Summer Magic

May 16, 2008
By Keri Palmer, Winchester, VA

They say the first time is the one you never forget—and truer words have never been spoken. There’s some kind of magic that happens when you spontaneously meet a person for the first time, a magic that seems to get brighter only when it’s special. I remember the first time I met her, well the first time I laid eyes on her. With trembling lips, she explained to her mother how she had scraped her knee and gravel was still embedded in her elbow showing proof of the disaster. That had been my first day at the lake house. My first night at the lake house, we sat on the porch watching the lightning bugs sparkle the cool air. Even though girls had cooties back then, I remained untroubled when she jumped near me after a bug had brushed against her arm. Her name was Lynn and she hated that fact. Lynn was the name of her smelly grandmother who drank water a lot.
The first summer we went to the lake nearly every day and chased each other around the property, the next summer we did the same thing. Over the summer, Lynn became my best friend and I always looked forward to seeing her because she was someone who understood how it felt to be away from home during the humid weeks. I appreciated her diversity and the fact that she wasn’t afraid to jump from a tree limb like other girls would be. However, her mom didn’t appreciate her tree climbing skills that much, having to always pack a first aid kit labeled ‘Especially for Lynn’. For the next five summers, we always took adventures and turned the property into a wonderland: where imaginations became realities and impossible became tangible. Until one day I was 15 and girls didn’t have cooties anymore, suddenly the things that we had in common were the attributes I loved about her. I remember that I had gotten a hackjob of a haircut a few days before heading to the lake house with my parents. I would cringe every time I accidently let my hand glide over the top of my head; the cropped hair was prickly and had far too much gel. As if God was some kind of ironic writer, Lynn had been heading down the staircase the moment I came through the door. She didn’t immediately notice me, her eyes closed as she listened to music from her walkman. However, I noticed her…very much. Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders and bounced rhythmically as she jogged down each step, knowing the hardwood like the back of her hand. I stood like an idiot near the banister and didn’t move as she neared me, getting closer and closer until finally we both were on the floor. I told her I hadn’t seen her coming and she confessed to me that she had been waiting forever for me to arrive. As we walked out of the backdoor to the lake, she held out her headphone set telling me that I needed to hear this new band. I was still an idiot though and didn’t grab for the headphone set. I didn’t hate my hair at that moment as she gingerly placed the headphones over my ears. She smiled, satisfied that I was finally there.
Nothing had been as sweet as the next year when we sat by the water, blowing dandelions and making wishes. I had wished for a car, Lynn had wished that she were able to run away. I asked her why she was so sad and she ashamedly told me that her grandmother now lived with her. Her grandmother, who drank all the time, degraded Lynn and never let up. She sighed dramatically and made it a point to fixate herself with the grass beneath her torn shoe. I could see the stream of tears on her face and it reminded me of the music she listened to, somber and cloudy. I didn’t want anymore grey skies for Lynn. The sun was warm on my face as I brushed my hand over the knee of the clumsiest girl I’ve ever known. She watched me expectantly and it was now or never. When I kissed her, the melody was sane and romantic. This time I could feel her smile on mine.
The summer of 1995, I had finally gotten my car and had driven up to the lake house behind my parents. Lynn was impressed with the automobile, knowing more about the engine than I did myself. She told me that she had just received her own license a few weeks prior, “There’s nothing like that control.” She’d told me. Later than night we sat on the porch and laughed about the first time we had met. She quietly moved towards me and admitted that she didn’t know how her life would be without me being her summer. At that moment, I finally understood what I meant to this girl. I was what she looked forward to while her life was in shambles, and defeat seemed inevitable elsewhere. I promised her that I would make her wishes come true, that as soon as my cap was thrown in the air I would find her. We would run away together to a place where chaos may reign but the world would never end.
The next year I waited for Lynn to come and tell me about another crazy school year. I waited all morning and most of the night and as I waited I finally knew how much I missed her. I missed the way she would dive into the lake when I asked her not to, I missed her laugh—she would laugh with such beautiful harmony after we would get caught running through the lake house. In my heart, I knew that something was amiss and this summer wouldn’t be like the rest. Maybe it was because of the dark clouds that hung in the sky outside or because the house was so quiet, the perfect day for sleep to settle in. Asking the manager where the Coleman family was this summer had been the most courageous thing I’d done. With tear glazed eyes, he handed me a newspaper and I found Lynn painted in gray. There was no color, what could be read in black and white was insane. There’s nothing like that control. It would have only taken one more summer for us to escape and build our own wonderland but Lynn hadn’t seen the oasis like I thought she had. As I read over the obituary, I felt magic die and I knew that that was the greatest tragedy in the world, when chaotic beauty was somehow put to rest.

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