I could feel the prickly bark of the tree on my back as I sat there. I’d been there for what felt like hours, and maybe it had been, but I’d never know. I had a blanket draped over my lap, hiding it.
I was up high, on a big hill that overlooked parts of the ocean. All around me was a path for runners and bikers, but no one had come around yet. The way the sun was perched in the sky, I guessed it was at least two in the afternoon. I’d gotten there and did it at around eight that morning.
From below me, at the base of the hill, I could hear the laughs and choppy words of children. There was a playground at the bottom. I could imagine kids playing there, swinging on the monkey bars, slithering down slides, running in the lush grass like lunatics. That made me think of my dead brother, Rain. He used to love parks, especially when I’d play tag with him.
Tears rolled off my cheeks and onto the blanket on my lap, shielding it. Rain would be mad at me now, for doing it. He would think I was insane and needed help, but I was way past caring what my dead brother thought, or would’ve thought.
No, I told myself. I wasn’t. That’s why I did it. I missed Rain and his quirky ways and always-happy attitude towards everything, and the way his whole face lit up when he smiled. I missed him so much it burned.
It’d been an accident. Rain was only seven, and he didn’t quite understand what “on-going traffic” meant. I was fiddling with my phone when the light switched. Rain had been looking at the wrong light, thinking the lights for drivers applied to him, too. When the light flashed green he sauntered out into the road, and I was too absorbed in my stupid teenage needs to notice.
But when I heard his little shriek, the way his scream pierced the air, I completely forgot about my phone and ran right into the road, almost getting hit by a car myself.
“Rain!” I’d screamed.
The woman who’d hit him was crying, telling me she was so sorry, she didn’t see him, blah, blah, blah. Those were meaningless words that I didn’t want to hear because I didn’t blame her, I blamed myself.
Rain had still been alive when the paramedics arrived, but barely. He died on the way to the hospital.
I squeezed my eyes shut and twisted it deeper, making me forget about my inner pain and more about my outer. It’d be over soon anyway.
I went back to watching the sun, feeling it was all too calm. I head footsteps jogging up the path and prayed it wasn’t my alcoholic dad or still grief-stricken mother, even though it’d been years.
I laughed cynically at my own thoughts, because I was still grieving, too.
The footsteps didn’t belong to my mom or dad, they belonged to Trevor Murray, the best track runner at my old high school. His dream had always been to be an Olympic runner. I hoped he hadn’t given up on that.
I also hoped he wouldn’t notice me, but no such luck. He stopped quite abruptly when he saw me. “Summer? That you?”
I nodded and smiled weakly. “Hey, Trevor.”
His entire, sweaty face brightened. “Summer, it’s great to see you!” He seemed genuinely excited. “How have you been?”
“Good,” I lied, then rethought that. “Trevor, can I be completely honest with you?”
His face became solemn and I almost laughed. He was good at that, changing his expressions so instantaneously. When we’d dated in high school, I’d joked with him that he should be an actor, what with the way he can make his expression change so fast. I remembered those days, the days we dated. It felt like it’d been four days, when it reality, it’s been four years.
After the accident, I’d drifted away from him, but I always knew he wasn’t happy about that. I knew he missed me, I could see it on his face. But I missed him too. I wondered if he could see that on my face.
“Yeah, please be honest,” he said.
I sighed. “Life’s been crap.”
He seemed like he wanted to stop himself, but he came over and sat next to me. Then he threw an arm around me and held me close, attempting to comfort me. It worked, even though the gesture was a tad awkward.
“Trevor, when did you start dating again?” I asked.
His face flushed and I laughed, though it pained me a little.
“You can still do that, huh?” he said, chuckling himself.
It was an ongoing joke. Ever since we’d met I’d been able to understand almost exactly what mood he was in, how he was feeling, anything. I could read his body language so accurately it was scary.
“Answer the question,” I demanded, but lightly.
“Uh, about three months. Name’s Sally. Blonde, cute, into running. We were going to run together today, but she’s sick.”
“What a shame,” I said playfully.
His face turned serious again. “Summer, you were honest with me and I’ll be honest, too,” he said and took a long, deep breath. “No girl can compare to you. I miss you. I miss us.”
He looked into my eyes and there I could see hope, longing, love but he was still the same boy I’d dated all those years ago. And I missed us, too.
“Lean closer, Trevor,” I instructed quietly. And he did.
Our lips connected and fireworks went off in my head. I remembered Trevor’s kiss all too well and I craved it. His arms went around me and mine went around him and we got closer and closer. When I breathed in I could smell the familiarity of high school, remembering all those times he’d been this close to me before.
Then he pulled away, smiling. “Can’t say I’m sad Sally missed today’s run.”
I smiled back until he stood up and grabbed my hands. “C’mon, it’s a nice day, Summer. Let’s enjoy it, like old times.”
“Trevor, no—” I started, but it was too late. The blanket fell away, exposing my fresh wound. The bloody knife fell down onto the dirt at our feet.
I turned away so Trevor couldn’t see my face. But I could still hear his gasp.
“Summer. You didn’t! You’re not like that,” he said and started to cry.
“I can’t live like this anymore, Trevor,” I said, crying along with Trevor. “I just can’t.”
“Summer, we’ve got to get to the hospital,” he said in fake bravado, trying to pull himself back together.
“No.” I stood firm. Well, as firm as I could. I had lost a lot of blood after stabbing myself all those times.
“Now, Summer.” There was something in his tone that made me follow.
He was on his phone now, calling for paramedics. I tried to fight again, but I was getting weak. I was seeing black spots all over, and the one thing I could really focus on was Trevor’s hand clutching mine.
He sat me down on a bench and we waited for a while for the ambulance.
By the time I heard the sirens I didn’t know what was happening. There was this cat, and he was riding a bike and playing the flute, but he was also stabbing himself. It scared me. And I kept wondering, how does he have enough hands to do all that at the same time?
I had a vague memory of being loaded onto a bed, Trevor’s hand still in mine. Then in one flash I knew exactly what was happening, where I was and everything that had led me to this moment.
“Trevor,” I managed.
“Yes?” he asked, his voice delirious.
“I decided I’m not ready to die after all.” My voice was much quieter than I intended.
A broken sob came from Trevor. “You’re not going to die, Summer.”
I smiled a microscopic smile and thought about how hopeful Trevor had always been, no matter the occasion, as I died the same way Rain did.