This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
laying beside me on the hammock, my best friend. He had a look of concentration on his face that went awkward with the brown freckles and the wide smile he normally wore, dimples accenting the flirtatious grin. I unconsciously rubbed on some more sunscreen, not wanting to darken the already buttery-gold tan I had acquired from so many days out in the sun. My white tank was a drastic contrast between my colored shoulders and tanned legs. I tugged at my short, fraying jean cut-offs before running my fingers through my brown hair to pull it back and out of my face with a croc clip. The summer to ourselves. This was the year before he went off to college and the first one since my family had moved here that we didn’t have anywhere to go. My older sister was off settling into her college dorm and my other neighbor who normally stole the attention of my friend was off on a whirlwind trip through Europe for the entire summer. Owen’s twin was vacationing in California with a couple friends from their church, so left in the neighborhood were us and several middle schoolers and a couple elementary kids for this summer before my senior year in high school and I was slightly bummed. I was now going to be the oldest one in the neighborhood and I was getting this loneliness welling in the pit of my stomach. With Owen, Ashlyn, and Alice gone, Channling might be more of a better friend, no longer in need of sucking up to the big kids. But it would still be just us. But before the depressing start of school came, I still had a summer to finish. I was determined to make the most of it. This one summer alone with Owen and I wanted to show him that I was worth it. I remember summers ago, Channling and I being in sixth grade, Ashlyn in eighth and Owen and Alice in seventh. We were joking around while the elementary schoolers played tag and hide-and-go-seek. Owen was tackled by several kindergarteners so Alice came over and questioned us separately. She asked us what we thought of her cousin and then asked if we liked Owen. It just so happened that all of us said yes. She asked Owen what he thought of each of us and then told us his judgment. He said that Channling was pretty and liked her as a best friend but she wasn’t girlfriend material. Ashlyn was cute leaning toward not so cute. I was labeled “unfavorable.” Channling let it go to her head like everything else while I gave up completely and Ashlyn chatted it up with him. She told me to stop sulking because he might find me more attractive if I would just let him get to know me better. I took her advice and now Owen and I were tight friends. He had gone out with Channling for months and then she broke up with him about a summer ago. They still continued to flirt 24/7, but I had gone through a bunch of changes since that cool spring night and I was more confident mentally and physically. My acne had cleared up and I spent more time in the sun. I lost my fear of a lot of things and let my hair stay shoulder length. I finally was able to handle contacts so I didn’t have Harry Potter specs covering my own freckles and just between you and me, I finally fill Ashlyn’s old bras. I closed my eyes and pressed my feet against the mulch of Owen’s mom’s flower garden, sending the hammock swinging and my hair brushing along the tips of dozens of blades of grass. Maple leaves obstructed my vision of the sky at the height of each swing and I thought of the fireworks that we would be seeing tonight for the Fourth of July. My dad had offered to carpool with several other parents in the neighborhood to the lake an hour away. There were going to be brilliant firework displays, unlike the ones that our
neighborhood normally put on, ones that sparked and howled but stayed firmly on the ground. I was hoping that something might happen tonight. In the back of my mind I knew that it was only a fantasy. “You know what I want?” Owen asked me, still staring at the sky. “I want something to happen this summer. I know I might have to work to make it happen, but I think, it just seems that if something is going to happen to me, out of the ordinary, it would be this summer.” I smiled, knowing exactly how he felt. “This summer does feel different. With everyone gone it feels like something is going to happen.” Owen smiled, too and I wondered if he was reveling in the fact that it was just the two of us. He stood up from the hammock and shoved against one of the ropes connecting it to the trees. I swayed violently before falling out of the rope swing and into the dirt. Owen started to crack up as he jumped into one of the hammock-supporting trees, climbing between two connected trunks, scurrying among several branches. Owen was not muscular, per se, but he had amazing upper body strength and had been like a monkey since he moved here, always climbing, whether it be jumping our neighbors’ decks or shinnying up the school flagpole. (I don’t really think he ever did the latter but it just sounded impressive.) I stood up and brushed off the back of my shirt, trying my best to follow him up the tree. I stopped short on a branch a couple below him and he snickered before coming down to sit beside me on the bough. He swung beneath the limb, hanging by his knees, his short, brown shag falling a couple inches below his head. I rolled my eyes and pressed against his shins, digging the branch into the back of his calves. He glared at me and I giggled slightly as he hauled himself upright. Our hands