Every day she watched Jon walk home, his head down and his earphones plugged in.
His backpack was always slung over his left shoulder, grasped absently and kept in place by his left hand, except for the three months he wore a cast on his left hand. During that time he had switched shoulders and hands to keep his backpack on. The day he got it removed, he immediately switched back to carrying it on his left side. His other hand always rested with one thumb hooked in the front pocket of his jeans, the same pocket he kept his ipod in. He did this so he could press the buttons on his ipod with a close finger through the fabric of his jeans and not have to take it out to change the song. She knew that the teenage boy always waited to buy new sneakers until it became impossible to wear them anymore. Even when they were so worn down there couldn't have been any grip left on the bottom or any support in the sole, he never bought new ones. He was that kind of stubborn and she assumed he wore them until he himself couldn't deny their uselessness. He favoured dark jeans opposed to light and wore them just a size too big for his slender waist and when he wore a ball cap, he wore it backwards. She knew that he liked polo shirts with collars and he was the kind of guy who could pull off a pink shirt with confidence because sometimes he wore them. She knew all of this because she watched him walk home every day. He lived next door.
Her name was Summer and her mother had died two years before hand of a sickness no doctor could diagnose. After three weeks of illness, her mother had lost her vision and it did not return. The last thing Summer's mother said to her before passing on was to never forget how beautiful the sunshine was. Summer never forgot and every day, even two years after her death, she would sit in the window seat in her room and take a moment to appreciate the world, appreciate the sunshine. Her mother had been right, the sunshine really was beautiful. That was how Summer came to anticipate Jon.
She would sit in her window seat every day reading or doing school work but she knew that if she looked out at exactly three fifty, she would see him on his way home from school. Three fifty five if there was alot of snow on the ground. That was only on a day that his mother didn't feel the need to pick him up and drive him home because of the weather. If his mother was picking him up she would know to watch for the black jeep come rolling in at about three thirty. She knew because she watched.
And she watched because he made her very mad. People are funny in that way. When they see something they don't like they watch it very closely, like watching a car accident. No one wants to see a car accident but when someone does they find that they can't peel their eyes away from the scene. Jon was Summer's car accident.
The girl was homeschooled, she had dropped out when her mother became ill to take care of her and she never returned to class. She just couldn't muster the courage to face her classmates knowing that they knew what had happened to her mother. They would look at her with sympathy and feel sorry for her but say nothing with their mouths and everything with their eyes. The idea made her skin crawl. She did all of her school work through distance learning, the kind that doesn't require you to go and sit in a classroom but will still allow her to graduate like everyone else. That sat fine with Summer and her father didn't mind as long as she kept her grades up.
She didn't mind being different from everyone else and not going, in fact she preferred it more. When she didn't have to go to school she had alot more time to appreciate life and the beauty it offered, like the sunshine. What she did mind very much was Jon ,who walked down the sidewalk in front of her house and up his own driveway almost every day at three forty, or sometimes three forty five.
Jon made Summer curl her toes in anger and clench her jaw. He made her seethe and feel as if she was boiling beneath her skin and summer dresses, all without ever saying a word to her. He made her squint her blue eyes with venom whenever he came into view and she had to restrain herself every day from dashing down from her window seat, flying down the stairs and out into the yard and giving him a good deserved slap across the face. Maybe she would slap him hard enough to turn his cheek pink! The sight of him made her itch and feel like she was a popcorn kernel so hot it was about to explode and pop!
Although it wasn't as if the sight of him was a bad thing...In fact, to Summer's dismay, she found Jon very attractive. It wasn't as if Summer hated Jon either, Summer didn't hate anyone, she didn't believe in hate. She hadn't said two words to Jon since her mother got sick and she dropped out of school, but in his silence he had managed to make her very, very angry.
She and Jon were once very good friends, they had gone to school together since kindergarten but it took about ten years of shuffling through classes to become friends with one another. And when they did become friends, they became very good friends. However, Summer couldn't bear to face him, face the sympathy she knew would be in his eyes after her mother passed on. So instead of renewing their friendship, she watched him walk home every day from her window while appreciating the sunshine. And every day she saw him she became very angry with him.
