Emma's earliest memories were of Jake. They had known each other for ever, as long as either of them could remember. They'd done all of the stuff that kids did when they were younger. They'd eaten sand, and made mud-pies, kissed, and played house. She remembered one particular day at the beach. She and Jake had scrambled away from their parents and across the dunes, down where the waves crashed against the rocky shoreline. It seemed like a good thing to do at the time, sneak away where they could sit alone and let the warm water rush over them. It turned out good in the end. They were walking back, after having watched the fish in the tide pools, and poked at the hermit crabs that carried their homes on their backs.
Jake found it, wedged between a couple of rocks, a few feet down. It was a clearish, green glass bottle. There wasn't any wrappings around it, they'd probably come off in the sea. The glass had probably once been dark green, but it had faded in the hot sun. "I'll get it!" declared Jake, stumbling and tripping into the crevice before Emma could even tell him to look out. He got soaked by the wave, and he stumbled around a bit, but the water drained and receded, allowing him to reach out and grab the bottle. He made it out just as another wave crashed around them.
"Come on, Jake, lets go!" Emma whined. She was worried about being so far from her parents. Jake wasn't at all.
"You're just a scardy-cat." He muttered, but followed her off the rocks and back onto the safety of the sand where they climbed the dunes and wandered back into their parents were. Emma's parents Jack and Delia were packing up the two families' things. Jake's were no where in sight.
"Mom!" Seven year-old Emma ran across the sand and into her mother's waiting arms. "Look! Look what Jake found!"
"Emma!" Jack scolded. "Where were you? Jake, you'd better explain yourself. Your parents are out looking for you right now! We were very worried."
"We were bored." Jake shrugged. He'd never been bothered by much. Not the time he'd broken his arm. Not the time the family cat, Scribbles, had died after being attacked by raccoons. Not even the time his parents had gotten in a drunk argument.
"We're sorry," Emma added. She was always covering his backside for him, always apologizing for their constant endeavors.
When Jake's parents finally got back they fussed and worried, and then finally allowed Jake to pull out the bottle. There was a piece of paper crammed inside and the bottle had been stopped by a cork, but there was some water at the bottom. "The ink's probably run," Observed Kelly, Jake's mother. "Ralph, open it up and see."
Ralph took the bottle and pilled the cork off. It crumbled and feel to the ground. The bottle was turned upside down and the paper fished out. "Hon, you were right." He held up a sopping piece of paper. The whole thing was black with run ink.
Jake sighed and Jack ruffled his hair. "Next time we come you and Em can throw your own message into the sea and see who finds it."
Delia had met Jack in college, or re-met him, in any case, Delia was taking classes in Journalism and Jack just happened to be trying to figure out what he wanted to do, at the same school. They met by accident, or fate, as Delia likes to think. She'd lost her purse. She'd left it somewhere, one of her classes, the library, the park, she wasn't sure. She had her only credit card canceled and filed for new school ID and driver's license. A week later there was a knock on her dorm room door. She looked out and saw none other than Jack Perry, the skinny geek that used to beg to be her lab partner in Physics. She opened the door and found him holding out her purse. He grinned. He wasn't skinny any longer, in fact, he had filled out quite nicely. His jaw was nice and square, he wore glasses, a sweater, designer jeans, and had gorgeous hair.
At the time she wished that she hadn't been in her pink stripped pajamas that had Mini- mouse printed all of them and a rip in the thigh. She wished she had worn something sexier, but was sad to say that she didn't own anything sexy at all. He coughed and she looked at her feet, blushing a little. "Thanks," she said, offering a small smile.
He shook his head. "I found it in Peterson's class, sitting in the back under an obscure table. Pete didn't even know it was there." He was still smiling, and eventually he peeked around her to see if she had a roommate, and if she was there. Delia did have a roommate, Kelly Louis from Ohio, but Kelly was out with her latest boyfriend "studying" for her Latin final.
"Thanks, again. Do you, would you like to come in, I mean?" Delia stammered. She opened the door wider and he slipped inside, setting her purse on a table to the left of the door.
"Sure, thanks." He looked around. Delia's half of the room was in neat order, exactly as he expected to find it, but the other half, clearly her roommate's, was in dire need of help. Laundry littered the floor including thongs and bras and mini-skirts. He smiled inwardly as she scrambled to pick these things up, shoving them none too discretely under the bed. "How have you been? Its been what, four years or so?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I guess it has been. What is your major?"
He shrugged. "I'm waiting around, trying different things, to see what I like. You?"
"Journalism, for now." She replied, sitting down on her bed. He took a seat at the foot, opposite from her. "You've changed," she blurted out, unexpectedly. She blushed immediately.
He chuckled. "I'd like to think that I have." But he shrugged. "You have too. You have breasts."
