Two weeks have passed since I last talked to Alycia.
It isn't that I haven't seen her, I just haven't talked to her. I see her almost everywhere and before she sees me, I turn and go the other way. I know it can't be like this forever, but I just can't deal with it right now. Things are hard enough with Angela and Manny, now that I can barely focus on the world around me.
Angela keeps fussing about me not talking like I used to, or wanting to always be out having fun. I usually just want to be on the beach the whole day, watching the sun rise and fall as the tourists slowly invade Pueblo beach for the summer. Manny knows something's up and he's confused as to why I don't confide in him anymore.
This is not how I imagined my summer to be like when I finished my junior year of high school.
The late June sun is already heating up the sand when I arrive at the beach. I have my surfboard in my hand, but the waves are too small so I sit near the shoreline, placing my board beside me. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to before I saw Alycia, my life was so much simpler then. She was a piece of my past and I guess while I worried about her forgetting who I am, I was secretly hoping that I would forget her. Her reappearance, the one thing I have been dreaming about since I was ten, has brought up resentments and anger that I hadn't known existed within me.
I lay back on the sand and rest my head on my arms. If I wasn't wearing Angela's aviators I'd be blinded by the sun. That, and Manny putting me in his shadow as he stands over me.
"Hey man," he says, nearly yelling over the sound of the crashing waves. For a second I feel a surge of annoyance, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. "What's going on?" He sits down beside me and puts his football between us. "Anything you wanna talk about?"
I roll my eyes under the aviators. We let the question hang in the air before Manny shakes his head slowly. "Okay," he says finally, "if you don't wanna talk, I'll make you talk."
He tucks the ball under his arm and gets up in one swift movement. I watch him run back several feet, before stopping and getting into his throwing stance. He's got to be kidding me. Manny flexes his shoulders, rolls his neck and grips the football tightly before letting it go in a high arc directly at me. My reflexes from basketball are in high gear as I jump up and catch the ball.
"Are you insane?" I yell over at him.
"Finally, some emotion," Manny yells back. "I'm sick of this mopey guy, who's supposed to be my best friend by the way, not telling me anything anymore, not relying on me."
I throw the ball back without answering.
"Come on man," he pleads loudly, "what's going on with you? I'm not into seeing guys being emotionally messed up, let alone my best friend! I mean, if you're not into Angela anymore, I get it! But me, dude, I'm your man, your guy; your sidekick--what's the point of having me around if I can't even help you?"
He throws the ball unsteadily and that's when I realize that he is being honest with me. Manny's throws are nearly straight and direct every time, so when I get a wobbly or off-center throw I know that something's bugging him. Right now, this something or someone is me.
I catch the ball uneasily and walk back to where my board is. "Okay," I say finally, putting the ball down. "You wanna know what a mess I am?" I ask, testing him.
He walks up quickly to me and our height difference is immense as he stands in front of me, waiting for me to confide in him. I groan and look away, before telling him about Alycia.
Manny and I enter my house after I dropped off my surfboard in the garage. My house has to levels, where the bedrooms and bathrooms are is the upstairs and the basic living room, kitchen, dining room, and family room are on the main floor. My mom loves gardening, so as soon as the weather turns for the summer she is instantly planting and as a result our front yard is laden with multiple colored flowers--roses, sunflowers, bleeding hearts, violets, etc. I'm surprised to find that our front door is open, since we only leave it open for guests so that the smell of flowers can reach the living room.
I look over at Manny, who shrugs. He knows the whole business with visitors and the front door, so he looks as perplex as I feel. My gut is telling me to turn back and just wait until the front door is closed, but I force myself to move forward. Even after I see the flowery pink sandals.
I hear a set of voices, my mom's and a shy, low voice. My heart beats faster as I hear them conversing, one laughing softly while the other retells a memory. I round the corner and stand frozen, watching my mom smiling at Alycia fondly, like a daughter she never had. She hasn't seen me yet, so I stand quietly watching them catch up.
"She really missed you," Alycia says, her voice is so low I barely hear it. "I couldn't believe it when dad told me, but I started suspecting something when she didn't contact me."
Mom nods her head, giving Alycia a sympathetic look. "Julie was always good at hiding things and she cared too much about you to hurt you."
Alycia snorts. "Yeah," she shakes her head. "I'm sure that that's the case."
"It is," mom frowns. "Though she didn't exactly think it through."
"I guess," Alycia says, leaning back in the chair.
"Don't be mad at her sweetie," Mom says, grabbing her hand. "She did what she felt was right for you both."
"What?" Alycia says angrily. "Taking me away from dad and..." she pauses and I can tell that she is crying from her muffled words, "from all of this?"
Mom nods and I feel my anger bubbling up. How dare she come into my house and ask for sympathy from my mom? She left us, she deserves no leniency on the matter. Manny is beside me, watching me hold in my anger. He is shaking his head and putting a hand on my shoulder, trying to ease me out of the house without them noticing but my elbow brushes a vase of flowers and it comes crashing down in a mess of glass, water, and white petals. Manny lets go of my shoulder and I see him look at someone behind me.
"Dyl?" Alycia says quietly.
I turn and face her. Her nose is slightly pink from crying and some tears are slowly drying on her cheeks.
"What are you doing here?" I ask harshly and she flinches. "Why are you in my house talking to my mom?"
She doesn't answer and looks away from me.
"Why are you in Pueblo, Alycia?" I yell at her, feeling my frustration from all these weeks catching up with me.
"Dylan Anthony Pintos!" mom angrily intervenes. "You watch your tone and manners!"
I smirk. "Manners? Please mom, after what Julie did to you and what Alycia did to me?" I shake my head, looking everywhere but at the two of them. "I can't believe she has the guts to come here and talk to you."
"Dylan," mom warns, "you don't know what's going on, watch what you say before you regret it."
"Watch what I say?" I ask. "Really? Well, how about this Alycia: where the hell have you been all this time and what right do you have coming back here?" I look at her intently, daring her to look away but instead she simply stares at me, eyes wide and a tear slowly rolls down her cheek. "Why don't you just go back to where you were and don't bother us, we're fine here without you or your mom!"
"Dylan!" Mom yells at me, but Alycia puts her small hand on my mom's arm, stopping her.
"It's okay," she says quietly, "I understand you're upset, Dyl."
"Don't call me that," I warn her. "No one calls me that anymore, not you, not my girlfriend, not anyone. That nickname is dead to me, and so are you."
There's a long silence after I say this and my words bring bile with them up my throat. I'm breathing heavily with anger while Alycia simply stares at me. She nods and mutters, "I see."
I turn my back to her and barely see the sunlight coming in from the opened front door. "Just leave," I say quietly. "Just leave this place."
A beat of silence passes between all of us and Manny whispers, "Dylan, come on man," before Alycia brushes pass me, the scent of her perfume reminding me of lost summers. I watch her leave with mixed emotions until she disappears from my line of sight.