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One Summer | Hannah Weiss

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Summer never ended. Or at least it never did for Em. Whenever she closed her eyes, she was there on those camp bunk beds with Mandy, empty bags of chips strewn everyone and rainstorm raging outside in the middle of July. She was still living when she remembered, still watching her best friend play with her hair as she talked about the future yet to come for two eighth-grade girls.

“I’m so worried for next year,” Mandy had complained. “This new school thing is scary. I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone on the last day, you know – I didn’t want to make them feel bad about having to forget me.”

“Really? So no one knows you’re leaving for high school?”

Mandy shook her head. “Nope. I hope they don’t plan too much with me in September.”

“It’s gotta be hard to move schools like that.” Em leaned back on the frame of the bed, cringing as another thunderclap roared. The rest of their camp cabin were playing games out in the rain, but Em was too scared to join in. Just the sound of thunder from inside the wooden walls was making the hair on her skin stand up.

“Yeah. Or, at least, I think it’ll be,” Mandy said. “I heard the girls at Liberty High are way cooler than at SBB Middle. My sister heard from her boyfriend’s best friend that they throw two parties every weekend, and even ninth graders get invited.

”That’s crazy! You’ve gotta take me to one.”

Mandy giggled. “I’ll try. I just need to make friends. Mom says that’s the hardest part of moving schools.”

Lightning flickered outside the window, and Em gasped. The walls of the cabin seemed to fall down as thunder boomed beyond the clouds, rain pouring in through the holes in the wood. Em thought of the water rising, felt the cold climb up her back and choke her neck, shutting her eyes as she started to splutter until –


She looked up. Mandy was in front of her, one hand on Em’s arm and two eyes focused into her pupils. Her hair fell around her shoulders like a scarf, and she was smiling that calm grin she always had on when Em slipped into panic.

“We’re inside. There’s nothing that can hurt you.” Mandy’s hand moved to touch Em’s. Lightning struck again, but she didn’t register it. She was frozen, but Mandy’s hand was warm. Whatever this was, it was different than the normal hand squeezes they shared while dragging each other across the camp or giving the other a confidence boost. This one was more comforting, somehow softer and more enjoyable.

A feeling washed over Em like the water. It was something she’d never felt before, and she had no idea what could be. The longer Mandy held her hand for the tighter her chest got, until she yanked it away in uncertain fear.

“You…your new school, is it too far from here to come back next summer?” Em straightened up as she changed the subject, not sure what had just come over her.

Mandy shook her head. “You know I’ll always come back here. This is my favourite place in the world, especially since you’re here. I don’t know what I’d do without you as a friend, Em.”

“Neither do I.” Em said, shifting her balance against the bed, and trying to shake off whatever she’d just felt. “Even if you move schools, at least you’ll come back here.”

“That’s the great thing,” Mandy held out her hand again, extending it towards Em like it meant nothing. “No matter where I go, you’ll always be here.”

Thunder erupted across the sky. The sound shook the wooden walls and even made the girls outside screech, but Em didn’t notice. All she could focus on was Mandy’s face, and the strange tightness in her chest that started to loosen with every second they stayed beside each other.

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