The quarry had always been off limits, as far back as Lex could remember. Signs all along the tall chain-link fence warned people to keep out, promising heavy fines for trespassing. But everyone knew a group of the older kids went there after school almost every day, to smoke and drink—and you know, Rachel Manning said to Lex one time with a superior smirk, like they were still ten and didn’t know what sex was.
Lex had never shared his classmates’ fascination with the place, not until his sister started hanging out with those older kids. Olivia was only three years older than him, but she liked to act as though the age gap between them was twice that. He asked her one time what she and her friends did there, but she only scowled and brushed him off with a dismissive, “You wouldn’t get it, Lex, you’re just a kid.” She scowled a lot now, mostly at their mother but at him too.
Whenever they drove past in the car on the way to the next town over, all he saw was a bare expanse of crumbling gray stones stretching out like a long-emptied riverbed behind the warped fencing with all its warnings. He couldn’t see from the road, but he knew it led to a sharp drop and then, at the very bottom, shallow water clogged with dirt and reeds.
He would try to picture his sister, mouth painted dark red with the lipstick she’d bought behind their mother’s back, standing tall at the edge of the precipice with her pack of friends. Smoking a cigarette like a flare and letting that senior boy kiss her, not caring what their mother would say, or maybe caring too much. The same sister who had taught him how to tie his shoelaces when he was seven and still couldn’t do it, who used to hold his hand and walk him to school, who had cried when he’d broken his arm and then, later, drawn sloppily all over his cast in colorful markers to make him laugh. He wonders if this is just something that happens when you’re fifteen, if he’ll be the same in three years while she has already moved on and left him in the dust. At school, he sees his sister with the senior boy sometimes, her eyes unhappy and hard even when she laughs.
The senior boy comes up dead in the quarry two weeks before graduation, his body halfway in the water. He must’ve been fooling around and fallen, the adults say in their hushed disapproving voices, that’s just what happens when parents let their kids run wild and never pay any mind to what they’re getting up to. Serves them right, nobody wants to say, but they’re thinking it, and when Lex is brushing his teeth that night he notices half-hidden in the trash his sister’s tube of red lipstick.
“Trespassing” by Asmaa Ahmed appeared in Issue 39 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
Asmaa Ahmed is an aspiring writer. She lives in San Jose with her family.