The unlikeliest of friends find in one another life long soul sisters.-1st place Winner!
|I still remember the day she moved in next door. I was sitting in my spot at the base of the old walnut tree, nestled between its ancient roots, the mossy bark like a velvet throne. The moving truck was followed by a fancy car and one of those big diesel trucks that my father was always admiring pulling a shiny horse trailer. My heart leapt and I craned my neck hoping to see the trailer's occupants. The pasture separated our properties and the thought of horses roaming so close by sent butterflies to fluttering in my stomach.
The sun's rays reflected off the opening car door making me squint and reluctantly turn my gaze. A goddess stepped from the backseat. My book fell forgotten in my lap. She looked to be about my age, but that was where the resemblance ended. She was tall and glamorous with curves in all the right places as my brothers said. Her long gold hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, but looked like it would fall to her waist if released. I subconsciously ran a hand through my short brown pixie. Well, pixie was what my mother called it, but truthfully it didn't look all that different than the cuts she gave my three brothers. Regardless, it didn't look anything like the new girl's movie star locks.
I leaned forward, resting my chin on the fence's middle board. Dressed in a short white skirt and a golf shirt with a sweater draped over her shoulders she could've been from another world. Embarrassment warmed my cheeks. I didn't need to look down at my ratty denim cut-offs and grubby tank top to know I once again didn't measure up. I had just escaped the scorning taunts thrown my way in the school halls. The thought of a summer of the same threatened to dampen even the joy of horses next door.
As if feeling my envy, the goddess tossed her hair and crossed the paved drive to the horse trailer. The driver, a muscular blonde man in khaki cargo shorts and another golf shirt, was already releasing the latches. I held my breath as the ramp lowered. Stepping up into the back of the trailer the man led out a beautiful golden Palomino. I glanced down at my discarded book. It was like the cover art had sprung to life. The man handed the Palomino's lead to the girl before disappearing only to reemerge with a darling brown and white Paint.
I straightened from my crouch as they released the horses to pasture. The Palomino shook her flaxen mane and broke into a trot, no doubt happy to be on solid ground again. The Paint kicked up her heels and broke into a bucking run that made me giggle. I stood on the bottom rung as she went racing by close enough I could feel her breeze. I wanted to shout with the pure joy of it.
Across the pasture the beautiful blonde mirrored my position and passion. Our eyes met in surprise and she smiled offering a wave. Startled, I froze. Her hand started to fall uncertainly before I managed to wave back. Her smile widened and she bent to slip through the fence, but her head whipped around at a voice calling her name. Jewel, even her name was striking. She glanced back at me her reluctance clear, but offering another wave she jogged off towards the house. I waited there by my tree until well after dark, praying she would come back.
We met the next day, and the day after that, and well, for nearly every day for eighty years after, but that summer was magical. We were night and day, but inseparable. What started with a love of horses blossomed into so much more. The world saw us as polar opposites. She was the sun, tall, golden, beautiful and wealthy. I was the moon, dark, quiet, petite and poor. What they couldn't see was the connection. We were soul sisters.
That summer we not only got to know one another, but each discovered a new world. We became a constant in the other's family. Jewel introduced me to the joy of riding and of horses as companions instead of something to be admired from afar. My first trip to the movie theater was with her family, the same with the mall, and any number of restaurants that didn't have a drive through. I accompanied them to family reunions and on vacations to exotic locales I had never dreamed or heard of.
Just as often Jewel stepped from the world of princess canopy beds and hired help into my day bed crammed in the corner of the laundry room. She went to the lake in the back of my mom's rusty station wagon and ate picnic lunches of bologna sandwiches and filched wild apples. There was always room for one more stretched out on our living room floor for movies borrowed from the library and homemade popcorn. Lemonade stands and garage sales were new to her, but she pitched in to help and we spent hours planning what we would do with our hard earned dough.
When it came time for college we all sat at her parent's dining room table filling out applications and grant requests and then haunted the mailboxes until we found one that wanted us both. Rooming together for four years only strengthened our bond. I can't count the number of times I was told how different we were. They couldn't see it. It didn't matter.
When my four years were up, we rented an apartment off campus and Jewel continued her quest for a medical degree. I found employment teaching reading to second graders. She had a Peace Lily delivered to my classroom to mark my first day. I have that plant to this day. I was there every night to make sure she ate while she struggled through final exams and then the absolute hell of internship.
When she met Doctor Charming, I was her maid of honor. He was a saint for putting up with us. Discounting their honeymoon, we never went twenty-four hours without seeing one another even if it was only to deliver a bottle of Nyquil or chicken noodle soup. Likewise, they were both there for me when the man of my dreams lost his life serving our country three weeks before our wedding. Through the good, the bad, and the really bad, Jewel and I were together.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I slump back against the old tree trunk, sliding slowly to the ground. The gnarled roots seem to wrap around me in comfort. No soup can fix this. A lump swells in my throat and yet more tears trickle down my lined cheeks. The ache in my chest is nearly unbearable now. Maybe it is just the numbness of her loss wearing off, but I can hope. How will I make it without her? It is a question we had talked about many times in half jest over the years, each making the other promise never to leave them behind. After her husband's death, nearly twenty years ago now, we had become roommates again. It had been like old times and now it was over.
A low sob escapes me and I wrap my arms around myself trying to ease the pain and overwhelming loneliness that flooded me at her passing. I had jerked from sleep in a panic, knowing by the crushing sense of isolation that I was truly alone for the first time in my life. I feel lost and no one understands. My heart aches and my throat is raw from holding back the wails of my grief. How many times today had well intentioned souls told me that it would get easier or that she was in a better place? Of course she's in a better place, but it isn't going to get easier until I'm there with her. Why can't they understand?
I squint at the fresh grave in the evening gloom. With the mourners and flowers gone it is just us now like so many times before.
"You promised you wouldn't leave me," I whisper brokenly.
The soft splatter of rain drops on the leafy canopy over head is my only answer. The sound actually makes a smile tug at my lips. We have been in the grips of a drought for the past six weeks. It is only fitting that even the sky weep at her passing. I close my eyes to the pain, leaning my head back against the tree trunk and sending up another prayer. Please take me. The rain is falling harder, thunder rolls in the distance. The crack of lightning sounds close and still I pray.
The wind wails its grief, sending the rain to earth in unrelenting sheets. The simple black sheath dress clings sodden to my petite form, and still I refuse to leave her. Jagged streaks of lightning illuminate the night. I can only stare at the fresh turned plot and add my tears to the down pour. The mighty trunk at my back shudders, a low groan coming from its roots. A sharp crack ricochets among the tombstones and mausoleums and the ground explodes under me. My scant hundred pounds is tossed effortlessly aside by the upheaval and I sprawl over Jewel's resting place. I don't feel pain or fear as the ancient Maple crashes down, only peace.
© Mara McBain 7/2011
WC ~ 1584
Created for and 1st place winner!:
"Share our similarities, celebrate our differences." ~M. Scott Peck