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Live Every Day
Author's note: This boook is fiction, but it is loosely based on my own life. I was inspired to write this to remind young people what a gift life is.
My eyes open to darkness. I am lying in my small bed, the cotton sheets soft against my skin. I lie still for a moment, enjoying the silence and the dark. Silence. Dark. These are little things most people would never take the time to think about. Little things I never noticed before and things I always took for granted seem to be so much more important know that I have my secret. Now I make myself notice everything: colors, smells, everything. I roll out of bed, leaving the sheets in a tangled mess. I flick the light switch, illuminating my tiny cranny of a bedroom with artificial light.
There is the bed with its tangled snow white sheets and soft, fuzzy, white blanket. There beside it is the nightstand with my small black alarm clock resting on the top. The time is 5:42 a.m. I see my bookshelf, and the dresser crammed in next to it. There are sea-shells scattered haphazardly across its pine surface. There are my three surfboards leaning against the light green wall, and there are my bathing suits hanging from their various hooks and knobs. I look out my window into the dark morning. The palm trees outside are faintly outlined by the soft and understated lines of pink that are just beginning to streak across the black sky. The frond-like leaves of the silhouetted palm trees rustle gently as the breeze whispers through them. More little things.
I turn from the window, pulling the ratty white t-shirt I sleep in over my head and grabbing my pale purple O’Neil bikini off its hook. I put it on, tying the halter top around my neck and making sure the strings at my hips are snug.
Then I walk over to my door and pull it open, a blast of air-conditioning washes over my face and the bare skin of my stomach and legs. I do not like it. I prefer the warm snugness of my room. I pad across the carpeted hallway and quietly enter the bathroom. I find the light switch by feel and turn it on. My tiny, light yellow bathroom looks back at me. I turn to the sink and turn on the water. While I wait for it to warm up I look at myself in the small, round mirror hanging on the wall.
I see my face. My skin is very tan. There are freckles spattered across my cheek-bones and the bridge of my nose. My grassy green eyes blink back at me from the mirror, sleep still heavy upon them. I rake my fingers through my sun streaked hair. The tips are so blonde they are almost white, while the roots are a light tawny brown. My hair is thin, and very fine. It is what most people would call wispy. I like my hair. When I look at it, with its funny, white- gold streaks, I always think it seems as though my head has been kissed by the sun.
The water is warm now. I splash my face several times and the let my hands rest in the warm stream coming from the tap. Then I turn off the water and wipe my face with a small white towel. My skin feels clean. I glance back at the mirror. There is the deep tan of my skin against the pale lavender of my swimsuit top. I push my hair back once more and square my shoulders. Then I turn off the light and step out of the bathroom.
I walk silently down the hallway to the kitchen. There is still not very much light coming through the windows. So I turn on the light to see better. There is the table; with its four honey-oak chairs. There is the sink, surrounded by its tiled countertops. There are the four large bay windows above the sink. Several yellow bananas and a coconut sit on the counter. The yellow of the fruit stands out against the white of the tiles. I pick up two of the bananas and pull out a cutting board and a knife. I peel them and slice them thinly. Then I go to the cupboard and take out two small bowls. I fill each bowl with some plain cheerios and then I spread the bananas on top.
I hear thumping from the hallway I just left, and then the sound of the toilet flushing. Alex must be awake. Alex is my brother. At twenty-three he is seven years older than me.
When he was twelve and I was five our mom and dad split up. My mom walked out on us, and we haven’t heard from her since. Just about nine years later my dad died of cancer. That was two years ago. I thought I had gotten over him after the first year but I still miss him every day. Sometimes I turn around to tell him something and I realize he isn’t there and he never will be.
When he died he left us our house here on the end of the Banana Island in Satellite Beach Florida, along with the dive shop he had made his living running. Now Alex runs it. We renamed the shop Dad’s House of Diving after he died. When dad died the social services tried to take me away from Alex and put me in foster care. We both vehemently opposed that idea and eventually we won over the courts. So Alex has been taking care of me and providing for me for the past two years. He is the best big brother in the world. He would give his own life for me, and he sacrifices so much to keep me safe and well-cared for.
