"It’s too cold."
"Aw, come on, Trinity, just jump!"
I glowered at Will from the riverbank. "It's too cold."
He considered me for a minute, then, holding his hands up in a sign of surrender, he walked out of the water, dripping, and sighed in resignation. I crossed my arms, feeling very proud of myself. I had finally out-willed him. Ha ha! I thought, You have no control over me now, Will Brydan! I was just about to voice this thought when he suddenly ran at me, scooped me up, and carried me kicking and screaming back into the lake, sundress and all. When he was up to his waist, and I was almost touching the water, he stopped.
"Ready?" he asked, grinning down at me roguishly.
I crossed my arms and glared at him, quite aware that I was helpless while he was holding me up like this.
"You're horrible," I said with finality. This said, he promptly dropped me into the sun-warmed water.
I came up sputtering, and immediately started swimming out to catch him. He was already out in the middle of our tiny lake. Laughing, he called out, "Hurry up, slowpoke! I haven't got all day!"
I quickened my pace, and before long, I caught up to him.
"Now, aren't you glad you came into the water?" he asked impishly. I opened my mouth to say something biting, but he had dunked me into the water again, and was off laughing. I came up with revenge written all over my face. This friend of mine needed to be taken down a notch.
I lunged after him with a yell, and caught him around the neck. After sufficiently punishing him for his ungentlemanly deeds by way of shoving him underwater, I relaxed and just floated there with my arms still around his neck.
"You're an idiot, did you know that?" I said to him after a little time had passed. He just smiled.
"Yeah, I know."
After about an hour in the water, we retired to the shore and lay down in the grass, the sun shining over us. I spread my dark brown hair out so that it would dry faster, and turned my green eyes to the sky.
As we watched the clouds roll past, Will and I talked over the last couple of years. He was only half a year older than me, but was about a foot taller and a lot stronger. I had been living here for as long as I could remember, and Will had always been in the picture someplace or another. He and his family lived across the lake from us, but he had always seemed like a brother to me. His mother home-schooled us both, so we never had much homework or the like to worry about for most of our lives. We had grown up in utopia.
"Look at those clouds, they look like a dragon with a big fat knight running after it," Will said.
"Yeah... Do you remember when we went to that medieval masquerade in Riverside?" I asked.
"Yep, that hoop skirt you had on was atrocious."
"It was not," I answered, slapping him on the shoulder good-humoredly. "You were just mad that day because your mother made you wear that ridiculous suit."
"Any self-respecting seven-year-old would have been throwing fits," he countered.
"OK, fine," I said. After a few minutes of companionable silence, a question popped into my mind.
"Do you ever feel really old when we talk like this?"
"Well, so... nostalgic."
Will turned onto his side to look at me, his coffee-colored hair glinting in the sun, and fixed his brown, almost black eyes on me. Assuming a very serious expression, and pursing his lips a little, he said, "Well now, I can't say I have." He stopped and winked at me.
"That was the best imitation of Uncle Marty yet," I told to him, smiling.
Laughing, he rolled onto his back again, paused, and turned his head back in my direction.
"You really think so? I thought I made him seem too old."
"Nope, that was as close to perfect as you've gotten yet."
* * *
While walking home, we talked, joked, and laughed as only eleven-year-olds can. When we got there, our parents were in the living room discussing something in hushed voices.
"Yep, there's no way around it. The company transferred us both, and we can't seem to get them to rethink their decision."
"But the children will be devastated."
"I know, Ellen," Will's dad said, "but it's unavoidable."
"Do you have to move as far as Minnesota, though?" my mother asked.
Will's father trailed off as he saw us standing in the door. We were paralyzed, horrified at what we heard.
"Where will we be moving?" I whispered, almost breathless from the tension. I was almost afraid to ask the question, and I dreaded the answer the minute the question came out of my mouth.
I found Will skipping stones on the lake. When he had run out of the house after our parents told us we were moving to different states, I hadn't been able to keep up with him.
We didn't say anything to each other; we just stood side by side, with "Will mechanically swinging his arm to throw the stones across the water. I watched as each of the stones skipped across the smooth, glassy surface of the lake. He never missed a beat. It had taken him a long time to learn how to do that.
As I stood there, I reflected on all the golden years I had spent here. Everywhere I looked, I could name off something that had happened in that very spot.
Each of the stones made their journey: skip... skip... skip... sink. Skip... skip... sink. Skip... skip... skip... skip... sink. After some time had lapsed, he picked up a big, jagged-edged stone and hurled it into the water with a huge splash, disrupting the almost perfectly pristine water with its resulting wave. He sank to the ground and buried his head in his hands. I looked down and watched him, then I sat down next to him.
"It's gonna be hard leaving this place," I said quietly, watching for Will's reaction.
"Why do we have to leave?" he exploded. "Everybody's happy. You and I are getting a perfectly fine education. Gosh dang it, there's no reason to leave!"
Silence. We both stared out into the distance, an air of shared anger and sadness between us. There was nothing more to say, it had all been expressed in those five words: there's no reason to leave...
About midway between our two houses, hidden from most, there was a ring of old-growth cedars. You entered this ring through a gate in the trellis that bordered the inside of the circle. On that trellis were red climbing roses. Somebody who came long before us had planted the trees and made the little courtyard inside them. The circular cement bench had been overgrown with weeds, and the roses were almost choked out when Will and I had found this haven, but we had cleaned it up and restored its beauty.
