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Aug 07, 2020

General

Summer flings start with cherry trees,

And lead to cypress gold.

Though my summer fling’s a pretty thing, 

I don’t know how to hold it

Julie watches her popsicle slowly drip down to the wood.

“You’re so weird,” August says, shaking his head.

“It’s fun!” She licks her fingers where the popsicle juice has run over them. “Mmm.” 

The rest of the juice, which she collected in a plastic cup, is drunk down to the very last drop. It’s sweet and sticky and cool, like a nice glass of lemon-flavored Kool-aid.

August laughed. “When I said I would take you out for ice cream, I meant we’d eat it the proper way. This is monstrous.”

“Monstrous?” She grinned up at him. “Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration?” He’s got a few inches of height on her, which she normally finds annoying on boys her age. But with August, she kind of likes it. The thought that he could wrap her up in his arms, or carry her around, or that she’d have to stand on her tiptoes to kiss him. It’s more… romantic.

August points to her empty cup. “Eating ice cream wrong! Letting it melt and then drinking it? It’s so weird! It’s a crime!”

Julie laughs. “A crime is getting pistachio ice cream. Nuts and junk food belong in separate categories, and you’re mixing them up. People will start getting confused.”

August wraps his arm around her. “Pistachio ice cream is good. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s what’s important.”

He smiles down at her, and she loves that smile. It’s adoring and affectionate and a little amazed, and it makes her feel like the most important thing in the world. “You don’t know you’re right.”

“Do too. I’m always right.”

He sighed. “You usually are, unfortunately, about most things. Except for popsicles and the proper way to eat them.”

“Not true! There’s a bunch of us popsicle-melters out there who have to take abuse from our bo- uh, friends.” She winces at the almost-slip but plows ahead, hoping he didn’t catch it. “We’ve started a cult. We’ve got a whole online chat about how crazy the rest of the world is, and about space-Elvises, and a few of us have theories that we’re all secretly robots. I’m of the opinion yes, although I’m not sure where my charger goes.”

August is laughing. “Charger?”

“I’m a robot, aren’t I?”

“You’re so weird.”

“Watch it.” She levelled a finger at him, trying to squash a grin. “I have the right to withhold kissing.”

“Nah. You melt around me.” He leans in to kiss her and she closes her eyes…

Julie hurries to her house, past the houses of her neighbors. She waved at Old Ladies Maud, Bella-May and Josephine as she passed and they waved back cheerfully. She’d left her phone at home and had an excited feeling August had called.

I know how this thing ends,

I know how the song goes,

My summer fling will end,

All my pretty doors will close,

Because I know the song and I hear the rhythm,

Oh I’m shaking my hips bringing you along with it

What started out good just has to turn bad,

Because it’s a summer fling and these things don’t last

They’d been ‘casual’ for most of the summer. She liked spending time with him, but wished she knew exactly what their relationship was. There were never any labels. He’d call and ask if she wanted to go to the pool or go cherry-picking in the grove near his house, or get some ice cream. She always went. They kissed, he said he liked her, she held his hand, but there was never a word for it. She wanted there to be. She wished there would be. But it didn’t seem like it was going to happen.

When she got home she saw that he hadn’t called to her disappointment but she was sure he would soon. In the meantime Julie sat down at her desk, picked up a pencil and thought for a moment before jotting down a few lines.

Summer flings start with perfect things

Like your hair when you’re wet

And watching it dry into a shape all funny

There, that wasn’t bad. Maybe she did have something here.

Your jokes are bad and your drawing is worse

And you make fun of your mom

But somehow I like it all

Now she needed another chorus. 

She’d just started on it when her cell phone rang and she picked it up. It was August.

“Hey,” he said. “Can you get out later? Want to meet at Bessie’s? I’ll introduce you to pistachio ice cream.”

She smiled. “Bessie’s? Sure, I’ll try. Say five-ish?”

“Sounds good.”

“If I’m going to have nut ice cream--which I’m not saying I will--I’m going to melt it in a cup first.”

“No way.”

“Yes sir. I will eat ice cream how I want. I’m going to need a back massage to be persuaded to try it anyway.”

August laughed. “Back massage and one normal bite of ice cream.”

She considered. “Deal.”

“See you soon, Julie.”

“Bye.”

She hung up and stared down at the phone with a little smile on her face.

Because I know the song and I hear the rhythm

I’m shaking my hips bringing you along with it

What started out good just has to turn bad,

Because it’s a summer fling and these things don’t last

When Julie was running away from Bessie’s, she reflected on a few things that had led her up to this point.

One: August was too cute for anyone else’s good.

Two: Summer was somehow so romantic a concept it had coerced her into having a ‘fling’ when Julie was not in fact a fling person.

Three: Longtime crushes and an irritating blindness to the real aspects of a crush’s personality.

August was still standing inside and dripping with strawberry milkshake, and Julie was high-tailing it down the street with her shoes flying behind her. She ran into her house and up to her room, collapsing, not at her bed, but at her desk.

