I sat on the edge of the rundown porch, quickly twirling my unruly auburn hair around my trembling fingers. My new textbooks lay abandoned at my feet; I couldn’t concentrate on any of my summer work now. It would happen any minute – I just knew it. Suddenly, I saw a familiar grey minivan cruise onto the street, approaching my family’s house. A girl with long black hair and deep brown eyes looked at me from the car window. My face brightened like the sky transformed by the sun. She was here at last.
The streetlights still shone dimly as I sprinted down the length of the driveway.
“Brianna!” I shouted to her while she parked by the mailbox.
My smile stretched as far as the horizon, which still not illuminated by the light of dawn. We hadn’t seen each other since last year, when we had finally embarked on separate paths to college. At first, it had seemed daunting for two best friends to go to universities across the country, but deep down, I wasn’t really worried. Our friendship could withstand the test of time.
“Hey,” greeted Brianna as I climbed into the car to begin our journey. She navigated the twists and turns of my neighborhood with ease; after all, she’d had plenty of practice before. Soon, we were on our way.
As the van sped down the highway, I smiled to myself. We might have lost touch over the past year, but I knew that our bond would reignite as soon as we reached the place where our friendship truly came to life.
After about an hour, the cerulean outline of the sea appeared in the distance, framed by the golden shore and the rising sun. Time flew in the mere moments it took for us to reach the beach. As our feet sank into the shifting sand, we began our customary early morning walk beside the sparkling water, like we had never left.
“I’m just so glad you’re here with me,” I chattered aimlessly. “College has been nothing like I expected, and I missed home.”
Brianna and I continued talking as I rambled about my year.
“So, what have you been up to lately?” I asked finally.
“Not much. Meeting new people, learning. You know.”
Brianna turned away from me to look at the horizon, her windblown hair obscuring her normally animated face. As we continued walking, I glanced back at our footprints. They were swiftly being erased by the encroaching waves, just like all of the sandcastles, carvings, and other marks we had created had been washed away over time. Soon, there would be no sign that we had been here at all. Our conversation dwindled until both of us rested in silence on a sand dune overlooking the churning water.
I was lost in thought, remembering what had happened the first time we had thought to visit the beach at dawn. Exploring uncharted territory like modern day Lewis and Clark had been one of our favorite activities, and Brianna had needed pictures of a sunrise over the beach for a photography class.
After she captured the snapshot, we ran through the burning sand, distracted by shells the same pink and yellow hues of the sunrise.
“You can hear the ocean in these. No matter how far away you are, it’s always with you,” she whispered to me, her eyes shining.
Some of the tinier spiraled seashells we found had little holes in them, so we used them later to make necklaces with the small pieces of twine we gathered at home. Then, at our own private ceremony, we gave each other the gifts by the seashore.
We wore the shell necklaces for the rest of the year, even at graduation, and always returned to the beach every weekend – at least until we parted ways.
Seagulls screeched jarringly overhead, drawing me from my memories.
“So I was thinking,” I began again, “why don’t we meet up during the school year? I know we’re both pretty busy but maybe during the break –”
“Sorry, I just don’t have the time,” Brianna apologized hastily, “but maybe we can meet up next summer.”
“Oh. That’s okay. We’ll just have to text more.”
When we arrived back at my house midmorning, I turned to grin at Brianna once more, but my smile did not appear as easily. I noticed for the first time that she wasn’t wearing her necklace. She must have just forgotten.
“I had a lot of fun!” I yelled as I began the long walk up the driveway to my house.
Brianna gave a half-wave as she drove away. The look on her face was indecipherable.
I sighed and resumed sitting on the porch. Nothing else was planned for this morning; I had not expected to be back so soon. The view from my house wasn’t exactly stunning, but I wasn’t really looking anyway. The sunlight stung my eyes, and they began to water. Wiping my face, I opened one of the dull textbooks and began to read. My fingers moved of their own accord to feel the seashell charm but only encountered a frayed piece of string. Frantically, I searched the ground, my clothing, and anything else I could find, but it was gone.