When we found out about my secret I thought he was going to start screaming. He’s been protecting me for so long and now he has to face the fact that something is hurting me that he is absolutely powerless to stop.
There is a sound from the hallway. I look up from the table to see Alex standing in the doorway of the hallway. He is wearing his swimming trunks. He smiles at me brightly. “Good morning Nikki.” He says. Ever since we learned my secret he has been hiding his pity and his fear. He knows I do not want to see those things in his face every time he looks at me. I asked him to treat me as though nothing has changed. He does a good job, but I know it is hard for him. Perhaps he too is taking more notice of the little things in life. Like telling me good morning. He comes over to the table, and sits down. He takes in the bowls of cereal and bananas. “Looks yummy.” He says. I go to the refrigerator and take out the milk, and then I grab two shiny spoons out of the drawer. I return to the table. I hand him a spoon and pour milk on the cereal. Then I sit down. He bows his head and I do likewise. We thank God for the food.
When I found out my secret I made Alex promise not to be mad at God. I do not fear my secret. Why should I be angry?
We eat our cereal. I like the taste of it in my mouth. The milk coats the bananas and makes them sweet. I enjoy my cereal. Another little thing. Then once we are both finished Alex takes the dishes to the sink and washes them. He thanks me for making him breakfast. I look at the small green clock hanging on the wall. It is 6:04 a.m. “Let’s get going.” I tell Alex.
I tread down the hall and into my bedroom. I grab my 5’9” surfboard from against the wall. It is white, with very pale blue hibiscus flowers on the nose and along the tail. It was a present from Alex for my sixteenth birthday three months ago. With my surfboard under my arm I walk over to the dresser and open the top drawer. I grab a lump of wax.
With the wax in my left hand and my surfboard pressed close to my other side I walk down the small hallway and back into the kitchen. Alex already has his 6’2” surfboard and he is holding a couple of towels and a water bottle. His surfboard is covered with bright stripes. Pink, orange, neon green, but underneath all that it is white. Alex puts on flip flops, but I go barefoot, I HATE encasing my feet in anything. I would never wear shoes if I could get away with it. We go over to the front door and step outside. The warm, moist, Florida air washes over me. I can smell the tropical flowers. And I can smell the ocean. We walk down the three steps of the porch, and then we cross the dirt driveway.
There is the Beater. That’s a name for a car that belongs to surfers. I can always tell if a car is a Beater or not. One will usually have a surfboard rack on top and the inside is always full of sand. It also has to smell like surfboard wax. Our Beater is a diesel Jetta. Alex took the siding panels off the doors and replaced them with a honey/red varnished wood. The orangey color stands out against the blue of the car.
We slide our boards into the rack and then climb in. It does smell like wax. Wax is my favorite smell in the whole world. It‘s a sexy, tropical, almost floral odor, but somehow salty at the same time. I don’t know why wax smells like that but it does. I would like it if guys smelled like wax…but they don’t. Darn.
Alex starts the car. I feel the sputtering vibrations of the engine. I hear the purring rumble it makes. We pull out of our driveway while the white dust kicks up behind us. We drive down our small side street; it is overshadowed by palms, majestic oaks, and Sea grape trees. We turn onto the road that connects the Banana Island to the larger Merritt Island. We drive across the drawbridge and then turn onto A1A. There is not very much traffic yet. I glance to the east. There is a lot more pink in the sky, and yellow is just beginning to peep in at the very bottom of the horizon. The sun will be up soon. I can’t see the ocean. It’s hidden behind the palmetto and grape leaf covered dunes, but I know it’s there.
Our drive doesn’t take long-maybe ten minutes-we don’t have very far to go. We reach the small public beach access known to locals as “Second Light”. It is nestled between two of the enormous dunes. I look out the window of the Jetta. There are the showers on their weathered wooden platform. There is the weathered wooden boardwalk. There aren’t very many cars in the parking lot. I can see a couple sitting on the boardwalk holding hands, and an old man with a white beard is walking up the boardwalk’s creaky steps. Alex and I climb out of the car and pull the surfboards off the rack.