Julie had a tactical mind, a politician’s mind, and she was quick to analyze any situation. She let herself have a good cry for several minutes all over her notebooks, then she took a deep breath and began to analyze the situation.

So, obviously, in the boy world, casual meant something different than, “I want to hang out before we become significant others.” In boy world, it apparently meant, “How about I see other people and give you false hope for something real.” Because that was what the asshole had done. He’d given her a nice present full of hope and then went and snogged the face off of an attractive brunette who was- to Julie’s disgust- much closer to his height.

Her reaction had, of course, been a little extreme, but come on! She had the right to go a little crazy! He was supposed to meet her a half-hour later, and he was already there.

Julie had another good cry, pounding the desk with her fists to release some emotion. August had just seemed so good. Right for her. Perfect. Maybe that was some savage tactic boys used to get girls by pretending to be something they’re not to get something out of them. She pondered if anyone else had figured that out yet.

Her phone buzzed with a text from August. Hey. I’m really sorry. Can we talk? She deleted his contact, but not before sending a finger emoji and a We’re done. Enjoy the girl. It felt pretty good, all things considered. 

Julie’s life goal was to spend the rest of the summer holed up in her house, a prisoner to pizza and closed curtains when the first email arrived in her inbox. She stood with a sigh to delete the app. After a few days of annoying messages from social media, from friends or from August himself, she’d gotten into the habit of deleting her accounts.

This time it was different.

Theresa May just retired. Who do you think the new Prime Minister will be?

Julie frowned and looked at the contact. Unknown. She typed,

Who is this?

The next ping in her inbox came a few minutes later.

Jason Mitch. Remember? You Friended me back in 2017.

Yeah, sorry, don’t really remember.

We were in middle school together! I sat behind you in math?

Uh…

Oh, come on! =(

Oh, right. Pizza breath. You used to ‘forget’ to bring lunch and would just buy pizza instead.

Guilty.

Why are you emailing me? And, why is it about Theresa May?

I heard you were going through something with that horrible jerk August and I know your mom has been putting you through a kind of lockdown lately, so… I thought it might be fun if your excuse for staying inside all summer was coronavirus. Congrats! It’s 2019 again!

Despite herself, Julie smiled. The joke was so corny, and it was weirdly nice for him to reach out to her. She was flattered.

Well. That’s a new one.

I pride myself on creativity.

I suppose I’ll go along with it for your pride. Happy 2019! BTW, how do you know about my mom?

You posted about it a few weeks ago. Caught my eye since it was so ridiculous. 

IKR? She drives me kind of crazy sometimes.

They fell into a kind of easy rhythm and before she knew it an hour had passed and it was time for dinner. She sent Jason a quick Gtg, message and headed down, smiling to herself.

And even when I kiss you you never shut up,

And we’re pillowed on mountain grass always looking up,

I eat blackberries and laugh when you step in poison ivy,

You shove me in the creek

Jerk!

She wasn’t over August yet, but it wasn’t hard to fall into an easy sort of friendship/flirting thing. They started emailing a lot, then texting. She’d asked if she could call, but he never wanted to, though she wasn’t sure why. Sometimes he’d ask about her, sometimes they’d talk about the most random 2019 trivia. Once she sent him a selfie of her and her dog in a mask, then another time a chart of Donald Trump’s election potential. He wrote back, Lmaoooo, I can’t believe that moron almost became president. Scares me what people will believe.

She giggled and wrote back and they texted all day, every day, while Julie sat at home with the drapes closed and pizza on her bed. 

She never heard from August.

Jason never wanted to meet anywhere or call her, and slowly she managed to piece it together. She had to turn off her phone in the middle of her revelation. She stared out the window for a long time, ignoring her phone buzzing in her hand. Finally she swallowed hard and typed in a new message.

Hey summertime, meet me at Bessie’s. Got another milkshake to dump on you.

His reply didn’t come for a long time.

When?

An hour.

Julie pondered her closet for what seemed like a very long forever. Nothing looked right. What did you wear to your second breakup? A hot tank top? A hoodie? Eventually she pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and, feeling somewhat underdressed, threw in a necklace. She marched downstairs and out the door. She hoped she had her Stormtrooper face on. August was terrified of her Stormtrooper face.

We daydream about seeing a bear (we’ll run!)

We count the briars in my hair (forty-one!)

You push me in an arc in the dusky sky

I feel like I can fly away

And I want to take you too

He was waiting outside, of course, fidgeting nervously.He started when she came up to him and she walked right up, putting her hands on her hips to stare him down. To her satisfaction, he looked as terrified as she had hoped.

“Uh.” He swallowed. “So… hi.”

Julie tilted her head to the side and smiled. “Julie. Nice to meet you, Jason. You’re rather less dashing in person.” She wasn’t going to let sentimentality take over. She was going to officially break up and move on, no matter what he said.

