One Last Bow

Later that night, after we had dared eachother to jump stark naked into the ocean, Rose and I sat on the edge of my bed, wrapped in towels and combing our hair.  Rose had the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen, thick and soft and silky, sliding between my fingertips like a river flowing and cascading as a waterfall down the back of her yellow nightgown. Enviously I put a hand to my own head as I watched her methodic brush strokes and thought, for the millionth time, what I wouldn't give to have hair like Rosie's.

"Kyles," she's say, "Your hair is so pretty and curly." But it wasn't. It was a dark reddish-brown mop on the top of my head, sagging on my shoulders. Even if I brushed it, little exclamation-point strands would stick up every which way, and when it got wet, like now, it covered my face in one giant lump of hair. Half the time I couldn't even get the tangles out, so in fifth grade, when Rose and I had both started to care a little more about the way we looked and dressed and fit in with the other girls, I had pulled my unruly mane back into a halfway-okay pony tail, and that's the way it had stayed for the last five years.

I dragged the last angry snarls of hair through my comb and placed it on the bedside table. "I might get a haircut. Style it. Dye it. Straighten the damn thing."

"Kylie!" Rose looked up, surprised. "You can't!" She pushed a dancing lock out of her glittering eyes and aimed her best What-the-hell-are-you-thinking look at me. "Your hair frames your face so perfectly. And dye fries your hair follicles, no kidding, even more than straightening it would."

I sighed. She was right, as usual. The only thing worse than my mop of lion mane would be a hacked-off limp pile of phony dried-out strands. "I was just saying," I muttered, picking up the latest issue of Teenedge from my bedside table. "New Short Styles for Summer!" sang the issue. I tossed it facedown on the floor.

***

"School's starting soon," Rose remarked the next afternoon. We were sitting on my front porch, watching the movers unload the last piles of boxes onto Rosie's lawn, just a few houses away. Since they had begun moving things in yesterday morning, we had sat watching almost the entire proccess. In the distance, behind our house, a seagull screamed into the crash of waves.

I nodded, thinking about how great it would be to have Rose so close this next year. We'd been best friends forever, since preschool, but she had always lived over on the other side of town. At first we had cried when we found out in March that she was moving, but when we learned that her new house was on Lighthouse Court, just accross the road from mine, I know I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. "We can walk to school together every day," I said, grinning. "Let's go shopping tomorrow for some clothes, and we'll need supplies...gosh, do you think we're too old for lunch boxes now?"

I expected Rosie to laugh at me and say something about how we didn't have to return to Addison High School for another month still, but she was quiet. Her slim body hunched ridgedly over the grass as she pressed her face against her palms, her eyes clenched tightly shut beneath a shroud of long hair. She looked like a broken doll.

"Rose?" Her shirt was damp with sweat, but her shoulder felt cold and clammy as I slid my hand over her arm.

Suddenly my mind flashed me an image from years ago, when Rosie had given me a special wind-up toy for my seventh birthday. It was a little tin man in a kimono with his palms pressed together, and when I wound him up, he would bow. Over and over, up and down, until key in his back stopped turning. And then he would freeze until I wound him up again.

Rosie and I both had played with that wind-up man so much, that after a year, the spring inside his back finally broke and he no longer moved when we turned the key. His body was bent over in a crooked, unnatural position, deep into a last bow that he would never rise from again.

I had the sudden thought that Rosie, doubled over on the porch steps, coughing with blood streaming between her lips, looked a lot like that wind-up man.

The End

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