"Last Summer" is one of the July Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
She was undeniably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The light that shone through the crack in the barn fell on her like a spotlight. Even the light was drawn to her. Her head was cocked back so her face was angled at the ceiling, allowing her hair to drift down her back, and it glistened in a hundred different shades of blonde. I watched her from the door of the barn as her blue eyes focused upwards. In my head, she floated up above the hay bale until she reached the sky. She was one of those people that you are certain belongs to somewhere better — somewhere unimaginable in a fantastical way.
So I guess that’s where she went.
“Hey, Sam.” She smiled, lifting herself up so that she was sitting with her pale legs crossed. I didn’t realise she had spotted me or that she knew my name.
“Hi, Adeline,” I stammered.
“Come join me on the hay bale, honey.” She giggled. Her teeth shone through her smile like a pearl necklace and I returned a smile, but even my smile looked stupid compared to hers.
“You know what I think is pretty ironic?” she said, lying back down.
“What?” I asked, trying not to stutter. She laughed and patted the hay with her hand, so I lay down next to her. I noticed her nails were painted this fiery red colour.
“The biggest, brightest stars explode first.”
“Oh, yeah,” I nodded. “High mass stars have shorter life spans.”
“Isn’t that thought-provoking?” She grinned in a cheeky way, like we had a mutual secret, and the best part of it was, I couldn’t help trying to work out what the secret was. I nodded.
“You’re Paul’s son, aren’t you?”
I nodded again.
“Are you staying all summer?”
“Yeah I think so.”
My mum divorced my dad three years back when I was 13, and I stayed with her in Indianapolis. But she died in March. It was long and painful and not in the least bit beautiful, but at her funeral everyone went on about how she carried on beautifully and suffered so angelically. It’s hard to believe that when I saw her fall apart how she did. She was strong, but not invincible like they made her out to be. I was never really close with my dad, and when he moved into the house attached to his friend’s farm in Missouri, I thought I would never see him again. I was kind of glad. I moved in with my aunt once my mum died, but my dad has me for the summer.
“Sorry about your mum,” Adeline said.
“It’s okay.” Adeline was the daughter of my dad’s friend — Bill — who he moved next to. We heard a calling from the farmhouse.
“Better head in.” She grinned, and much to my surprise, she took my hand and tugged me along. I swear something very alive and very powerful fluttered in me at that moment.
It’s hard to match this girl — so lively and gorgeous — with the corpse they just dragged out of the river. It’s supposed to be the last day I am here in Missouri, but I can’t leave now. She lost her footing. It was an accident. And right now this swelling feeling in my chest is making me burst into tears, and I want my head to shut up because I want to hear her for a second.
I can remember the first time we kissed. We were sitting on a bench by the brook. I could hear the water flow past; it made a quiet trickling sound, like it quieted down just for us. She looked especially beautiful that day. It had just been raining. So, it was grey and sultry, which made her glow like a firefly. She was explaining something that she had already explained to me.
“Adeline,” I interrupted, making my voice small and soft.
“Yeah?” she replied, her eyes widening in expectation. I replied by taking her face as gently as I could and putting my lips on her lips. She closed her eyes, so I closed mine, and she kissed me back.
I miss her so much I feel sick.
Then there was the time when she walked in as my dad was hitting me. She yelled at him. She pulled him off me as his fists pounded down on me, but he pushed her away roughly. I felt my blood literally boil. I got to my feet and punched him.
“Don’t touch her again,” I growled, and he looked at me in shock as scarlet blood seeped from his nostril. He used to hit me as a kid all the time. She gave me the strength to stand up to him. Something I should have done years ago.
I can hear her whisper to me: “The biggest, brightest stars explode first,” like she is next to me still. It all clicks together. She was too bright a star, too beautiful and powerful that she had to burn out. Some people are like that; they live their whole lives waiting until they can explode into a supernova. She would be the most beautiful supernova in the universe. I can feel her now. I can see it now. She’s not this body they pulled out of the river. She’s someplace better, something better.