We go up the ramp to the boardwalk and pause for a moment. The ocean is arrayed before us. Good, clean, even swell is breaking offshore and rolling in. It looks about chest high. The sun is just peeking over the horizon and the sky is abreast with color. Orange and yellow patterns flow across the clouds with an excited brilliance. I stare at the sky for a while. I know I must treasure every one of my sunrises.
I turn from the rising sun and prop my surfboard against the railing. I rub the bar of wax in my left hand along the surface of the board. I have not waxed this board for a while so there isn’t much to build on, but the miniscule grains of sand stuck in my old wax job give traction to the small white lump in my hand.
Once my board is waxed I pass the wax to Alex and he touches up his board in a few places. Then we walk down the boardwalk stairs and onto the powdery dunes of the beach. I have left my flip-flops in the car. I cannot stand wearing shoes on the beach—I love the feel of sand between my toes far too much for that. I stop for a moment to enjoy that feeling now. The sand is still cool from night’s embrace; it raises tiny goose bumps on my legs. The ocean breeze blows some sand across my bare skin. The tiny grains of sand are white. I shiver.
Alex and I walk down the dunes to the water where we both pause to strap on our surf leashes. I am goofy-footed so I secure my long white leash around my left ankle. Alex is regular; his leash goes around his right calf.
A wave breaks on the beach and sends a blanket of white foam up around our ankles. I can feel the sand on my feet washing away in cool water. I stare at the waves. The wave that just licked my feet was a set wave. There are usually 3-4 waves in a set. The third or fourth are usually the biggest in the set. I guess that this last wave was number four because there are no big waves coming behind it. Now, in the calm between sets, is the time to paddle out.
I stride forward into the surf. When I am waist deep I throw my surfboard down on the surface of the water and lay down on top of it. The minute my chest touches the fiberglass of my board I am paddling. My arms push through the water, elbows high in the air, and hands pulling me and my board forward with strong strokes. My surfboard surges forward, while I revel in the feeling of the water rushing over my body. I hear the sound of Alex paddling behind me, a little bit to the right.
Here comes the next set. A wave stands up in front of me, threatening to crush me when it curls over. I wait till it is almost on top of me and then grab the rails of my board and push it under the wave. The wave breaks over me as I dive beneath it. I push down on the back of my board with my foot and it bobs back up to the surface. As soon as I am out of the water I am paddling again. I do this once more for the next wave. Here comes the remainder of the set, but I have nothing to fear from it now though. I have already passed the place where the waves break for the first time, before they roll in to pound the shore. I paddle up the face of the wave and then tip over the back of it. I hear it curl behind me. I am farther along now. I no longer need to paddle. I am positioned just beyond first break, (good waves break twice, the first time far offshore and the second time right on the beach). My arms stop paddling as another unbroken wave rolls beneath me. I grip the rails of my board with both hands and slide it between my legs. Alex arrives beside me, as I sit, comfortably straddling my board. The fully risen sun shines its golden light across the surface of the green ocean and into my eyes.
It’s mid spring, and Florida’s flat season will be here in few months. In the mean time, we are surfing every new swell that comes in. A good offshore swell came in yesterday, and this is the second good day we have had in a while. I look around me, some of the waves are barreling today. Perhaps I will get some tube rides. I hope so. I must also treasure all of my waves.
A set rolls in. I catch the second wave and ride it briefly, but it closes out in front of me. (Closing out is when the wave turns into whitewater in front of you). I paddle back out and wait for another set. I see it bump up on the horizon.
The first two waves are bumpy, so I wait for the third. Though it is very large, I see that it will not barrel. I decide to take it any way. I turn my board toward shore and begin to paddle furiously. Stroking again and again I build up speed. All of the sudden I feel the wave catch me. The momentum I have gained is doubled. I paddle one last time and kick my feet, now I am sliding down the face of the wave. Smoothly I reach forward and grab the rails of my board and stand up. This wave is breaking to the left so I lean forwards a little and press with the balls of my feet, swiveling my hips towards the face of the wave. My board responds immediately and the nose swings around so that I am speeding along to the left. I cut back on the wave and then reverse. My fins kick up white spray. Over the sound of the crashing wave I can hear Alex shouting encouragement.
