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Tabby plopped into the back seat while slamming the door behind her. She fumbled through her bags searching for her shades while sunlight streamed through. “Ah, we have so
much junk back here!” she moaned as she spilled a bag’s contents onto the floor.
“Come on Tab, put a smile on your face. We’re gonna’ have a great summer up in
Harbor Springs. You used to love it up there!” her dad said with a perky grin. She rolled her eyes and turned up her iPod while her mom shoved the last belongings in the trunk.
Pulling into the cottage’s driveway, Jerry, Tabby’s dad, gave two quick honks, “Wow!
How long has it been? Five summers?”
“Yeah right Dad, it’s been three and a half,” Tabby corrected while she pulled out her
ear buds. “I don’t know why you’re making this such a big deal!”
“Alright you two, let’s get this summer off on the right note,” Mrs. Dermont said with a laugh.
Tabby grabbed what she could manage and nearly fell out of the car with all her weight. A
girl about Tabby’s own age rode by, rang her bicycle’s bell, and waved, so Tabby smiled; trying to figure out the familiar face.
“Mom, who was that girl—I feel like I’ve seen her before?”
“That’s Lauren, hun!” Julie replied, astonished.
“O my word, are you serious? That’s crazy! She looks like—old!” Tabby said, along with
a little laugh. Seeing her old friend brought back good memories and she started to warm up to
the idea of spending her summer there.
“That’s what happens between being eleven and fifteen. You’d be surprised how much
you’ve changed since our last summer here. Why don’t you help me unload the van and
tomorrow you can go reconnect with Lauren,” her mom suggested.
“Sure…” Tabby’s stomach did a flip—again. The idea of being with Lauren made her excited, but nervous too. What if she had changed? I guess I’ll find out soon enough, Tabby thought to herself while rolling two suitcases up the drive.
Sun bled through the curtains, Tabby’s wake-up call. She hopped out of bed,
trying to be optimistic for waking up at 8:43, but a few minutes later she found herself back in under the sheets with her pillow blocking her eyes from anything telling her it was daytime.
“Huh? Stop it, Mom!” Tabby rolled back over into her Hello Kitty sheets.
“Tab, Tabby it’s me—“
She blinked a few times and then her eyes focused, “Lauren!” Tabby sat up, “Wow,
nothing like pulling me out of bed so early as a welcome back!” she said sarcastically.
Lauren turned the alarm clock into Tabby’s view and they died laughing. “So, do you want to eat lunch or breakfast?” She asked her.
They scampered down the stairs, taking them two at a time; and as they passed the pantry Tabby grabbed some trail mix and they ran out into the day! Tabby looked up, thanking God for their easy reunion; she didn’t feel the awkwardness she had expected from being separated for so long. Hopping onto their bikes, they raced to the lake and dove into the chilly water. They lay out, giving up on trying to stay in the water and they both desperately tried to get sun-kissed. After squinting with their eyes shut for as long as they could bear, “Alright, on the count of three we’ll look at each other and rate the other person’s tan!” Tabby instructed. “K, one…two…three,” they opened their eyes and gave fake ratings about how they had magically turned into bronze beach babes. The two redheads knew they couldn’t turn tan, but instead, dark freckles sprinkled across their cheeks.
“…Happy birthday dear Tabby, happy birthday to you!” Tabby looked around the room
and couldn’t hide her huge smile as her and Lauren’s family finished proudly off-key. The candles died as she made her biggest wish yet.
“Alright, who’s up for carrot cake?” Mrs. Dermont asked while she cut two large slices
for the birthday girl and Lauren. The two families chatted together as the girls ran outside to the porch swing.
“I can’t believe you still like carrot cake!” Lauren teased.
“Mmm!” Tabby shoved a big bite into her friend’s mouth. “Come on, I know you love it.”
Lauren wiped the thick frosting from her face and then handed Tab a cardboard box with a bow barely stuck on top.
“Aww, you didn’t have to get me anything Lolle!”
“O my word, yeah, it’s your sweet sixteen! But don’t open it until tonight, k?”
“What’s up with that little smile on your face?” Tabby asked while trying to read her friend’s expression.
Together the two neighboring families spent the day with each other at the beach—
Tabby’s favorite place to be. They had fun in the waves and sun-freckling, as the girls decided to call it, in the sand until Tabby’s dad made an announcement, “Not meaning to break-up the party, but Tab and I have an important errand we need to go make before, well, before the place closes.”
“I’m going to get my drivers license!” Tab blurted out, ruining any element of mystery
Mr. Dermont intended to give. She thanked the Simmon’s for making her birthday extra special
and gave Lauren a hug while whispering into her ear, “Wish me luck.”
“One sec,” Tabby quickly told the impatient man. “Dad, does my hair look alright?”
she asked with a smile.
“You look beautiful darling,” he replied, getting a bit sentimental at the whole thought
of his little girl growing up.
With a click and a flash, Tabby became a registered Michigan driver. She proudly took
her license and placed it inside her wallet, “I have to say, it looks pretty good!” she said,
laughing to herself.
As Tabby and her dad drove home to the cottage, he suddenly slowed the car down,
“Tab, I almost forgot, I brought Lauren’s gift for you, it’s in the trunk.” So they pulled
into the nearest place so that he could grab the gift from the back. Now you see, Mr. Dermont
was a very thoughtful man, and he had had this night planned out.
