Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: That Summer
The golden glow of the sun ripens the sky over the ocean. The water creates a rippled mirror, casting the colors back with deeper saturation.
I climb the dune, the sand sliding beneath my sandals. When I reach the top, I shade my eyes and squint as I look out over the beach. The familiar hissing of waves rushing up the sand as high tide comes in calms my thundering heart. My long hair whips against my cheeks.
Tomorrow we leave. My mother is already packing the beach house—doing laundry, loading up our bags, gathering non-perishables into a milk crate, removing the cosmetics from the bathroom vanity. It’s amazing how “settled in” to our temporary home we became. Nights lounging on the deck around the chiminea making s’mores, days on the beach browning our skin, volleyball games, fishing, getting to know our neighbors.
“Hey.” His voice startles me from my thoughts.
“Hey.” I don’t look up. Instead I watch the waves wash away footprints and a child’s sandcastle. I imagine they can do the same for the ache in my chest.
“I brought you something.”
I finally glance over at him—tanned skin, navy shorts, red T-shirt, his beloved Mariners baseball cap. One arm is behind his back, and a goofy smile spreads across his face.
I poke him in the side. “What is it?”
With a flourish, he presents me with a bouquet of wildflowers. “Pretty flowers for a pretty girl.”
The corner of my lip twitches. “A few weeks ago, you accused me of having cooties.”
“Oh, you’ve still got them.” He leans forward and presses his lips against mine. “I don’t mind them so much.”
My first kiss.
“I, um, don’t mind yours, either.” Holding my flowers in one hand, I grab his shoulder with the other and tip my head up to kiss him.
We spend the rest of the day in the awkward in-between phase preteens go through when they first discover an attraction for the opposite sex. We tease each other, smooch a little, wrestle in the sand, kiss a lot more, hold hands as we walk along the water. We promise to write each other.
When our car pulls away the next day, I press my hand against the window. He lifts his in the air. I’m wearing his Mariner’s cap.
I jolt awake, my face wet with tears.
It’s been fifteen years since that summer, and I still dream of him. The flowers he gave me are pressed between the pages of a book. The edges of their petals are brittle, and some pieces have disintegrated. The Mariner’s cap is in a box on the top shelf of my closet.
We were pen pals for two years—exchanging pictures, drawings, and trinkets.
But time marches on, though my dreams never let me forget him. I wonder where he is, who he’s become.
I wonder if he ever dreams of me.
Sarah Aisling hails from New Jersey and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and awesomely precocious daughter. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SarahAislingAuthor