“I always know when spring is near, as those pink flowers begin to blossom by the tree.”
“They’re beautiful.” I picked one up and let it lay in the palm of my hand.
“You idiot! You’re supposed to let them grow. You’ve gone and bloody killed it now.”
I put the flower in the front pocket of my shorts and turned away from April to hide my flushed cheeks. She was such a bossy cow, sometimes.
“I can’t wait for summer. Just think, me and you going travelling all by ourselves. Who’d have thought? Not my mum, that’s for sure. She’s still hesitant about it, which is actually surprising, considering she never has much of a reaction to anything I do these days. Now that I’m eighteen and all, got a job – which, by the way, I’m definitely sacking off before summer starts - she kind of doesn’t care anymore. I think she’s jealous and that’s why she doesn’t want me going away with you. We’re going to meet so many hot Greek boys and she’s been single since I was merely a late period.”
I watched April as she spoke. The sun had been out not even a week and she was already bronzed, the sun glistening on her shoulders. Her hair was around shoulder length – she was always changing the colour – but for now it was a pale candyfloss, and she suited it like no one I had ever seen before. There was no theatrical accessorising, or any attempt to wear anything that came across as requiring effort, but the simple blue and white heart necklace she wore around her neck seemed to fit perfectly with every unusual outfit she chose. Her dad had bought it for her from Greece when was a kid, during a rendezvous with a family friend. She never saw him again.
“How does your mum feel about it, then?”
“I don’t really know. She’s a bit preoccupied at the moment with work and that. I kind of just told her about it, didn’t really make it an option. Either way I’m going, we paid for it with our own money, and it’s looking like I’m going to pass my exams.” I sighed and lay back into the grass, my head right next to the pink flowers. The temptation to pick another made my fingers tingle, so I picked at some grass instead.
“I have hay fever, you know.” April glanced down at me.
“Piss off, April.”
Us two had been friends for many years now. Back when we were seven, April joined our class from a different school, as her and her mum had just moved from the city. There was something odd about her, even then, but she was much more intelligent than the rest of us. I don’t mean necessarily book smart, but she knew how to haggle shopkeepers into getting cheap sweets, she knew how to charm a teacher into letting her off for handing in late homework, she knew how to draw in the attention of anyone who spoke to her. On that first day, while the teacher was taking the register, April laughed at my name. This was new to me, as I had grown up in the area – everyone knew each other. My cheeks burned and my eyes welled up with tears. This was until we got to her name, at the end of the register as she was new, and everyone sniggered. She simply joined in and said,
“Yeah, different, isn’t it?”
This was the first thing I ever learnt about my friend April. She was just happy to be her.
“Willow, get my sunglasses out of my bag, would you? I’ve gone fucking blind I’m not joking.”
Her tattered bag withheld the contents of an entire antique market.
I handed her the rather large, brown sunglasses. She smiled at me as she knew I’d be thinking that they were hideous. In actual fact, I kind of thought the opposite.
“Right, where are we going then? I need an ice cream, like right this second. Feel like I’m leaving a trail of sweat behind me as I walk.”
“Ice cream it is. We could do a bit of sightseeing?” I asked hopefully, knowing I wouldn’t get the response I wanted.
“Well I’m going to be sunbathing, and having a nice Greek man bring me strawberry daquiris all afternoon. Oh, and I am definitely going into the sea at some point. Does that not sound even a little bit entertaining to you?”
I smiled at her, “Yeah, sounds perfect.”
“I want to look at these motorbikes as well, just for a second.” She walked swiftly over to the three men standing outside a shop with three motorbikes, each with their own signs of prices per hour.
“Seriously? Aren’t they a bit dangerous?” I questioned her decisions often, and this was certainly not something I was going to consider lightly. She brushed off my comment completely.
“I’m just looking, okay? Anyway, let’s find the beach.”
