Search results for: best summer ever
Sophie bends down and peers under her seat. “Have you got Zack? I can’t find him.”
“Your brother?! Sophie, you know he’s… Oh, you mean that scruffy toy zebra. No, I haven’t got it. Why would I have it?”
“Well, where is he, then?” Her voice rises an octave as she clutches onto her boyfriend’s arm. “I don’t know where he is, Paul. I need to find him.”
Paul turns to face her. “Did you take it with you when you went to the restroom just now?”
She swallows. “Yeah, I did. In my pocket. He must have fallen out. Oh God, he could be anywhere now. We need to go and find him.”
She starts to get up from her seat, but he reaches out and grabs her arm. “Sophie, come on. The halftime show is literally just about to start.”
“Fuck the halftime show. I need to find Zack. Come and help me. Please.”
He shakes his head. “You know how much I was looking forward to this show. I’ve loved Eminem ever since his first album. I don’t want to miss anything.”
She blinks away tears. “I can’t believe Eminem is more important to you than I am.”
He folds his arms, a frown on his face. “Don’t be silly. He’s not more important to me than you. But he is more important than a stupid toy zebra. My dad spent a lot of money to get us here. Have you seen how much Super Bowl tickets cost?”
My mother’s sisters say their grandmother had it; what they, being partly Welsh, call the “sixth sense,” and my grandmother on my father’s side once claimed that her sister had it, though she didn’t call it the same thing. She called it “trouble.” Anyway, no one talked about it after my parents shut me down. They must have told them all to shut up.
Both of my parents were shrinks. My father with his doctorate in forensic psychology worked with the police department and legal system. My mother was a geriatric psychiatrist and ran her extremely efficient department in the local hospital system. It was an understatement to suggest that my parents competed with each other in just about every way. Professionally, physically (who was the most consistent and successful amateur athlete), intellectually (who read the most erudite books and articles) and sexually (who could attract the most attractive admirers whether they were acted upon or not.) Sometimes our meals were so tense with subtle and not so subtle rivalry that I developed an ulcer at age fourteen.
My unfortunate ability came to my parents’ attention when I was five. We were waiting at the airport for our connection to Phoenix to visit my father’s recently widowed mother. For a kid this age, waiting was extremely boring. A young woman sat down next to us, accompanied by a rough looking boyfriend and I gave her a long searching look. “She’s gonna have a baby!” I announced at top volume.
The girl looked horrified, the boyfriend’s mouth dropped open and my mother yanked my arm. “What are you doing?” she low-level yelled. “Why would you say such a thing to a total stranger?”
Me all innocent: “Well, because she IS. SHE’S GONNA HAVE A BABY AND IT’S A GIRL!!!!!!!!!”
My dear mother slapped me. She, being a shrink and all, supposedly did not promote physical punishment for children, but her hand shot out like a bullet and then I was wailing at the top of my lungs.
The boyfriend kept saying, “Is it true? How would that kid know? Is it mine?”
I’ve never been the type to be decisive. To be fair, I’ve never been the type to be much of anything. I’m more of an in–between type person, not quite this nor that—but I won’t flatter myself by self–bombarding with adjectives.
“So, which season did you say again?”
My Chem partner for the get–to–know–you questionnaire is looking at me with a mild impatience in her eyes, her eyebrows creasing ever so slightly.
“Well, I would probably say summer…” I pause. I stereotypically associate summer with blindly optimistic, lighthearted people; the physical epitome of a California Valley Girl. That could only be me when really tired, tipsy, or in love—none of which have ever ended well. Saying that my favorite season is summer would not only be bad luck, but also falsely portray my personality as blithe. That doesn’t fit Chem as a subject—and besides, everyone loves summer. It’s too basic, which is also something I don’t want to be.
“Actually, it’s winter, sorry.” I give her an apologetic smile, which, knowing me, probably just looks like an awkward grimace. My chem partner writes down my answer slowly, as if her thoughts are slow to translate into her hand. I wonder where her head is, and if that means she’s bored of our conversation, or me.
It’s just your Chem partner. It’s not like you’ll become best friends or anything. But you could definitely be more enthusiastic. “So, what’s your favorite season?”
“Summer.” My chem partner says automatically. A slight flicker in her eyes smiles at her own quick reply, as if she’s making a private inside joke about me. I smile at her guiltily, pretending to ignore that I think summer is a basic season to love. It’s not like it’s actually indicative of anything. Or maybe she’s smiling because winter is so unpopular—it’s kind of an edgy season to like. Drab and lifeless.
“That’s cool,” I say languidly. “By the way, I would actually say my favorite season is fall.” Yeah, that’s definitely a normal season to like. All fresh and tranquil and everything.
Pupils… Persuasive… Pedal… Pentagram…
Angie gulped for air as she broke the water. Strings of auburn hair clung to her face like seaweed, refusing to be contained by her swim cap. The sun was rapidly sinking toward the horizon. But she was determined to finish.
Quagmire… Quarrel… Queasy…
Angie had grown up in the water. She had a picture of herself at only three months old being dipped by her dad into the cold shallows of the Pacific. An expression of sheer delight on her face.
Rusted… Rowdy… Roadkill… Resurrection…
Swimming was Angie’s daily ritual. And she was good at it. She was the highest ranked in the county for the 200 freestyle. She might even have a chance at a scholarship (which she definitely needed). But her dedication wasn’t solely about maintaining her competitive edge over the summer. She loved the sensation of weightlessness — the way her body moved up and down with the swell of the surf, as though she were flying. The underwater drone of sea life creating a soothing vacuum. The power of her muscles propelling her forward one more lap… then another… and another. Swimming was her drug.
