I’ll look out my window. I love this part of the drive- it’s where I have a perfect view of the ocean from my spot in the seat behind where Dad is driving. If the sea were to have a temper, it will be furious today. The waves will be crashing onto the shore, crashing against each other. I’ll be able to see behind the waves too, where the usually flat water will be giving ripples bigger than I’ve ever have seen.
“Now, April, honey,” Dad will say, “We’ll be picking you up at around noon tomorrow.”
I’ll nod. Mom, Dad and Grace will be staying up north at Astoria to watch the fireworks up there. But I’ll be sleeping over at Astrid’s beach house. My parents will trust me. They will have known Astrid’s parents for two years now, because we will have been friends.
Friends, that is, from their point of view…
“I want to go to Becca’s house!” Grace will complain. “Her family has a cabin in the mountains! Ooh, I can go sledding!”
“You’re too young,” Mom will say in her soothing voice. “But maybe once you’re older.”
Grace will cross her arms and look out her window, even though nothing remotely interesting will be on her side. Just an endless forest.
“I see it!” I’ll cry. “I see it!”
I’ll point down a cliff to a small town. That’s where Astrid’s beach house will be. We’ll drive down, and we’ll check the addresses on each house. I’ll take the left side and Mom will take the right. 7923… 7925… 7927… 7929!
“That’s it!” I’ll exclaim.
It’ll be a small house, it’s back facing the ocean. Painted a light blue, it’ll be rickety with cobwebs around every corner. But I won’t care. Astrid will be here.
We’ll park in the driveway. I’ll hop out of the car and get my luggage from the trunk. A sleeping bag. The orange stuffed cat (who I named Biana) that I still won’t be able to sleep without. Some sunscreen. A toothbrush. Pajamas. It’ll all be packed into my oversized duffel- except for the sleeping bag, which I’ll carry with one arm.
“Bye, sweetie!” Mom will yell. I’ll just wave back as they’ll drive back down the street. I’ll walk to the house’s door, much slower than I would’ve liked because of my haul. When I get there I’ll knock. Astrid will open the door. Her raven-black hair will sway in the ocean breeze and her brown eyes will dart from me to our car driving away to my luggage to the forest and to everything around us. Astrid always has that confused look in her eyes, like she’s trying to piece everything together. You’d think someone like that would be shy, but Astrid still manages to be one of the most confident people I know.
“April!” she’ll exclaim after a split second of looking around. “You’re finally here! Come on, let’s go to the beach!”
“Should- should I drop my things off inside?” I’ll ask.
Astrid will sigh. “Sure, and I’ll show you where we’ll be staying. And you can say hello to my parents! But then we’ll go to the beach! Come in!” She’ll practically pull me inside because I’ll hesitate for a split second. I’ll be a bit overwhelmed- Astrid will have talked in her jet-speed way, and it will have only been about fifteen seconds since she’ll have opened the door. I love that about her. She’s so different from most people in our grade, either playing video games as soon as they get back from school and sitting in one of the farthest rows away from the teacher or being a huge jock and 100% obsessed with that. Or a popular girl who can’t stop taking selfies and never having enough. Or me, the shy girl who never dares raise her hand or speak up, and who always cares about what she means to random strangers. Astrid goes off of her own agenda. I admire her in that way, but I can’t bring myself to be like her.
Her house will be beautiful inside. Everything will be in the same light blue shade as the outside. It’ll be falling apart, but in a gorgeous way. Like if an antique were to be transferred into a building.
“Come on!” Astrid will yell, dragging me up a spiral staircase. Above it will be a single room, looking over the rest of the house like a loft. “Isn’t it cool?”
I’ll nod and drop all of my luggage in the corner.
“Now let’s go to the beach!” Astrid will pull me back down the stairs and through the back door. Luckily I’ll already have my bathing suit on- I doubt Astrid would be willing to wait long enough for me to change.
I’ll stare out at the beach. It’ll look even angrier up close, like the waves are only mad at me. This part of the beach will be deserted, even on the Fourth of July when everyone’s on vacation.
Astrid will run straight to the ocean and through the waves, clearly not caring about hypothermia or anything like that. She’ll motion for me to come over, but I’ll just wade in. One step. Another. Another. A wave will splash all the way up to my knees and I’ll stumble back.
Astrid will race back towards me. “Want to make a sand castle?” she’ll ask.
I’ll nod. A sand castle sounds fun.
We’ll get to work. We’ll gather sand near the waves so that it holds its shape better, and after a few hours it’ll be molded into a towering four-foot-tall castle, complete with cylindrical towers, sharply angled roofs and a turret in front for defense. It won’t exactly be themed. But it’ll be cool, which is all Astrid wants.
The sun will be almost down by the time we’re done. Astrid’s parents will have come out to see our castle, and Astrid will be getting to work on a bonfire.
Astrid’s parents will be taking a walk down the beach when Astrid finally gets a flame to rise up. That flame will get bigger, and soon we’ll have a true bonfire. It’ll sound like a villain from a movie cackling with laughter. Astrid will move aside when the smoke drifts into her eyes. Every few seconds we’ll hear a booming noise from a firework. Sometimes we’ll even see them down the coastline.
“The ocean’s pretty tonight,” I’ll remark. “You know, I haven’t been here in three years, even though we don’t live very far away.”
“Huh,” Astrid will say. “And… the ocean is pretty.”
I’ll nod, though disbelief will be clouding my eyes even more than the smoke. I’ve never heard Astrid appreciate something the way most people do. And she’ll say this, well, slowly. Like our lives were being filmed, and someone hit the slow-motion button.