brushed, pinky fingers touching and I expected him, maybe even wanted him to move away so that I wouldn’t get too hopeful for the rest of the summer, but his hand stayed right where it was, as did the big grin on his face. Owen’s mom appeared on the back porch and shouted out to us. “Owen!” she scolded. “Remember that tree branch you broke in May?” Owen smiled sheepishly and dropped from the branch, landing on a bough below and hopping down the tree. I rolled my eyes and took my time shinnying down. “You two all ready for the ride down to the lake? Owen you never hung up your bathing suit to dry when we got back from the pool yesterday. I found it in a crumpled wad on the floor in your room and the carpeting is all wet.” Owen turned around to give me a shrug and an eye roll before leading me into his house. Each room was a different color: a warm red for the living room, a roasted orange for the kitchen, a creamy yellow for the sunroom. He walked up the stairs past his mom who was coming in from the back deck. We turned a corner onto the second floor landing and we passed Alice’s room to Owen’s where he opened the door and sauntered inside. He picked his swim trunks off the floor and tossed them to me as I walked in. I passed them right back where they brushed the top of his brown-haired head before dropping onto his purple, orange and green striped comforter. “You go stick them in the dryer,” I told him before sitting on his bed and handing him the hibiscus-flowered, orange shorts. He walked out of the room and to the laundry room where he flung them against the back of the dryer and set it for fifteen minutes. Coming back in from the hall, he picked up a canvas bag from off the floor of his closet and dropped in a beach towel from the hall way linen cabinet. He rummaged around in
his laptop case before coming back up with his orange iPod. He plugged it into his alarm clock and spun the dial until the Dave Matthews Band came on. He started to jam on an imaginary guitar, mouthing the words and bending his knees in the middle of the bedroom. I giggled in the back of my throat before laughing out loud and rolling my eyes. “Very nice moves,” I commented. He broke into a huge grin before putting more stuff into his bag for the trip, picnic, and swim at the lake. He changed, in front of me, into a dark green shirt and his swim trunks (keeping his boxers on) from the dryer before grabbing the bag and iPod and taking my hand to drag me downstairs. We passed his parents on the way out; his dad was sitting there on the couch with their Jack Russell terrier. Cosby the terrier turned his head and jumped off of Jeff’s lap, coming over to greet me by jumping onto my shins. I slipped my hand from Owen’s to scratch the dog behind the ears and then we walked outside, making sure to close the door without letting Cosby onto the porch. We hopped our neighbors’ fence and crossed their side yard, avoiding a small soccer game that was coming to an end as the kids succumbed to parents calling them in for lunch. We stepped over a bunch of rocks around a runoff drain and walked up my driveway to my garage where we passed my dad who was putting the back seat into our minivan for the drive down to the lake. I opened the garage door and cut across the hallway, Owen following me up to my bedroom where I snuck into the closet to slip on my string bikini beneath my tank and hipster shorts. I came back out and sat on my bed next to him, lying back on my flowered comforter. Owen’s hand reached down to fiddle with the thread at the hem of my cut-offs. His fingers brushed just above my knee as we both stared at the ceiling. My dad shouted up from down stairs and we both jumped, Owen’s hand slipping back from me. “You two had lunch yet? We need to get ready to go!” I stuffed a notebook, a library book, and mp3 player into a bag, slipping my cell phone into my back pocket before leading the way down stairs. We parked ourselves in the kitchen before making some sandwiches; Owen knew where everything in the kitchen was. I slapped together a salami and A1 sauce sandwich, grabbing a Sierra Mist to share as I sat down at the bar. Owen licked the knife he had used to spread his peanut butter before cutting his pb&j sandwich diagonally down the middle, coming to sit beside me. The room with its light coffee paint had a warm feeling and the stools we were sitting on matched the cabinetry along with the island. My mom loved this gigantic kitchen, and since we had moved here six/some-odd years ago, she had made a lot of home cooked meals. I suppressed a sigh in my sandwich before hopping off my stool and stuffing the last bit of crust in my mouth, brushing crumbs off my jean shorts. Rinsing my plate and placing it in the dishwasher, I came over to grab Owen’s hand, taking his plate and dropping it on the counter before dragging him out the front door. Dad and a bunch of other kids were already in the car along with our bags so Owen and I scrunched up in the back with the other tweens. Owen pulled out his iPod and we listened to several songs I knew all the words to but weren’t necessarily my favorite. After “Californication” ended, we were at the lake so we all hopped out, nearly trampled by the middle schoolers. I wandered to the lake edge, stripping down before diving off the pier. I sliced through the small swells, feeling the cold-water raise goose bumps along my sides and arms. Owen dived in behind me and shot past my chilled form before jumping from the water and shouting, “That is freaking freezing!” I laughed at him
