366 Days of Writing · Original Posts · Short Stories

Day 65: The Last Summer Day

“May it be when darkness falls

Your heart will be true”

-“May It Be”-by Enya (performed for The Fellowship of the Ring)

It was like a silent movie, one of those sepia home videos where a carefree family ran through a field on a beautiful day, laughing, love so tangible you could taste it like honey on your tongue. Pauline held the picnic basket as she ran through the grass after Evan, with Lily, Marcus, and Gemma scattered about around them. She was laughing, and the basket was banging against her knee as her skirt flapped about her. Evan dashed up the hill ahead, golden curls bouncing exuberantly as he spread the blanket on top of the grassy knoll.

“Slow pokes!” he taunted once he had caught enough breath to shout. “Hurry up!”

They had been friends for ages, but the group had originated as Pauline and Evan grew up together- next-door neighbors since birth. Each had brought others friends, and before long, all five of them were enmeshed together, a family of choice. Childhood summers had been golden times, times of adventures and expeditions. Talking about summer was  a recitation of their exploits: Marcus getting covered in leeches from the river, Lily’s shoe getting stolen by a mean dog, or Pauline’s lemonade stand falling on them all. Their picnic on the hill was an attempt to rekindle the magic of the summer one last time before fate twirled them apart like dandelion seeds blown to make a wish, and they all knew it.

Pauline reached the blanket and set down the basket. Evan, mind always on his stomach, unpacked it. From their vantage point, Pauline could see the river wending its way across the valley through golden fields. A great green forest stretched to her right, and the blue mountains soared like guardians over it all. The breeze blew Pauline’s hair like cornsilk about her face and swirled her skirt enough that she laid down.

“Look at the clouds, Evan,” she said. They danced above as creatures and ideas and stories- a pirate ship that sailed into a dragon which flew into a dog that barked across the sky, a periwinkle backdrop for the tableau. Pauline felt Evan settle in beside her; his leg brushed her toes as he laid back.

“Sandwich?” he asked, taking a bite of his own and proffering hers.

“I’m serious!”she protested, smiling a little, powerless but to accept the sandwich anyway. Lily and Gemma crested the hill next to join them, and by the time Marcus caught up they were halfway through a fabulous story about the cloud creatures.

Wind kept blowing away the story, and they kept telling new ones, and eating and laughing. They played tag and had tickle wars and pretended for one last afternoon that they were children. As the shadows lengthened, a bottle of cider appeared, and they drank toasts filled with all the years of love and friendship. Pauline felt a warmth in her chest that glowed like a thousand embers; she felt it take wing and fly away, and she knew that in darkness ahead, this golden day would shine in her heart forever.

And then, as Lily packed the basket and Marcus folded the blanket while the others counted stars, the man appeared from the trees. And put a gun to Evan’s head. And Pauline knew the darkness had already come.

Should there be a part two? If so, what song?


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