This is Us

Dylan

Alycia and I were childhood best friends.

When her parents divorced everything felt so surreal because everyone always thought that such things didn't happen in Pueblo. Divorce was as uncommon in Pueblo then as it is now. Let alone cheating. 

I'm two months older than her, so we met during the first week of her life. Our moms were best friends, but now my mom barely ever talks about Julie, Alycia's mom. I think she feels the same pain I do. 

My first memory of Alycia is the one of us at the park on the two swings that are still there, seven years later. They are red with polished, braided chains. She was swinging and smiling at me after I'd told her a joke. We were five and two of her front teeth had already fallen out. I remember thinking that her green eyes reminded me of the brightest trees in the Spring--always ready to bloom. She had a few freckles back then, sprinkling her cheeks and nose with small, red dots that would often flare up during sunburns and tantrums. 

She'd put pink painted fingernails on my arms to scare me from behind and her long, blond hair would soar behind her quick footsteps. She had a pair of yellow shoes with a pink flower buckle that she would wear everywhere, no matter the place. That's one of the things I loved about her, that she could wear such elegant shoes to the most exciting places.

I remember smelling her mom's lilac perfume on her sun-tanned skin. I know that with memory the first thing to go is scent, but this particular smell was a part of me since I was two months old. Forgetting such a thing is nearly impossible. 

I'd always wear my navy blue trucker hat that read "Chugging Away" with a toy train smiling on the front. She would often steal it from me and I'd have to run after her until she would slow down. I knew her hiding places, her secrets, where her mom kept the cookies, why she secretly cried at night, where to meet her when her parents were having another fight. I learned a long time ago that sometimes, when a girl feels like crying, you just need to let her do it on your shoulder. 

My parents never knew how late we stayed out because we were both very quiet. Alycia needed me and I was her best friend.

The day I kissed her was a month after her tenth birthday and a week before she left. It had rained all weekend, washing away our mosaic ideas of childhood in chalk and creating puddles that needed to be explored. That Sunday was still a little darker than usual, but our parents let us out to play while they talked.

"Dylan," Alycia called to me, bending over something on the sidewalk. "Come look!"

"One sec," I said, shoving my curly hair our of my eyes.

"Hurry!"

"Okay, okay!"

We both looked down at a puddle that was streaming off in a thin miniature river to a larger puddle on the street. "Wow," I said, amazed at the speed of the water. "That's cool."

"Very," Alycia fixed a blond strand of hair behind her ear and I caught a glimpse of her pink earrings. "You imagine how if everything was like that?"

"Like what?" I asked, bending down in front of her to watch the tiny river.

"Like this river Dyl," she said, "to be flowing so easily."

"You're such a girl."

Alycia sighed. Girls always sighed. "Dyl," she softly pushed me by my shoulder, "I mean, what if everything just happened the way it's supposed to without being bugged and stuff?"

"Like us?"

"Huh?" It was her turn to be confused.

"We're going to be best friends forever, right Ly?" I cocked my head to the side and smiled widely.

"Of course you doofus," she said laughing. "Now, who's the one being weird?"

I looked at her then. Her green eyes were scrunched because her mouth was wide with her goofy grin. Her cheeks were a bit pink because of the sun we'd gotten a few days ago before the rain and the strand of hair was slowly coming free from behind her ear. It was so easy, leaning over the small, but rapid river between us so that I could kiss my best friend. I started feeling something I'd never thought I could feel then, seeing her already pink cheeks glow red after I moved away and how our eyes never left each other until one of our moms called us in.

We were only ten, but we were best friends.

A week later, she and her mom left. I could hear my mom crying every night while my dad comforted her and I willed myself not to cry over the one girl who stole my heart. Soon after, I met Manny and steeled myself to anything that has to do with Alycia. Including her father. No one, except for the original people of Pueblo, knows about Alycia and I. No one, but me and her know about the one kiss we shared as young children standing on either side of the imagined river of our lives. 

The End

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