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It rained that day.
It was the type of rain that you wake up to, softly drumming on your windowpanes; the type of rain that makes you want to close your eyes and just listen to the poetry it lends you – the type of rain that gives you a lovely excuse to bury yourself indoors and spend the day in idle thought.
This type of rain writes poems on the ground and paints everything with watercolor. It turns streets into shining mirrors and washes away the dust of weeks past. It is the percussionist on my windshield and the melody on the pavement. It hums a shrill note as it bounces off the river, as it makes my ponytail curl and my clothes cling to my sides.
I stood in silence overlooking the river and letting the drops roll off my eyelashes and down my face.
I grinned, glancing over at you as you smiled crookedly back. We laughed at the beauty of the day and stretched our arms out to the clouds above us, not quite angry, but restless and dappled with sunlight showing its kind face. Giddy, we ran through the paths in the woods that we knew so well, our Converse sneakers sodden with mud and rainwater. This was one of the days when we could do anything. We could take on anyone who challenged us and we could solve world hunger and we could swear that nothing would ever come between us. We would drive, get lost, stand up through the sunroof of your car when a good song came on and fly. We were free. We were young. We had each other and the summer and we had the rain.
It was sunny when I first saw him. He was sitting next to me in a summer class I was taking (I don't remember much of what I learned), and we swapped papers to grade them. He got twenty out of twenty. I got a D-. I laughed as I saw the red scrawlings on the page he handed back. He grinned at me. Nice job, he said. You passed. He made the class tolerable. The room, with one fan in the back, pointed away from us, was sticky and hot. I was never sure whether he or the heat caused the red that would creep into my cheeks. A fire would light itself under my chin and work its way up my face, and I prayed that he wouldn't call me on it. He didn't.
When I saw you later that day, I didn't mention him. I didn't want you to know about my petty crush. It was insignificant, but it was mine. I didn't want to share it with anyone. It'll pass anyway, I told myself. Even when it didn't, I kept my mouth shut.
It was sunny when you first saw him. The sun beat down on us as we walked down the street to a diner downtown, and I saw him across the street. I called his name. Introductions were made, stories were swapped, and I instantly regretted introducing you. I saw your eyes glinting in the sun, their gold flecks flashing against startling blue as you giggled. It was so unlike you to giggle. I saw how your fingers twisting a strand of your long black hair, how you flaunted your white teeth as you smiled wider and more perfectly than I had ever seen. Your porcelain skin glowed in the sunlight, while my freckles splattered themselves across my nose. I hid behind them and watched.
I remember how, once he was gone, you weren't quite yourself again. You talked about his sense of humor and taste in film, his hair and how it was blond and the perfect length. I remember how my stomach sank when you asked me for his number and I grudgingly gave it to you. It felt grudging, at least, but you didn't notice. You didn't notice my silence, either, as we walked home.
I told myself that it was nothing, that I had known him longer and that you two had just met. Later that summer, after you told me how he bought you flowers, I told myself I was happy for you. I told myself I was okay.
You brought me along to the beach with him and his friends one day. It was hot and overcast, and you complained about how hard it was for you to get a tan. I watched as you became a different person. As you giggled and twisted your hair, now highlighted from the sun. You had started straightening it, taking away its usual curls that fell loosely over your shoulders. You let me tag along out of pity, mostly. I didn't quite fit in with that crowd, but the new you seemed to get along just fine. I sat off to the side, listening to your conversations and laughing a bit too late at your jokes. I wrote my name in the sand and erased it. I tossed a crust of my sandwich to a seagull that you and your new friends were busy screaming at. It took it and flew away.
Occasionally, you would cast me a guilty look and try to work me into a conversation, but shyness overcame me and soon you stopped trying to include me. You're so lucky to have a friend like her, they would say to me. She's so funny and nice! I would nod and agree halfheartedly.
That summer, you had your first boyfriend. You went to your first real party and drank your first beer. You told me about all the cool things you did, all the fun times you were having. You would share stories I didn't quite understand but you thought were hysterical. I would smile and laugh. You had everything that summer. I had a humid July and a dry August. I had no air conditioning in my bedroom. I had hours lying awake at night, reprimanding myself for not being happy for you. I told myself I was an awful friend. An awful person. After all, I must be an awful person if nothing good seemed to happen to me. Why you? Why hadn't I been invited into the group? Why weren't you the one writing your name in the sand?
That August was the driest one I had ever experienced. The sun beat down on my hair, making it hot to the touch as I did yard work and planted kale and arugula. I didn't see much of you that month. I saw pictures of you posted online, smiling and laughing with people I had never seen before. I turned down your invitations to go the movies or the beach with your new friends; I was tired. I wanted to be by myself. I wanted to have you back.
You came to me before school started again. I came to the door and opened it; you walked right in, collapsed on my couch, and cried. Your skin was peeling with sunburn, but your hair was still straightened and glossy. You told me that he had cheated on you with some girl from the next town over. You said you would never find anyone like him again. You said your new friends got mean. You said that they got tired of your jokes. Your mom found out that you were going to parties and grounded you – she took away your car and your freedom. You didn't know what to do. I sighed and handed you a tissue. You thanked me for being there for you. You vented to me about how your new friends were boring, how their parties were always the same, how everyone gossiped and told secrets. You tried to comfort yourself, not me. At least, I don't think so. It was hard to tell with you after that summer.
It rained one day in September.
The ground, dusty and hard after weeks of dehydration, stretched toward the salvation falling from the sky and drank. I opened all my windows, breathing in the scent of springtime and freshness. I sat on my front steps and listened to the songs the rain played me. It played memories and freedom and new beginnings. It spoke to me of the promises I had made, of running and of sodden Converse sneakers pounding the unstable ground. It reminded me of the wasted possibilities of that summer, and it reminded me of you.
You showed up outside my door later. Your hair was loose and curly because of the rain, and some flyaway black curls clung to your face.
“I'm sorry,” you said.
I saw your eyes searching for acceptance and recognition. I stepped into the rain and nodded.
“It's all right,” I said.
I know that our friendship might never be the same. I might never forgive you for the summer that you promised but never gave me. But right now, we are both so desperately melancholy. We both regret what we didn't do. Right now, though, we have the day. We have each other. We have the rain.