Coming of Age Fiction High School

**Author’s note: Finished but not edited! Busy week and I didn’t get to edit this as much as I wanted. Hopefully I will be able to tweak it before it is approved!**

It’s strange how well you can remember seemingly insignificant moments with crystal-clear recollection while big moments are a little fuzzy around the edges. Whenever I think about playing in my first concert, for example, it feels quiet and far away, like I’m watching it on one of those countertop TVs my grandparents had that never had very good reception.

But then I think about an early Saturday morning when I was five. I watched cartoons with my Dad and ate a bowl of Lucky Charms, promising I wouldn’t only eat the marshmallows with no intention of following through. That memory is short, but it’s vivid like I’m reliving it whenever I think about it. I feel like I can smell the living room of our old apartment. Me, sitting cross-legged on the floor with my cereal bowl on the coffee table in front of me and my Dad, bleary-eyed and barefoot, sipping a cup of coffee. Hell, I could probably tell what episode of Loony Tunes I was watching if I thought hard enough.

That Saturday was like maybe hundreds of others, but that one sticks out in my mind. I would say that maybe it was a highlight-reel memory, my brain smooshing Saturdays together to save space, except that it’s so vivid.

I’d had one of those memories stuck in my head all day. It was of Liv and me at our family cottage. She used to come with us all the time before she moved away, but this one stuck out. 

We were eight years and it was early, but it was hot. It seemed strange just how hot it was while the sun shone so low in the sky, casting long shadows westward. The sky was pale with the haze of heat, the blue fading to near grey the further away you looked. 

Even with all of the curtains drawn, the cottage would get unbearably hot, the ancient yellow ceiling fans doing little more than twisting the hot air around. The only way to stay cool on a day like that would be to swim in the lake. You knew that it would be so sweltering by noon that you would be bone-dry in ten minutes and jumping in the water again, in need of relief from the blistering sun overhead. 

Liv and I had woken up early. The porch was all windows except for one wall and the curtains were only lace, letting the early morning light in as soon as it peaked over the horizon. 

Before breakfast, we had talked about riding our bikes to the general store up the road to see if they had any water guns. But by the time we’d eaten, we knew that the ride would be unbearable. Our tires would zip against the pavement, and we’d fear them sticking so badly to the hot asphalt that our bikes would get stuck, and our heads would ache from squinting against the bright for so long. We’d be able to feel the heat through the bottoms of our shoes when we dismounted to walk into the store and the ride back would feel impossibly long. 

We discussed our plans over bacon and eggs and decided that it was best to just get into our swimsuits and spend the day jumping off the dock.

We burst through the screen door onto the landing, our feet slapping against the cool concrete, which hadn’t yet been assaulted by the sun. Liv was three or four steps ahead of me. “I’m gonna beat you!” she shouted, giggling.

“No, you’re not!” I cried as a lept over the garden that lined the walkway in my best action-hero impression and onto the dewy grass.

“Cheater!” she called after me while following suit. I had a good lead but it wasn’t long before she had caught up to me; she was always faster than I was.

The brush of our feet on the grass was replaced by the thunk of our feet on the dock while our laughter echoed off of the cottage and the glittering green water. Our steps became smaller and closer together in rhythm as we readied ourselves to jump. Then, a few brief moments of silence as we flew off the end of the dock and took our breaths before hitting the water. 

We’d agreed without saying a word that we were competing for who could jump the farthest and I tucked myself into the smallest ball I could, hoping that’d be enough to carry me further than Liv. 

The silence ended as we broke through the surface of the lake. The volume was still peaking when my head went under and out splashes were muffled and warbled by the water filling my ears. Before impact, I saw Liv ahead of me in the air before I closed my eyes and I knew I was beaten.

We came up out of the wet dark at the same time, Liv already gloating that she’d beaten me and laughing. “Yeah, yeah yeah,” I said, wiping the water out of my eyes. “I saw you. It’s because you cut me off before we jumped!” 

“I did not! You’re just a sore loser!” she said before sticking her tongue out at me. Then she threw her head back and laughed, her new adult teeth sticking out big and awkward. I splashed at her and she squealed before laughing harder. “Thought you looked thirsty,” I said before Liv sent a big wave back in my direction.

“Funny, you looked thirsty too!” she said laughing.

We both started splashing at each other and laughing, our eyes closed against the spray. I realized I couldn’t hear her and I wasn’t getting splashed anymore. I reluctantly opened an eye, anticipating that the pause in the war was a trick. But Liv wasn’t there. 

That’s when I felt a tug on my foot that made me jump and scream. Liv came up out of the water. “Gotcha!” she laughed.

“Oh, now you’re dead!” I yelled, winding up for the biggest splash of my life. I imagined her being pushed back into shore with the force of it.

“WAIT!” she cried, too late. I splashed with all my might and followed it up with as many fast and furious splashes as my arms could muster.

“All right, all right, we’re even! We’re even!” she pleaded with her back turned. I relented as she wiped the water from her freckled face.

“Let’s play ‘Picnic,’” she said.

“Ok, you go first.”

“I’m going to a picnic,” she said. “And I’m going to bring…” We both took a deep breath and plunged under the cool water. 

A PITTA A EE-WA UH NWA!” Liv screamed under the water. 

We surfaced, giggling. “What?!” I asked, wiping the water away.

