1 Last Day of Summer Vacation

Currently, I sat at the end of the pier, waiting. My eyes were scanning the blue sea for boats. And sea monsters. Mostly boats though. I was far from the entrance of the Sunset Pop-up Park. The midday sun was bright, burning my bare shoulders and thighs. The air was filled with the buzz of idle summer chatter. Somewhere behind me, I could hear the shouts of kids playing in line. Their game sounded serious.

Rivers of people passed me, smelling like sweat and sunscreen. I've never liked sunscreen. It's smelly, and oily. In my opinion, it's one of the worst smells a person has to deal with during the summer. The sugary sweet smell of melting vanilla ice cream on wood was in close second.

A pair of legs appeared out of the corner of my eye. A man had stopped. He stood next to me in flowery yellow shorts and orange flip-flops. He smelled like cheap cologne and beer, and in his hand, he held a pink phone, while his free hand waved signals at someone. I wondered who, so I looked over my shoulder. A cute college girl in a stylish yellow bikini and large sunhat waved back. She started posing for him. Click. Click-click. I ignored them, turning away. The ocean was so big. Or were people too small? Do fish get lost? Do they get separated from each other?

I sighed, a little gloomy. It was busy for a Sunday, but today wasn't just any Sunday. It was the last day of summer vacation. My last chance to hang out with Éclair and Ginger before high school got in the way. Before we'd have to split up.

I frowned, watching a yacht appear over the horizon. The hull was monochrome with a sleek design. It reminded me of Éclair's new school uniform.

It had been a normal day. Éclair had invited Ginger and me over to her valley-mansion. We were in her spacious princess-y room, sitting on her SuperSoft mattress.

"Well?" Éclair had asked, twirling for us. "How do I look?" She was beyond excited. Thrilled even. But I was secretly horrified. It had only been a few days since we'd graduated from middle school. I had assumed this meeting was to discuss what movies we were going to watch together that weekend. Every weekend, actually. Until school started again.

"It has a very modern look," Ginger had said, nodding. "It suits you."

Éclair puffed out her chest. "Good answer! What about you Rosy? How do I look?"

Both my friends were staring at me now. Ginger's sharp dark eyes smoothly locked with mine. I bit my lip, turning to look at Éclair. She was bouncing on her heels, a big dumb grin on her face. Her brown eyes were looking at me expectantly.

Turn down the dazzle! It doesn't work on me! Hm. She only did this sort of thing when she wanted the truth, but I couldn't give it to her.

"I love it!" I said. "I'm so happy you're going to a specialized high school Éclair…" Okay, that wasn't a full lie. Her blazer was elegant and well fitting. She looked glamorous in it. But I wanted to go to school with her! With both of my best friends!

Éclair hadn't noticed my sour mood. Happy with my answer, she turned to admire herself in the mirror. "Ha-ha! My look will be complete by the end of the summer! I'm growing my hair out, you know."

"Wow. Really?" I said without thinking. "I've never seen you with long hair before…" Éclair always had her sunflower blonde hair cut right below her ears. She had looked the same since the second grade. No, before that even!

"I'm actually thinking of doing something similar with my hair," Ginger said calmly.

Huh?

Ginger's hair was ridiculously long, snaking below her waist. Back then, it was up in a ponytail, tied together by a purple ribbon. Something I remember getting her as a birthday present.

"What do you mean, Ginge?" Éclair was looking at Ginger with catlike curiosity. I didn't realize it then, but I must have been giving Ginger an even dumber look. She seemed to hesitate; her cheeks growing flush.

"I-I'm thinking of cutting my hair…"

Glancing back out at the sea, I noticed a few smaller boats appear on the horizon. These smaller vessels looked like little triangles from so far away. They moved in random patterns. Some came together in clusters, and others broke apart.

I sighed. What was I even doing here?

I haven't seen my two best friends since that meet up at Éclair's. Something always came up with them whenever I tried to plan anything. A party, a weekend abroad, a suitor that needed to be entertained. Things like that.

I glanced at my phone, checking Éclair's socials… and… and she's already met up with Ginger?! What the heck? Did I miss something?

Even worse, they had met up right outside the train station! I had offered to meet them there in our conversations last night. What changed?

I stood up, hurriedly opening our group chat. No new messages. Nothing directly from Éclair or Ginger.

Was I being pranked? My limbs fell dumbly to my sides, like bags of cement. There was no way. I've known these two girls since we were six. "Friends Forever," that was our motto. Our promise to each other since fifth grade!

I angrily grabbed my shoes, stuffing them onto my feet. My chest hurt. It hurt to admit such a thing to myself, but I was being played for a fool. Or something. I didn't care. I was leaving. A part of me had known that our friendship was too good to be true. No way two rich girls would want to be seen with me.

I stormed past the entrance of the Pop-up park. I kept my gaze straight ahead, gulping away my angry hot tears. Fine! I'll just watch the fireworks at home!

"...sy! Hey, Rosy!" Thin fingers gripped my shoulder. I was pulled out of my tunnel vision, and turned to face… Ginger?!

She was dressed in a different outfit than the one I saw on Éclair's timeline. This Ginger was in a mint-colored shirt and crimson shorts. She was also out of breath. Sweaty and bent over, sucking in air.

She stood back up, her dark eyes meeting mine. Ginger's features were in a formation I had never seen before. "We were looking all over for you!" she sputtered. I was speechless. She was mad. I realized. Mad at me. Ginger has never raised her voice before. Ah, and her hair. It was gone! Her long inky hair had been reduced to short curly tentacles. The curls framed her face well, which made her anger all the more obvious.

"W-well where were you guys?!" I shouted back. "I was waiting for you guys for like…ever!"

