Summer Story: An Unexpected Summer Gift

"So you think this will really work?" Marie asked fancifully. She flopped her blond, lemon-pulp filled hair over to look at me, a sticky frosted donut in her hand.

"The Internet article said it should" I replied confidently.

Marie and I were lounged out in my backyard on two rickety beach chairs, the kind that recline all the way back to laying down. My backyard was the ideal location, not because of the random rooster casually strutting by, but because of the privacy from many curious and or judgmental eyes. My six younger siblings didn't care what strange girlie rituals Marie and I were up to. They were most likely too busy disputing who was supposed to do dishes that night, if dad would come home angry, or other monotonous struggles in our family dynamics. Even my mom was sure not to even take a glance out at us. Finishing off my donut, I shrugged, grinning.

"Your hair sure looks nasty."

"Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself." She replied sarcastically, a wry grin on her face.

"Nasty hair or not, that was good!" Marie exclaimed, licking the last bits of frosting from her fingers, "I haven't had one of those in like a year."

"That's why you should come to my house more often." I said back, checking my watch.

"Dang, its only been ten minutes. The sun is supposed to react with the acid or something, it takes like half an hour I think."

"Do you really want to stay out here that long?" She asked.

"No, not really." I said, uncomfortably adjusting the shoulder of my Speedo.

"Me either." She admitted. She brushed little pulp pieces off her own suit.

Raking my fingers through my hair, humid from the sticky juice, I imagined what it would look like to be blond. It wouldn't get that light, right? I glanced at a strand to check. I frowned. Nope, still brown.

"Well, what else should we do then?

"Hmm..." She pondered. "OH! Lets go to my place, Matt just got a new hockey set we could play with!?"

I thought a moment. The humidity caused my face to sweat, which was even more bothersome after the long hot bike ride to the grocery store this morning that had led to an embarrassing incident counting out my money in change. I pondered if playing hockey was a more comfortable option than laying out here sweating, when a low quacking noise alerted me that we were not alone. A stray duck had come to taste my hair. I giggled as he tugged pieces of lemon pulp off my hair.

"Yeah lets go, I'm being eaten alive!" I exclaimed laughing.

I scrambled awkwardly across Marie's driveway to stop the black plastic puck hurdling toward me and wondered if hockey had been a good idea after all. Luckily, I caught the puck just in time.

"Marie what did you think of me when we first met?" I said leaning on the hockey stick. "After all, we only met eight months ago." I didn't wait for her to answer though, realizing that this question was a great ruse. I ran the puck back, looking for an opening in her defense.

"I thought you were weird." She said in amused honestly, jumping side to side, anticipating my poorly concocted attempts to score.

I stopped a second then gave the puck a furious swat that glanced sidelong off her stick and into the gravel. Marie laughed loudly and ran to grab it.

"Oooh! Dang it, I thought that was in for sure!"

"Right Andrea, for sure." She said sarcastically.

"So what did you think of me when we first met?"

"I thought you didn't like me, and that you were stuck up and...of course you were weird too." I thought back to the day an unfamiliar blond girl walked onto the neighborhood playground who by rare chance seemed my own age, and later found out that our birthdays were about 2 weeks apart.

The sound of Marie striking the puck startled me from my reverie. I frantically swung my hockey stick in an effort to intercept the now flying puck, unintentionally exposing my fingers. The puck met the last two fingers of my right hand with a hard thwack.

Pain exploded in my fingers, and for some reason not consciously recognizable to me, I burst into tears. I knew it wasn't the pain, though. When you are twelve you don't cry about things like that. In fact, for a second, I wasn't even aware of where I was or what was going on. This injury was not the reason I was crying. The reason came from a deep sense of sadness that had suddenly welled up and burst to the surface. This sadness was so apparently harsh that I hadn't realized Marie standing next to me studying my swelling fingers.

"Oh Andrea, I'm sorry. I should have warned you. Really, I'm sorry..."

But I just stood there shaking with wrenching sobs. My new friend, whom I had spent many days similar to today, excluding this incident, came over and put her arms around me. I peered up through tear flooded eyes. When someone hugs you, it's typical to hug them back, everyone knows this. I knew this...but what I didn't know was what that really felt like...to be hugged as a true expression of emotion. I cried even harder. Knowing the type of cavalier friend I thought she was I hadn't expected this gesture from her, especially when I didn't recognize when the real emotional need for a hug actually was. Then she did something even more unthinkable. Gently she put her arm around me, taking my injured hand in the other and led me into her house. She called out for her mom, even though there was no obvious need for serious medical attention.

Even though I stood there bewildered in the middle of the house filled with little kids who'd all been running around but now stared at the strange bawling girl, I felt alone. Alone. Standing, sobbing, feeling no one was there for me, Alone. I don't know how Marie's mom knew this, but she did. She was with me in what seemed like an instant-- the woman that we had clearly avoided eating our donuts in front of, or laying out half naked in our swimsuits, while the sun bleached our hair. My shoulders shook continuously and uncontrollably still . My heart wrenched and heaved with the sadness. The situation before me held a strange disconnect. The day had started out so normal and all of the sudden--never ending sorrow. What was going on? But I couldn't really consciously ponder this, I was too entrenched in the mysterious inner pain I was feeling. As quickly as the situation had begun, my emotions subsided in several chest compressing sobs and the tears stopped running. My mature twelve year old self opened my eyes in disbelief as I realized the tender embrace of Marie's mother's arms around me. She gently smoothed my hair as I rested softly on her tear soaked shoulder. Marie stood watching sympathetically. I had never experienced that kind of pathos in my entire life. It made me wonder why I had never experienced this before. I hesitantly withdrew from her embrace, unsure of the affection being shown me. Composing myself I whispered, "Thank you sister Neil." and quietly walked out of the house with Marie. After closing the door behind us, I sniffled and took a deep breath, wiping my eyes. Marie gave me another hug and said, "Its okay Andy." I meekly said thank you, and I meant it.

Eleven years later, now my 23 year old self, I realized something from that day. Her mother may not have wanted Marie to sit around eating junk, or waste the day bleaching her hair with lemons. This woman may have a peculiar way that she'd wanted her family to live but I knew one thing. She'd taught her daughter to share something that I hadn't known I'd never felt before, nor did I even recognize. Our friendship dwindled away over time, as many childhood friendships do. But one thing that will never leave, is what she shared that hot Arizona summer of 1996, she shared love.

Watch out for grammar, punctuation, sentence structure.

This begins as a fun summer story about two friends and ends as a difficult to follow, life-changing experience. You need to blend the two together so the reader is not thrown off. You need to tie the blond hair experience in to the cathartic experience somehow. It's a little hard to follow at the end. We need to know why she's crying and there needs to be a more immediate resolution or recognition—not one years later.

What I liked best: I liked the beginning of the story. I think if you divided this story in half and created two—one about the innocence of summer friendship and one about learning about love—you'd be much better off.

Magazine ready? No. It needs work.

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