right now, her house is fifteen minutes away, and she owes him big when this is all over with.
A few minutes later, a flying Harper reappears with a tiny kitten head peeking out over the neckline of her tank top. “See?” she coos, settling down in the passenger seat before removing the kitten. “Isn’t it adorable?”
“Yep,” Dylan replies, only mostly lying. He’s not an animal person, and kittens in particular just confuse him, but Harper is proud of herself so who is he to say anything mean about it.
In silence, he does, figuring out an acceptable route to the McLeod house without any wrong turns. Yeah, he definitely hates this car, but he keeps the cursing internal. The kitten’s asleep in Harper’s arms, she’s rocking it like a baby, and Dylan is just tired enough to let it be.
“I’ll just be a minute,” Harper says as he parks, and again he doesn’t question her.
And fine, a minute is more like five, but at least the cat-napping is over with.
“Okay, I’ll take you home now,” Harper says, returning to the vehicle sans kitten.
“What, no late-night McDonald’s run?” Dylan asks, reminding her.
“It’s three in the morning, Malone.”
“Exactly. You owe me like three cheeseburgers for this.”
She kisses his cheek as she adjusts herself in the driver’s seat. “You’re the best sidekick ever.”
“Damn right I am,” he replies, returning the gesture. “I’d run with you anytime, McLeod.”
Ms. Murphy is a shopgirl, writer, and general creative type. Her work has previously been published in The Storyteller, The Tower Journal, and This Zine Will Change Your Life. She can be found online at thelittlestlioness.wordpress.com and is currently based in southeast Indiana.