He laughed awkwardly. “Wow. Yes. Well, Julie, you’re… just as pretty as I envisioned you. Which is, very pretty.-”

“August, who was she?” Julie didn’t blink, looked him right in the eye, but she could feel her hurt threatening to spill into her voice. Don’t crack.

“Ginny. From another school. She was my girlfriend a few years ago and she sort of contacted me and… wanted to get back together.”

Julie tilted her head to the side. “I’m assuming she contacted this summer?”

“Yes. Right before… right before we were a… thing.”

She had to take a deep breath and looked down at her shoes. She knew she shouldn’t ask, that it wouldn’t do any good, but she had to. “But we weren’t a thing, were we.”

“What do you…?”

“We weren’t a thing,” Julie repeated, “because you were seeing other people and I wasn’t aware of it. So technically, not really a thing. Things don’t cheat on their things.”

August looked pained. “Julie, I…”

“What were you doing with me, August? What the hell were you doing with me? Was I some sort of toy or distraction from the other beauties lined up around the block?”

“No, Julie, it-”

“Yes, please explain, I want to hear how special I am and how she didn’t matter to you.” Julie gave a humorless laugh and turned away. “Or better yet, how I didn’t ‘define’ our relationship as exclusive or not. Life lesson. Girls do not want to be ‘casual’ there is no such thing. Unless it’s for a casual sweater, which is actually pretty cute.”

“Julie!” said August in exasperation. “This was the first time I’ve seen her all summer. She’s been reaching out and I’ve been ignoring it. In Bessie’s, she kissed me. I was kind of startled by it. I actually started to call you before you dumped your milkshake on me.”

Oh, but I know the song and I hear the rhythm

I’m shaking my hips bringing you along with it

What started out good just has to turn bad,

Because it’s just a summer fling and these things don’t last

“Oh wow. I was expecting something, but that takes the cake.” Julie clapped, disgusted. “She just threw herself on you, huh? Struck down by the witch whose goal is to force men to kiss her.”

August gazed at her desperately. “Didn’t you see me take out my phone?”

She had. She honestly had, but Julie refused to believe this ridiculous little story. Poor August, taken hostage by a pretty girl with boobs spilling out of her tank top. 

“Julie.” August stared at her. “This summer has been the best summer I’ve ever had. I wasn’t going to throw it away. I’ve been trying to figure out how to casually call you my girlfriend in front of strangers for the past two months. Please, please believe me.” 

Julie’s mouth had gone dry, and she had to swallow. She hated August for lying to her, for making her even consider that could be possible. “And Jason?”

He shrugged. “Figured it would be some way to get you to talk to me again. I knew about your mom locking you up. I decided we could at least have a quarantine romance, then maybe I could tell you once we were back at school.”

She stared at the steady stream of customers wading inside for ice cream. She wiped her eyes so August wouldn’t see the tiny tear there. “You know, you made me fall for you twice. That’s what I’m so mad at you for, mostly. That you made me like you twice and in totally different ways. It makes me mad, because I’m scared I’d take you back when I came down here. And it makes me scared because I don’t want to get hurt by you again.” She took a deep breath and turned to face him. “I don’t believe your story of her kissing you.”

His eyes dropped to his feet and he didn’t speak.

“I was there. I saw it. And I’m insulted you’d try to lie. It makes me wonder how many girls you’ve used that trick on.” Julie took another deep breath. “You know I’m smarter than that.”

“Julie,” he said softly. “I’m sorry.”

She looked away. She didn’t know what to say. She looked him directly in the eye. “Bye, August. Happy summer.”

He nodded, looking pained. But he didn’t protest as she turned and walked away, wiping another tear from her eye. It hurt, but she knew it would hurt more in the long run. August could say it had been casual, that they didn’t lay any boundaries, but he knew it wouldn’t work. And, deep down, she was sure he knew what he was doing was wrong. 

She squared her shoulders as she walked away, heartbroken yet feeling strangely powerful.

But I’m gonna hold you and even if I’m cold to you,

I’ve still got you in my arms

You spent that summer with me all through July

And you can’t make me cast the memories aside

And even though I know the song and I heard the rhythm

Oh, I shook my hips bringing you along with it

What started out good just has to turn bad

Because it’s a summer fling and these things don’t last.

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3 comments

C. jay Loren
03:12 Aug 12, 2020

I applaud Julie’s strength. I don’t know if I’d be able to walk away from him. I’m a little too optimistic for that...But a good story and it felt very real.

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Aditya Pillai
09:05 Aug 09, 2020

That was a wonderful read! Heartbreaking at times, humorous at others. I don't know about August, he seems like trouble but also kind of genuine? The characterization was great and engaging! Great work! [One thing, it seems you have posted the same story twice? Just pointing it out!] Great work! Would love to hear your thoughts on my latest! :)

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Waverley Stark
18:47 Aug 09, 2020

Thank you for you nice comment! I’m glad you enjoyed my story. Yes, it was posted twice, but I wanted to see if the story could fit both prompts. Your story was very good too, enjoying and had nice rhythm. I compliment you!

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