The Space Between Us(8)

By: Anie Michaels

“We should get going,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant, but I knew he had felt the weirdness too.

“Yeah, the smoothies might run out if we don't hurry.” I tried to be cool and calm as I briskly walked out of his garage towards the street. It was awkward for a few blocks but then something made us laugh, I can't remember what, but then everything was back to normal.

Asher asking about me in a bathing suit was weird. But weird in a good way almost. I couldn't explain why I liked it, but I did.

The weekend before he left was epic. I didn't master the skateboard, even though I tried, but we drenched Reeve every day until the morning he left for the airport. She was so mad at us, but we didn't care. Her recovery time was minimal and it was worth it to watch her scream as water was splashing all around her. We laughed until our bellies hurt every time. We spent one whole day under the bridge at the park trying to catch the tiny little fish that swam through the creek there. We caught tadpoles too, but we never kept any of them, always throwing them back just happy to have actually caught them at all.

Today was the day Asher was coming back and excitement raced through me. I missed him over the summer. We only spoke on the phone a few times while he was away. My heartbeat did its explosive beating thing again when Asher remembered to call me on my birthday. I wasn't expecting him to call at all, it never occurred to me that he would.

“Happy birthday, Charlie,” he said, and I couldn't help the giant smile that broke out over my face.

“Thank you, Asher. That is really sweet of you to remember my birthday.”

“Of course I remembered your birthday; you're my best friend, Charlie.” I couldn't explain why my stomach dropped when he said the word friend, but it did. I was so confused by my body's reaction to all of this. I was excited when he called, but sad when he referred to me as a friend. I was his friend and he was mine. There was no need for any of this silliness, so I shook it off.

“Are you doing really cool farm things over there in Oklahoma?”

“Uh, I guess. It's just really hot and I am outside most of the day. Lots of lifting heavy things and wrangling animals. But, I'm not bored, so there's that.”

“Sounds fun,” I said sarcastically.

“What have you been doing?” He asked.

“Not a lot,” I sighed into the phone. “Reeve is dragging me to the mall a lot. We sit in the food court while she checks out guys. We sit on her lawn in the front of her house listening to her stereo. Honestly, we don't do much. She listens to the radio and reads, and I draw. We talk. That about sums up my summer. Oh, and sometimes we go to The Range.”

“Are you in your bathing suit?” He asked quietly.

“Right now?” I asked, confused by the question.

“No. When you're sitting on her lawn.”

“Uh, not usually. She is most of the time. I don't know.” I didn't know how to answer his question. I didn't want to lie to him, but I felt like if I told him that I had been in my swim suit on her lawn it would make him angry for some reason. I didn't want to make him angry, especially not when he's so far away. I just wanted him to smile. “This summer would be much better if you were here,” I said quietly. There was a long and silent pause. I'm not sure why I said what I did, or why it felt like it was really important but it was. And for another reason unknown to me, whatever he said in response was really important too.

“I miss you too, Charlie,” was his answer and a smile immediately spread across my face. “I'll be back in just a few weeks. We'll start high school and I will save you from Reeve.”

“Meh, she's not that bad. She's just not you.” Another sentence that seemed to come from nowhere. “Anyway, thanks again for calling for my birthday. Have a good rest of your summer over there in Oklahoma.”

He didn't call me for the rest of the summer, and even though I would always want to talk to him, I was ok with it. Our last conversation was confusing enough, I didn't want to feel weird talking to him. I knew when he came back home and everything went back to normal, all the weirdness would melt away.

I sat by the phone, trying not to look like I was waiting for him to call. My dad walked by every once in a while and gave me a small smile.

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