We got two sun loungers on the nearest beach, and of course, April managed to get us the two nearest the sea. Her beauty was undeniable but sometimes I wondered if she had some sort of magical power that I didn’t know about. We stripped off into our bikinis – she ordered a strawberry daquiri and I got a pina colada – along with two ice lollies. We sunbathed for hours. She looked like a goddess lying there in pale blue, the colour matching perfectly with her necklace. She had her belly button pierced from when we were younger, and its sparkles glistened in the sun that was hitting her directly on her already tanned stomach. I lay with my arms outstretched and played with the sand between my fingers, occasionally gazing out to the blue waves that were like a moving painting in front of me. With her headphones in, April sipped on her cocktail, looking as blissful as I’d ever seen her. The combination of smells of sea salt, sun lotion and rum was like a burst of summer with every inhale.
“Red suits you, you look hot as fuck.” April nudged me and glared at the guy who’d been serving drinks, as though hinting that he was going to be thinking the same thing.
I think in that moment my face went the same colour as my swimsuit.
“Thanks,” I winked. “Wanted to impress you.”
She laughed and put her headphones back in, while I simply lay back and closed my eyes.
When I think of my fondest memories with April, I think back to those moments in the field. We’d spend hours there, just talking and watching the world go by. She was even one of those nutters who goes cloud watching. But that was another thing that I loved about my friend April, she always appreciated what she had around her.
We spent that entire day laying on the beach, and by around 4pm, when the sun was beginning to ease off a little bit, and it was warm but not too warm, we were pretty fucking drunk.
“Come on,” I slurred. “Let’s go back to the hotel, we need to shower and – oh shit, we’ve not eaten today.” I cracked up laughing and April joined in.
“As long as we got some beers at home!”
The two of us drank away at a cool beer from the fridge. April got undressed and walked into the bathroom to have a shower, leaving the door open so that we could carry on talking nonsense to each other.
“Just get in with me, it’ll save time!” April was giggling and singing along to the music we had playing through the radio. We were close friends enough that this wasn’t really something that seemed weird to us, especially as the alcohol was really setting in at this point.
I got undressed and stepped into the shower. She grabbed a bottle of body lotion and covered me in bubbles, laughing to herself like I’d never heard her laugh before. She seemed so free here. I was laughing and screaming and throwing the bubbles onto her.
That night we ate at a small restaurant just down the road from our hotel. The exterior was dainty and looked so … homemade. Fairy lights were draped around the old brick walls of the front, with a sign saying ‘Angelino’s’, creating the most picturesque setting with the beach directly opposite. We sat out the front, of course, on a wooden bench, and drank sangria and ate souvlaki until we eventually had to leave (hours after closing). We walked back to the hotel, hand in hand. I looked over at her, multiple times, as she was wearing a long floaty white dress, and I didn’t think she’d ever looked so beautiful.
We pretty much got into the hotel and passed out as soon as we lay on the bed. It had been a long day of sunbathing and drinking, which are both surprisingly very tiring activities. I’d woken up for a brief second during the night, thinking I had heard April moving around, but I simply closed my eyes and fell back to sleep, too tired to check on whatever she was doing. I really wish I had.
I got a call at around 5am, telling me that there had been an accident.
I was told by a nurse that April had rented a motorbike from a local during the night. She had told him that she was looking for her dad and finally believed that she had found him. The entire trip made sense to me now. I sat and cried in the waiting room for what felt like hours, just wanting to hold her in my arms. The details were almost too hard to hear, but she had lost control of the bike and driven off of a thin road, most likely due to being under the influence. During the time that I was sat waiting, all I could do was relive my memories with her. Every hug, every laugh… God, I really loved her.
When I was finally allowed in to see April, I sat on the empty chair next to her bed. She looked so frail, almost like how she looked when we were kids. Except for the bruises. By the side of her bed was her blue and white necklace that they’d had to take off her, and I didn’t want to lift her head so I tied it around her wrist a couple of times to wear like a bracelet. She’d kill me if she knew I’d let her lie there without it on.
“I love you, April. And if you wake up from this, I promise I will tell you. I will tell you that I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. There is no one better for me than you, my April.”
I took the dried pink flower from the pocket of my shorts, and I placed it into her delicate hand, just so she’d know that she’d see another spring.