“It’s alright, I can just open it when we get home,” Tabby said, although the car was
already in park and her dad was opening up the trunk. He ignored the comment so she went
out and sat on the edge of the van, breathing in the cool, summer-night air.
“Happy birthday, Tab, here it is,” he handed her the medium sized box.
She carefully pulled off the bow and opened up the box, with all of it’s contents spilling
out. “Wow, Lolle put the bow on the wrong side!” In her lap lay Tabby’s favorite band’s CD and a picture of the two girls on the beach from when they were seven, and next to it in the frame was them from just a few weeks ago. Tabby sighed contentedly, she had to admit, her dad was right about spending the summer up here! Then she looked down at the pavement, and picked up an empty Cornell University key ring and a phone car-charger. Tabby automatically assumed and asked, “Dad, can I get a key for the van?”
He looked at her for a moment, startled, and then laughed, “Here, try this.” He reached
into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. And just like out of a fairy tale she hit the
unlock button and the lights blinked of a nearby car.
“I got a car, I got a car!” Tabby cheered as she pulled into the Simmon’s driveway.
Lauren could hear her friend’s screaming from her room and belted down the stairs and out into the yard. “I know! Your dad told me his whole plan—it’s a brand new 2005 used Mercury!” They laughed and she hopped into Tabby’s car. She put in her new CD and together they went on a drive through downtown.
They spent many days and nights together like that-content, whether in the town, down at the beach, or snuggled up together watching a movie. Before they knew it the summer was almost up, “Lolle, you know, tomorrow morning I’m heading home?!” Tabby said while adding strawberries into the blender.
Lauren turned off the radio and looked her straight in the eyes. “I have a plan to make our last night special!” The two girls slipped on their suits, snuck downstairs and out to Tabby’s car.
They swam in the almost warm water until rain started pouring down and it was getting way too late. Shivering, they ran up to Tabby’s car, soaking wet. As they had rushed out the door they forgot towels, but Lauren found some sweatshirts wadded in the backseat and they dried off the best they could. Blaring the music on the way home, Tabby realized just how much she was going to miss Lauren.
“Ohhh, ya!” The girls banged out the last note and the song ended; there was a moment
“DEER!” Lauren screamed at Tabby.
“Huh?” Tab looked at Lauren’s pointing finger and quickly swerved before hitting the
deer and the two fawns. The car spun out of control and crashed into the nearby telephone pole.
Tabby’s eyes watched the translucent liquid pump through the IV over and over, not bearing enough courage to really accept who had the needle gorged through her vein. The doctor came in and excused Tabby out of the room; she blinked back emotions while she trudged to the bathroom. As she looked up into the mirror for the first time in twenty-four hours, she screamed; her face was swollen and badly bruised from the airbag. Her shock broke, and so did she. The crude face that she saw in the mirror was replaced by a blur of tears. Her wailing didn’t stop throughout the night until exhaustion took over.
“Lauren, Lolle,” Tabby’s voice quivered, she pulled the curtain aside. She inhaled deeply as her eyes surveyed her friend’s damage. Sitting down on the bed, Tabby grabbed Lauren’s limp hand. She lay unconscious, peacefully, which looked absurd among all the commotion of the room; a steady flow of fluid going into her arm, the brace swallowing her neck, and all the bright monitors flashing things Tabby hoped were good.
The Dermont’s trip could be postponed only so long, and Tabby was crying as she gave Lauren, still unconscious, a kiss good-bye and ran out to their packed car only two days later than planned.
“Good Morning, Dr. Dermont!” A coworker cheerfully greeted her with a strong cup of coffee. Tabby thanked the lady a grabbed her clipboard from the stack, checking out her schedule for the day. The rehabilitation center had housed her friend for the past many, many years; now that Tabby had finally earned her Doctor’s degree she was constantly working and visiting the center. Her first and favorite stop was to room 304—a daily check-up to the most dearest occupant in the physical ward, well at least for Tabby.
Tabby knocked on the wooden door and it was met with Lauren’s familiar grunts. “Tab,” she stumbled out, her most recent accomplishment. Hearing this would always take a stab at Tabby’s heart, but would end up putting a smile on her face. She stayed and talked with Lauren, and although it wasn’t much of a conversation, she could tell what her friend was feeling. Whether bored by Tabby’s talking, intrigued, genuinely sad or angry, she could read Lauren’s expression’s better than any other doctor there. Lauren’s living through the crash that night is what kept Tabby going—she had lost her best friend once and wasn’t ready to again.
“Alright, we’re here!” Tabby sighed with relief as she pulled into the parking lot, “And safe,” she muttered under her breath. “Just keep that blindfold on for a minute longer.” She had struggled with the idea of driving Lauren somewhere for nearly thirteen years—it was the first time since the accident; but she knew that she couldn’t dodge the fear forever.
She pocketed the keys and went to the passenger side, grabbing Lauren like a groom proudly carries his bride. Her body felt tense in Tabby’s arms, but as the lake breeze brushed over Lauren’s face, her muscle’s began to relax. Tabby gently placed Lauren down in a wooden beach chair, took off her shoes, and pulled off the blindfold. With their feet in the sand and their eyes on the sunset, Lauren didn’t need words—her smile explained it all.