“So, are you two going to the fireworks tonight?”
Pam was trying to balance a full paper plate, a napkin, plastic utensils, and iced tea. She had a mouth full of potato salad, too, so she nodded.
“Oh! That reminds me, you’ll never guess what I found!”
“Wmmf—?” But her mom was already halfway to the house. Pam settled into a lawn chair with her lunch. When her mom emerged from the house, she was carrying a notebook.
“I was organizing the attic, and found this.”
Pam recognized it immediately.
It was one of her sketchbooks, one of many she’d filled growing up – she always bought the same kind. Where other girls filled diaries or journals, Pam had poured her young self into sketchbooks. She dated every drawing, so they kind of served the same purpose, she figured. It also meant she didn’t have to try to put her feelings into words.
“I hope you don’t mind – I looked through it. I just love looking at your drawings.”
Pam began flipping through it, her burger forgotten. Most were in pencil. Some were rough, but most were very detailed.
January 1st, 1992. “New Year”
The back yard of her parents’ house in winter. Pam had wished she could capture the way the sun glinted on the snow, but had settled for getting the shadows just right.
January 23rd. “The Secret”
Her mom and her aunt at the kitchen sink, heads together, whispering like they were girls again.
February 14th. “Love Cake”
The heart-shaped cake her mom baked every Valentine’s Day. It had two layers, was pink inside and out, and Pam’s sketch was hurried – everyone had been impatient to cut into it.
She skipped ahead to see what she’d been doing fifteen years ago this day.
July 4th. “Are We There Yet?”
The view from the backseat of their station wagon. Her little sister tapping on the back of the front seat, her father’s eyes in the rearview mirror.
July 4th. “Lake Jean, Rickett’s Glen State Park”
Her parents had brought them out to spend the day and evening on the lake. The rough sketch was crowded with swimmers and picnic tables.
July 4th. “Solitude”
Trees, ferns, and a chipmunk peeking under a pine cone.
She turned the page and her breath caught. She stared at the drawing. No, she thought, laughing to herself, surely not. And yet…maybe. The longer she looked at the drawing the further she got from maybe. She looked at the boy in the picture, and remembered.
* * * * *
Her sister harried their mother into taking her down to the beach right away. Pam’s dad lit the charcoal and began making his special burgers. Pam began to sketch the area, but couldn’t zero in on anything interesting. She stood.
“Hey, Dad? Is it okay if I take a walk? I won’t go far.”
“Hmm? Oh, sure. These won’t be ready for a while. Don’t feel like swimming?”
“Mmm. No. Maybe later.”
She made a beeline for the trees.
As she stepped under them, the air changed. It was cooler, calmer. Ferns brushed her legs. The sounds of the picnic area began to fade, and she could hear a woodpecker, but couldn’t quite place its location.
She found a spot to sit, and looked up at the canopy. The leaves glowed a thousand shades of green, and fluttered quietly. The woodpecker stopped, then started again. A rustling nearby brought her eyes back to the ground, where a chipmunk had appeared.
It was so intent on finding food that it didn’t notice her opening her book. She smiled. She liked being invisible. She was able to capture more moments like this. Quickly and quietly, she sketched the chipmunk. Then the pine cone, then the tree bark behind it. As she was adding grass, a baseball rolled across the ground in front of her.
The chipmunk froze.
A boy burst through the trees and stopped short. “Oh – hey.”
“High fly over left field.”
“What?” It sounded like code.
“Oh. The ball,” he said, pointing to it. “It got away from me.” He laughed. “It’s probably a home run by now.”
She watched him as he walked to retrieve the ball. He was about her age, but taller than most boys in her grade. Brown hair, brown – no, green eyes. Big ears. Nice smile.
“What’s that?” He nodded to her sketch book.
Instinctively, her hands moved to cover the page.
“Oh, uh, nothing.” She looked down.
He walked over and knelt beside her. “Doesn’t look like nothing.”
“Um, they’re just drawings. Of things.” Reluctantly, she moved her hands. She hoped he didn’t laugh too hard. She looked up to see that the chipmunk was long gone.
“Wow. You’re really good. Where’s –?” He looked around. “Oh, sorry. I guess I scared him off.”
“That’s okay. Fly high over left field.” She shrugged.
He laughed. “High fly, not fly high.”
“Oh, right.” She giggled.
He smiled. “I’m Jim.” He held out his hand.
She shook it. “Pam.” His hand was warm, and a little sweaty. She tried not to wipe her hand on her shorts when he let go.
“Are you staying for the fireworks?”
“Yeah, we come every year. Last year, my brother—”
“Hey, Jim! You in here?”
He stood up quickly. “Yeah, right here. I found it.”
Another boy stepped into the trees. “C’mon, they’re beating us now.”
“Okay, I’ll be right there.” He tossed the ball to the boy, who looked at Pam, then left.
She felt self-conscious again.
Without the ball, he couldn’t find anything to occupy his hands, so he stuffed them in his pockets. “Maybe I’ll see you at the fireworks.” He shifted on his feet. “My mom brought cupcakes. They’re chocolate, and she puts a little American flag in each one, and she makes my dad say the Pledge of Allegiance before he can have one. Anyway, she made a lot of them, so, you know, if you see us, come on over. If you like chocolate. And feel patriotic.”
Pam giggled again. “Okay.”
“Okay. I better get back, or I’ll get benched. See ya.”
* * * * *
She had seen him later, but he’d been surrounded by other boys, and she couldn’t work up the courage to go over to him, cupcake or not.
She had sketched him, though.
July 4th. “Jim”
Hands on her shoulders gave her a light squeeze.
She looked up and smiled.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
nomadshan is the author of 44 other stories.
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