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Roses in Summer
It was a bright, warm, sunny day in late June in a suburban town in New York state, and Lana decided it was a great idea to go for a walk. They slipped on their sneakers and headed down the sidewalk, which was lined with tall trees and neat houses. While they were walking, they saw a beautiful girl watering her tulips. The girl was round and huggable and in every way perfect, standing and humming barefoot in a pale yellow sundress and a floppy straw hat. Lana hated her because she made them feel something. It felt weirdly good, but it was a strange and unfamiliar sensation and they were entirely unsure. They opened their mouth to say something to the girl but they were too nervous. How does one even talk to somebody so perfect? They decided to keep walking and try another time.
As they continued down the street, they encountered many friends and asked, “Do you know who lives in the pale blue house around the corner from mine?”, but none of them knew the girl in the yellow sundress. “Didn’t you know somebody was moving here?” one kindly old man everyone knew as simply “Pop-pop” asked Lana.
“That house was just sold last week.”
“Oh,” Lana stammered, “d-do you know her?”
“No,” he answered with a soft smile. “But I think I know somebody who would like to.” He gave them a friendly nudge. “Why don’t you talk to her, Lana? She is your neighbor.”
He looked at them for a long moment before widening his smile and saying, “Come on in, dear. You look like you could use some lemonade.”
Lana was gently led up his porch and through his creaky front door into a room that was definitely decorated by an antiques collector. Everything in there dated back at least fifty years--the chairs, the tables, the trinkets, the shelves, the photos. “Wow,” they said, “I like your house.”
“Thank you. Dearest,” he called, “bring some lemonade for Lana, please. We’re having a chat.”
“Of course,” Dearest replied from the kitchen, appearing in the doorway a moment later with two large glasses of the refreshing beverage. He presented Lana and Pop-pop with the drinks and the pair sank onto a pastel green sofa.
“Lana,” Pop-pop said, “how do you feel about this girl?”
“I...I want to hold her. I want to tell her how pretty she is, and how nice she looks in yellow. I want to take her out stargazing and hold her hand at the movies, I want to sit in a library and read Dickens to her. I want to be her best and closest friend. I want to be the moon to her sun, the darkness against her light. And it fits, too,” they almost giggled, “her white skin against mine--my mother’s. But,” Lana said sadly, “how do I know it’s not just my body talking? I mean, love at first sight doesn’t exist.” They sipped their lemonade.
“That’s just what society wants us to think,” Pop-pop said gently. “Sure, love isn’t a fairy-tale dream. Dearest and I have had some hard times as well. Many hard times, in fact,” he smiled. “But all the same, you can feel a wonderful and unique attraction to the one you know you want to spend your life with. I think you should talk to her. Tell her how she looks. Make your goal to make her smile. Ask her to accompany you to...how about the vintage ice cream parlor down the street from here? She seems like the kind of girl to like vintage things. A girl after my own heart, even,” he chuckled.
“Thanks, Pop-pop,” Lana grinned. “I guess the stories were true--you do give the best advice.” They gave the old man a grateful hug, shouted a “thank-you” to Dearest, and ran out the door.
When they rounded that corner and came to the small, quaint, pale blue house surrounded by pink, red, and yellow tulips, they stopped. Where was the girl? They peeked to one side of the house. No girl. They looked on the other side. Nobody. Wait--there! Trimming a huge rosebush, standing on her tiptoes to reach the higher blossoms. She was short.
“Hi!” Lana called. “Need some help?”
The girl looked over at Lana. “Wow, you’re much taller than me,” she giggled. “Yeah, if you could just trim back some of those branches, they’re obscuring my roses!”
“Of course.” Lana grinned as they took the shears from the girl and carefully began clipping the thorns away from the delicate flowers. “I’m Lana, by the way.”
“Oh. I’m Sherry.” The girl blushed a little, making a dotting of freckles slightly more visible. “My parents are very old-fashioned people.”
“I think it’s a nice name.” Lana turned back to look at the girl. “And I think you look really pretty. In that dress, I mean.” The yellow really did look nice against her porcelain skin. Now that they were closer they could also observe short, ginger hair cut close to Sherry’s round face.
“Wow, thanks,” Sherry gushed. “You don’t look half bad in those running clothes yourself.”
“Oh,” Lana stammered. “Th-thanks.” They paused. “Hey. When I’m done trimming your flowers, did you...want to head to the ice cream parlor in town? With me? It’s vintage and everything.”
“Oh, yes! I love vintage things!” She clapped her small hands together. “I’ll go grab my shoes while you finish up.” She made as if to vanish inside, then paused. “Hey, by the way. What pronouns should I use for you? I really would hate to misgender you.”
Lana relaxed entirely. “They. Please.”
“Of course!” Sherry beamed before rushing into her house.
Lana stared down at theirself. They didn’t really look fit to go to a vintage ice cream parlor. “I should change,” they decided. “But I’ll wait till she gets back.”
As if on cue, Sherry burst out of her house wearing a pair of very cute brown sandals. “Are you ready to go?” she asked excitedly.
“Hang on, I want to change first,” they replied. “I don’t think I’d fit next to somebody like you in a vintage ice cream parlor dressed like this.”
“I think...you’re right,” Sherry mused. “Go ahead. I wanna see your house, anyway.”
Lana led the girl around the corner to their fairly humble home. “It’s not as nice as yours,” they muttered. “I’ll only be a bit.”
“Okay. I can wait.” Sherry sat down happily on the porch steps and waited.
Lana, not wanting to disappoint, rushed inside and threw together an outfit. When they stepped outside again, Sherry gasped. “Wow, you look so--cute!” she exclaimed. “I love your overalls--and the red in the shirt really does accent your skin tone--and you look even better with your cornrows in a twist like that! And wow, those high-tops look really good on you--I could never pull them off with my ankles….” She gushed on and on about how great Lana looked, and Lana just smiled and, slightly hesitantly, laced their fingers between Sherry’s.
Sherry froze. She looked up at Lana with big, azure eyes.
“Come on,” they said with a huge grin. “It’s on me.”
And Pop-pop watched from his porch, an arm around his Dearest, as the couple watched young love innocently blossom like roses in summer.