RL Ames’s Picture Choice: One
Title: The Last Leaves of Summer
She sighs and looks down at him. The warm breeze catches and lifts his hair. The sun is dappled across his face, and his eyes are closed. This moment is perfect, and she wishes she could freeze time and keep everything just this way forever.
She reaches down and brushes the hair out of his face, and his eyes flutter open. He smiles, and she can’t help but smile back.
“Are you hungry?” she asks. He looks past her, and it’s as if the brilliant sky reflecting in his eyes makes them even bluer.
“Maybe a little,” he says, stretching and yawning before pushing himself up and lifting his head from her lap.
She watches as he crawls to the basket and pulls out the bunch of grapes she’d packed earlier. He pops one in his mouth and then turns to grin at her.
She smiles back, but inside she can’t help but feel a little sadness. How has so much time passed already? She blinks back the tears she feels welling up behind her eyes. She can’t let him see her cry. Not again. “So are you ready? For tomorrow, I mean,” she asks, desperate to lighten her own mood. He chews thoughtfully for a moment before answering. He’s so deliberate lately. Has he always been that way? She can’t remember.
“I think so…” His answer is slow, and he stares off into the distance as he speaks.
“Are you nervous?” she asks.
This time he looks at her as he answers, but not before rolling his eyes. “No!” he scoffs. “Okay, okay,” she holds her hands up in mock surrender, and she’s laughing, but she can’t help but feel the dull ache that’s settled into her chest.
She’s injured his pride now, and he’s quiet again. The only sound is the breeze rustling through the trees above them. She wants to ask him more questions, but she doesn’t know what else to say.
The minutes stretch out in silence, but she doesn’t mind. He’s focused on something in the distance, or maybe he’s focused on nothing at all. Either way it gives her the chance to watch him openly.
When did he change so much? It seems there are lines and angles to his face that weren’t there the last time she looked at him. She silently curses time again, while at the same time pleading for it to just stand still a little while longer.
She shivers. The breeze that warmed them just a short while ago has turned chilly, and she’s reminded that summer’s almost over. Already the leaves on the trees overhead seem duller and maybe a few shades darker than the brilliant green they’d been all summer. It seems time stands still for no one or nothing.
“I’m gonna go inside.” His voice pierces her reverie and she smiles and nods. He leaps to his feet, and she’s reminded again of how cruel time can be. Suddenly he’s gone, and she’s alone gathering up their picnic supplies.
She sighs as she shakes out the blanket, the leaves that have fallen there taking flight once more before drifting to the ground.
The next morning is busy and chaotic. It’s good because it means she doesn’t have too much time to think. It’s not until they’re in the car, inching forward in the line of waiting cars that she has a moment to catch her breath. She wonders if the occupants of the other cars feel as panicked as she feels, being there in that moment.
She parks, and he looks over at her.
“You don’t want me to?” Her heart aches as he rolls his eyes and shrugs.
They’re silent as they walk together. She can almost feel the excited energy coming off him, and her stomach does a little flip. Is he really so excited to leave her? She wants to say something, but she feels flustered and doesn’t know quite what to say. It feels like everything between them is going to change in the next moment.
Their destination looms ahead. It’s a brightly colored doorway that looms larger until finally they’re in front of it. Suddenly she decides she doesn’t care what he thinks anymore. She reaches out and grabs his hand. He looks at her for a moment, eyes wide. The shock is evident on his face, but he doesn’t pull away and she takes a small measure of comfort in that.
“Well,” she says, doing her best to smile bravely. “This is it.”
He nods, and she can tell that even though he’s trying to hide it, he’s nervous. Scared even. There’s other people milling around them, but she only has eyes for him. She squeezes his hand and it takes all the strength she possesses to release him as he pulls away gently.
He’s through the doorway and almost out of sight before he turns back. He glances around for a moment, hesitant. Her heart stops as she waits.
“I love you, Mom.”
His voice is low, but it rings loudly in her ears. She grins.
“I love you too, baby. Have a great first day in kindergarten!”
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RL Ames spends her time chasing after her almost four year old son and sneaks in time for writing whenever she can. She can be found at rlames.weebly.com