Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)
TITLE: Summer Pieces
By nicole wian
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We were young, that first summer. I, eighteen, she one year below that. We met at the beach, quite possibly the best place to be in the summertime. I was wasting my vacation, avoiding all responsibilities and schedules, just having graduated high school. She was working the smoothie stand on the boardwalk. It was love at first sight, cliche but true. I took one look at her blowing her straggling bangs out of her eyes as she blended me up my smoothie and knew I wanted to marry her. It wasn't so clear for her yet that we belonged together.
But eventually I convinced her to go out with me. We walked the boardwalk that fateful evening, the sun setting, the beach clearing out for the night. My hand was sweating when I reached for hers, hoping she wouldn't notice. She was a summer vision; red toenails popping out of white sandals, tan, long legs in shorts paired with a tank. Conversation came easily. We developed a level of comfortability paired with nervousness I didn't know could coexist.
The night went well and we spent every night thereafter together until summer ended and I headed off for my first year of college while she finished up high school. No one thought we'd last. But the letters got us through until the next summer, my devotion hers, not to be robbed by college girls, parties or even studies. When I arrived home that next summer and saw her, I knew I couldn't leave her again. So I transferred to the college she planned on attending.
I married her three years later. She was my summer for the next thirteen. I know when someone's gone, it's easy to only remember the good. I do know not every year was easy, that there were trials, long nights caring for our children, maybe fights once in a while about money, but honestly, I only can vaguely remember the hardships.
What I mostly remember are our summers; camping trips with the kids, sitting on our porch swing on hot nights when we were alone, looking at stars and having no less to say than the summer we first met. I remember that she only grew more beautiful as she aged, more interesting and wiser. We'd lay on a hammock in our backyard, and I'd listen to her talk, maybe about nothing, for hours, wanting more, her voice like a soft song.
What's harder to recall is the doctor's voice when he told us she had cancer. She didn't have long he'd said. And that was true. Only about fourteen months after the diagnosis. I remember her body beginning to fail, the horror of what the medication did to her, holding her hair back when she'd suddenly, violently get sick. But I was strong for her. What else could I be? Our children were young and so were we. So that last summer I had her, I tried with all my might to soak in every moment we had, not expressing my fears, just loving her, listening to anything she wanted to say, watching her pour all the love she had to give into her family, so we might still feel it when she was gone. She did this, though her strength lessened every day, her body wasted away, and sometimes, even her mind failed her.
She died as summer turned to fall. The sun took leave on my life, as well. And the many months following were bleak. I went on, but don't know how.
It was nine months following her death, when she returned to me a bit of sunshine. I found in her jewelery box, one night, letters addressed to me. They were letters from her in heaven, telling me how there, summer is never ending. The sun shines unceasingly. I wiped tears from my eyes, somewhat believing that these really were letters, just appeared from the celestial skies. I knew of course, that they were penned in her last days, to comfort me, to tell me to carry on. I imagined her in heaven, healthy and tan, smiling, playing in a place where the sun never sets, knowing that someday I'll join her and our summer will resume.
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