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She Was Here

The street stretched away from where she stood, gazing up at the moon, watching for a sign that tomorrow would be better. The cool night breeze caressed her bare scalp, she breathed in as deeply as she could, trying to hold the summer inside of her, the smell of the dewy grass, the crickets song, the warmth of the sun sinking into her skin. She held her breath until her lungs ached, trying to imagine a world where summer was forever.
She sat down on the soft, fleece blanket she'd brought out with her on the lawn. She brought her knees to her chest and hugged herself, as she sat there she hoped for the future. She saw a beautiful prom dress, her first kiss, her diploma, she saw her baby brother she hadn't met yet. She saw her dad in a tux, teary eyed as he let his baby girl go. She saw her mom braiding her hair, she saw herself.
She promised herself she'd remember.
She'd remember sitting in front of her mother's vanity. Picking up the long beaded necklace and running her fingers over the glassy spheres. She'd remembered the look on her mom's face when she'd given it to her so many years ago. She had looked like she won the lottery, looking back on it, she always realized how poorly it was made. The clasp was broken, and the chain, like her, was beginning to tarnish.
Setting it down gently, she'd looked up and stared at her reflection. Her skin was so pale, her lips swollen and cracked. The pale blond fuzz on her head looked like dust covering a window sill that hadn't been touched for years. She had her dad's eyes, so clear and vibrant of a blue that they always seemed as though they were coated with a permanent film of tears.
She'd wished so badly she looked like her mother, rosy pink cheeks, a curly mess of chestnut hair, and eyes so brown they were almost black. She'd sat there for a while until she felt soft arms encase her in a warm cloud of vanilla perfume.
"Why the long face, beautiful?" asked her sister Lexi.
"Is that a serious question?" she'd replied.
"Oh, lighten up love, smile!"
"I'm going to die Lexi." her voice had cracked, she sounded a thousand years old.
Lexi said nothing, only tightening her hold on her baby sister, and in that she'd said everything. They looked at their faces side by side in the mirror, they could have been total strangers.
"You had a good run, babe." Lexi said softly.
"Yeah, I did." she said, smiling and grabbing her sister's hand.
She'd remember her best friend's laugh and clammy hands, she'd remember how it felt when her dog snuggled up to her side, she'd remember how it felt when her mom rubbed her back, and she'd remember the street in front of her house.
She'd remember the breeze pushing her hair off her face and peddling clumsily as her dad kept her balanced on the sidewalk. That summer day seemed so far away now, but she could still hear her dad's voice echoing in her head, telling her to hold on tight, that it was okay if she fell.
He seemed so much older now, deep wrinkles had set into the corners of his eyes, and gray strands crept through his dark hair.
"Don't let go daddy!" she had cried.
"Not until you tell me too, sweetheart."
Coming back to reality, she winced as the cool summer breeze bit her skin. She wrapped her blanket tighter around her and listened to the sound of the houses on the block. She could hear the silence all around her, it was almost too much. She was so used to commotion, people going back and forth, fussing over her so often that it was almost unnerving to be alone with only her thoughts.
She wished so often things were different, but in that moment, maybe she wasn't happy, but she was content. She'd been a best friend, a sister, and a daughter. She'd laughed and cried and played, she'd learned so much. Maybe she had once wanted the world, but right now, she was okay with just her little piece of it.
She lay down on her stomach, the way she had so many times before, and looked ahead of her at the dreamy glow of the pavement under the streetlight. It was perfect. The same street that had seen her grow up, stretched out endlessly, in front of her. She imagined herself walking down the middle of the street, disappearing in the orange haze of the light, getting lost in the hopeful promise of forever.



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