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We quietly slipped the two fluffy towels and the bright orange flashlight into the well-worn canvas bag. Opening the front door silently, we crept over to my car and climbed in with hushed excitement. With the turn of the key, we were off and driving through the dark night on winding back roads, accompanied only by the light of the moon and the small, erratic flickers of fireflies. The tires crackled on the loose gravel, and the car came to a slow halt next to the locked gate only a few miles away from our cozy beds. We scurried out from the car and scuttled underneath the iron pole gate, taking our towels and flashlight with us. Once we were a few yards away from the car and no longer exposed to the road, my sister and I began to walk side by side down to our place.
The day had been filled with rain and sticky humidity. Now, the sweet smell of a summer night was in the air. The smell of damp grass rose to our noses as the peepers sang their songs. We could see bats darting back and forth over our heads, swooping up tasty bugs into their small mouths, all the while spinning and twirling through the air with ease. Our feet left the beaten path of gravel and swished quietly through the grass that lined the edge of the small man-made beach. The pads of our feet sank into the ground as we reached the sun-warmed sand. We stopped and put our bag down, removed our shoes and placed them on the sand along with the flashlight. I breathed a sigh of relief.
'You ready?' I asked, already knowing the answer.
'You bet.' My sister grinned.
We began to remove our clothes, folding each item and placing them on top of our bag and shoes. Once fully undressed, we stood and felt the warm night air brush through our hair and grace our exposed skin. Then, with a loud whoop, we ran to the water and plunged in.
It was cool and dark. Opening my eyes, there was nothing but a vast blackness, stretching forever onward. The water pushed air pockets out of my hair, and wrapped itself around me. Pausing for a moment, I forgot why we had come here. A giant bubble interrupted my thoughts as it escaped my lips and vanished to the surface. Blinking calmly, I followed the quivering bubble. I tossed my hair back and over my right shoulder, and inhaled the thick air. My curled hands rubbed my eyes and I looked around. Only the dark outlines of the mountains and the faint glimmer of headlights from the distant road could be seen. The trees rustled in the soft breeze, as if they were whispering secrets that were meant only for certain ears. Peaceful chirping of crickets at the other end of pond, and melodious peepers greeted my ears. Swimming towards the shore, I felt the sandy bottom grind against my feet and turned, scanning the water's silky surface for my sister's face.
She was floating on her back, looking up at the stars. I joined her and the two of us gazed up at the heavens; suspended in time, drifting along. We stayed in that trance until I couldn't hold it in any longer.
'Bridie, I really want to tell mom,' I whispered as if I was afraid someone would overhear me. 'You know, about me and Ben.'
'Keira, that's not a good idea. I mean, he's twenty two and you're only seventeen. He hasn't even left the country yet, right?'
'I know, but I feel like she would know what to do about'this'this emptiness.'
'Keira, you knew he was going to leave for England, he can't stay. He has to go home.'
I swallowed the small lump in my throat that had been forming and inhaled deeply. 'I'm scared.'
'What's there to be afraid of?' she asked starting to bring her head out of the water.
'I'm worried I might be pregnant.'
The silence that followed was oppressive. Even the peepers and the crickets couldn't mask the still air. My sister slowly rose out of the water. Only her shoulders and above were exposed. She looked into my face, the face of her older sister. I had just lost my virginity two weeks ago to a man whom I loved dearly. We had shared an intense passion, a passion that had opened doors and blossomed into something beyond my comprehension, and now he was to leave for home, England in two days' time.
'Are you sure?' she asked, breaking the tense silence.
'No, but what if I am?' I stood in the water, facing Bridie, feeling the cool breeze slink over my wet skin. 'I don't know what I would do.'
'But you used' protection' right?' she mumbled gazing down at the water, swishing her hands back and forth through the dark ripples.
'Yes, of course we did, but I don't know if it broke and he didn't know, or maybe''
'Keira, he would have told you. You know he would have. I think what you're really afraid of is saying goodbye.'
'Well'maybe. I dunno. It's just'just that''
'It's okay.' Her dark brown eyes locked with mine as she again whispered, 'It's okay.'
We both silently returned to gazing up at the stars on our backs. I was surprised at how much my sister actually knew. There was a black pit in my soul that felt as if it could never again be filled. I knew that once he was gone he was not coming back. I had loved him openly, exposed my beliefs, ideas, and myself to him and he had loved me for who I was. Now he was leaving, and taking part of me with him. I was not ready to let that part of me go, but I accepted that I would have to. A few minutes later we were back on the beach wrapped in our warm towels.
We crunched our way to the car and changed back into our sand dappled clothes. Our seat belts clicked, and as we pulled out away from the locked gate, I flashed the left turn signal. I drove away from the graveled entrance, behind me the place where secrets were shared between best friends and sisters under the stars. With the still, dark water behind us, we were guided by the beams of the headlights, onward, to our home and reality.
Maryland Heights, MO