My wave is not finished so I pump with my legs, gathering speed, turning up and down along the face of the wave. I cut into a hard bottom turn then carve fast back up the face of the wave. At the last minute I reach down and grab the rails of my board and swerve up the face of the wave. Then I am flying. A scream of exhilaration and adrenalin rips from my lungs. I air about two feet and then begin to descend. The wave is curling over. All the power of the wave is crashing down as it breaks. I land just in front of the wave and the curl hits me from behind. I am knocked from my board as all the energy and weight of the wave crashes onto me. I am tumbled about in the water for a few moments and then I pop up to the surface. I grab my surf leash and pull my board to me. I slide it beneath me and begin to paddle back out.
Falling and being trapped in waves has never frightened me. I know that no matter how big the wave is, there is always a calm place beneath it. If a ten foot wave breaks on top of me I just head for the bottom and come up when it’s over. Besides, the ride is always completely worth whatever hammering I get if I mess up.
I paddle back to Alex. He’s grinning at me. “Nice air Nikki.” He says, with an appreciative whistle. Than he smirks. “Guess all my tutoring paid off.” I smack him. We wait for the next set. When it comes he takes the second wave. He catches it and pulls a couple sprays before it closes out.
We surf for two hours. The waves begin to blur together. The warm ocean surrounds me. I am lost in the sound of the waves and the feel of the sunshine on my face. I hear Alex’s voice behind me. “School is in 40 minutes Nikki. Catch a wave in.” I acknowledge him with a nod and then turn back to the waves. A new set is rolling in. I skip the first wave, and I hear Alex take the second again. Here comes the third. It is very large, and the steep face is covered with thin foamy patterns. I turn my board toward shore and begin to paddle furiously. I feel the energy of the wave pick me up. I grab my rails with both hands and push the nose of my board down the wave. Then I stand up and turn my board to the right so that my back is to the face of the wave. This is the trickiest way of riding a wave. Riding facing the wave is a lot easier because you can see what’s going on. When I ride backside like this I have to do everything by instinct. I pump hard with my feet and maneuver down the wave a little so I am close to the trough. I can feel that this wave is going to tube. Gathering the last of my speed, I crouch down on my board and let the lip of the wave curl over me. I dip my fingers into the wall of the wave, pulling up close to the side of the tube. Now I am wrapped in a beautiful blue cocoon. I can hear the tube closing behind me as the wave breaks. I look ahead to the small opening of sunlight at the end of the barrel. Can I reach it in time? I pump a little bit more, gaining speed, and then I shoot out of the opening and into the bright sunlight. The wave crashes behind me. I ride the last few feet of the wave and then turn my board toward shore, riding the white water to the beach.
When the water is about a foot deep I jump off my board and slide it beneath my arm. I walk out of the surf and onto the strip of beach that is still wet from the waves. My feet sink into the dark gray sand beneath me. I bend down and undo my leash. I wrap it around my surfboard and then jog up the beach. I go up the boardwalk and find Alex rinsing off at the small shower head that sticks out of a wooden post by the parking lot. The pressure is not very good, and the water itself smells terrible, but it’s better than nothing. I rinse the sand of my board and then set it against the rail of the board walk. Then Alex holds the shower on for me and I rinse my hair.
We grab our boards and walk to the car. Alex slides them into the rack while I open the car and grab the towels. I toss one of the white pieces of cloth to Alex and give myself a brisk rubdown with the other. Once my skin is dry I wrap the towel around my hips and slide into the front seat. Alex climbs in, rolls down the windows, and starts the car. He pulls out of the small beach access and we had back towards our house. I pick up the water bottle Alex brought and take a few gulps. It is not cold but it takes the salty taste from my mouth cools my dry throat. I drink about half of it and then pass it to Alex. He drinks the rest down quickly and then stows the empty bottle under his seat. I lean my shoulder against my door and lay my head down out the rim of the window, resting it on my folded arms. The warm breeze plays hide and seek among the sun-streaked tangles of my drying hair. I close my eyes and doze until I hear the sound of our gravel driveway crunching under our tires. I get out, grab my board and walk towards the house. Once inside, I go to my room and put my board back into its usual place against the wall. I glance at my clock. It reads 8:32. School starts in about thirty minutes, and I have a ten minute drive. I don’t have much time. I go over to my dresser and rummage thought my drawers. I grab a pair of blue jean cutoffs, a white tank top, and a pale blue plaid button down.
