Porcelain Skin

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The Hole

Illinois is known for being flat. A definite line, dividing earth from sky, marks the horizon; giving you a clear view for miles. You can literally watch a guy’s dog take a dump from three counties away. I’m realizing my appreciation for this as my feet hit the pavement, my eyes scanning the open space around me.

After my conversation with Trevor last night, this run is much needed. I am feeling like a whole new woman now that that burden has been released. If I spread my arms right now I could probably fly. That’s how light I feel after my confession.

With the sun tickling my skin, and my hair frolicking through the breeze, I am feeling more energized than ever.

I arrive back at my dorm with just enough time to shower before meeting Lindsey for coffee. As I’m drying off, my phone vibrates from across the room. I open it to find a text from Lindsey.

Bring your swimsuit

What is this girl up to? After yesterday and her devious plan to get Trevor and me alone, I’m not sure if she can be trusted. I’m considering giving some kind of excuse about not feeling up for a swim, but then I realize just how well yesterday went, and, if I’m being realistic, I really don’t want to miss a chance at getting some quality time in with Trevor.

I send her a quick response letting her know I’ll be there in ten minutes. Once I’ve thrown my hair into a ponytail, I’m out the door.

I see that my suspicion was correct the moment I step into the cafe and notice two men across from Lindsey - Mike and Trevor. Apparently, Mike is just another one of Trevor’s many roommates. I still have yet to see Lindsey’s brother, Chuck, but it’s not as if I know him all that well anyway.

I make my way towards their table and all three pairs of eyes glance my way. Not one of them seems surprised or irritated that I’m here, which makes me think they actually agreed to this. Trevor actually agreed to hang with me just for fun?

“Hey guys,” I sing, as I slide in next to Lindsey.

She gives me a strange look. Apparently, she was not expecting me to respond so agreeably to her little scheme. I offer her a genuine smile and her mask falls away, revealing a beaming grin. I turn my attention to the boys across from me.

“What’s the plan for today?” I ask.

Trevor takes a sip of his steaming coffee and both boys look to Lindsey for an answer. I guess they’re not exactly sure what they’re here for either. Lindsey wiggles a bit in her seat before sharing any details, her smile widening further, if that’s even possible.

“So a friend of mine was telling me about this lake a couple miles out of town,” she begins explaining, “They call it ‘The Hole’. Not the most flattering name, but they say it’s really pretty and there’s a cliff that people always hang out at where you can actually jump off the side into this watering hole.” She pauses briefly as she glances between each of us with a gleam in her eyes. “So, what do you say?”

We all look at each other and then Trevor shrugs and mutters a ‘sure’ around the rim of his mug.

“I’m in,” I agree.

“Sounds good,” Mike announces while sipping his coke. I scrunch my nose up at his choice in beverage this early in the morning, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

Next to me, Lindsey erupts with a little squeal and I take that as my cue to go to the counter and order my coffee. I order it black, paying for the dark brew before taking a deep inhale of the rich aroma, the steam permeating my senses with its earthy, nutty fragrance.

Once we’ve all finished our drinks Lindsey and I head to the restroom to put our swimsuits on under our clothes, and then we pile into Mikes truck.

The ride takes about twenty minutes, and I’m surprised as trees start popping up around us the further from town we go. We see a wooden sign that directs us down a dirt path towards Bond Lake. We wind our way through the trees until we finally stop in a small clearing. From there, we leave the truck behind to hike our way to where this so called ‘cliff’ is located. The dirt gradually turns to stone and we emerge from the trees and onto a small bluff. For a state that is almost entirely void of hills, it’s actually a pretty decent height up from the water. We all go peer over the edge at the seven-foot drop. Not at all impressive, but hopefully still fun.

I’m busy laying out my towel while working up the courage to disrobe when I hear a splash. I turn just in time to see Mike following after Trevor, who apparently didn’t take any time at all diving into the somewhat murky depths of the lake. I strip off my outerwear, thankful that both boys aren’t around to watch.

