No infringement of copyright is intended. I've borrowed Stephenie Meyer's characters' names. The rest of this unbeta'd story is mine, including any errors you might find.
Chapter One – That Was Yesterday
August 20, 2012
"Is your phone charged?"
I glance at my daughter's bare shoulders. "Are you taking sunscreen?"
"I put some on when I got out of the shower."
"A hat? You should take a hat."
She rolls her eyes as she brushes past me, escaping from her bathroom and slipping into the safety of her bedroom. I stand, adrift in the hallway, other motherly advice about staying hydrated, not overdoing it with the sweets and avoiding any sketchy rides percolate behind my lips. I can't even let myself contemplate sketchy guys.
Moments later when she re-emerges from her bedroom, I'm still standing in the hall like a bump on a log, as my own mother used to say. Carlie almost crashes into me, head down, her thumbs flying across her phone's miniature keyboard.
"Mallory's gonna be here any minute," she says, pulling up short in front of me. "I've gotta go."
I watch her stuff her phone into the back pocket of her tiny jean cut-offs. When did clothes become so small?
"You'll be careful?" I say, grabbing her hands. "Keep me posted on how things are going?"
"You'll be texting and messaging people all day, anyway. A quick message to me now and then is all I ask. Don't make me spy on your Twitter timeline."
"Okay, I promise to text you if you promise not to be a creepy lurker," she says, looking at me from under her carefully tweezed brows.
"I solemnly promise not to be a creepy lurker."
I borrow my daughter's vernacular the way she borrows my old concert T-shirts: liberally and without permission.
"Deal. I'll text you every few hours."
A blaring car horn interrupts our negotiations.
"That's Mall. Gotta go."
Carlie gives me a cursory peck on the cheek, an outpouring of affection compared to what I'd normally get—a hollered "Seeya!" from the front door. Her generosity is most likely a result of my willingness to let her take this solo trip into the city. The unsupervised outing coupled with the fact that she's going from the amusement park straight to her father's house for a three-day visit has made me a bit of a basket case.
I follow her down the stairs, tell her I love her and then stand in the doorway to watch as she clambers into the back seat of Mallory Maitlin's car. Mallory's father is at the wheel. He waves out the window as he backs out and drives away. I breathe in and out, slowly and evenly. Then I close the front door and drop my head in my hands.
My baby's all grown up. When did this happen?
I'm fully prepared to feel sorry for myself for at least an hour before launching into household chores, but the phone rings, forcing the temporary postponement of my pity party. My voice as I answer is little more than a croak. I clear my throat and try again.
"Bella? Is that you?"
"Hi. Your voice sounds funny. Are you sick? Wait, you're not crying, are you? Did the ex from hell bail again?"
"No, I'm not sick. And Carlie's spending the next few days at her dad's, if you can believe it. No, I'm fine, really. Well, sort of fine. I'm glad you called."
Once more, as if she has some sort of emotional radar, my best friend has phoned me when I need her shoulder the most.
"What's going on? You don't sound okay at all."
"Oh, it's nothing, really." I wander into the family room and drop onto the couch, straightening cushions as I recline. "Carlie's just left for the Exhibition with one of her friends. First time going into the city alone. I'm having a bit of a meltdown. She walked out the door two minutes ago. I probably need a few minutes to process. I'll be fine."
"Aw, you poor thing. Jasper and I are freaking out about Audrey coming home from school this year instead of going to the sitter's, so trust me, I get where you're coming from. So the girl Carlie's heading to the city with—she a decent kid?"
"Mallory? She's okay. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders. I hope they'll watch out for each other."
"I'm sure everything will be fine. I'd say 'don't worry,' but I know I'd be wasting my breath."
"Very true." I smile despite my rising anxiety.
"God, the Exhibition, eh?"
I hear the nostalgic tone in Alice's voice and right away I know what she's thinking about.
"Don't go there, Alice. I'm sure that's what's got me so keyed up."
"What, the fact that we were such rebels? You know exactly what your sixteen-year-old daughter might be capable of?"
"Not helping, Alice." I sigh and cover my eyes with my hand.
"Oh, come on, Bella. We were perfectly harmless. Just a couple of kids stretching our wings. She'll go on a few rides, eat way too much junk food and ogle a few guys. No harm done."
"If Carlie even thinks of doing half the stuff we did, I'll break both of her kneecaps."
Alice laughs, but I can't bring myself to join her. When I think of the summer of 1984, I might summon up a sad smile, but I rarely laugh.
Regret doesn't often incite laughter.
After we've hung up, I feel a bit better. I try to tell myself Carlie will be fine. I've raised her well and she's a decent kid. Like that woman on TV keeps reminding us, we can't keep our kids in bubble wrap. I should be proud that Carlie isn't afraid to navigate the world.
Talking to Alice about our summer escapades at the Exhibition has stirred up my own memories, though. Spurred on by our reminiscences, I abandon the dishes in the sink and ignore the two baskets of laundry waiting to be folded. Instead, I find myself in the basement crawlspace, wading through boxes .
It doesn't take me long to find what I'm looking for. Jammed behind the enormous plastic tub teeming with Carlie's old dress-up costumes and underneath a garbage bag full of discarded stuffed animals, there's a battered box. It's not identified in any way with exterior markings, but I've carried this box around with me from house to house for the last twenty-five years. I haven't cracked it open for at least a decade, but I know exactly what's inside. I maneuver it out of the cramped space, blow the layer of dust from the top and carry it upstairs, stopping at the top step to contemplate where I'll put it.
I have the whole day to indulge my misery. Heck, I have three days! I might as well wallow in the comfort of my living room. I drop the box on the coffee table and stare at it for a minute. I need some mood music. After leafing through my CD collection, I settle on Foreigner's Agent Provocateur. I'm not messing around here. This will be some serious wallowing. I might even go as far as to say it will be epic.
I can almost see Carlie rolling her eyes at me.
When I peel back the dried tape and open the flaps of the box, the surge of nostalgia is so powerful, my stomach flips over and I have to sit back on the couch to regroup. By the time Lou Gramm has started singing "That was Yesterday," I'm leaning forward, eagerly rifling through the contents of the box.
Yearbooks stacked on top give way to class pictures. Underneath the photos is a pile of clipped together notes, messages exchanged with friends while I should have been paying attention in class. Next are collated report cards and certificates of merit, rewards for participation in various activities. Then, at the bottom, lies a little stuffed bear—a midway prize—and tucked in its embrace, a faded envelope. This is what I'd been looking for.
I sit the bear on my lap and pull the envelope free, quickly scanning the contents. Inside there are a handful of dried rose petals, several ticket stubs to the Canadian National Exhibition, a gum wrapper, a movie ticket receipt, and a torn off flap from a cigarette pack with a phone number hastily scribbled across it. Then, of course, there's the photo, one in which I'm not even the focal point, but there all the same. I'm in the background, staring up at a handsome young man whose hand rests lightly on my hip.
These are the souvenirs of the summer of 1984. This is all that remains.
Unless you count the memories.
... ... ...
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