So enjoy the awkwardness, and let me know when you want more of my writing (and what kind! I've got memoirs, essays, poems, short stories, novel excerpts...song lyrics...)
I turned around to see Jeff Darren standing on the outdoor basketball court.
“Hey Jeff,” I said, grinning.
Jeff and I, to put it mildly, had an interesting past. I’d met him in sixth grade, and had immediately hated him. Unfortunately, I’d also had a huge crush on him. I'd spent the first three months of school planning his demise. It’s not like he didn’t deserve it. He’d said a lot of nasty things to me. I’d gone home and cried more than once, and I’d spent the first week after I’d met him looking over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t there. He had a well-deserved reputation.
But something funny had happened after those first months, and that something was that we became best friends. I’d never been much for making friends with guys, especially ones who liked to make me cry, but it had just... happened. I’d helped him out a few times when people were messing with him, and he’d listened to me a few times when I needed to rant about the world, and suddenly, he was more than just a cute-looking jerk. He was a cute-looking best guy friend of a jerk.
Now, he was standing on the court with his guy friends, who were all looking at him as though he were insane to be talking to me. He ignored them, and walked up the stairs to the library to talk to me. As he approached me, his walk became a very overdone, feminine strut, with him swaying his hips side to side in an exaggerated motion, one hand on his left hip, the other hanging free. As soon as he was a foot away from me he stopped, tossed his head so his slightly overgrown hair flipped across his forehead, and said, in a high falsetto, “I’m Danica!”
A few years ago, that would’ve upset me. Now, all I could do was laugh.
“Shut up,” I said. “I do not walk like that.”
“You do talk like this though!” he said, still in his high voice. I punched him on the arm and he reeled back, laughing his head off.
“You’re so stupid sometimes,” I told him. His friends had given up on him and were now throwing the basketball at each others’ heads. The object of their game seemed to be to knock everyone out.
“That’s what I do best,” Jeff sighed, his eyes actually going sad, their light blue emotional for a moment as he looked at me. Then he turned around, stomping back to put his friend Todd in a headlock, leaving me to wonder what had just happened.
Ms. Fields looked up from the book lying on her lap and straight into the face of her twenty-one year old granddaughter, Emily. The old woman’s fragile, broken hands flew up to her chest, where her heart worked to pump against the sudden shock.
Ms. Fields hadn’t seen the girl in three years, since she’d gone off to college, moving from their beautiful hometown in Oregon to busy New York City. She had not been informed that Emily would be visiting today.
“Hi Grandma,” Emily said, half of her mouth twitching upward into what passed for a smile, and Ms. Field’s face lit up. Every wrinkle, every sunspot emanated a sort of light, glowing through her eyes, still a bright jeweled green after all these years of use. The happiness there couldn’t even be muted by her thick glasses. Her thin pearly lips curved upward, and though it looked a monstrous feat, the smile was beautiful. She patted the side of her curled hair, a delicate shade of white gray, with one hand, the other remaining on her chest.
“Emily!” she said, surprised now, as always, by the trembling quality of her own voice. Her cheeks quivered with the effort of talking, but still the smile remained on her lips.
Emily moved over to sit on the couch beside her grandmother, perching on the very edge as though afraid she would break something. Her lips struggled upward again as she examined the woman’s face with careful eyes. Her face was an almost exact replica of her grandmother’s, although many, many years younger.
“How are you, Grandma?”
“Oh, I’m doing all right.” The gentle words couldn’t disguise either Ms. Fields’ long loneliness, or her new joy. “I was just looking at some old photos, from when your mom was a child.”
Emily gave a short burst of laughter, looking down at her own folded hands. “How’d you know?”
Emily looked up. “That I was coming!” Her face was bright, childish beside her grandmother, but just as powerful in her emotion. “I used to love looking through those pictures.”
“Oh,” said the woman, running her hand along the edge of the book. “Grandmothers just know these things.”
Emily stared at her grandmother for a minute, and then reached over to hug her. Ms. Fields patted Emily’s cheek clumsily, smiling wider still.
“Why did you come?” She said into the girl’s golden hair.
Emily sighed, sat up straight again, and, licking her lips, looked into her grandmother‘s face.
“I just…” She hesitated, looking down again, as the words refused to come. Instead, her eyes filled with tears, and she wiped them with one hand, her face twisting from impatience with her unruly emotions.
“I know,” the grandmother said, placing one hand on Emily‘s arm. “I miss her too.”
The soft sound of shoes on carpet.
“Mommy?” said the little girl, twisting one hand through her beautiful golden curls. Ms. Fields looked down the child with bright green eyes, and her clear, unlined face reflected both exhaustion and exasperation.
The girl pulled herself up onto the couch and wrapped her arms around the woman.
“I love you, Mommy.”
The two women, one young, one old, sat in the empty house together, and looked down at the pictures capturing their last remaining memories of the daughter and mother who had died three years previous.
“I love you, Mommy.”