He was infuriating.
Every day at three fifty she imagined running down the stairs and giving him that deserved, good and hard slap. Or a kiss. But more often than not she imagined hitting him. She preferred that fantasy and had anyone asked her about the other she would never admit it. How could she want to kiss someone who infuriates her so much who probably didn't even remember that she exists?
The thought was just plain ridiculous.
And it didn't matter anyways because she wanted to hit him more than she wanted to kiss him. Clearly nothing good could come of it.
Summer was usually very good at controlling her anger whenever she saw him except for the day she made the mistake of reading Peter Pan in her window seat. She was completely absorbed by the story and even though she could probably recite every word from the story with complete accuracy, she read it every time as if she had never heard it before. It made her very passionate and a story that makes a person very passionate isn't a good thing to read when someone who makes that person angry catches them by surprise.
Summer was so lost in the words of the story she missed her three fifty mark and by the time she had looked up Jon was already half way in front of her house. She was so startled by his unexpected presence in front of her house she jumped up from her window seat. How dare he sneak up on her while she wasn't looking!
She watched him for a moment as he trudged along with his headphones in his ears and his eyes falling down towards his sneakers before she completely lost her temper.
He was wearing his pink shirt and the sun fell onto his shoulders like a soft friend whispering hello, making the pink brilliant in its light. The sky was a shade of her favourite colour, sapphire and thin smoke like wisps of clouds flitted across the sky. The sun hung naked above the clouds, none near enough to block the jewels of light it sent splashing down onto the street. A black bird with ruby and yellow tipped shoulders perched in the tree in her yard and her lawn was a particularly extraordinary colour of emerald.
And there was Jon, with his head down, earphones plugged in and missing it all. The only reason she had been able to get away with watching him for so long was his oblivious nature. How could he walk through such beauty and not see it? Day after day he would walk with his head down, whether it rained or snowed or the birds were chirping or the wind was blowing he didn't look up once. He was sifting through seas of glittering diamonds and he didn't even know it because he refused to look at it. It made her feel like she was bubbling and popping underneath her skin with anger. Why didn't he look at this astounding beauty while he still could? He was missing the beauty of life with because he chose to walk with his head down. It made her so angry that he didn't he appreciate the sunshine.
Summer squinted her eyes and pursed her lips as she watched him slowly trudge along in front of her house. Without giving it a second thought she dashed down the stairs, her dress floating wildly around her ankles and ran outside onto the emerald lawn towards him. The thing about becoming angry when you're already feeling passionate is that it's very hard to think straight and Summer thought nothing of the fact that she was doing this. She marched up to the boy who most likely didn't even remember who she was with full intention to slap him. She had imagined doing it so many times and she was in such a passion that it didn't occur to her what she was doing wasn't rational.
With her bare feet she stepped on the side walk and obstructed his path, her flower print sundress swaying lightly in the breeze.
He didn't notice her at first, the music drowned out the noise of her bare feet and with his head down he didn't realize she was there until her wiggling toes came into his view. Summer always wiggled her toes when she was angry.
Passion and emotion was still flowing through her veins when he looked up at her, startled by her sudden appearance. He blinked his deep brown eyes and made eye contact. She had forgotten his eyes were such a soft shade of brown, like melted chocolate.
He was stunned for a moment at the sight of Summer who he had seen so many times while he was walking home. Why wasn't she sitting in her window seat reading? She was always sitting in her window seat at this time of day.
She was clothed in a loose sundress with long tendrils of shiny light brown hair curling down over her shoulder. She was squinting at him angrily with her emerald eyes, wiggling her toes on the sidewalk. He had forgotten how beautiful her eyes were.
Still with rationality thrown at the window and filled with only passion, Summer raised her hand, poised to hit his face.
Instead of giving him the slap she expected her hand to do it swiftly grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his face to hers and she kissed him. It was exactly as she had done in her imagination a thousand times.
