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Aloura looked up at the fading orange light, closed her eyes, laid down in the grass, arms at her side but her fingers outstretched to feel the kiss of the sun’s warm heat. The remains of the autumn sun were fading over the mountains, and she was determined to soak up every last ray. Though barely a sound was heard, Aloura knew she wasn’t alone. Her friends were here also lying in the grass, relaxing after a brutal game of Capture the Flag.
“This is just like old times.”
Turning her face in the direction of the voice and reluctantly opening one eye, Aloura looked over at Parker to see who he was talking to. He wasn’t lying far from her. He lied in the grass with his arms behind his head, staring into the sunset, with that look on his face that he always had. That look of a deep-thinker, an intuitive mind, a beholder of many secretive thoughts. Enchanted by that look, Aloura watched him and tried to read his emotions: a sixth sense that Aloura had with most of her friends … except Parker.
Slowly, Parker broke away from his reverie and turned his head to look back and connect with Aloura’s eyes. Aloura stared at Parker unabashedly. She was trying to read his emotions, but the more she looked for answers, the more goose bumps she felt rising on her arms.
Parker, likewise, was watching Aloura. He would never tell her, but he was analyzing her reactions to him, to the day they shared with their friends and just to the world in general. And for a moment, they continued to gaze at each other, completely silent.
Aloura spoke first, “What were you thinking about?”
Intently, she waited for Parker’s answer. Usually, he’d say that he thought about nothing, like that could ever be true. But sometimes, when he let his guard down, Parker could tell Aloura just about everything that he thinks about. That was the beauty of their friendship.
“Just life and how it tries to trick us into grief,” was Parker’s response.
It was such an unusual response, such a Parker response, that Aloura just knew that there was an explanation worth listening to. Aloura sat up and looked behind herself at the other friends who sat on the opposite side of the field playing the guitar and singing. Realizing that they were all preoccupied, she turned back to Parker and moved so she was closer to him.
Lying on her stomach, Aloura cupped her chin in her hands and gave Parker her full attention. “How does life try to grieve us? How on earth did you come up with that theory?”
Parker turned on his side, resting his own head in his hand and looked at Aloura intensely. “Do you ever feel when you’re recollecting a good memory, that the memory seems better than it did when it actually happened?”
Aloura shook her head slowly, “I’m not sure I follow.”
“Let me try again,” Parker paused to think of phrasing his words in a way that Aloura would understand, “Say you are having a really good moment, like a conversation with a friend that you haven’t talked to in forever…”
“Like right now?”
“Sure. Do you really appreciate that moment then while you’re living it or after you’ve lived it and thought about it for some time?” Parker watched as enlightenment reached Aloura’s amber eyes.
Aloura nodded.
Parker continued. “Well, that’s what I mean. For me, it’s like I’ll realize how much that one moment was worth, after it happened, and I’d give anything to relive that moment so I can appreciate it when it actually happened. And that’s where life gives us grief. Because no matter how we try, we can’t live that exact moment over again.”
With her sixth sense coming into play, Aloura wondered what kind of memories could possibly be giving Parker grief for not appreciating in the moment. She knew his parents were divorced and both remarried. And she knew that it used to affect him. Did he want to go back to the past and remember what it was like when his parents were together?
Aloura had the same reaction to her grandfather’s death. For years after, she would ask herself those nagging “what if” questions. What if he hadn’t gotten diabetes? What if he made it out of rehab? What if the doctor didn’t take him off of life support only a few days after he went on it? What if, what if, what if…
From the other side of the field came a shout of annoyance from one of the friends. It woke Aloura out of her own thoughts. “I swear if you break my guitar, you’re gonna have to buy me a new one! And that wasn’t cheap s***!”
Aloura sat up and watched as Clara, a rather energetic friend of hers, attacked Reilly for her guitar. As she turned back to Parker, she noticed that he was sitting up too, watching their friends.
“Some things never change,” he laughed as Clara won the fight.
Aloura felt a little disheartened. She had hoped that he would continue to talk about his thoughts, but the moment was broken. And Aloura noticed the grief immediately, a moment lost. Parker was already on a different subject: their friends.
Parker warmly said, “I’m glad that we could all meet up today.”
“I am too,” Aloura agreed, “It’s just like being back at camp, seeing all of you again. I’m especially glad that you came up with Reilly. I was beginning to really miss you.”
Parker turned and caught Aloura’s eye, “I missed you too.”
Trying to hide the blush creeping into her warm cheeks, Aloura looked at the grass and ripped little pieces with her hands, winding them together.
“I wish we could go back to that week in camp,” Parker announced, “I wish I could have done things differently.”
“I would change things around. For example, I would never have kissed Jeff.” Aloura said more to herself that to Parker. And when she realized that she had said it out loud, she wondered what provoked her to do so.
At first, only joking, Parker smiled, “You would have kissed me instead, right?”
Aloura didn’t respond.
Surprised, Parker prodded for more of an answer from Aloura. “Would you have kissed me?”
Aloura knew she wanted to. It was one of those things that haunted her ever since she left camp. What if she had perked up the courage to kiss Parker even though she was sure he didn’t know she liked him then? He knew she liked him now, how could he not know? Unless he was really that clueless, which he wasn’t.
“Let’s move on from that topic, shall we?” Aloura suggested as she turned away carefully avoiding Parker’s eyes.
Parker repeated, “Would you have kissed me?”
“I said I didn’t want to talk about this anymore,” Aloura answered slightly unsteady.
Her uneasiness was all Parker needed to know that she did want to kiss him. “You would have, haven’t you? You have a hard time hiding it from me, Aloura. You know, I would have probably let you.”
You would have let me kiss you? Aloura asked inside her head. Though the sun had long since faded, her cheeks had become very warm. Her hands tingled in such a way that she had to clench them in fists to stop the sensation.
Parker read Aloura’s body language. She kept her fists clenched. She sent a force of disbelief into his direction. And immediately, Parker wanted to take back all his words. What if he made a mistake by just saying those things?
“I’m just kidding of course,” he forced a laugh, “I mean we’re great friends and all, but we were just kidding. Right?”
Wrong. “Right,” Aloura agreed half-heartedly. Her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. Just let it go, Aloura, before you say something you’ll really regret.
Clara arrived at Aloura’s side in time to rescue her from the awkward situation. “Hey, Alaurie,” she cooed using Aloura’s nickname, “If we’re gonna make my curfew home, we’ll need to leave now.”
Aloura shot up from the ground quickly, just to get away. “Right,” she repeated for the second time, “well I guess we have to go, so…bye Parker.”
Aloura exchanged goodbyes with the rest of her friends. She walked with Clara back to the parking lot to Clara’s beat up Mazda. She refused to turn around, refused to look back and see Parker again, and leave him the second time without fulfilling her wish.
Parker still sat on the ground where he and Aloura had been occupied. In that moment, he realized another of life’s griefs. Why hadn’t he kissed Aloura? Why didn’t he let her know that he liked her too?

That second of grief of life stood out more vivid than the one he mentioned before. That grief was living in the moment, having a moment, but chickening out so that the moment was wasted. Parker wasted his moment. And it was his mistake…





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