Today we entered in hopes of finding a place safe from all eyes, a place where we wouldn't have to look at all the boxes piled up in our front yards. A place where we wouldn't have to watch the movers unceremoniously pile all of our fond memories, all of our treasures, into a big moving truck.
We sat on the bench in the middle of the courtyard, facing away from the entrance. I watched as a bee drifted from flower to flower, watched as the breeze stirred the leaves of the roses. Feeling a sudden rush of affection, I leaned my head on Will's shoulder, and closed my eyes, feeling my hair swirling around my face, and wishing that we didn't have to leave.
Becoming aware of a faint pressure, I opened my eyes to find Will with his head on top of mine. I looked up and my eyes met his. He smiled an unsure, sad smile, and I felt the tears well up in my eyes. We were really leaving.
"We better go," I said, breaking the silence that had permeated the area since we had come, and also using it as an opportunity to wipe my eyes.
We both got up, and Will opened the gate for me. After muttering a quiet "Thank you," I closed the gate for the last time. We paused outside, and hugged each other as tight as we could. Even though there would only be a couple states between us after we had both moved, it seemed like we were moving to different continents, different ends of the earth.
We parted, and headed in opposite directions, with the wind following me all the way home, carrying the sweet, sweet scent of cedar wood and roses.
* * *
I looked at our new house. It was two stories, but still managed to be small. Surrounded by small, compact houses just like it, it was for a small, compact family. Walking up the stairs with some of my bags, I found my room. It was a light blue, like the color the oceans are on world maps. I opened the window and looked outside. It was a lot warmer here in South Carolina than it had been in the mountains.
Leaving the window open, I turned back and surveyed the unordered chaos the moving inflicted.
"Well, welcome to your new home, Trinity" I muttered. I was determined to make the best I could of this place, but unfortunately, middle and high school were to prove torture despite my resolve.
* * *
I took the elevator to the third floor, walked down the hall, and stopped in front of studio apartment 316, Chicago, Illinois. Six undeniably horrible years had passed since we had moved to South Carolina, and now I was moving again. This time, though, it was just me. I was going out on my own.
I love you, college of mine, I said as I opened the door and stepped inside. It wasn't a particularly nice apartment, and it wasn't big, but I didn't need much space. My lovely college had dorms, but only some, so the school paid part of the rent for the other half of its students, who found a low-priced apartment. Of course, there was a limit to how much it would pay, but it was still help. By the end of the day, all of my stuff was scattered around in the various areas that I would be organizing them into.
"Better get started," I said to my furniture.
That night I slept in my own home. It felt odd to sleep somewhere other than my parents' house, but it was still comfortable. The smallness made it impossible to feel too isolated, and it also contributed to masking my lack of furniture.
* * *
I gathered up my books and shoved them into my bag. Heading across the central plaza, I watched as all my fellow students streamed out of their classrooms and dispersed to the next class or, as in my case, to a place to sit and enjoy their free time until the next class.
Unfortunately, I wasn't watching where I was going while I was observing this, and I crashed into a tall freshman who was otherwise occupied as well. Books and papers flew everywhere, and we both stooped down to help clean up.
"I'm so sorry!" I said as I retrieved Physics 101, and handed it to him.
"No, no, it was really my fault, I should have been watching where I was going." Straightening up, all books restored to their owners, he stuck out his hand. "I'm Will Brydan."
"Will! It's Trinity!" I felt like jumping up and hugging him I was so excited. What were the odds? We had moved apart, only to find each other again on a crowded college campus in Chicago!
"Trina! I never expected to find you here! What class are you going to?"
"I don't have one right now," I answered.
"Great, same here. Have any plans?" he asked.
"Nope, I'm all free."
"Good, meet me at my dorm in twenty minutes. I'm in Trowbridge Hall, D pod," he said.
"OK, see you there!" I called over my shoulder, running towards the street my studio was on. I was perhaps as happy as I'd ever been, and all those terrible years in high school melted into oblivion.
* * *
"Great dorm, Will. So neat!" I said sarcastically. The windows were flung open to the Indian-summer air, and every once in a while, you'd feel the breeze blowing softly through.
"I know, I know, I didn't have time to clean up before you got here," he said, shifting all the junk he had on the table to the floor. I sat down on his bed with the books I had brought for studying, and gazed around the room.
"I'll be right back, I have to get my books," Will said. While my eyes were wandering the room, they fell on a little cedar wood chest sitting on the small dresser. It wasn't very remarkable, but I was itching to open it up and find out what was inside. I looked away, determined not to snoop in other people's stuff.
Glancing towards the door to make sure Will wasn't coming back yet, I walked cautiously over to the dresser, and opened the chest. Inside there were a couple smooth stones, a birthday hat, cedar sprigs, and some dried roses. I laughed, as I recognized them as some of the very same flowers we had had in our haven among the cedars when we were younger. The roses had lost some of their petals, and they rustled around in the bottom of the box. Attached to the inside surface of the lid, there were some photos. One was of Will's family and his big St. Bernard dog, Champ, that he had had when we lived on the lake. Another was of Will and me when we were about five. I was behind him with my arms around his neck, and both of us had big smiles plastered on our faces. The next two must have been friends that he had met in high school after we had moved, because I didn't recognize the people in the pictures.
"So, you found that..."
I turned around, and there was Will, standing in the doorway, smiling. He walked over, and sat down at the foot of the bed next to me, as a breeze from the open window rustled the petals in the bottom of the chest, bringing with it the slight, forgotten fragrance of cedar wood and rose.