I’m rubbing sunscreen into my skin when I hear male voices approaching. Glancing over my shoulder, I see Mike and Trevor appear over the edge. I guess they found a path that leads back up to the rock where we’re camped. I shift my gaze away from him, quickly resuming my task of covering myself in sunscreen. My swimming suit is modest compared to most, but I still feel uncomfortable. Avoiding Trevor’s eye contact gives me the false childlike hope that if I can’t see him, he can’t see me.

“Ladies,” Mike announces once they reach the top. “What’s the holdup?”

“Not sure about you guys, but I’m not too keen on getting cancer,” Lindsey answers while squirting a giant glob of the white lotion into her palm and smearing it down her arms.

Trevor walks to where Lindsey’s standing and grabs the bottle from her.

“Hey, Mikey,” he says, attempting to convert his normal tenor into something several octaves higher. “Would you pretty please rub some lotion into my back?”

“Dude,” Mike laughs, “If you ever, ever use that voice again I will karate chop your throat.”

I snicker while sharing a look with Lindsey. Trevor laughs and hands the lotion back to Lindsey before throwing himself off the ledge.

I’m a bit shocked to see this side of him. He’s usually the glowering, serious guy around me. I did witness his goofy side a bit in high school, but never on purpose. If he knew I’d been watching he probably never would have cut loose. But this is completely different because he’s fully aware of my presence and is still allowing me a peek at the real him.

A smile dances on my lips as I finish up with the lotion, and walk towards the edge of the cliff. I feel a gush of wind rush past me and suppress a gasp as Mike goes flying over the edge. I watch as he belly-flops and cringe at the slapping sound it makes against the surface of the water. I can hear Trevor laughing from somewhere below me. He’s no longer in the water so I presume he’s already making his way up the path.

“Ahhhrghhh!” Mike grunts as his head erupts from the under the water. “Never ever do that!” He yells his warning at us as he turns onto his back and floats aimlessly around the lake, all the while moaning about the intense pain.

I can actually see his stomach reddening from where I’m standing. I don’t realize that I’ve joined Trevor in laughing at Mike’s misery until he yells for us all to shut up.

I turn back to find Lindsey and see her lying stomach down on her towel. Guess she’s not joining me for our plunge into the lake. I turn back around and allow my eyes to venture further out. The lake is small but still beautiful. The clouds reflect off the glass-like surface, and my heart swells with an indescribable feeling—Awe. Wonder. Freedom.

I’ve needed this; a few hours to forget the hurricane of grief that usually slithers into my gut when I’m alone. Being alone is the most destructive position I can put myself in, and yet, sometimes that’s exactly what I crave. In solitude I can wallow, and scream, and empty out my bitterness. But emptying yourself is only healthy for so long. Eventually, you begin to lose pieces of who you really are.

The horrors of life are like a scab. They shrivel and dry up, but if you pick at the wound too soon the raw, thick liquid of life will just drain from you again. They say that time heals everything, and I assume that’s what they’re talking about. Give your body time to grow a fresh layer of skin before ripping away the ugly encrustation of grief.

I have an unusual desire to ignore my grief right now. I don’t want it because right now I’m actually having fun.

Fun.

Such a foreign feeling. It’s the sizzling heat of summer on my face, the bright greens of blossoming life, the cozy scent of cinnamon bun candles, and the crackling of a fire. Fun is warmth, and comfort, and color.

I smile softly as my eyelids dip, and I pull in a lung full of lake-scented air. Angry shadows dance behind my emotions, but I push them away. They can be ignored for a moment. Just a moment of peace is all I ask.

I’m suddenly yanked from my dreaming as a pair of arms wrap around my stomach and pull me off the cliff. I don’t have time to take a breath before I hit the water, so of course, my body reacts on instinct, and I take in a deep inhale, filling my lungs with liquid.

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