as he ran back up the beach, shaking out his hair and rubbing his arms. I ducked my head and started to freestyle to the other shore; keeping moving to stay warm. The little kids brought out a kite on the sand. A sixth grade boy grabbed hold of the string, spinning out the kite as he ran, the fabricated dragon dragging along the dunes. His older sister ran over to help him, tossing the kite into the air. Owen finally came back in, paddling beside me while floating on his back. He had a tennis ball in his hand and he swam past me a good seven yards before turning around to lob the neon ball back at me. It landed in the water beside me and I tossed it back to him. My pass was a little high and Owen reached above his head though the ball soared through his fingers and a good three feet behind him. I giggled and apologized. We played catch for a while longer before getting out of the water and drying off. I slipped a pair of sunglasses on to the bridge of my nose and lay back on my towel in the sand. The sun felt so good on my skin; I had just reapplied sunscreen. Owen collapsed beside me, pulling out a deck of cards. He squeezed a few strands of his dripping hair, a steady stream of water cascading down to darken my towel with moisture. Tossing out cards, Owen dealt the entire deck and we played several rounds of Spit. We played best of seven and he beat me three times before I won the last four games. “Come on, guys! Dinner time!” Everyone in our group popped up when one of the neighborhood moms called. Owen and I ran down the beach toward them, racing. Not to brag or anything, but I am a runner. I pulled out in front of him in a matter of seconds and beat him by a good eight feet. I beamed at him as he planted his hands on his knees, panting. I pulled my shirt away from myself, airing out in the slight breeze. “I used to think I was good, till I befriended you, pantpantpant, remind me again why I did that? Pantpantpant.” I giggled at him. “Because I’m just so likeable!” I teased and he nodded, grinning. We sat down in a huge circle with the rest of the neighborhood on a huge array of towels of all different colors. Since our neighborhood had been new when we had all moved in, everyone knew everyone. We were like one whole family and we acted like it, too. Everyone talked with everyone, sometimes several conversations fought against each other in the middle of the circle. Afterwards, we played a parents-versus-kids kickball game. The dads would tease and take it easy on the little kids while tackling and cheating on the older ones like Owen and I so that we wouldn’t make it to the base without getting tagged. At some point I was taking a chance for second base and Owen’s dad chucked the ball at me to tag me out, hard. My foot hit the base and I caught the ball at exactly the same moment (And yes, I know that you are not supposed to catch the ball when running the bases). Everyone in the outfield cracked up and I got several high fives from some of the parents. The parents beat us, with much cheating, and we dispersed, going back to our little huddles of friends. Owen and I kicked a soccer ball around for a while before collapsing in the grass beneath a couple of trees. I lay back on the ground, perpendicular to him, my head resting on his stomach. “I think you’re gonna make me puke,” he teased and I giggled, lifting up my head momentarily. His abdomen rose and fell with each breath, beneath my head. He started to play with my hair, running his fingers through it. I let my head loll to the side and our eyes met as he grinned down at me. We just lay there till our breathing slowed before getting up and helping the little kids get the kite in the air.
The fireworks started off slow and all the little kids raced to get a spot on the sand while Owen and I shared a grin before sprinting away from the beach, to a grassy knoll with the best view. I kicked off my flip-flops at the bottom before sitting down in the grass and laying back. Owen sat beside me as the navy sky lit up with purple and red bursts of color, flowers of light blossoming against the few stars that were out at that time. Blue and yellow fireworks exploded to form a star. Orange and green bloomed against the dark blue background and we both grinned as a rapid-fire explosion was felt in our rib cages. Owen’s hand found mine and he tugged me over so that I was leaning against his shoulder, his head touching mine. I grinned even wider as the firmament brightened with arcs of gold, like an archway to heaven. We could hear the ooh and aah of the little kids down by the water and I felt Owen smile against my ear. I turned to look at him and he was facing me, grinning slightly. “Not to bring back any bad memories, but ever since that night, you know, when we first moved here, well I’ve always wanted to take back what I said about you. Not to make excuses or anything, but I didn’t know that Alice was going to tell you that.” I grinned and shook my head. “But of course she would, it is in The Girls’ Code of Honor.” Owen grinned back, his arms coming around my waist to pull me closer to him. “Something’s gonna happen this summer, I can feel it.” I smiled tilting my head back to look at him as the fireworks continued on overhead. Our eyes met again before he leaned in, his lips brushing mine. And then he seriously kissed me, his mouth warm and firm. And by far this was not my first kiss. But it sure felt like it.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.