Sarah, my friend and cohort, the Sarah who’s face I have known before I even learned to memorize my own, walked beside me up a hill so steep the black tarmac seemed to slide away under our bare toes.
The cool September day had been alternately hot and cold, the undecided temperature representing the mood of the evening. Her birthday had just passed, seventeen. She had seemed so old to me.
I turned, and between each of the houses we passed, the setting sun burned a fiery orange, lighting up the ominous clouds in the distance a royal purple, grayed about the edges. Sarah and I have seen a many countless sunsets together. We’ve seen reds and golds and pinks that cannot be imagined, nor put onto paper. Colors such as these can only be seen.
For her birthday, I had given her a picture, made from memories of coffee and a fear of wolves.
When I handed it to her, her fingers traced the blocky shapes of the wolves and their quarry- a trio of princesses. Her face had been shielded from my view, her long blonde hair swinging before her nose. After a moment, Sarah raised her gaze. Teardrops sparkled at the corners of her eyes, and we both sat on the hallway floor and silently shared in tears.
In order to understand such a strange image, you would first have to understand the infinite amount of time contained in the joy of a childhood adventure.
I ran, the sun warm on my back in the summer memory. My long, princess skirts flowed around my short legs, catching in the bramble and pulling flower heads along behind me. A shout arose from ahead, "Hannah! HURRY!!!!! THE WOLVES! THEY ARE COMING! DON'T GET CAUGHT!" you could hear the smile in sarah's thin, child's voice. I sped along, a matching grin framing my baby teeth.
We probably ran the same circles hundreds of times, burning a path into the earth where our little feet bounced, but still the tiny bramble felt infinite, it’s stumpy trees as tall as the greatest oaks in the land. We made crowns of weeds, wands of sticks, forts of twigs; we took dresses from her mom’s closet and waded into the blackberry bramble.
To our little eyes, bright with the fantasy of children, wolves, gray and brown and muddy, danced in the twilight. Their fur rippled a muddy waterfall, their eyes shone a brilliant gold. They played, running in circles in the bramble, just as we did. They sprinted and jumped and frolicked through the ancient oaks. On the corners of this vision, our brightly colored skirts rippled, our crowns glinted golden, and our wands sprayed diamond magicks over the green grass and our stone castles. We played like no children had ever played before or since.
"Let’s play the wolf game!" I could hear her excited voice in my head now, "Let’s go out to our castles!" The memory brought a smile to my face.
17 year old Sarah turned and glanced my way, noticing my sudden grin. She frowned inquisitively, but I just shook my head.
We reached the crest of the hill, the sun burning beautifully before us, the sky seeming to carry all the color of the world. Trees dotted the foreground, rendered dark and patternless by the light behind them.
"Oooooof," Sarah sighed, saying, " I wish Sophie were here."
Sophie was the last third of our trio, the third princess, the third perpetrator of The Wolf Game.
"Same," I said quietly, my gaze fixed on the majesty before us.
We sat by our favorite tree, it had a perfect view of the setting star, and Sarah pulled her phone out to play some music.
Sitting in comfortable silence is such a luxury, I thought. It’s a privilege not everyone experiences.
The lyrics of the music sailed by my ears:
Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes. Or taking a ride on a cosmic train...
The last glimpse of orange fire disappeared behind distant hills, and we withdrew from the trance the sun had brought, feeling the earth sigh as the sun’s warmth began to seep from the ground, feeling the green things curl up for this short darkness.
Switch on summer from a slot machine. Get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything...
Whenever I see her face, I see my home. And whenever she see's mine, she sees the same, and childhood friends are a beautiful thing.
I know we've come a long way, We're changing day to day, But tell me, where do the children play?
And I turned to look at her, and I said, a grin shining in my eyes, "Sarah, the wolves are coming!"
Immediately, her eyes lit up to meet mine, and her face split into a smile. Without any prompting, she stood up, hopped the fence, and bolted down the hill, shouting back to me, "Hannah! HURRY!!!!! THE WOLVES! THEY ARE COMING! DON'T GET CAUGHT!"
I gleefully sprinted behind her, the underbrush slicing our shins, thorns sticking in our cotton shirts, mud enveloping our bare toes.
Exhilarated, we ran, huffing and puffing down slope. Laughing, we ran, grinning all way. Sneakily, we ran, by the side of a house near the road.
Our feet touched tarmac once again, and our rose-colored glasses fell from our faces, and I remembered that she was 17 now. I remembered that soon she would be leaving me, and I would be stuck in the same circles, circles that were already burned into the earth with their repetition, while she went off to explore a bigger world. I remembered that soon I would have no one to enjoy comfortable silences with.
I stayed quiet, but even so our moment of giddy nostalgia was over, and a quiet, bittersweet stillness claimed the once happy moment. We parted ways, and I headed home. Nevertheless, I would forever remember this sunset above all others.