High School LGBTQ+ Happy

“I can see it now,” Reina muttered, a puff of smoke accompanying her words. She took one last drag before putting out the cigarette on the arm of my aunt’s lawn chair. 

“What can you see?”

She took her time before answering. She does that, Reina. Takes too much pleasure in toying with her audience. At last, she stretched, and smiled at me. “Why Blake likes you so much.”

I snorted, but felt my face burn under her coffee-dark gaze. “I sure hope he does,” I said, “Our one month anniversary is tomorrow.”

Reina barked out her usual laugh - the kind that used to make me flinch, but now only made me roll my eyes. 

“I hope you’re not counting on him to remember, babe. You know boys never do.”

She was right, of course. Blake had always been more of a ghost than a boyfriend. It should have bothered me. 

“Would you remember?” I heard myself asking. Reina turned to me and leaned over the side of her lawn chair, as if about to share a secret. She wore her slim black bikini that day, and already, her shoulders and chest were browning in the August sun. I wore a t-shirt over my swimsuit, knowing damn well I would turn to a lobster otherwise.

“Oh Ivy,” she chuckled, and paused, in that way she so often did, as if building up to something. But she must have changed her mind, because a moment later, she stood up and slipped into her flip flops. “Well, I didn’t come over just to sit and burn all day.”

I glanced at the blowup pool in my backyard. It hadn’t seen a skimmer in ages, and was beginning to look like a petri dish. “Brook on Park street?” I offered. 

Reina took one last sip from her capri sun and donned her sunglasses. “You got it, babe. The one with the bridge, just like at camp.”

I blinked, taking a moment to process what she was referencing. It wasn’t unusual for her to talk of the girl’s summer camp we used to go to. Our last trip was three years ago, but Reina had a habit of reminiscing like an old woman remembering her twenties. No, what shocked me was her acknowledging the bridge. She’d retold and stretched every tale from that camp until they were all worn thin, with the exception of one. Until now, I had wondered if the incident ever really happened. 

The brook was within walking distance, and the journey there was quiet but for the slap of our flip flops on the pavement. Reina wasn’t one to chat unless she had something to say, while I, wanting to say a thousand things, could never find the words. So it was a familiar and comfortable silence we shared, until the sidewalk sloped and cracked, and eventually ended in a grassy slope that turned to sand and dipped into the brook. 

There were too many people there. The water bubbled with the splashes and screams of children, and teenagers. The shore was crawling with more people, sun bathing, eating popsicles, and tripping over all the towels and beach bags. All the moving bodies and voices made my stomach clench, but Reina, who knew me too well, took my hand and tugged me through the crowd. 

“At least we’re not blind folded,” she said, “Like that game at camp, do you remember?”

“Yes,” I said, and laughed nervously. Of course I remembered. She only wanted to calm me down. But now that I could see where she was taking me, my nerves sky rocketed. 

The brook was popular among teenagers for one reason and one reason only; the bridge. It was no more than a diving board’s height above the water, which in this area, was deep enough to catch you should you jump. And most people did. We hadn’t jumped in three years, either because of the crowds, or because of the memories. Maybe both. But today, at this moment, the spot was empty. It was as though Reina had bargained with the universe to make it so. I wouldn’t doubt it. 

Even as we left the crowd, and I was safe from having a panic attack, Reina didn’t let go of my hand. Not until we reached the foot of the bridge, where we kicked off our flip flops, and I took off my t-shirt, and she removed her sunglasses. Then she took my hand again. As if we were little kids. 

Sometimes I wondered if Reina was still thirteen inside. If she never really left that camp. At least, that’s how she acted this month. Ever since I started going out with Blake. Then she tried everything in her power to relive it. Not just by telling stories, but by buying capri suns, playing soccer, and even cutting her hair just off the shoulders. And now, as we stepped onto the cool stones and up onto the ledge, she was about to recreate the final scene. The one we couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about. 

My heart pounded so hard, she must have felt it in my sweating hand. It wasn’t the jump I feared, but what was bound to happen after. Or would it? We stood close enough for our hips to touch, and suddenly I became aware of how warm her skin was. Maybe I had imagined what happened that day. I hoped not. 

Reina finally let go of my hand and smacked my ass, (a common camp ritual). 

“Too slow!” she teased, and leapt off the edge. At that point, my body took over, and before I could think, I jumped in after her. 

The feeling of falling was just as I remembered; I was in the air for too long, far too long, and then with a crash, I slammed into the frigid water. The lake shot straight into my nose, and seized me with its cold, cold fingers. I felt more awake than ever, and took a moment for the lively silence to swallow me whole. No more anticipation clutched at my chest. It wouldn’t be the same as three years ago. And maybe that was good. Maybe it was best.

When I finally rose to the surface, Reina was treading just a pace away, laughing. Her jet black hair was strewn across her face in several directions, none of them conventionally flattering. I couldn’t help but laugh too, at the excitement, the absurdity, the warm feeling crawling in my stomach. This time, I didn’t wait until we were under the bridge. I didn’t stammer, or panic. I swam over to Reina, wrapped my arms around her waist, and pressed my cold, wet lips into hers. 

It only lasted a moment- a moment of blissful August fireworks before I remembered I couldn’t tread water without my hands, and Reina screamed because her foot touched something slimy. 

We sprawled onto the sand and tried to catch our breath. I inched my hand over to hers, and she took it. She was so familiar, so warm, so spectacular, how had I not done this ages ago?

She rolled over on the sand to face me, the biggest grin on her face. “You smell like a lake,” She said. She didn’t have to say anything else. Neither of us did. So we just laughed, and gripped eachother’s hands. Nothing had really changed in three years. We may have hidden it, but we were the same. I could see that now. 

June 30, 2022 06:29

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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