Then I dart down the hall to the bathroom. I turn on the shower and strip out of my swimsuit. I step into the small corner shower and let the cold water run over my body. I never take hot showers. I just don’t like them for some reason. I shampoo my hair, rinsing away the last remnants of the ocean and the stinky beach shower. My shampoo smells like coconut. I wash the soap out of my hair and shave my legs. Then I turn off the water and open the shower door. I grab my damp towel off the floor and dry off.
My brain is running through an inventory of the things I need to do in the next fifteen minutes. I put on my faded denim shorts and pull the white tank top on over my bra. Then I put on my button down. I leave the front unbuttoned and I roll up the sleeves to just above my elbows. This is my favorite button down. The background is a beautiful pale blue and there are two different colors of plaid stripes, one a darker blue than the shirts and the other a dark brown. I barely even noticed the colors of my clothes before, but now I try to make note of the color everything I see. I grab a bottle of conditioner and squirt some into my hand. I rub it through my wet hair and then comb through the tangles. Then I rub some of the water from it with my towel. I turn to the mirror and look myself over. The pale blue of my button down makes my neck and forearms look even more tan than they really are. My hair, even while wet, still displays its ever present gold-white streaks. I reach down below the sink and open the cupboard. I grab my box of toiletries and set it on the white counter beside the sink. I pull out my toothbrush and I grab a tube of black mascara. I don’t wear much makeup or jewelry. Any kind of face makeup looks weird against my tan, so I stick to mascara and occasionally lip-gloss. As for jewelry, I could never be one of those girls who have “accessories” to go with every outfit. It’s just a waste of time. All the jewelry I wear goes with everything and I never take it off. Every piece means something to me. I wear a thin silver chain with a mermaid’s tale charm on it around my neck. My dad gave it to me before he died; he always used to call me his little mermaid. Around my right wrist is a thick white bracelet of braided string. It’s an ocean bracelet, and it is something sailors and surfers and such wear to show that they love the ocean. These bracelets are huge when you get them, but when placed in saltwater they shrink to the perfect size for your wrist. Weird, huh? The only other jewelry I wear is around my right ankle. It’s an anklet made, again, of white, braided string. My best friend Jacob made it for me. It has a little tiny hibiscus-flower charm he carved from some sort of pale colored wood hanging from it. I put on some mascara and brush my teeth. I smile at my reflection in the mirror. My teeth are very white against my dark skin. I have my dad’s smile—a little bit crooked and with a dimple on one side. I wish he was still here to watch me smile. I go back to my bedroom and hunt around for my turquoise backpack. I find it and check through the books inside. They are all present and accounted for. I grab a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt for gym class, and check to make sure I have money for lunch. My clock reads 8:46 I slip my backpack over my shoulder run down to the kitchen.
Alex will drop me off at school on his way to the dive shop. He is already in the kitchen waiting for me. We hurry to the car and I throw my backpack in the backseat and climb in. We pull out of the driveway and begin the ten-minute ride to school. We are going away from the beach this time. The drive seems longer than it is but we reach the school eventually. The car pulls up in front of the school. There are students all around. I climb out and grab my backpack.
I smile at Alex. “Bye Alex. Have a good day at work.” I say. Then I grin and add, “I think I am going over to Jake’s after school so I won’t be home for dinner. You’ll have to survive your own cooking for a night.” Jake is my best friend. He lives about a half mile away from us on the island.
He grimaces, and then sighs and smiles at me. “See ya Nikki. Have fun with Jake, and tell him I said hi, ok?”
