The sunlight peers through the dancing leaves above, sharp rays heating my bare shoulders as I swing back my leg and kick a stone out into the water. The stone hits the surface with a small splash and sinks down into the dark below until it is invisible. The ripples are all that remain of its presence.
Whenever I kick a stone into the river now, which I do so often, I imagine Ida. I imagine her standing by the river with her hands on her hips defiantly, and the rain pelting down so hard it makes her big, curly hair straight as straw. I Imagine her twirling and whirling, her thin white dress clinging to her dark, tan skin, and that dark, tan skin so visible through the wet material, her underclothes so damp there is nothing left to the imagination.
It was the first time I had ever seen a girl like that, even though I told myself at the time that I wasn't seeing her any sort of way. I was just looking at the difference. The difference in the way our bodies' were growing. That's what I told myself then anyway.
"Adventurers don't let anything stop them," she said, so close to me I could smell her breath, even over the rain. It smelled like pears, the kind we'd been picking from the trees in Old Millard's yard before the rain hit. Even though it was only a few short years ago, I realize just how young we were: only twelve.
"There's no treasure," I told her bluntly, shifting uncomfortably, hugging myself as if I could cover my own wet, sheer clothing. My dress was as soaked as Ida's, tangled around my legs, a wet, clumpy, mess of fabric between trembling knees.
She cocked her head and smiled at me, a slow soft smile, the kind offered in sadness, not pity but sadness for the person being smiled at.
I grimaced, I remember, a real, hard grimace.
Her smile didn't falter.
The river was high, high as anything, and rushing on past like a speeding train. Leaves were moving over the surface so quickly I could hardly keep track of them. I wondered if the stones at the bottom—the ones I always kicked in—were being rushed along the riverbed like the leaves on top. Weight doesn't matter much in the water.
It's all the same to the river. A leaf or a stone, it makes no difference.
I kick another stone in and watch it sink, heavy in the water, dropping until I can't see it at the bottom anymore, and I imagine her again. I imagine her standing on the bank, and that slow smile, and the way she wipes the water away from her eyes as it pours down on her head; and I imagine the way she goes in the water, the way it rushes over her body, and then her head, her dress flowing around her, white against the dark water, everything visible. Everything. She is an angel floating in the skies for a second before she sinks like all the stones.
She was standing on the bank with her back to the water. She was in front of me with her face so close to mine, and I could smell the pears, I remember. I wondered if she could smell them on my breath too, our mouths so close like that. I hoped that my breath didn't smell rancid. I was nervous, and I could feel my breathing' go shallow and my face flush, not from the rain. I remember thinking: Why? Why am I nervous?
We're good friends, I told myself that. Good friends. Best friends forever.
"Have you ever kissed a girl before?" I heard her whisper over the sound of the rain and my heart pounding in my ears. Her eyelids looked heavy. A whisper of a smile was still on her lips.
I hadn't. She knew good and well I hadn't. But in that moment I knew I had wanted to. I felt shame for it; I told myself it was something else. It was just the love I felt for her as my friend, my very good friend Ida. I felt anger bubble up inside me for her having asked such a silly question, but I didn't say anything. She was so close and her breath so hot, and her hand was in mine. Don't ask me how it had gotten there. I couldn't remember that.