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February Hope

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Beneath the blazing night canopy, the soft purple veil of busy crickets and night owls, Sam kissed Julie. Just hours before she’d been hollering down the empty streets simply to hear her own voice, the sound of freedom. Henry was not there, and she was free. She’d cried out and her footsteps’ echoes had called back to her. She’d held the night in her palm. This is what it was to live for today, to forget everything else but this moment and the electricity in her blood. She wanted to bask in it forever.

But now, they were alone, and she was quiet. He’d taken her away in his car, away from the other kids, down to moon river, the one that reminds Sam’s dad of Frank Sinatra. Old dream maker, you heart breaker. Sam and Julie had walked along its edge for a while, lulling in small talk. She’d kicked off her sandals to feel the earth beneath her feet, tilted back her head to listen to the breeze. Finally, their legs grew tired and they squatted to sit on the dock.

Julie looked at Sam, and realized he’d grown up alright. His shoulders were broad, forearms firm and tanned. She’d wanted to think something romantic about his eyes, that they were like stars, or crystals. But they were not. They were February raindrops; cloudy and sad, but sealed with a whisper of hope. She wondered how she’d never noticed how attractive Sam was. And sweet, not like Henry. Their talk simmered, and when Sam turned to gaze across the lake, she planted a kiss on his cheek. His skin flushed, and she rested her hand on his knee. When he turned slowly, she sunk into his lips.

Sam had always expected to feel some sort of triumph if he ever got to kiss Julie, or at least fiery passion, to express all those late nights of longing and dreams. But instead, he remembered. He remembered her braids in sixth grade, and that barbeque when she cried because she’d spilled ice cream all over her new skirt. He remembered how everybody had teased her about her braces, even though she was just as cute as ever. She was melted Crayola chalk on summer pavements, she was hide-and-go-seek across the dapper suburb lawns. He remembered walking her home night after night through the evergreen path, the streetlight in her hair. Of watching her disappear behind the door and kicking himself for missing her again. And he remembered the trail of boys behind her, starting in ninth grade, when he’d realized he’d missed his chance.

Then why did I never stop loving her?

Before he could figure it out, Julie pulled away.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“If Henry knew...”?
“Yeah.”

They sat awkwardly for a moment, until Julie grabbed her sandals and said she should probably go.

Was he satisfied? Of course not. He never would be. Julie would always dangle herself before him, and Sam would always fall blind.

Julie rose on the warm dock, slipped her sandals on. Sam watched the curve of her back as she moved, her knobby shoulders and bony ankles. She caught a piece of her hair blowing in the blue night breeze, and as always, turned to leave. When she was a few feet away, she looked back and threw him a sly smile. When she turned again, she caught a sparkle of February hope in his eyes.





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