"Rosy, do you know what time it is?" Ginger asked pointedly. She had cooled off a little.

What kind of question was that? I frowned, digging my phone out of my pocket. "Of course I know what time it is!" After a quick glance, I show Ginger my screen. "It's 1:27." I was excited, and arrived at the pier a little earlier than normal. Not that that was an excuse. The meetup time we had all agreed on was 12:15pm…

She shook her head at me. "No," she said, showing me her own phone. "It's 12:27!" she huffed, the anger sliding off her face. "Rosy," she sighed, "did you forget to change your clock?"

My face felt hot. I didn't answer. Instead, I quickly unlocked my screen. I went into my system settings, and checked the regional time. No way, right? No way such a dumb mistake could happen to me… Oh no.

"Ginger…" I whispered. I was sniffling. My vision was blurry. "Promise you won't be mad…"

Ginger wasn't mad. We laughed it off on our way to the line. Éclair was waving at us behind the ropes. Her mom had gotten us all-access passes for the day.

"Finally!" she said, giving me a big hug. "I was worried you skipped out on us or something, Rosy."

I nodded embarrassed. I didn't say 'me too,' or anything incriminating like that though. Instead I focused on something new, like her hair.

"You like it?" she asked, twirling a strand between her fingers. She must have caught me staring.

"Yeah, it suits you." That was the truth. It was a little weird seeing hair past her shoulders, but it was even weirder seeing ringlet curls at the bottom, but the look… it had a certain charm about it. It was unmistakably, 'Éclair.'

"Thanks for the compliment! But we didn't come all the way out here for just me to have fun, right? Let's enjoy our last day of summer, together!" she announced. The people walking past stared at us, but this was normal behavior for Éclair. You get used to it. She ran off towards a game where you could win stuffed animals.

"I agree," Ginger nodded firmly, taking my hand. "I want to ride everything twice before the big finale." She ran off, ending up at the same booth as Éclair. I followed after them giggling. It was a two-player ring toss, and they both wanted the biggest stuffed animal.

"Big finale?" I asked, confused.

"The Big Wheel, of course!" Éclair said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"The best place to watch fireworks," Ginger added.

Wow. The Big Wheel. Had they set this whole thing up? Just for me?

I felt a pang of guilt for assuming the worst earlier. That familiar heat filled my cheeks again. I might cry. For real this time. These were good tears though. Happy tears.

"Thank you," I whispered. "I'm so happy I met you two."

The rest of the day was a blur. Ginger rode all the rides at least three times, and Éclair needed me to win her a big stuffed animal twice. Before we all knew it, the sun had set, and we were riding The Big Wheel.

The view was spectacular. We were at least a couple hundred feet in the air. High enough to see the sun disappearing under the horizon again.

We sat up there together, looking out at the sea, but I couldn't enjoy myself. Not yet. I looked at Éclair and Ginger, both sitting across from me. Éclair was lounging. Her elbow on her chin as she stared at the waves below us. Ginger was sorting through her purse, looking for her digital camera. I sighed. This was too sad. I'm not going to see Éclair as often anymore.

"Is there something on your mind, Rosy?" Ginger asked.

I almost lied again on reflex. I paused. What was I so afraid of here? We were friends, right?

"It's not fair," I started. I tried to stay cool, but I felt a passion burning in my chest. "It's not fair that me and you won't get to see Éclair anymore!"

Éclair sat up and looked at me like I had grown a third eye.

"Huh? What're you talking about? Ginger's going to a different school next year too," Éclair bluntly said.

Eh? I felt my eyes go wide. What. What? What?!

Ginger dug an elbow into Éclair's ribs.

"What?!" the blonde clicked her tongue. "It's not like Rosy doesn't know already…right?" Éclair gave me a look.

I blinked at her like an owl.

"Oh. Oops. Sorry…"

"It's fine," Ginger said, as she pulled a slim rectangle out of her purse. "I wasn't sure when to tell you actually. Before I knew it, it was the last day of summer; I had run out of time," she grasped my hand gently. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay…" I said. A part of me knew something big like this was coming. "You guys have an idea of what you want to be, but I'm not sure I'm good enough to be anything…" This was it. This was the big Goodbye.

Éclair slammed her foot down. "What are you talking about, silly? Rosy, I'm following in my parents' footsteps to be an accountant at their firm, but I suck at mathematics! If I had your math brain…" she stuttered for a moment, wiggling her fingers, "I-I wouldn't need to study so much!" She attempted to stand up, but the car we were in started to shake dangerously, so she finished her speech in her seat.

"Yes," Ginger said. "There is no shame in the unknown. I'm going to my school because I want to be an engineer. But you Rosy… You are unique. A jack-of-all-trades kind of person. Somehow you are able to change yourself into whatever you need to be. Your adaptability is something to be admired."

I stared at them. I was dumbstruck.

"So… you guys still want to be my friends?" I asked.

""Of course!"" Such a unified response! I felt the weight of my worries lift almost completely off my shoulders.

Éclair crossed her arms. "I think," she said, "we need to 'renew our vows,' so-to-speak. In those drama shows my dad always watches, after something unfaithful happens, the couple always goes to a priest and they say their wedding vows again. That seems to make everything better!"

"I don't understand…" I said. Éclair sometimes talked just to hear the sound of her own voice. Was this one of those times again?

"I think we need to pretend we're in the fifth grade again," Ginger said with a wink. She placed her hand out, palm down. Éclair put her hand on top, and I followed, feeling a little silly.

Just then, the fireworks shot upwards, exploding. I couldn't hear anything, and the world couldn't hear us. But all of us knew what was being said, what was being promised. "Together forever, no matter what!"