Her blood froze in her veins and her enraged passion melted out of her when she realized what she was doing. Ration slowly crept its way back into her consciousness. Her lips froze on his soft lips and she released her vice like grip on his neck and jumped away from him as if she had been electrocuted.
He looked at her, stunned and she looked back in pure mortification. That wasn't what she had planned. She had lived the wrong fantasy. She meant to hit him not kiss him! Where had her mind gone? Why had she come down with the intention of hitting him anyways?
Her cheeks burned a deep red of embarrassment and before he could open his mouth to say a word she dashed across the lawn and inside the house, her dress flailing wildly around her ankles.
Summer swiftly entered her house and slammed the door behind her. A sick cold feeling knotted in her stomach. Her knees shook and she stood wide eyed against the door. Had she really just done that? What had come over her?
The girl was panicking, almost hyperventilating and running through what had happened in her mind over and over again. Why had she done that! She had wanted to slap him! She didn't even want to kiss him, the fantasy had just popped into her head one day, and she didn't want it to happen. At least she didn't think she did.
Summer sank to the floor, her dress pooling around her, the petals spilling around a very distressed flower. She stared blankly ahead at the wall, running through solutions to her problem. She felt numb.
Outside, Jon still stood stunned and dazed on the sidewalk where she had left him looking at the closed door she had disappeared behind. He blinked slowly, unsure what to do. He was almost expecting her to emerge once more but the house remained still.
After a moment he took a step towards his house, his eyes lingering on the door for a moment longer before finally looking away.
For the next three days Jon didn't see Summer once. He didn't know what to make of what had happened...Why did Summer looked so mortified after kissing him? Had he done something wrong? Did he offend her by not responding fast enough and kissing her back?
Every day he looked up at the large glass window and the empty white seat, stopping for a few moments searching for the missing girl.
Little did he know that Summer was making sure stay out of sight by laying on the floor just below the seat between three forty and four o clock, just to be safe. Had Jon looked only a few minutes longer he would have caught her peeking up over the white seat to scan the perimeter. But he didn't see her and his desperation to catch a glimpse of her grew.
It wasn't as if she was a strange girl who he'd never met before, it was Summer. He knew her. They had gone to grade school together. They had been good friends before her mom got sick. When she shut him out he had missed her so terribly...But he had understood and given her the space she needed. He thought she would come back after a few months and maybe they could be friends again. But she never came back and eventually he stopped trying to call her. He thought she wanted nothing to do with him anymore. The only thing he had left of her to look forward to was seeing her sitting every day in the window, even if she didn't notice him. When he saw her absence from the window seat it felt like an aching hole was being punched into his stomach.
On the fourth day of her absence from the window, Jon couldn't stand it anymore. He knew what he needed to do.
After school he walked past her house, head down as always, but watching her window in his peripheral vision, the same as always. He caught no sight of her. He entered his house and waited two minutes before creeping out of the back door. Jon slunk along the side of the house, staying hidden from the view of the window seat and crept onto Summer's porch unseen by anyone inside. It was mail day and Summer didn't have a mail box so the mailman delivered it directly to her house. He knew because he had seen her receive the mail many times while looking out his bedroom window that faced her porch.
He inhaled a deep breath and knocked three times.
He heard some shuffling from upstairs and footsteps drew nearer to the door.
The door creaked open and revealed the imp faced girl.
Her face froze in mortification when she came face to face with Jon. She had planned never to see him again, to lay on the floor every day at three fifty to hide from the humiliation of what she had done. She stared at him with wide eyes.
"Hi," Jon spoke with a soft grin.
Summer cleared her throat awkwardly, caught off guard once again by this boy. She was beginning to wish she lived in another neighbourhood, city and maybe even country. Anything to escape this embarrassment. "Hello," she spoke stiffly, "I thought you were the mailman."
He shrugged and grinned at her, "Sorry to disappoint. You know I was half expecting you to kiss me again. I assumed that was just how you say hello to people."
