Originally Published 09/07/2011
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
It was the in-between season, those bittersweet days before the frost, after the humidity breaks but before all the summer people clear out. Chill mornings and evenings, warm days, wood smoke wafting across the road every few miles and pumpkins and mums replacing corn and rhododendrons at the farm stands. The greatest time of the year.
School was three weeks in, and Chris Harris was getting his first taste of band-geekdom, playing alto sax in a gold polyester jacket and hat with plume at Saturday football games. The high school band was terrible, and it was mortifying playing out-of-key and out-of-synch fight songs after touchdowns. But every day of high school was mortifying when you didn’t fit in and felt like a loser.
After games on those brilliant Saturday afternoons, Chris would stop at the Dairy Corner for an M&M cone and a few minutes with Ashley. Damn, she was beautiful: jet-black hair, full, pouty lips, eyebrows arched just a little bit as in curiosity…he got a little scared and very tongue-tied every time he saw her. They were in homeroom together, along with third period geography: she was popular, a cheerleader, way out of his league. But she was nice to Chris, and didn’t laugh when the jocks slammed him in class or shoved him into the girls’ room. And that was enough.
Ashley waved and started scooping an M&M as soon as Chris got in line. He got up front, paid and took his cone. “I’m moving,” Ashley said, and Chris’ heart sank to the pavement.
“What?” he stammered. “Where? When?”
“California, on Monday,” Ashley replied. “My father was transferred. I just wanted you to know. I’m going to miss seeing you! Stay sweet, okay?”
Chris felt like he had been shot. He almost dropped his cone, only coming out of the stupor when he felt the ice cream melting in sticky rivers on his fingers. He muttered a goodbye, not believing it was his last, and staggered around to the back of the building as the tears started streaming…