Delia reeled backward, affronted by his behavior. She was blushing very deeply. "Excuse me?"
He laughed nervously, remembering from high school that she could pack quite a punch, if she wanted to. "I didn't mean it that way. Your hair is darker too. Your lips fuller."
Discretely, Delia peeked down at her front. She supposed he was right. In high school she'd barely made a B and now she was surely nearing a C. Her lips were fuller? How was that possible? And her hair was darker? What was that supposed to mean? Was he checking her out, again? "Umm, Jack, I think you should go before Molly finds you in here." Molly was the dorm head. She would have a fit if she found out that there had been a guy in her room.
He tipped his head in thought for a moment, and then grinned. "If you say so." He stood, walked over to her desk (the heat one, of course), picked up a pile of books and leafed through them, choosing the one on the bottom, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. "Mind if I borrow this?" Without waiting for a response, he waltzed from the room.
Delia followed him from the room, but didn't see him anywhere in the hallway. It was empty and dark. She sighed and locked the door. She picked up a new book, one she'd read many times before, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ."
"Mrs. Perry, I'm sorry. There isn't anything that we can do. It's irreversible." Dr. Kennedy explained gently. "We found the cancer too late, chemotherapy and radiation wont do anything. The tumor is too advanced. I'm sorry Mrs. Perry, Mr. Perry, but she only has three months to live, at the most."
Mrs. Perry stood, shaking with rage and sorrow. "You mean to tell me that my baby is going to die?"
"I'm so sorry," Dr. Kennedy repeated. She clutched her clipboard to her chest and turned away, trying not to listen to the sobs of the parents behind her, as she walked down the hallway to her next patient.
I remember, as I sit next to her bed, the first time we kissed, the first time I'd touched her face since we were little enough for that to be considered ok. We were sitting under an apple tree at her parents' farmhouse. She'd made me a picnic for my seventeenth birthday. We had sat underneath that tree until the sun was setting. The picnic had been devoured easily, and then we had spread out a blanket and lay down next to each other. We didn't really talk much, instead I turned onto my side and propped my head up on one elbow and stared her as she watched the tree rustle in the wind above us. Her hair was beautiful, a mix of brown and blond highlights that curled and twisted elegantly.
She was lying on her back with her hands clasped together, resting on her flat belly. Her chest rose and fell softly, gently, and her lips were parted as she breathed in and out. I picked my free hand up and trailed my fingers down her arm, she sighed, but did not look at me. My touch rose goose-bumps on her lightly tan skin and made her shiver. I squeezed her hand gently and this time she looked at me. She smiled and the corners of her mouth puckered, leaving dimples behind. I left her hand and reached out to touch one absently. I was too busy thinking about what her lips would taste like and if they were as soft as they seemed. Effortlessly she leaned closer to me and pressed her lips against mine. I sighed. "Emma." I rested my forehead against hers, pushing myself up into a more comfortable position, and cupped the back of her neck in my hands. I said it again, and again.
When Emma was twelve she told her parents that she wanted to be an astronaut and sail to the moon. Jake told her that it was silly. "Only men can go to the moon. And you're not a man."
Affronted, she crossed her arms and glared. "Neither are you!"
He only laughed and jogged easily away, picking up a football and tossing it to his new best friend Alex. Alex was fifteen, a year older than Jake, but a "real nice kid" as Jack said. Emma watched jealously as he played catch. She was too tall for her age. Tall and as thin as a flag pole. She sighed and turned back to her mother's waiting arms. "He doesn't like me any more, Mom."
Delia laughed and poked her daughter in the side. "He's older than you, Honey. He's got a new friend now. He wont forget you. We still have Friday night movie marathon. He never misses one of those, does he?"
Emma shook her head. "Never." She whispered.
When Friday came Emma waited impatiently in her living room for Jake to invite himself in like he had always done, but only Ralph and Kelly came. They told her that he was in town with Alex and some other boys, watching a movie at the theatre. Emma turned away and sat herself in the armchair, refusing to sit with anyone. She wasn't angry. She was hurt. Her mother said that he would be there. She said that he would never forget her. Her mother had lied.
The next day, however, Jake came over for lunch. He looked really tired, but nevertheless offered to help Delia with tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Delia laughed. "Just sit down. Did you have fun at the movies with your friends last night?"
He shrugged. "Guess so. What movies did you watch?" He looked at Emma and waited for an answer.
She glared and crossed her arms. "You should have stayed to find out!"
"Emma!" Delia scolded. "You know better! Say you're sorry."
"Sorry, Jake." But the truth was, Emma wasn't sorry at all. She would never forgive him for that, even years later.
He shrugged his shoulders which were already starting to broaden and strengthen. Emma stared at those shoulders, wishing that he would hug her tight and make her tell him what her problem was, but he didn't. Instead he turned back to the counter and took a huge bite of his sandwich.