Well, hey, I'm back.

Prompt: Write about your last day of summer before you go to college.
Time: 12 minutes (writing), way too much time (editing).

It will be August 27th, 2015, exactly one week after my 18th birthday. It'll be a cloudy day - cloudy and soft and charcoal grey; not the kind of cloudy day that sticks to you and clings in strips of dampness to your back, but the sort that makes the air feel dark and puffy and warm. I'll be up at the high school - god knows I was never able to stray too far from home, and college is only a few hours' drive away.

There will be band practice that night.

I'll show up at six, under a cloud-charred sky already starting to darken, and stand on the curb at the edge of the parking lot. The yard lines on the pavement will have been repainted with the same familiar old shade of chalky green. I'll walk across the lot to the tree that stood right on my dot for the opening set of my sophomore year show and sit down, dry grass crunching under my feet; when I'm there, I'll lie down and watch the sky until I hear the familiar chatter of band kids coming outside from their music rehearsal to their marching one. They'll gather around the same corner of the parking lot they always do, instruments gleaming even in the charcoal light.

None of them will notice me.

The new drum majors will hover on the fringes of the crowd for a few minutes before they call the band to take a lap around the parking lot, and like always, half the band will take a few minutes to loudly complain. I'll count how many mellophone cases are left on the curb while they run. It'll be a fair number. I'll be impressed.

The band will pick up their instruments and head into a block on the far side of the parking lot, arguing good-naturedly over spots and forming haphazard lines. Someone - a drum major, a staff member - will call them to attention. They'll march basics for half an hour, reviewing the technique they were drilled in during band camp. I'll be able to pick out the freshmen just by watching their feet. After the first ten minutes, one of the staff will start teaching them how to march a figure eight. I won't be able to do anything but grin when I see those freshmen take their first wobbly steps to the left and right.

Once basics is over, they'll take a break, but their break won't last long. Before they know it, the head drum major will be calling them back onto the field, to get set up in set 1 of the opener. They will all complain extensively before they do. It will be exactly like band camp during my freshman year: cool metal and warm wind under a charcoal sky. I'll watch as they head into the parking lot, setting up forms that are completely unfamiliar. A few freshmen will pass by me as they walk to their dots. I'll smile at them. They'll wonder who I am.

I'll stand up and walk along the sideline until I find the flutes - my section, my children. I'll find them the moment before the drum major calls set. They'll snap to attention with their horns down, some standing with better posture than others. In the silent space before the drum major counts off, I'll catch the attention of the new section leader. She'll meet my eyes, and in an instant, her face will light up.

You're supposed to be at set! I'll tell her, shaking my head.

But I'll be laughing, too.

The drum major will count them off, that familiar one, two countoff that has never changed and never will, and I'll see my band play and march a show that is utterly foreign to me. I will stand there on the curb of a high school parking lot, watching a bunch of teenage kids march under a charcoal sky, and I will never have felt such a strange mix of pride and sadness, exclusion and complete belonging. Everything will feel a little bit wrong. Everything will feel just right. I'll stand in the same place I stood five years ago, the first time I ever saw a marching band perform, and I will watch and listen and remember and feel in the way that only ever worked here.

I'll bring myself to ask the staff if I can work with the band, too. They'll say yes. I'll spend the rest of my evening on the field, checking and adjusting and helping people figure out what to do. Some of the section leaders will introduce me to their new freshmen. By the end of the evening, I will know all of their names.

After rehearsal is over and the band director has dismissed the entire band, people will come and find me. There will be hugs. There will be questions of how I'm doing, how I feel about going off the college, if I'm coming back to visit. My answers to the first two will change depending on the asker, but the third remains the same: how could I not? I'll confess to the new flute section leader that my heart is still here, and I'll wish I had just a little more time to be a part of this band.

But I'll also know that the future is in good hands. I will admit, looking around at the smiling new faces in this familiar old room, that the future of my band is bright.

So when it's finally time for me to leave, I'll look back at that place with all the fondness in the world -

- the place I found my first real family -

- and let go.

As I leave, I'll catch a glimpse of a young girl with a flute in the parking lot. She'll be breathless and excited. She'll tell her mother about every detail of that night's rehearsal. There will be nothing but pure love in her voice.

And I'll be walking alone under a charcoal sky, with my hands in my pockets and a hat on my head, but damn if I won't be smiling.

Hi guys. Did you miss me?


Eh, I wouldn't have missed me either.

So I bet some of you are screaming at the fact that you got an alert saying that I posted something, and it ended up being this instead of a new Ensemble chapter. Yeah... sorry about that.

The Ensemble thing is still in the works, to be honest. Between band and school, I haven't had much time to write. The marching band season just ended last Saturday, and this week has been a bit chaotic. This is the first piece I've written in a longlongloooooong time that doesn't actually make me want to throw myself headfirst into the nearest garbage can.

Enough of that, though. What do you think of this?

It's from a prompt we did in writing club the other day. We had to write about what our last day of summer before we went off the college would be like. Being the enormous band geek that I am, I had to write mine about marching band.

Is it too mushy? I feel like it might be, but I'm not too sure.

Ahh. Just leave whatever comments you have in that little review box at the bottom of the page, please. :)

Wow, it's nice to be back.