To clock the amount of laps she swam, Angie assigned a letter for each one, conjuring random words to help keep a steady rhythm. The practice had a meditative effect. Her mom had taught her this as a little girl, to calm her when she was upset. Now it cleared her head.
** Trigger warning: Male character stalks and kidnaps a female.
The hills are burning again.
They begin where our backyard ends. Past the empty rabbit hutches, the trampoline, forbidden after my cousin broke his leg, the pool and its chlorine miasma. The slopes roll for miles, golden, thick with sunburnt grass that rustles as sparrows and finches hunt for larvae and seeds. Their small chirps punctuate the predawn air, most days. Days when the patio door glass is cool against my cheeks, fogged from water collected between the panes. The dogs run over, push my legs with their long snouts, paw at the door. On those good mornings I let them out.
But today the glass is hot, threatening to blister my fingers. The hills are crested with flames which span the ridge in a flickering wall. The air is thick with grey particulate, the pool a vile slurry, the sky an unsettling orange. The dogs bark and whine.
Mom is in the kitchen. I hear the coffee grinder whir just as the electric kettle clicks off.
“The hills are burning.” I get as close to the glass as I dare. A thin tendril of fire breaks off, slithers toward our fence. It’s hundreds of feet away. I’m not worried yet.
Painted a shitillion times and in a perpetual state of latex molting, The Pelee Islander was a floating tin can. Mr. O said to pass the trip across Lake Erie writing in our journals: observations on nature and over-consumption and our plan for saving the planet from corporate greed and political corruption. And as an aside: what did we want to change about ourselves?
We were about to graduate from high school.
I passed the trip nose-in-phone, absently peeling paint scales off the seats and rails. Two hours of sitting did nothing for my especially-achy left leg. To distract myself from the pain, I drooled over the picture of Mason. It had been a week. Why could I not remove his picture? Why hadn’t I changed it to him with horns on his head and warts, or a mustache and angry eyebrows? Keeping Mason’s pic as my home screen proved I wasn’t over him, that I hadn’t moved on.
Scroll…scroll…I stopped on the image I’d posted two minutes ago. Jack Peters liked it already. I scanned the deck. There was Jack, by the stairs. He smiled into his phone, possibly, hopefully, at my cleverness. The pic was me, holding Mason’s necklace over the rail of The Pelee Islander with a malevolent grin and the caption: a woman’s heart is full of secrets. I shouldn’t have done that. It was mean. But I didn’t actually drop the necklace into Lake Erie, so it was only theoretical assholery—all I had the courage for.
Jack caught me staring. I was actually staring through him, thinking about Mason and that look of revulsion on Mason’s face when he found me out. The one right before: “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Mum was baking again. Awaking to the smell of fresh bread and cookies, my mouth watered. Anxiety surged through me; she was doing this on purpose.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said, as I walked into the kitchen.
“Mum,” I said. “We talked about this.”
She sighed. “But they’re healthy. It’s wholemeal bread. And no chocolate this time. Just fruit and nuts in the cookies. All good stuff.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “Do you know how much fat there is in nuts?”
“But, Ellie, it’s good fat. Come on, you know what your counsellor said. It’s necessary to have some fat in your diet.”
I stayed quiet as I reached into the fruit bowl for a banana and began to unpeel it.
The sun radiated molten fire as Michael & I walked home from school. Around us, San Francisco suburbia hummed with activity as people bustled from place to place; walking dogs, picking up kids, returning from work, and so on. I stopped to wipe some sweat from my eyes as the concrete sidewalk bubbled beneath the heat. Michael kicked absentmindedly at the grass, watching the cars blur by; with his screen-addict eyes, overweight physique, and unshaven chin– he did not cut a very imposing figure.
“Are you going to Sam’s thing tonight?” asked Michael, with the deep squeak of adolescence.
“Dunno,” I said. “Did you understand what he was going on about earlier? Automated programming, neural networks, pattern recognition… way over my head.”
I readjusted my backpack, and we continued walking. I wished—as I always did—that I’d remembered to pack a water-bottle and cursed my past self for subjecting me to this torture, as the temperature eased towards the hundreds. My feet rubbed unpleasantly against the sides of my sneakers.
“He was talking,” said Michael, “about a process of automation that would allow an AI to generate certain patterns of text.”
“So, how was your summer?” Lucy fixes her eyes upon me as we walk to school.
Butterflies flutter in my stomach and I resist the temptation to look down at the floor. “Fine, thanks.”
“Fine?!” She stops and whirls around, catching my arm with the strap of her rucksack.
“Yeah.” I rub my arm. “What about yours?”
“It was boring without you to hang out with. But I’m not the one whose parents took her on a cruise around Europe! Come on, Vicky, you can’t just say ‘fine’. Give me something to go on.”
I take a deep breath. This was the conversation I had been dreading. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything! For a start, did you make any friends?”
“You can’t just stay in your room the whole time.” Mum frowned at me.
I shrugged. “Of course I can. I’ve got a TV in my room, music on my phone and loads of books on my Kindle. I’m all set.”
“Stay safe and be good,” Andrea’s mom said as we hopped out of the black SUV.
“We always are.” I grinned back.
Andrea lingered for a moment, peering into the car. I leaned down to hurry her along in time to see a serious look across her mother’s face.
“Yeah, I know,” Andrea said, slamming the door. She turned her back to the car and rolled her eyes.
“What was that all about?”
“You know. Mom stuff. Always worried I’m gonna get into trouble or somethin’.”
I nodded. Moms always assumed the worst the moment we left their sight. What could happen? I mean, we were both fifteen years old and had never been in any trouble at all. Well, except the one time in first grade when I shoved Billy Anderson to the ground for yanking on the new girl’s curly pigtails at recess. Which didn’t actually count. Even Mom wasn’t mad.