Jessica pulled her sweater tighter around her shoulders. The fabric was warm and soft but it didn’t satisfy her urge to hug her sister. They stood next to each other in the early morning fog, silently watching as a warm glow started to light the sky. The lake soothed Jessica, telling her it would be okay.
“My socks are wet.” Olivia broke the silence first. Jessica cracked a small smile and looked down at their feet. The fresh dew that coated the grass had soaked through her socks too.
“Mine too.” Jessica felt tears start to form in the corners of her eyes, but she quickly blinked them back. They had promised each other they wouldn’t cry.
“Do you want to go back inside?”
“No!” Jessica looked at her sister frantic, then back at her feet. “I mean, we can barely see the sun over the lake.” Jessica just needed a little more time, she wasn’t ready to say goodbye quite yet. Olivia nodded and looked back to the sun.
The fog surrounding the lake was quickly vanishing as more of the sun appeared over the water. Golden streaks seemed to dance over the surface as small waves moved in the water. The air was so still it felt like breathing too quickly could cause a tornado. Jessica and Olivia stood with their shoulders nearly touching, but not quite. Both of them had their arms crossed and hair pulled back into messy buns. If you didn’t know them, you could mistake them for twins but despite Jessica being half a foot taller, she was the younger of the two. The sun slowly heated the air, but not much. Daylight didn’t provide much reprieve from harsh Vermont weather. As the temperature slowly rose, it felt like the tension did too. Jessica crossed her arms in front of her chest to hide her shaking hands.
This day had been marked on the calendar since February. Olivia was so excited when her acceptance letter came in the mail. The whole family danced around the kitchen and their dad made cookies to celebrate. Olivia had not stopped talking about her dream school since, until now. Now she stood silently with her sister, having trouble finding the right words to say.
“Don’t forget about the time difference when you call me,” Olivia said without turning her head to face her sister. Jessica heard a small crack in Olivia’s voice. She wanted to turn and see if she was crying, but if she did she would expose the tears filling her own eyes.
“It’s three am in California right now.” Jessica joked, but it fell flat. Neither of them was in the mood to laugh.
“It’s only a few hours away,” Olivia reassured her. Jessica knew it was more than a few hours, but this was a mantra they have repeated for months to help make the distance feel smaller.
The sun has finally risen now. Jessica wasn’t sure how long it’s been fully in the sky or how long she and her sister have been standing here for but she still wasn’t ready to go. Her feet had gone numb from the cold dew and her nose was red. A single tear dropped onto her cheek as she watched the beams of light dance off the waves.
“I can’t believe this is the last time we’re doing this,” Jessica said, fully crying now and refusing to turn to Olivia. Olivia was crying herself and could only muster a head nod and a sound of agreement.
For years this had been their weekend ritual. It started with Olivia. She and her ex-boyfriend use to watch the sunset every Saturday morning together. After a very messy breakup, Jessica replaced him in the morning ritual. This was their time to talk, gossip, laugh. They loved their Saturday morning sunsets and never missed one, rain or shine.
“Jess-” Olivia had to stop to clear her throat. “Jess, promise me you’ll keep doing this? Every Saturday?”
Jessica could only nod, by now tears were soaking her cheeks with every blink. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Aw, Jess.” Olivia finally turned to face her sister. Both of their faces were wet from tears and their eyes showed no signs of stopping. Olivia took one step and pulled Jessica into a hug, which Jessica quickly returned. They sobbed into each other’s shoulders as the golden light washed over them. The fog had still not completely cleared but the air did feel lighter. “I’m gonna miss you so much.” They held each other, scared to let go.
Hours later, Jessica sat on the damp sand along the lake. This time she was alone. She had swapped her old damp socks for sneakers and her sweater for a hoodie. Olivia’s flight has just taken off at the airport towards California. Jessica repeatedly picks up a handful of sand then lets it fall back down through her fingers. The sun was dimming, giving everything an eerie orange glow. A fog was slowly forming again in the evening air and the fresh smell made Jessica want to start crying all over again.
Before Jessica realized the sun was down. The cold sand looked gray in the dull moonlight. It was hard for Jessica to remember that just this morning, this whole lake was bathed in a golden yellow. Now everything was just so colorless. Crickets hummed along to the soothing music of the waves. The moonlight was reflecting off the motion of the water. Beams of light shifted back and forth, only moving to a certain point one way, before being pulled back to where they started.
Jessica couldn’t help but feel like the light was stuck. The waves trapped it in an endless dance back and forth, only to end when the sun returned and restored the bright gold. Jessica had no hope for the sun though, she knew it would feel like infinity before the warm rays broke across the water. So for now she sat and watched the trapped moonlight shuffle along the water and waited for the warm embrace of the sun, only a few hours away.