“Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
O brawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first create!”
Romeo and Juliet, Act One, Scene One
“Aaugh.” Andromeda Sharpe’s head dropped sideways onto her desk, knocking over the signed photograph of Astronaut Howard Stokes. Writing is the worst. Why do I do this to myself?
Having the right side of her face squashed against a spiral notebook put the beautiful North Carolina afternoon behind her, so instead Andy studied the glow-in-the-dark planets on the wall; the planets her five-year-old self had determined to place accurately until she and her father did the math. They figured if they stuck the Sun above the light switch and jammed Mercury next to it, the whole Solar System could fit into less than five relative feet but the nearest star would be sixteen miles away. Realizing this she had stuck all the planets and stars and comets in a large random mosaic and called it good. Twelve years later, the stars had lost some of their luster.
“This is not writing, Andy,” she mumbled into the terrible drawing of her two main characters. “This is avoiding writing.”
On the bookshelf under the stars sat her third-grade science-fair Solar System. These planets weren’t properly spaced either, but were in order and still lit-up and quietly revolved, since Andy bothered changing the battery in the stand every so often. Andy watched Saturn’s gentle orbit of the Sun, one of the rings cockeyed thanks to her younger sister and a long-ago mis-aimed hairbrush. Around, and around, and around…
“No! Nap later.” Sleeping wouldn’t get her story done. Stupid protestant work ethic.
With a sigh, Andy sat up. For good measure, she shook out her arms, tossed her shoulder-length, mousy brown hair. Get the blood moving. Figure out the ending for her detective story because she probably shouldn’t write the first chapter until she figured out Who Did It.
Nuts. Overwhelmed again, Andy sighed and leaned her chair back against her bed, propping her hands behind her head.
That was better. Easier to imagine a make-believe world when her eyes could get lost in a trillion stars. The ceiling of the little bedroom was covered with an enormous photographic print of the Andromeda Galaxy, taken from the Hubble telescope. Her father’s tenth-birthday present. “You can lie in your own bed and look at the stars,” he’d said, to which and stop sneaking outside at night had been implied.
They did that math too, for fun, and figured out a Glow-in-the-Dark Andromeda Galaxy Wall-Stick-On, placed to the scale of her room’s solar system, would be out past the moon’s orbit. The universe was big.
“You’re still not writing, Andromeda.” Hard to pitch a story to the school paper with nothing written.
“Okay, make it a robbery. What’s there to steal in a small town?”
“Fireworks?” Could writers argue with themselves? “Sure, why not, fireworks. And,” she realized, with a flash of inspiration, “it’s right before the town celebrates their Centennial or something.” Did towns celebrate stuff like that? She’d look it up.
Even with the train of thought Stolen fireworks kicked off, writing was still writing, and ten minutes later when Andy heard footsteps thumping down the stairs and the heavy back door whuffing shut, she welcomed the distraction. Where could her little sister be off to on this beautiful end-of-summer’s day?
Andy stared out the window into the Riverton forest that marched right up to the house. A well-worn footpath led from the back deck into the woods, one she watched Marigold bounce down. “To have fourteen-year-old energy,” Andy murmured to her ancient self.
Where the footpath disappeared among the trees, she caught a flash of red. Was Mari meeting somebody? The angle was wrong but if Andy twisted enough…
…by the time she picked herself off the floor, rubbing her elbow, Marigold and Whosits had gone.
She didn’t normally spy on her sister but it was such a nice day, and her mother was forever telling her “put the book down and go outside, for heaven’s sake.” Plus, she could avoid writing.
Andy knew jeans, sneakers and brought-out-her-eyes green t-shirt would be warm enough, but grabbed her black sweatshirt anyway. Down the stairs, snag a banana and raise the sweatshirt’s hood as the door closed behind her. Just in case.
Andy enjoyed some nice potassium as she trotted down the path, thinking she knew where her kid sister was headed. If she herself ever had a secret rendezvous in these woods… “There’s a thought,” she mumbled to nobody, shoving the banana peel in her back pocket.
The afternoon light peeking through the trees waved pleasantly at the ground, and Andy realized she should do this more often. Next time Mom kicked her out into the fresh air she could bring a book, after all; there was a lovely stone bench tucked away in a tiny, usually deserted clearing.
Usually deserted, but not that afternoon. Andy crept up carefully so Marigold and her friend wouldn’t hear. Peeking through the heavy brush between two closely spaced oak trees, she saw her sister’s favorite pink-on-white-on-pink ensemble, her curly blonde hair pulled back into a haphazard ponytail. Sitting next to her on the stone bench was a boy in blue jeans and a hand-me-down red-and-white hockey jersey much too big for him.
He was cute for fourteen or so, and their relationship was obviously Special. Close but not quite touching; his hand rested near hers and even Andy could feel the electricity of Teenagers Almost Holding Hands. The sunlight filtering through the trees caressed their shoulders. She would look at him when he wasn’t looking, and he would look at her when she wasn’t looking, then they would both look and then glance away, embarrassed.
They were so adorable Andy wanted to bang her forehead against the tree.
Instead she eased back quietly, turned and walked away down another path, wiping away an unexpected tear. “It’s cool,” she told herself. “It’s fine.” Of course, Marigold would be the first to have something like that. She was always the first to have everything like that.
While Andy worked at not burning with jealousy, something tickled the back of her mind. Mari’s Special Someone wasn’t anybody Andy knew. But he seemed familiar. Riverton wasn’t that large a town.
Better to puzzle than cry. One of Mari’s classmates? Somebody from youth group?
Then as the trees cleared, treating Andy to a stunning view of the town, spread out like a model train set in the valley below, she realized exactly who it was, as her body went numb.
Marigold’s new special friend was a Tetamore!