When you flipped through the pages
did you remember her fingerprints on your surface edges,
And when she broke your heart, did she also crack your spine
so you would always fall in her direction
When did I become so bold that I’ve sprawled my thoughts in marker hoping they would bleed through your body and become permanent
But she marked you first
Said she would always be your diary
And I was just an entry on an off day
Yet I don’t care how many libraries there are in the world because I still look for you when I can’t find the right synonym for beautiful
So for now I will paper crane all the pages of you until they papyrus the sky like the stars we finally discover turn out the lights
And I know that I will never be the one who sleeps next to you at night
But at least let me be the love letter you tuck under your pillowcase to remind you that no matter what it’s worth a read.
Audrey made me swear before the war had started that I wouldn’t tell Ma or Pa. I was merely eight and she had trusted me with her secret. She knew I had a large mouth and a remarkable memory, so I had been forced to swear to keep my lips sealed. Although it was never mentioned, that sticky summer day would be stuck in my mind for years to come.
Even at fifteen, Audrey was one of those exotic beauties with plump scarlet lips and rippling brown hair. My sister was trim and well proportioned with gentle, soft hands. As this particular summer began to flower, so did my sister. Her skin radiated a shimmering image of the woman who would don the posters for the newly released dime movies years later.
It was August when we first started going to Baker’s hill and the secrets of my sister’ s adolescent mischief began to flourish. It was Ma who insisted I tag along whenever Audrey was to go out despite her refusals. It was for this reason that I became the appalled bystander, watching with wide, innocent eyes.
On a particular summer day in August I sat quietly on the end of Audrey’s bed and watched her intently. It was the first time we’d take our field trip to Baker’s hill. Audrey was applying makeup she snuck into the house a week before. She smeared brilliant red rouge over her cheeks and combed her lashes with a wand that turned them black.
“I’m nearly ready,” she said, studying her complexion. Then she twirled around the room with her arms above her head. “He’s so dreamy!” she exclaimed, hugging herself and closing her eyes.
I stuck my tongue out. Boys were dangerous and disgusting. “You better not be talking about Harold Fletcher.”
Audrey stopped spinning when she heard his name. Her arms dropped abruptly at her sides and dangled. “And why not?” she challenged, those bright eyes melting into a steely glare.
“All boys are gross and he especially. He has the worst germs,” I said, knowing of Harold Fletcher’s antics.
Audrey rolled her eyes and sympathetically shook her head. Her curls bobbed. “Someday,” she told me, “you’ll think otherwise.”
I snorted certain that never in my life would I ever believe anything good of the male population. I turned towards Audrey, who was again studying her mirror image. Her white button up blouse was crisp with a flat collar and buttons that looked shiny when sunshine rays spilled in from between the blinds.
We snuck by the kitchen without Ma seeing Audrey in her make-up. As the screen porch door clattered behind us, we could hear Ma call out from the window. “Now, you take care girls! Be back before dinner and behave yourselves.”
“We will!” we shouted back in unison.
I followed Audrey for a little while down the gravel road. The silence soaked in with the intense August heat. We had walked for quite some time when I finally broke a sweat.
“Audrey” I panted, “where are we going any ways?”
“Baker’s Hill, now just follow me. All you ever do is whine.”
Audrey grabbed my small wrist and led me to Dr. William Baker’s property. She forced me to trudge up through the thick grass that snaked across my legs and tickled my bare skin. When we finally reached the top of the hill, I was exhausted.
There was a small pond and a grove of weeping willow trees. The ground was scattered with patches of bright butter daises. I let my body collapse under the large swaying shadow of a willow. I hadn’t even realized others were there, all staring at my glamorous sister.
When their gazes fell upon me, their looks of amusement turned instantly to annoyance. One of Audrey’s close friends, Jane, a striking girl with locks of glossy blonde hair, looked at me sternly. She turned to Audrey, questions filling her eyes. “What’s she doing here? I thought you said you would come alone.”
“Aw heck, Mandy, she wont bother to spill. Isn’t that enough for you?”
It was a boy who wore crisp khaki trousers and a freshly laundered white shirt. I recognized his face as Jonathan Bately’s. Standing behind him were two other boys: Thomas Walburn and my sister’s beloved Harold Fletcher.