“Will do. See ya dude, I’ll be home by 9:00.” I toss over my shoulder as I skip up the cement stairs of the school entrance. Someone opens the door for me and I slip into the school hallway. There are students milling all around, talking and laughing with each other in a raucous cacophony of broken conversations. I pause for a moment and look down the long hallway. The blue lockers line the hallway, contrasting boldly against the bright white off the walls and floor. There to the left are the doors to the teacher’s lounge and the faculty offices. Down past the lockers the hallway splits off in a “t” shape. The opposite halls are lined with classrooms. The left corridor leads to the gym and locker rooms, while the right one leads to the cafeteria. I go down the hall to my locker: number 114. The inside of my locker is plastered with surfing posters and pictures of me with my friends and with Jake and Alex. A picture of dad is framed in the back. I smile my identical smile back at his photo, imagining that he is smiling back at me. I put my gym clothes and all the books for second period classes in my locker and the close it. I rest my hand against the blue surface for a moment. There are so many things I never used to pay attention to. Now anything and everything I see and feel seems important.
A pair of long tan arms suddenly wrap around me. I jump, and let out a yelp, startled. Then I hear a deep laugh from behind me. I whirl around saying, “Jacob Rofkee you know it bugs me when you do that and you do it anyways!” I glare up at the large person in front of me. It’s a long way up. At 6’2 Jake makes a very tall sixteen-year-old. He has a thin angular face, with darkly tanned skin and a wide smiling mouth. His hair is a funny colored brown. It’s a really dark, rich, mud color, but with ashy blonde streaks here and there, almost like its dyed, though I know it’s not. It sticks up in every direction all over his head, despite his-actually his mother’s-many attempts to tame it. He has heavy dark brows, and his large eyes are the palest, icy blue I have ever seen. He’s really skinny, with a long, stretched, lanky build. His long limbs and huge hands seem the wrong size for his body. He’s wearing a blue and white Volcom t-shirt and jeans, with his backpack slung over his shoulder.
“Correction, I do it because it bugs you.” I concede his point with a resigned grin and he laughs again. Then he wraps his big arms around me in a more conventional hug. I smile against his chest. It’s impossible to stay mad a Jake for any amount of time. He’s like a puppy dog, sometimes naughty but always lovable. He has been my best friend since before I could remember. I don’t know why, but I have always gotten along better with guys than girls. Probably because I have no sisters and I can barely remember my mom. Lots of kids at school make fun of Jake and me because of our friendship. They don’t get how we’re as close as we are but we’re not going out. We think of it this way; Jake and I have an amazing friendship. Why would we ruin it with all the awkwardness of a relationship? If we did go out, and then broke up eventually,—as so many high school relationships do—our friendship would be horrible and uncomfortable, and we would lose the very special thing that we have now. Neither of us wants to deal with that, so we’re just best friends. Maybe when we’re older our friendship could change into something more, but we both want to wait until then.
The bell rings. Jake releases me and with a big smile and we start walking to class. We both have English this morning. A shadow falls over my thoughts for a moment. Jake does not know about my secret. I can’t bring myself to tell him. What would he do if he knew? Would he treat me differently? I don’t want anything to change. That’s why no one other than Alex knows about my secret: no one from my church, none of my friends at school, no one. I don’t want their pity. I don’t want to see their grief and horror every time they talk to me or look at me. It is hardest not to tell Jake though. I have no other secrets from him. We’ve known all each other’s secrets since we were five. I want to tell him so bad, but at the same time he’s the last person I want to know. It would hurt him more than it would hurt anyone else. Would I be able to deal with his pain on top of mine?
I look over at him. He’s telling me a funny story about his little brother. I watch his face. I am memorizing it. I listen to his laugh. I watch him smile. I memorize all of him.
* * * * * * * *
English class passes in a blur. We are studying Ivanhoe. I sit in front of Jake and next to my two good friends from church—Lisa and Meghan. Lisa is bouncy and energetic. She’s one of school’s best soccer players. She’s fun to be with when you need a laugh, but she’s not a very deep person. Meghan on the other hand, is quiet. She’s very reserved, but really intuitive. When I found out about my secret I was pretty rattled for a week. I thought I’d hidden it pretty well, but at she took me aside at youth group midway through the week and asked me what was wrong. I dodged her question but I still think she suspects something. We have a lot of classes together. Her favorite class is art. She is the best artist I have ever met. We are doing sculpture in art class. She is sculpting a water lily out of some sort of rock. It’s so good it looks real. I am trying my hand at board shaping. I am trying to shape a rideable surfboard. I had to work my art teacher pretty hard to allow me to shape a board instead of some statue or random modern art thing like everyone else, but I got my consensus eventually. My teacher is counting it as thirty percent of my grade, and I have to complete it by May 31st, the last day of school.
