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Lollipops, Cartwheels, and Fairy Tales
Parker kicked her feet back and forth, the water of the ocean flopping around them as she sat on the pier. It was about dawn, not quite, but enough so that light from the horizon was breaking through the night's thick darkness, casting glowing sunrays over the now pink hued sky. She could tell it wasn't going to be a warm, summery day like they had become accustomed to the past few days. The wind was blowing across her face, just enough to make her tighten her grip on the wool sweater that was around her shoulders. Winds like that didn't come in unless it was going to be a misty, gray day. Parker didn't really mind, though, since even the hottest and most relaxing of days had come and gone for 3 days, while she sat on the cushioned seat of the beach cottage and watched Will, Mark, and Mallory make most of their days at the beach.
Parker wasn't depressed, or sullen. Everyday since she arrived, she wanted to go outside, to feel the golden glow of the sun on her face and know the refreshing texture of the water. If she could, she would run out the door and across the street everyday and dive into the salt water she had known and loved every summer since she could remember. She loved to build sandcastles and compete in the annual beach volleyball tournament. Honestly, this cottage was the only place she felt like she truly belonged. It had been in her family for generations and when her parents told her it was all hers for the summer, she was ecstatic. She couldn't wait to tell Mallory and the gang, to spend day after day with her most loved friends in the place she loved the most.
Now, as she sat on the pier, her first time out since they had arrived that past Saturday, she couldn't help but question why they had come in the first place. Why did she ever think that she could come back to this very beach and feel like she did before? This wasn't a place like Narnia or Terabithia, where she was the Queen of the land and lived happily ever after with Prince Charming. She had left fairy tales back in grammar school, along with flying carpets and imaginary friends. She couldn't wave a magic wand to make everything just so. Parker winced as another blast of wind whipped across her face. Yes, the days of cartwheels and giant lollipops had left when he did.
Parker never thought she was the type of girl to lose herself over a guy. She knew herself to be carefree, content, and honestly, always a little crazy. She loved sitting on rooftops eating cherry chocolate ice cream, tumbling down long, steep hills for no reason, and skipping down the street in the rain just to know what it felt like. Even as a freshman in high school, she would splash in puddles and chase after the ice cream truck. Mallory had always told her that those reasons were why she loved her so much.
Parker wondered if now that she wasn't her true self, did Mallory not want to be her best friend anymore? She asked her that the night before last in the room they shared across the hall from Will and Mark, right before the went to sleep, and Mallory denied it. She told Parker that there was no way they would ever stop being friends, and that if she herself were in the same position she would probably act the same way. While Mallory fell asleep later that night, Parker stared up at the ceiling wondering if, while Mallory said she'd do the same thing, did it really matter? Parker wasn't Mallory. She didn't have Mallory's wit, courage, or gut. She was almost nothing like Mallory. Nothing at all.
The sun started to pick up a little in the sky, and Parker ceased kicking her legs. She pulled her knees to her chin and watched the light spread all over the sky. She thought herself a coward, a scared little girl who didn't want the boogeyman to see her. Only this time, she was an embarrassed high school graduate who was afraid to confront her, apparently very happy, ex-boyfriend. They had never quite broken up. There was no straightforward, "I don't like you anymore. Goodbye." Parker knew what a clean cut felt like, and their relationship was nowhere close to that. His father was in the army, she had understood that. She understood that he had been place she could only dream of going. She knew that at any time, he would have to leave. But for some reason, she always thought that he wouldn't. He, after all, lasted through three years of high school. Last summer, she had been so eager to spend time with him. She had planned trips to theme parks and scheduled a road trip up to the mountains with their friends. But one fateful day, he came to her house, his bags already packed and the rest of his family waiting in the car to drive to the airport. Parker remembered her crying, shouting protests and conjuring solutions. But he couldn't. She remembered him saying, "I thought you understood." She told him that she did, she just didn't want to. He didn't speak after that. He just wiped away her tears, gave her one last kiss, and drove away.
She wasn't allowed to know where he was going. It was classified government information. There was never any communication or contact after that kiss. On the pier, tears wanted to fall from her eyes, but she had used up all her tears a long time ago. She truthfully had a great senior year. She focused on her friends and on volleyball. Her team won states this year. It was the first time in Peterson High history. She won the race for Student Body President. She was salutatorian. She got a scholarship for college. Parker believed that she couldn't have had a better school year. Yes, she missed him, but it didn't hurt her. She felt that she was stronger and braver because it happened. She thought if she ever saw him again, she'd thank him for it and walk away. Clean cut, like she wanted.
But high school was over and done with. Now she was here, on a pier, at her childhood haven. And so was he. The moment she got out of the car and grabbed her surfboard, she saw him. He was a couple cottages down, sitting on the porch that overlooked the beach. Next to him was a tall brunette girl, and the moment she recognized what she was seeing, the girl next to him leaned over and kissed him. The same lips that had kissed her the summer before were now occupied by some girl Parker had never seen before. She stood shocked until Mark came up behind her and asked what was wrong. Following her gaze, he cursed loudly, and steered Parker in the direction of her beloved summer cottage. She stayed in that cottage until the morning when she woke up before anyone else and sat on the pier at dawn. But everyday, she would sit at the window and watch them swim, watch them surf, watch them laugh. She wasn't depressed that he was with someone else. She wasn't sulking at the fact he had found someone else. She just didn't want him to see her alone.
Parker heard footsteps on the wood behind her, and she absentmindedly told the person she thought was Mark that she wanted a veggie omelet for breakfast and that she'd be right in. The footsteps stopped, but a voice told her that he wasn't Mark.
If she was old and wrinkled with false teeth and a faltering memory, she still would have recognized that voice. That voice made her memories run wild with sights of lollipops, cartwheels, and fairy tales in her head.