Summer, Continued

Summer, Continued (October 2019, Week 1, Day 7)

Every year, every single year, the seasons take their turn. Winter always gets to wrap itself around both sides of the change of year. Spring follows, whether emulating a lion or a lamb, and cleans up the debris of Winter. Summer and Fall do their bits, too. Every year. There isn’t much else in the world that is as unerringly consistent as the marching of the seasons beyond the “what goes up must come down” adage. The seasons, gravity, the rising of the sun – these are things we have, as humans, been able to count on. The seasons have been so consistent for so long that we’ve gone as far as to build entire religions based on them. Songs and stories feature them in a way that presumes understanding. And, sometimes, for better or for worse, children are named after them.

Summer was one of those children, and one for whom the name fell into the for worse column. She might have been able to have a disposition further from her name only if you believe all things are possible. As it stood, while one would expect someone named Summer to be light, carefree, and fun, this Summer was dark, angsty, and dull. She was the kind of child that made parties end early. She was the kind of child who attracted the worst of the substitute teachers. She was, to be honest, the kind of child without friends.

Summer did match her name in one regard – she was beautiful on the outside. At the should-be-tender age of 13 she had made it to the other side of the awkward moments of puberty and was a sharp version of what would be her softer adult self. She was of average height and both arms and legs had landed at perfectly proportional lengths. Her hair was full and lush, her teeth were white and straight, and her skin was a perfect brown. She didn’t see herself as beautiful. She didn’t really see herself, period. 

Summer lived with her father. He had fought hard to keep her with him after divorcing her mother, a rarity for someone so masculine and so young. Summer didn’t know that, and she didn’t remember what life was like with two parents. Without friends, her world consisted of her and her father despite the persistent presence of others.

She might have felt normal if her grandparents hadn’t told her she should be devastated, or if all the story books hadn’t told her she should be working hard to get her parents back together, or if the other children hadn’t made a sport of asking her if she felt like her home was broken. Missing her mother wasn’t something she thought about much except for when the playground mommies looked at her with pity when they thought she wasn’t paying attention, and leaving elementary school behind had cut down on that considerably. Feeling normal wasn’t much of an option. In the end, Summer settled for wearing black and stomping around. 

The town Summer and her father lived in was fairly small and averse to change. It was the kind of town that took pride in how similar one generation’s experience was to the next and expected fads to pass them by. On the rare occasion when someone new expressed interest in moving into town they were met with stares, questions, and a surprisingly narrow housing market. On the even rarer occasion when newcomers arrived by moving truck rather than via birth, they were usually older, approaching the town as a way to slow down. 

New students weren’t common outside of kindergarten. Classes moved up from grade to grade with very little change all the way through high school. Of course there was the random child who progressed faster or slower than their cohort, but those children were still familiar. They belonged. They understood. Summer’s grade had held steady at 21 children since the beginning. Seated alphabetically, as they always were, left Summer Walston in the last row of the classroom all by herself since the 1st grade. It wasn’t until Art was placed in her classroom that things changed.

The teacher pursed her lips as she directed Art to the seat next to Summer as if proximity to her might contaminate this new student on her first day. All eyes followed Art as she made her way to her seat, and not just because of the novelty of newness. Art commanded – demanded – attention. 

From her head to her toes, inside and out, Art was the most different anyone in the room had ever seen. She was tall for a girl. She was painfully thin. She didn’t have hair. She had a full face of make-up, expertly applied. She was wearing a dress that would have been perfect for prom. She wore combat boots. None of that made sense to the children or to their teacher. Art didn’t seem to notice or care. Art was a far better fit for her name than Summer. 

At 14, Art was a girl with big feelings, big ideas, and a big voice. She laughed from her kneecaps and cried true tears every time. She talked to animals and inanimate objects, giving them just as much care and attention as the humans around her. She saw everything as a potential vehicle for expression and saw value in expressing everything. Fear made her do more, not less. Being different was comfortable for Art. She hadn’t had much experience with the alternative.

Art exuded confidence from every pore as she navigated her way to the seat next to Summer. After she’d slid her long frame into the seat attached to the desk, Art gave Summer a huge smile. Summer smiled back. The other children gaped. The teacher cleared her throat. 

When change isn’t celebrated getting things back to normal is of the utmost importance. Classes move forward, homework is assigned, despite striking new students who don’t fit the mold. Summer handed Art the papers that were passed back from the front, barely making eye contact despite her curiosity. Art received the papers with a loud thank you and a smile that caused ripples of giggles to flow through the classroom despite glares from the teacher. The students found opportunities to twist around in their seats or sharpen pencils or borrow paperclips to steal glances at Art. English flowed into History without much fanfare.

The lunch bell rang, giving the students permission to flex their independent thought muscles for the next 22 minutes. The hallway became a buzz of whispered speculation. Who would Art choose to sit with? What would someone like her have brought for lunch? Where did she come from? The questions flew from boy to boy and girl to girl. As a testament to just how rare such an occasion was, they even flew from boy to girl and girl to boy. \

Summer left Art behind as she stomped her way to her locker, well practiced at ignoring the buzz. It was never meant to include her. Armed with her history book, the same lunch she’d had daily since the 3rd grade, and her jacket, Summer fought her way past the gibbering students and took up her usual spot. 

Middle school is hard. Middle school lunch is harder. Middle school lunch without friends is torture. Middle school lunch without friends was Summer’s normal. Books were far safer than other 13 year olds, and sandwiches didn’t spill secrets. Tucked into the corner at the table furthest from the door, Summer had her book in one hand and her sandwich in the other when she felt a tap on her shoulder and noticed the absence of chatter around her. She would have been prepared to see the principal, or a teacher, or even the lunch lady. She was not prepared to see Art towering over her with a bento box in hand. She was not prepared to be asked if the seat next to her was open. She was even less prepared to spend the next 17 minutes getting to know Art.


Summer was absorbed in both her lunch and the trials of the moors when she noticed a foot tapping at her side.

Seven years of solitary lunches since they’d stopped forcing children to sit with her had left Summer ill prepared for this visitor. Cassie was the person who went with the foot, and Cassie was the person with all the power in the 8th grade. The person who had the best parties. The person who dated first. The person who all the teachers loved. The person who would, someday, be head cheerleader, class valedictorian, or both. Cassie was also the person who never, ever, talked to Summer.

When people like Cassie want something they’re used to getting their way. It’s all they know, usually, thanks to over indulgent parents and the rampant insecurity of their peers. They’re used to doing whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means talking to people like Summer.

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