Today is March 26th. I have known about my secret for a little more than three weeks. Time is scary.
School passes quickly. The final bell rings and I feel Jake pulling me down the hall. I grab my stuff out of my locker and we head for the parking lot. I climb in the passenger seat of Jake’s dark grey Toyota. I smile; his truck smells like wax. “Whatcha smilin’ about?” I hear Jake’s voice say as he drives down the back roads of beachside.
“Alex is cooking for himself tonight.” I say with a grin. “I guarantee there will be a pizza box on the table when I get home. Hey, do you remember that time he tried to cook those fish we caught?”
Jake laughs at the memory, “Yes, unfortunately, I do remember that little incident: vividly.”
“My poor hairbrush.” I say mournfully. “It still has scales in it.” Jake rolls down the windows and I feel the warm Florida air blow through my hair. I reach down and grab Jake’s i-touch. I scroll through his music. Then I grin as I select a song-“Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader. “Remember this one? That night when you first tried to teach me to swing dance?”
Jake’s mom used to be a professional dancer, now she runs a ballroom dancing academy. Jake learned to dance at the age of like, 3. When we were both 10 his mom found out I didn’t know how to dance. She commanded Jake to teach me. So, he dragged me into his mom’s mini home dance studio. He put on this song and informed me that he would teach me to Swing Dance first because he thought Waltzing was boring and had deemed Tango and Salsa too difficult for poor uncoordinated little me.
Yeah, I know. 10-year-old boys who can Tango. Scary. But Jake’s mom never gave him much of a choice. His mom is, well, don’t get me wrong, she’s awesome, but she’s um…somewhat domineering. He’s still terrified that she’ll decide he needs to learn ballet or something. My first attempt at swing dancing did not go so well. I was, shall we say, less than graceful as a ten-year-old. Jake tried to teach me the simple, step-step-rockstep pattern that is the basis for Swing, but I promptly managed to trip over my feet and fall on my butt. This was repeated numerous times over the next five minutes. By the end of the song Jake was despairing of my ability to learn swing dance and I was getting madder at him by the minute.
Just FYI, girls, even tomboys like me, do not like to be shown up at dancing by a boy, even when the boy is their best friend. So let’s just say when his mom came in to see how the dance lessons were going, she found me pinning Jake to the wooden floor, twisting his arm up behind his back and making him promise not to make me dance again. Long story short, my ten-year-old clumsiness passed and I did, eventually, learn to Swing Dance. But it took about four years for Jake to dance with me again. Luckily his mom had worked on me pretty hard during that time, and not only could I Swing Dance, but I could also Waltz, and Tango-sort of. Jake is still teaching me Salsa now. Swing is the best kind of dancing for casual setting: the beach, country-style parties, that kind of thing. Salsa I don’t do very much, but it’s still really fun. Tango is more of a formal thing. Jake and I dance really well together. He’s tall; I’m on the tiny side. That makes dips and throws way easier. And once we got past our first little…ah…hiccups, (read: me beating him up) we learned to really enjoy dancing together.
Jake laughs again, doubtless remembering the arm twisting incident. He grins at me mischievously. “You were dangerous when you were ten. I remember a crazy little blond-haired terror that used to scare the crap out of me on a daily basis. You were a formidable foe too, ripped little surfer arms, wild, flashing, green eyes, absolutely no coordination unless you were on a surfboard.”
I glare at him. “‘Used to scare the crap out of you’ huh?” I ask derisively. “I think that though I am no longer a ‘terror’ I can still manage to do that much!” I look up at him demurely, “on occasion.”
I hear Jake chuckle, but suddenly it doesn’t seem funny anymore. I can definitely think of a way I could scare Jake. But it’s not funny at all.