Flowers on the Water

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2009

Hannah Scarborough

Jackie Linnely took a big jump into the crunchy pile of leaves in the school yard. Ms. Lunder suddenly blew her whistle as the bell rang, BRRRINNNGG! “Alice,” Jackie called out to her friend, “see you after school!” As Jackie lined up to go inside, she saw Ms. Lunder pull on a sweater. That made her feel chilly, too. Jackie was so happy autumn was here! It was her favorite season: apples, apple pie, and the best thing of all… the new aquarium on Main Street in downtown Aberdeen was opening.

“Jackie?” asked Ms. Lunder.

“Here!”

“Jason?”

“Here!”

“Now,” Ms. Lunder said, “who can tell me the next chapter of science we will be learning about?” Jackie’s hand shot straight into the air. “Yes?” questioned Ms. Lunder.

“Marine biology! I know because I was looking at the next chapter in the textbook.”

“Correct!” Ms. Lunder pronounced. “I am glad you were thinking ahead.”

Gosh, thought Jackie, I can’t think about anything else!

When she grew up, Jackie wanted to be a marine biologist and study hermit crabs, sea stars, coral and tropical fish, like Schubert and Vivaldi, her pet fish at home. Also, she thought she might pursue a career in music. Jackie loved to play the cello, and her favorite piece was The Four Seasons, by Vivaldi.

Flowers on the Water watching the water

“Maybe a little twist in life can be a good thing after all”

Before Jackie knew it, the school day was over, and she was meeting Violet, Lily and Alice at the school’s back gate. As she neared their meeting spot, she heard Alice say, “Did you hear the aquarium is almost open, and they are giving a grand tour in a couple of weeks?” Jackie practically jumped on Alice, looking more like a happy elephant than a ten-year-old schoolgirl!

“They what?” Jackie exclaimed.

“I said they are opening the aquarium,” repeated Alice.

“Really? Do you think they are taking visitors now?”

“Hmmm. I’m not sure. ’Bye Violet and Lily,” said Alice.

“Maybe we could go,” suggested Jackie.

“Um, Jackie?” Alice began.

“Yes?” asked Jackie.

“I’m moving.”

Now Jackie’s mind was a complete blur. OK, let’s replay this, she thought: first I asked her about the aquarium, then she said she was moving?! “Oh, no, Alice! Why?” Jackie blurted out suddenly.

“For a lot of reasons,” explained Alice.

“Where are you moving to?” asked Jackie.

“Eureka, California,” replied Alice.

As Jackie walked home, her thoughts were interrupted by the smell of apple pie. Then she realized that the smell was coming from the ever-baking household of Alice Palmer, struck by the fact that this was probably the last time she would smell that delicious aroma. She leapt over the small shrub that caressed the ground beneath the Palmers’ kitchen window, pressed her nose to the now steamy glass, and took a deep breath.

*          *          *

Scratch, scratch went Jackie’s pen against the stationery envelope that was almost labeled: Alice Palmer, 2820 Florentine Avenue, Eureka, California. Jackie heaved a glum sigh as she was once again reminded of her friend’s move two months ago. Aberdeen’s aquarium was now open, but Jackie took no pleasure in going there without her friend Alice. Tidepooling was an exciting outing that Alice and Jackie had always enjoyed together, but now it was only associated with Alice’s departure to Eureka. “Jackie! Time for cello lessons!” her mother’s voice interrupted from downstairs. “OK!” Jackie replied, trying to strike a happy tone to her voice. As she lugged her cello down the wooden steps, her mind forgot about Alice and took on Vivaldi’s “Autumn” movement from The Four Seasons. This piece, which emphasized the sudden seasonal changes in the music, always made Jackie feel more cheerful about transitions in her own life.

*          *          *

“Jackie! Letter for you!” called Jackie’s mother from downstairs. As she eagerly ripped open the envelope, Jackie couldn’t control the letter from falling to the floor! Grabbing it excitedly, she read the letter:

Dear Jackie,

What’s going on back in Aberdeen? How are you? I’ve made lots of friends, and now I am pretty much used to Eureka. Did my mother call you yet and tell you the news? I am coming to visit…

Well, that was enough for Jackie! With an Indian warlike whoop, she tore downstairs with the exciting news. With Alice coming to visit, everything would be the same again, Jackie thought. We will go to the aquarium, take long walks along the boardwalk at the beach, and gather leaf bouquets for Ms. Lunder again! Jackie imagined.

*          *          *

“I’m so happy you could come back to Aberdeen, Alice!” said Jackie.

“Let’s go to the new aquarium!” Alice suggested.

“No,” replied Jackie. “Now I only associate the aquarium with your moving away. Let’s go for a walk on the beach instead.”

As the two strolled along the wooden boardwalk, they observed innumerable quantities of amazing sea creatures, such as sea stars, water spouts of whales, silvery minnows in the waves, and… “Alice! What’s that?” Jackie pointed toward an unidentifiable yellow object in the water.

Flowers on the Water starfish in the sand

“I’m not sure, Jackie. Oh, it looks like flowers,” Alice replied.

A glistening bundle of bright yellow daffodils—the kind you see in early spring—against the deep blue background of the churning waves was coming closer to the pier. Then Jackie realized that there was something different about this walk than the others they had taken before Alice had moved away: the feeling of picking yellow daffodils in the springtime. They weren’t going to last forever. Even as you were enjoying them, you knew they were going to wilt soon.

“Alice?” asked Jackie.

“What is it?” answered Alice.

“Those flowers—they’re starting to make me think that maybe a little twist in life can be a good thing after all,” said Jackie. “A bundle of beautiful yellow daffodils isn’t usually in the ocean on a Sunday morning. That’s just like your move to Eureka, Alice. You’re out of place, also, but maybe we can find the beauty in that, too.”

“Wow,” whispered Alice. “In Eureka, we say W.O.W. for Words of Wisdom.”

Jackie grinned.

Flowers on the Water Hannah Scarborough

Hannah Scarborough, 10
Pleasanton, California

Flowers on the Water Hannah Phillips

Hannah Phillips, 11
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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