“You’re okay with this, right?” I’ll ask. “You know…”
Astrid will nod. “But… are you?”
I’ll think about this. Am I ready? It would mean coming out. Not just as bisexual, but as someone who wants Astrid. No one- not the gamers, not the jocks, not the popular kids, not the shy ones, would understand this.
“Well?” Astrid will ask.
“I just-” I’ll hesitate. Should I tell her?
Does she deserve to know? Would knowing be a negative or positive thing?
“I- I-” Yes. I’ll tell her. It’ll come out of me fast. Faster than Astrid usually speaks. “Idon’tthinkIcanbewith… be with… be with you.”
“I thought we were doing this,” Astrid will say. “I thought we agreed to… to showing everyone who we are.”
“It’s more than just that,” I’ll tell her. “It’s that-”
“I think I know what you’re going to say.”
I’ll sigh. “You do.”
Astrid will storm off down the beach toward her parents. I’ll race after her.
“Leave me alone.”
“Leave… me… alone!”
I’ve never seen Astrid get mad like that before.
I’ll walk back towards her house.
What had I just done? Had I destroyed our relationship? Not just as a couple, but… but as friends?
I’ll burst into tears. Why do those people matter? Those gamers, those jocks, those popular kids, those shy kids. Why do I need to be obsessed with what they think? They might have their own beliefs, which I respect, but I don’t need to go off them. And I- I need Astrid. And Astrid needs me. And that’s way more important. And Astrid knows that.
“Astrid!” I’ll yell. “I have an idea!”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Astrid will huff.
I’ll run up to her. “Jeanette’s here, in town, right now. She texted me about it. We’re gonna go up to her, and I’m going to tell her everything.”
“Really?” Astrid will raise her eyebrows. “You’re not gonna chicken out?”
“Of course not.”
“Then let’s go,” Astrid will decide. “Do you know where she is right now?”
“Probably over there,” I’ll say, pointing to a spot on the beach opposite the way we’d ran, where at least two hundred people were crowded together.
We’ll race over there. And sure enough, I’ll be able to pick Jeanette out of the crowd. She’ll be looking at her phone, which isn’t much of a surprise.
Jeanette is the most popular girl in school. She has blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile that appears to be friendly at first glance. We’re on pretty even ground, and no one wants to get on her bad side.
I’ll freeze in my tracks when we get close. We could walk away now, and she’ll never notice us.
If you go, then you’ll show Astrid you can do hard things to keep our relationship alive.
If you go, then you’ll be shamed at school, and everyone will be against you. You won’t be able to be the shy girl anymore.
Astrid is more important.
I’ll grab Astrid’s hand and step toward Jeanette.
“What are you doing here?” Jeanette will ask, pointing at Astrid. “Go away, you freak.”
“We’re not going anywhere,” I’ll say. “If you want, you can go somewhere else on the beach.”
“What makes you the one who makes all of my decisions? And why are you with Astrid? You need a break from her, April. Maybe you’ll gain some common sense in that time.”
“I have,” I’ll tell her, my voice rising. “And you can’t do anything about it. Astrid and I-” I’ll pause for a moment, taking a deep breath. “Astrid and I are together.”
Jeanette will shout a lot of words she isn’t supposed to say. At least half of the crowd will be watching now.
“GO AWAY,” she’ll say. “From this beach. FROM MY LIFE.”
“Sure thing.” I’ll trudge along the coastline.
We’ll go back to our bonfire. I’ll realize then that we shouldn’t have left it alone, but that’s okay.
“I- I can’t believe I just did that,” I’ll whisper, sitting down.
“Thank you,” Astrid will whisper.
“The thing is,” I’ll say, “I need you. No one will like me anymore. I need you to teach me how to not care about any of it.”
“And- and I need you,” Astrid will tell me, “because… because I’m an outcast. I need a friend. It’d been a long time since I’d had one before you came along.” She’ll sigh. “I can’t believe I rejected you like that earlier. I was so stubborn.”
“I- I forgive you,” I’ll say. I won’t be able to hold my tears in anymore. I’ll notice that the ocean’s stopped being as wild. The waves are smaller now. More gentle, in orderly fashions. It’ll be calm. A breeze you can only find at the coast will fly in, whipping my hair around.
“You know what?” Astrid will ask, her voice back to it’s lightning rhythm. “It’s getting late. You know what that means?”
I’ll nod. “What do you have?”
“Come see!” She’ll grab my arm and pull me back into the beach house. She’ll open a rickety closet door near the front, revealing some of the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen.
I’ll read some of their titles. “The Big Bang… the Tsunami Surf… wait. Aren’t these illegal in Oregon?”
Astrid will nod. “We had to drive up to Washington to get them!” she’ll glance out a window. “Oh, and my parents are back. Come on!”
We’ll spend the next few hours setting off some of the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen, and I’ll be happy. I don’t need Jeanette. I don’t need the gamers or the jocks or the popular kids or the shy ones. I don’t need someone who fits in. I need Astrid, the outcast. We’ll definitely have a relationship, with highs and lows. I don’t think the Fourth of July will really be like this, but maybe… maybe our lives will, if I take this leap. If I tell Astrid what I’ve been wanting to tell her for three months- that I love her.
I glance down a hall. There she is. There’s Astrid, walking out of the school. Her eyes are doing that thing where they look all around, trying to make sense of what’s in front of them. It’s us. Just us. Not many kids come here.
“Astrid,” I say.
“Yeah? Wait, what’s your name? Mabel, right?”
“April. And… I have something I need to tell you.”