Harold was an athletic boy, with a youthful, handsome face. He often smiled, but he wasn’t one to speak too much. Harold’s father was our town’s renowned and victorious lawyer. The Fletcher family was one of wealth that boasted a family history dating back to the Civil War.
The others agreed to ignore me and moved towards the center of the grove of trees. I stayed slumped against the trunk and held my knees against chest with my arms. I had stopped panting, and my chest finally felt settled.
“Who’s got the bottle?” Thomas asked after they’d formed a circle.
Harold lifted his head and nodded over his shoulder indicating he had one. He placed the bottle in the center and it sat there with its cap removed, its glass glinting silver in the sunlight, begging to be spun by anxious fingers.
I sat still and studied both genders. The girls were pressing their lips together, trying to make them moist and plump and the boys had their fists shoved into the bottom of their pockets with their heads bowed down.
“Well, who’s going to start?” asked Mandy.
Jonathan glanced up. “One of you girls go on and spin it.”
Audrey frowned. “And why cant one of you boys do it first? It seems more proper to me if you all begin.”
“Oh fine then. I’ll do it since all y’all are making such a big fuss out of it,” Thomas said.
Thomas sat up on his knees, leaned over slightly to outstretch his arm, and then grasped the bottle to spin it around. The narrow part spun in a circle several times. It wasn’t until a little later that it began to slow, and finally stop. The nozzle of the bottle had pointed towards Allison, who looked shocked and slightly embarrassed. Thomas and Allison both stood, brushing off dirt from their clothes. Their cheeks were flushed, and Allison let her eyes drop as Thomas approached her slowly with an awkward, anxious step.
I was thoroughly confused. I had never in my life seen a game like this before. I searched my mind, trying to identify this odd behavior.
“Eww!” I squealed when their lips touched.
They instantly pulled away in mortification and surprise. Allison turned her head to look at me, glaring with anger. Thomas wiped his lips off with the edge of his sleeve, trying to cover up for his improper behavior.
Besides their angry stares, they continued to ignore me and as the order was clockwise, Harold was up next. I sat silently beneath the tree, trying to forget what I just saw. I looked at Audrey, who hopefully crossed her fingers behind her back. I could imagine it was her dream to lock lips with Harold. She was biting her bottom lip and her big eyes were completely filled with anticipation.
Harold reached out, gripped the sides of the bottles with his thumb and forefinger, and then gave it a whirl. It spun, around, around, and around, until my head felt slightly dizzy. It finally slowed and Audrey held her breath. It stopped pointing at her, its open top facing her body. Audrey’s face was overridden with enthusiasm, but as soon as the broad smile crept upon her cheek, she minimized it to a suppressed grin. Harold too, was smiling as he came closer and closer to her.
I shut my eyes, disgusted. How could the sister I admired do something so gross? And then she wanted me to keep all this a secret? Fat chance I would. Ma and Pa would want to know about something like this. Audrey would be locked up in her bedroom until school started again and even then they would watch her.
Then, I remembered how she threatened me. I had no doubt in my mind that she would go through with her bullying. I knew I wouldn’t last the rest of the summer with her tormenting me everyday. I pursed my lips together in an attempt to keep the secret in, and then I looked up, as Harold and Audrey shared an innocent, thrilling kiss.
My stomach lurched as we trudged back down the hill an hour later. It was late in the afternoon and hunger had struck. We’d be home soon enough and then I could fill my belly with Mama’s home cooking.
Audrey was holding my sweaty palm in hers, and she pulled me through the tall grass at such a speed my body was exhausted. We walked in complete silence. She was still overjoyed at the luck of having been able to have her first kiss with the only boy she ever dreamed of marrying- Harold Fletcher. I was still disgusted, but I was determined to keep the truth of what had happened inside. I’d promised my older sister no one would ever know, and I planned to keep that secret.
That night, after we had both been put to bed, I lay still. I pulled my covers all the way up. It felt as if it was protecting me. I couldn’t sleep with all the thoughts of the afternoon still racing through my brain. It was obvious Audrey couldn’t either. I watched her breathe steadily beneath the summer’s night air that swept through the open window. She hardly rustled her sheets. It would’ve been easy for me to think that she was in a deep slumber, except for the way she held her fingers to her lips, as if they were sacred—like a special spell had been cast upon them and they’d never be the same.