“Do I have to jump?” Lottie’s voice raises two octaves on ‘jump’ after taking on a nasally tone at ‘have.’
Aaron stares at her incredulously, “No, but…”
“No? Yes!” Ralph cuts in with his own opinion with no surprise to anyone there, “Just go already.” He rolls his eyes.
“You don’t have to, but we’ve been here for ten minutes…” Aaron adds.
“Look Lottie,” Julia crosses her pale arms across her red swimsuit, “You’re the one who said they wanted to jump from the bridge before summer ends, so are you going to do it or not?”
Lottie bites her lip and looks down at the water. She thinks of how this endless summer is coming to an end three days from now. She thinks of all her other firsts this summer – kiss, motorcycle ride, trip to the fair, best friends. She thinks of how high off the ground she is. She thinks of the three seconds she’ll dangle in the air before she hits the water.
She shakes her head, “No, no, no, I can’t.”
A horn blares and Aaron’s eyes grow panicked, “Go! The train is coming! Go! Go!”
Lottie’s hands start to shake.
“Lottie I’m going to push you if you don’t jump,” Aaron’s words come out in a rush. Ralph grabs one of her hands and Aaron the other. They jump. Lottie screams. The air rushes over her body and then her feet sting at their contact with the water.
Julia swims over and grins. “See that wasn’t so bad, all you needed was a little push.”
Lottie splashes her but grins. “Well that was quite the push,” her shaking hands testify to her statement. She swims a little ways, “You three have done nothing but push me all summer.”
“You don’t really mind do you,” Aaron raises his eyebrows.
“No, I don’t.” She answers and swims away.
“When do you leave?” She asks tilting her head so she might feel the brush of her recently curled hair against her neck. She’d curled it for the luncheon Dad was treating her to.
He stirred his coffee around despite that he liked it black and there was nothing to stir. He set his spoon down on the plate and fingered his napkin. “In two days.”
She blinked and sipped her coffee that was ten shades lighter than his. “Already? They want you that soon?”
Dad avoided her eyes, “It’s a war honey, not just any job. They need me quick.”
“I know.” She pulled her sweater over her fingers.
“I know you know.” He takes her other hand. “Look, I’ll write you every day, I’ll be back before you can blink. You’ll have a great time at your Aunt’s place.”
“You don’t know when you’ll be back,” she turns her head away and focusing on the plate the waiter across the room is carrying, “If you’ll be back.”
He doesn’t say anything and then he says everything, “I know sweetheart.”
The cushions of the sofa smooshed closer together under her weight and she stroked the fabric of her dress that had spread across her legs. With her other hand she fingered the pages of her book. The ticking of the clock caught her eye. Fifteen minutes. Plenty of time to read. She fell into the book and her eyes glazed over with story.
The ticking of the clock suddenly became terribly irksome and obnoxious.
She glanced up, disdain furrowing the skin between her eyebrows.
Her eyes widened. Twenty minutes had passed. The party had already started.
She slapped the book shut and gathered the gauze of her dress. Jumping up she threw the clutch over her shoulder and ran down the hall, her heels echoing off the marbled walls. The gilt framing of the mirrors glimmered in her eyes. Gosh this house sure is nice. She caught her face in the mirror. My hair is slipping, well there’s no time, it doesn’t matter anyway.
The gilt doors stood in front of her. She slipped through the door and gathered the material of her dress so it wouldn’t catch.
His eyes met her’s from across the room full of people, she ripped her’s away just as he did.
I should’ve fixed my hair, she thought, shoving the book into her purse.
He’s pulled the truck to the side of the road and the look in his eyes holds the sky. The firmament rolls across the stretching heavens stitched in blueberry indigo and the gold of Midas. She drinks it in greedily, the black of the sky melting into the blue of his eyes.
“Look at the stars Madge,” he says, holding that name of her’s she finds so ugly like a thing of beauty between the temple of his lips.
She sweep her eyes upward and pulls the blanket tighter. “I see,” Madge whispers.
Mama said that none of us was quite alike. ‘Said you could tell by the dresses we put on each morning, by the way our hands fell to our laps or to our sides, by the way we responded when we got in trouble. She’d caught us that morning. Well, caught Em. I’m sure she was the one who did it. But all of us were culprits until proven otherwise.
Anyway, Mama noted that Millie’s hands crossed over her dress, that told you she was serious, quiet but defiant. She said she had more flying around in her mind then any of us care to know. She said she’d shock us all one day. I wasn’t sure I believed that. Millie was too good to do anything remotely shocking. She never let me get away with even a stray hair on Sunday.
And Jane, Jane was sweet. Her fingers were always moving, over piano keys, picking flowers, playing with her hair. She liked to talk but about interesting things, like the color the light made across the leaves. Mama said Jane was poetically inclined. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew Jane saw things in a way the rest of us didn’t.
Em’s hands never rested, but they didn’t move prettily like Jane’s. She’d twiddle her thumbs, or have her hands wrist high in mud, or would use them to arm wrestle Johnny, the boy next door. He tried to kiss her once and she slapped him. That was the last time they talked. Em talked to me more than any of our sisters. She told me Johnny was annoying and full of himself. I didn’t see anything wrong with a kiss, but the motives of kissing were beyond me.
And me, Mama’s Sarah, I was somewhere in the middle. I wasn’t outgoing like Em, but Mama said I wasn’t serious like Millie, or gentle like Jane. I liked to obey Mama, but I didn’t always agree with her. But I did love her, so I tried to be good. Millie annoyed me sometimes, the way she always wanted every button perfect and every hair in place. And I didn’t understand Jane, and Em was too loud for me. I wasn’t quite sure who I was in the middle of all of them.
Mama said I had quite a few years of growing to find out though.
The night he left she didn’t cry. He remembers her pale face, like the moon in that dark train station, upturned toward his as he kissed her goodbye. She didn’t let him kiss her at first, said she wanted to memorize his eyes before he left. “Although,” she had said, “Your eyes are rather hard to forget.” He’d rolled his eyes, and a tear slipped out the corner. She’d pulled him closer, wrapping her arms around him. He’d breathed in her scent memorizing the smell of jasmine so her could conjure up an image of her when the darkness would creep in, as he knew it would.
And the darkness had crept in. The rain had poured down over him at Dachau, on that day the gaunt faces pressed their image into his mind, and a tremendous throbbing rage and confusion and longing had squeezed his soul.
On the train home their faces kept appearing in his mind, and he didn’t know if he should feel guilty for feeling so comfortable. Their faces had been so pale, so dirty, so unlike her pure round face, and yet so like hers. Some of their eyes had lit up when they had entered. Their pupils become candles. And the light of some had snuffed out upon their arrival. Both had one thought – its over.
He didn’t feel despair, not as she ran toward him with beaming face and a coat flapping in the wind with propriety falling off its tail. He grinned too and they both stretched their arms wide. He buried his face in her hair and laughed until he cried, until he sobbed. And she rubbed his back, “It’s not over,” she whispered, “I know, I know. But I am here.”
What are your guys’ thoughts? Did you like these? Also, I feel like they’re all connected somehow… maybe I’ve been subconsciously plotting another story? You guys feel that connection too?