Summer hit- quick and burning, chasing away cool spring air with a blazing sun. New England weather had been changing—winters lasting too long and summer starting before most even had a chance to taste spring.
New growth rushed along, frost forced melt.
It was the wet heat that coaxed everyone from their cramped stale homes, their sun beat brown yards, to places in the woods sheltered by thick trees and the sound of roaring waterfalls and babbling brooks. Beside the water the sweat on their backs didn’t bother them as much. Standing thirty feet over a slow current on a cliff edge made the sweat seem nonexistent.
Adrenaline junky or free spirit? It depended on who you asked and when you had the privilege (or misfortune) of meeting her.
She hadn’t always been that way and her name had only been Lilly for a year—Lilly after her hair—the bright strands resembling the petals of the flower he had brought for her on their first excursion—a Day Lilly picked from her grandfather’s garden. He never told her that and she never let him know she knew where he got it from, never told him she counted the yellow and orange blooms every time she walked by the fence, dragging fingers until she got splinters.
She looked like a fire in the water.
Burning through the air before splashing, even the coolness of the water couldn’t put out her flames. Only dimmed to be refueled.
The heat licked at her, air swirling around as though now it was her friend. But nature always had a way of doing that—showing hate then love—giving fear then comfort.
Love and hate.
Every relationship she had witnessed and practiced.
Even with herself.
She sat in the sun, brown grass crinkling beneath her—the town had gotten rain, but too much causing it to flood and run to drains. People mimicked the movements—money flooding to vacation destinations. Some would return, some would not.
Lilly wouldn’t leave.
Sometimes she dreamt of it. In those moments, she found herself looking down the highway thinking let’s keep going. But they always took an exit that seemed too close, but too far away all at the same time. The distance and the action both completely out of her control.
The little town was home, her roots had been dug too deep without her noticing—they were stuck, pushed deep in the ground and wrapped tightly around a stone ledge.
His were the same, set long before hers. Gavin Knightly knew right away—I’m not leaving—it was tattooed on his soul. He wasn’t holding her back, wasn’t a chain connecting her to the wooden fence, the old swing set behind the school. He was an unanchored buoy she had clung onto—an accident she hadn’t realized would alter her life.
Their relationship, if it could be called that, reminded her of that split-second feeling right after the leap—the falling through the air—the wind whipping against cheeks, feeling gravity pushing and pulling, limbs scrambling as the water came closer.
But the landing never came.
He looked at her and she looked at him, a secret smile shared that neither completely understood yet.
Adventure burned in their eyes—his veins, her heart. She was the flame and he was the gas. She had only needed to be ignited.