It was a clear August afternoon, the sun’s persistent rays shining through the wall of trees that obscured the sun itself; illuminating the vibrant grass, blades gracefully intertwined and the girl. She was sixteen approaching seventeen sitting amongst a sea of unfamiliar faces and looking up at her soon to be: mentor, teacher, and friend; but all these details were lost on her. She could only focus on one thing: he was so tall and his shorts were so short. This astute observation sent the girl into a fit of nervous laughter. Surrounded by people she barely knew, the girl wondered how the topsy-turvy turmoil of her life landed her in Maine, sitting in a circle with forty-one strangers and an abundance of bearded men.
The air was filled with anticipation as the girl opened the envelope. It felt heavy in her hand as she ran her fingers under the thin paper flap breaking the adhesive seal, breaking the final barrier between the girl and her aspiration. She opened the letter, focusing on the steady hum of the refrigerator as she unfolded her future. The print on the page seemed to disappear as the girl’s smile grew. She felt like a leaf floating on a crisp autumn wind; her joy uncontainable.
A warm breeze blew the girl’s hair from her face, carrying waves of chatter rising from the sea of strange faces and depositing them on her ears like waves crashing on a sandy beach. The girl’s voice melted into the sea of noise like a drop of water into the ocean. She turned to the right, describing her slightly exaggerated fondness for bicycle riding in exchange for strangers’ fondness of sailing, swimming and squash. The small exchange provided the girl with a buoy, keeping her afloat in the unknown. Bright blonde hair, a giggle and a pair of hanging earrings became specks of familiarity among the sea of strange faces. Little did the girl know these unfamiliar faces would become voices clear and distinct in a dark room. Voices she would miss very much and think about often. Voices she cared about, cherished and loved.
The fire cast dancing shadows on the whale bones that hung from the ceiling. As eighty-four eyes, the girl’s included, watched. They had all come from places so similar yet so different at the same time. They sat in the darkness sheltered from the storm that brought them there, sharing stories and reflecting on their time with nature; each voice cutting through the darkness like stars in the night sky. The girl lay on her back nestled between two friends, instinctively matching faces to voices. The strong friendships forged between the group warmed the girl from her core, the ember growing hotter and brighter as each story was told.
The girl focused her attention on the white and fluffy clouds floating just above the man, still tall in his salmon colored shirt. She wanted to hold onto this moment forever. It was not a particularly grand moment, not a life changing or life shaping moment. The girl felt, in the pit of her stomach, the contradicting emotions of apprehension and excitement; it was as if she was standing on a platform approaching the edge, looking down at the clear blue water below afraid to jump, yet un-paralyzed by the irresistible lure of the free-fall that followed her leap.
-Brett Miller, New York, NY