Brian and I wander through the latest swimwear fashions. While we talk, I shift swimsuits from one rack to another, giving the appearance that I’m busy helping him, as if he’s a customer shopping for bikinis. Somewhere in Sears, Howard Jones singing. This is the first time I’ve seen Brian since finals last week, and it feels good, comfortable. We haven’t been together much, socially, since Washington and the kiss.
It came out of nowhere. Spur of the moment. That’s what it was: a moment. The view out my hotel window overlooking the city was so romantic. The memory of our fingers entwined all afternoon and my head resting on his shoulder during the bus ride back to the hotel was fresh on our minds.
I have to stop.
When we got back from Washington, Brian was tortured. He grew a little distant while he tried to figure out what to do. He decided to tell Kate. I could have been angry because his confession ended my friendship with her and any of our mutual friends, but it wasn’t in my heart. Brian’s loyalty and honesty are qualities that have drawn me to him since the 8th grade.
We didn’t see much of each other for the rest of the spring. I know he was doing his best to make Kate happy. My brain hiccup happened soon thereafter, and you’ll never guess who came to visit me first. That’s right, Brian.
I’m in love with him, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I hold up a conservative one piece, blue bathing suit with rainbows across the belly. Hideous.
“What do you think?”
“Not your style.”
We know each other so well.
“My uncle has a house on the lake. You should come out this summer. I can show you how to water ski.”
“I’m such a klutz, I’d never get the hang of it,” he replies.
“Sure you would. You just have to block out everything else while you’re on the skis. That’s what makes it so great. The isolation. Nothing to worry about except staying afloat.”
“I don’t know, Ally.”
“Well, you don’t have to water ski. You can just come hang out.”
“It could be a little tricky.”
“Well, I don’t want you to get in trouble with Kate.”
“I don’t have a car, anyway, so the point is probably moot.”
I display another one piece. It’s the latest style. Very sexy. I saw it modeled by Elle Macpherson in Sports Illustrated. Brian scrutinizes it, trying to visualize me in it (or out of it…) and shrugs.
“Well, if you do want to come, I could always drive you… in my new car.”
“New car?” Brian exclaims.
“Well, not really new. It was my uncle Joe’s. He decided to get a sedan and gave me his old VW bug.”
“When did this happen?” Brian asks.
“A couple weeks ago. The car’s all paid for. I only have to cover the insurance. And it only has seventy-five thousand miles on it! Uncle Joe’s kind of a freak when it comes to cars, so it runs like it just came off the line.”
“I can’t wait to give it a test drive,” Brian says.
“No way! No one’s driving my baby except me.”
Brian laughs. “Okay, I see how it is.”
“Hey, I just got it. I won’t even let Gwen drive it, and she’s the world’s safest driver.”
“Sure, sure, whatever you say, Ally.”
He turns away, glancing over his shoulder with an eyebrow raised.
“You brat!” I exclaim.
“How about this one, Bri?”
He stares at it, and he gets a glassy look in his eyes, like he’s imagining me in this bathing suit. So I do a little pose. Brian’s cheeks go flush, and he averts his baby blues. I’m getting tingly. Time to change the subject.
“Has it sunk in yet?”
“What’s that, Ally?”
“We’re seniors. This is our last summer for one great adventure before the ‘real’ world.”
“College is hardly the real world.”
“It is if you have to work to help cover costs.”
“Come on, Ally, you’ll get at least two scholarships. You’re smart and you’re the best soccer player in the conference.”
“I’m not the best.”
“Ally. You’re the best.”
I blush. He knows how to make me feel good about myself.
I carry the swim suit and Brian follows me to the counter where Maggie, my manager, is folding clothes.
“Maggie, can you hold this for me?” I ask her.
“Sure thing, Ally,” she responds.
Brian and I walk a little farther.
“Do you ever wonder,” I start, “if we’ll see all of our friends after we graduate?”
I can’t look at him because to me it’s painfully obvious who I’m talking about.
“If you care about them,” Brian says, “you’ll keep in touch.”
“Easier said than done, don’t you think? Some people… they say they will, but it’s just lip service. They have no intention of remaining your friend.”
“I don’t know who would do that, Ally, but that’s not me.”
He takes my hand in a friendly gesture. I nearly melt. It’s the first time he’s touched me since he visited me in the hospital.
“Hey,” he says, “you’re shaking.”
Brian’s eyes penetrate me. A slight smile creeps into the corner of his mouth as if asking, “What’s going on?”
“Graduation is a year away, and I’m already anxious about going to college. You know, heading off to some place where I’m just a number in a system.”
“It won’t be that bad. And hey, if you need someone to talk to, you can call me anytime.”
We continue walking, still holding hands. It’s so natural. Then Brian looks down at our hands, and he gets flustered. He quickly lets go.
“I, uh, have to catch up with Eric,” he says.
“Sure. I need to get back to work, too. Almost quitting time, woo-hoo!”
“See you tonight?” he asks.
He smiles and starts to leave. I suddenly blurt, “You’re really insightful, you know, for a seventeen-year-old.”
Brian pauses, looks back. “And sometimes I’m a fool.”
Then he continues on his way to the escalators, and I get that aching feeling that comes when the boy you love walks away.
Today’s artwork was by Emily Quinn. Emily is an artist and animator living in Los Angeles, CA. She spends her days working on Adventure Time and her nights creating freelance illustrations, animations, and comics. For more information about Emily, please find her at emilord.tumblr.com
Howard Jones’ song, “No One Is to Blame” is found on his 1986 EP, Action Replay.
Read Chapter 9 of Legendary.