Trying to regain her footing from the surprise of his presence Summer retorted, "Don't flatter yourself, that was an accident."
"An accident?" he raised an eyebrow at her and laughed with an amused grin, "is that why you stopped coming to school? Do you have accidents like that all of the time?"
She folded her arms across her chest defensively, "What if I do? What if I kiss strange boys all of the time by accident?" She was beginning to feel anger rise up in her again at his mockery.
The grin on his face softened and he looked at her very seriously, "I don't think you do."
Summer became passionate again and anger bubbled up from her toes to her face. She was offended that he didn't even toy with the idea that she may have kissed another boy recently, despite the ridiculousness of it. "Why would I want to kiss you anyways?" she snapped, beginning to let her childish anger spout from her mouth, " You live in this world full of wonders and beauty but you walk with your head down and your eyes closed. You listen to bad music instead of the birds."
He looked at her very seriously, as if he was weighing each word coming from her mouth.
Hopelessness flooded Summers face and she lowered her voice, looking at him with a very serious and very sad expression, "You live somewhere hidden in your head. How many times have you walked home and been in the wind but never really felt it? How many summer days have you been outside and not felt it's warmth or seen its beauty? You don't even see the beauty of the sunshine! Besides...I meant to slap you anyways."
Laughter spurted from his mouth, "I'm glad you didn't."
She squinted her eyes at him irritably and began to wiggle her toes.
They locked eyes and his grin faded. "Can I ask you something?"
She looked at him and said nothing, arms still folded across her chest.
He took this as a yes and he mirrored the seriousness of her expression in his voice, speaking slowly with honesty and deliberation, "It's hard to feel the warmth of Summer and see her beauty when she spends all of her time watching life but not living her own. How can Summer feel the wind if she's never in it or kiss boys if she never talks to them? How can Summer be angry that I don't see the world when she doesn't live in it? How does Summer live in the moment?"
She opened her mouth to respond but no words came to her mouth to form a response so she closed it and simply looked at him.
He looked back at her with deep sympathetic eyes.
Shame flooded Summer as she processed his words. It was true. She had watched him every day, almost waited for him and watched him not feel the wind or appreciate the colour of the sky when she herself was hiding behind a pane of glass inside. She watched him live, memorized the way he walked and wore his hat backwards and didn't like to buy new shoes but she never did any of those things. She spent all of her time imagining hitting or kissing a boy but never did it. She was too busy appreciating the beauty of life to really live. She was the worst kind of hypocrite. She spent all of this time pretending to be angry with the boy when really she couldn't see that she was the problem. And the problem was that all she did was see, nothing more. She saw the sunshine touch the back of his neck but hadn't felt it since her mother died.
Finally, she spoke a quiet response, "Summer doesn't."
He nodded slowly, "I may be outside in the wind and not appreciate it, but you see the sunshine but you don't feel it. We're both guilty."
A silence fell between them.
He was tempted to ask her why he had shut him out, why she had shut the whole world out after her mother died but a deeper understanding stopped him. He knew no one was perfect and after what she had gone through he could understand the choices she made. It was never too late to make things better, to help her live her life again.
"What if we tried to fix it?"
She looked at him, tears threatening to spill from her wide green eyes. She whispered quietly, "How?"
Jon's eyes flickered up past Summers shoulder, checking to see make sure there was no one lingering in the house behind the girl before leaning towards her and gazing deeply into her eyes.
He was so close to her she could smell the spearmint on his breath, feel it on her skin. She traced his face with her eyes and then lifted up her hand to feel the warmth of his cheek with her finger tips. Her skin boiled but this time it wasn't in anger, it was something else entirely.
They just looked at one another very closely for a long time until he gently grabbed her wrist and pulled her outside from under the porch.
Sunlight spilled across their faces and her emerald eyed glittered in the warmth.
They stood with their faces barely an inch away from each other, both just feeling, breathing. Living in the moment of each others touch.
Finally, he swept her up into her arms and pressed his lips tenderly against hers and kissed her.
For the first time in a very long time, Summer felt the sunshine.