Liv rolled her eyes. “Don’t you speak English?” she said. “Try again.”

Under we went. “!!! A PI-CKA AN EE-NA UHWA ANWA !!!” she cried again.

“A pickle and peanut butter sandwich! A pickle and peanut butter sandwich!” I said, bringing my head back above water, trying not to gulp the water in my laughter

“Yeah!” Liv said. “I know they’re your favouriiiiiite!” she sang before laughing. She knew how funny and gross I thought they were and we joked about them all the time. 

“Ok, my turn!” I said. “I’m going to a picnic and I’m going to bring…” I said before taking a big breath.

That’s all I remember. The rest just fades into hundreds of hot summer days just like that one; laughing, joking, running, and jumping. 

Maybe it was because my Dad and I planned to go to the cottage to close it for the winter, making sure the fridge was empty, the power turned off and all the doors and windows locked. 

It was always sad to close the cottage down. As a kid, the feeling was simple; I liked the cottage and would be sad that we wouldn’t be there for a while. 

But as I got older, the sadness changed. It signified the passage of time and getting older. My grandparents, who spent nearly every weekend there when I was small, were too old for that now and only made it up for a few weekends. My grandpa, who always did so much of the upkeep himself, didn’t do much of anything there anymore except drink coffee. Once an avid fisherman, I hadn’t seen him cast a line in years. 

During our closing duties, I stopped for a moment to take the landscape in. The sky was grey and the water was steely cold and dark. It’s November, and the trees along the lake were grey and empty, their branches and twigs stretching outwards, creating fractal patterns against the light. Their leaves that covered the ground had lost their vibrance and lay brown and lifeless.

 I’m eighteen now, and I don’t race down the steps and have ‘who can jump the furthest’ contests off the dock and I don’t play ‘Picnic’ in the summer heat. I don’t ride my bike and I don’t think pickle and peanut butter sandwiches are very funny anymore…

Or maybe it was because I heard that familiar laugh at school today, high and clear above the usual murmur of the hallway. Olivia’s (she hadn’t gone by Liv for a few years) laugh was older and more womanly, but it was the same. It flicked something in my brain and I couldn’t help but stop and turn, just for a second, to see her standing in a locker bay with a couple of her friends. 

Liv and her family had lived in the house next to us. We moved in when I was five and we became fast friends. They moved out the summer we were ten after her parents got divorced.

The day she left is one of those foggy memories that feels like it should be clearer and more significant. I don’t really remember what we said to each other, something about seeing each other before summer was over I think, before we hugged and she left with her mom.

But we didn’t see each other until school started and we were in fifth grade. Even that brief lapse in time spent together made our reunion a little strange. 

Drifting apart didn’t happen overnight. It happened little by little every day. Liv, a gifted athlete, started spending more time playing sports, while I started to get involved in writing and music. 

Weekend hangouts became less and less frequent, and we didn’t see each other much at recess. At twelve or so, our interactions became little more than a quiet ‘hello’ in the halls or being grouped in projects.

During those longer interactions, we would start to fall into old routines and it would feel like we were friends again. One time in the library during a history project we were working on together, she even made a joke about pickle and peanut butter sandwiches. But, it wouldn’t be long before we fell back into our casual acquaintance. 

High school is when we stopped talking altogether. Liv was always good at science and math, two subjects I hated, and that’s how she filled her course schedule. That, and playing on every sports team our school offered.

I took as many writing and music classes as they’d let me take and I joined the band. We simply became ghosts to each other and would stare at the floor if we passed in the halls. There were times when I just wanted to stop her and ask how she was doing, how her parents are if she remembered those lost summers at the lake the way I do…

“What’s the matter? You haven’t said anything in a while,” Dad asks. I turn my attention from the trees passing by. We’re driving home from the cottage in the twilight, the road twisting and turning into the dark.

“Nothing,” I say, “I was just thinking about pickle and peanut butter sandwiches.”

He smiles. “You always thought that was so funny. I remember Liv making you crack up with that all the time.”

“Yeah,” I say with half a smile, turning back to blurring trees. 

“How is Liv doing? I haven’t seen her in a long time.”

“Good, I guess,” I say. “I don’t talk to her anymore.” I can feel his eyes darting between me and the road.

“Getting older is weird isn’t it?” he asks after a few moments.

“Yeah,” I say. “It is…”

June 17, 2023 02:46

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14:34 Jun 22, 2023

Sweet and really relevant to everyone. Note on time: nobody currently 18 knows what Saturday morning cartoons are!


C. Charles
14:43 Jun 22, 2023

Thank you! That is true about the cartoons, but I never did explicitly say that the protagonist is 18 *now* ;)


17:11 Jun 22, 2023

I know, I was just making a joke about being old! Great story.


C. Charles
17:51 Jun 22, 2023

Thank you!


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Mary Bendickson
20:24 Jun 17, 2023

Maybe a missing tiny word here or there I can't find again. It otherwise you brought a tear to my eye. Sweet memories. Growing older...


C. Charles
20:42 Jun 17, 2023

A week is a very quick turnaround time to think of a story, write and then edit said story. Definitely some tweaking left to do but I appreciate the read! Sounds like it hit the bittersweet just right!


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C. Charles
19:33 Jun 18, 2023

Approved before I got a chance to edit lol hope you enjoy anyway!


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