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Old Orchard Beach
What do you see at night when you look into the sky? To some it is a map, made up of thousands of lights- a path up above that leads them home. To others it is a disaster; a reflection of their likewise messy lives. When some people look up they see nothing at all for their views are obstructed by the towering skyscrapers, and millions of city lights that overwhelm us and take us further and further away from where we all began. But when one draws back and leaves this world we have created, away from all the people, the lights, and the noise, the sky lights up with a million hopes, dreams, and memories.
For me it is a timeline of my life: one star for each summer I was there in Old Orchard Beach; the summer I learned how to swim, and the one before when I nearly drowned. There was one for the summer I lost my first tooth, and one for the year grandpa died. And then, there was one for the year we met Harry.
Our parents sent Matthew and me to stay with our grandparents every summer as soon as we were able to walk. They flew us across the country from our Marina District home in San Francisco all the way to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. They only stayed for a day or two and then jetted off to what ever European country they were in to at the time. Matt and I hardly minded though: we waited all year for those lazy summer days where we could sleep in till noon and spend all of our waking hours exploring Old Orchard Beach, tripping in and out of tide pools, and creating our own little world.
The first time we saw Harry, I had just turned six and Matthew was eight. After what seemed like hours of meaningless adult conversation, we had finally been released to roam about the neighborhood- but only as far as the sidewalk before the sand, and I was to stay with Matthew at all times. After being subject to the summer Olympics the year before, Matthew had become obsessed with track and of course, I was his running partner. Being only a short three blocks from the beach, he declared that we would race there. I agreed only if I could have a ten second head start, for he was a head taller and a good deal faster. He accepted my compromise and at his cue I was off as fast as my tiny legs could carry me. I flew past house after house, my scraggly blonde hair trailing behind me in the wind, looking back only once to see what kind of lead I had on Matthew; but that was enough. I turned back laughing, giddy over the prospect of possibly beating Matthew, and plowed straight into a boy not much older than myself, sending us both tumbling to the ground in a heap of flailing arms and legs. I was shocked at first, and then mortified when I saw Matthew buckle in laughter up the street. A wave of heat made its way from the top of my head to my neck and I could feel myself turning pink. Matthew soon appeared at my feet and I scrambled up to hide behind him.
“Sorry about that,” said Matthew helping the boy to his feet, “Fee can be real clumsy sometimes. I’m Matt.” The boy nodded and Matthew elbowed me in the stomach, “say sorry,” he ordered. I sheepishly left my hiding place staring at my feet the whole time, and mumbled a barely audible apology.
“It’s all right, yah?” said the boy, “I’m Harry, Harry Cutting.” At that I looked up, his was voice was different from anything I had ever heard. I stared inquisitively and Matthew elbowed me again.
“I’m Felicity,” I said, “but Matt calls me Fee- You can call me whichever,” I spewed clumsily unable to control the speed of my voice. Harry nodded and kicked a pebble across the street.
“Well,” said Matthew, “I guess we’ll see you around. C’mon Fee, let’s go home.” We said our goodbyes and then headed off back up the street to out grandparents’ house. When we were a safe distance away, I asked Matthew what was wrong with Harry’s voice. He kicked me.
“There’s nothing wrong stupid- he’s from England.”
As the years passed, Matthew was often perplexed by Harry’s English mannerisms. I however grew to love them. Before that summer, I had never known anything but our street in San Francisco, and the small town of Old Orchard Beach and was fascinated by the idea that there were hundreds of different countries all around the world, each with its own distinct way of life. I could sit for hours just listening to Harry talk. He would tell me stories of his home back in Watford, about his dog, Barlow, and his funny old grandpa. I epically liked when he was involved because those stories always made me laugh. Though, mostly anything Harry said made me laugh. I loved to hear about England, but mostly I just liked to hear him talk. Sometimes on an excruciatingly hot day we would go down to the beach and hide away in the shade of the boardwalk. If Matt was with us we would play a game, which quite often involved harassing the people who strolled by up above us. But when it was just me and Harry, we would crawl into our fort made of driftwood and I would fall asleep to the sound of his voice and the warm, salty ocean breeze.
I was never much of a story teller myself, and so I didn’t feel guilty for not contributing much to the conversation. As far as I could tell Harry didn’t mind much either. He seemed to enjoy telling his stories as much as I loved listening to them. And so, as the year’s passed, Harry and I became inseparable. I knew almost all his stories word for word and Harry could always tell what I was thinking. If I was too shy to talk, like the time I accidentally ruined Miss Agatha’s roses when I crashed my bike into her garden and was too embarrassed to tell her, I new I could trust Harry as my representative.
Of course things weren’t always perfect. We often got into fights, but I could never stay mad at Harry for long. Though we often reconciled with mutual consent, I was frequently the first to cave and apologize- even if it was clearly Harry’s fault. And that’s the way it always was with us, we complimented each other. I was shy and quiet, and Harry loud and charismatic. Sometimes I envied the way he could walk into a room full of strangers and act as if he had known them all his life, but I admired him for that as well. Harry could get me to do things I would never even imagine, and I kept him grounded.
Looking back now, I guess what happened to us that summer was inevitable. We had always been close so it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when our relationship was taken that one step further. Even so, I couldn’t help but lose my breath a little the first time I heard him say those words, or keep myself from going faint when I realized I felt the same way. I guess it’s like that for most people; that moment when you realize that your whole world is about to change, knowing that your decisions would affect the relationship forever. And while I was scared of how things might end up, of losing years of friendship, I knew that when it came to Harry, it was a risk that I wanted to take; that I needed to take.
So, even though some things didn’t turn out quite the way I expected them too, I couldn’t regret that they had happened. In the end, what we gained that summer seemed like a pretty good trade off for what we had lost.