The car rolled to a stop along the sidewalk, “Beach Boys” was playing in the background. “Now listen, mom wants you back home before midnight. If you don’t show up, she’ll make you clean the dog again. And I’ll make you do a week’s worth of my homework when school starts up.” The car door shut as she turned back to her bikini-topped older sister.
“Yeah, yeah. And I’ll tell mom about your little boyfriend over there.” Her eyes turned back to the passenger seat, darting in his direction. Her older sister stuck her tongue out, annoyed with the comeback.
“Watch it, twerp!” He yelled, pulling a cigarette out of his backpack along with a lighter. His hand was placed along the side of the door, watching the still road.
“What have I told you? No smoking in the car! It’s brand new!” She slapped his arm with the back of her hand before leaving her last few words to her younger sister.
“Just be home on time, only one of us can be out late and it sure as hell isn’t you.” With an eye roll, she drove off towards the beach. Or maybe her boyfriend’s house. Either way, Angela didn’t care. Making her way to the base of her trail, she was excited to see what the evening had in store for her.
Angela’s friends were already waiting for her, ready to make the trek up the steep hill ahead of them. She ran over, hugging each of them with a strong grip.
“Lexi, you got the blanket?” She gave a quick nod with a bright smile, she’d always been a shy and quiet girl.
“Yep! Do you bring the grilled cheeses?” Asked Katherine. Angela pulled out the bag behind her, showing all three girls what she brought. Each of the four sandwiches wrapped up in tinfoil with their names written on them with a sharpie.
“Ready to race? You owe me last time!” Said another girl, who was about to go into the starting track position. A smile lit up on Angela’s face, as she set up for the race.
“One…two…three!” The girls raced up the trail ahead, feet hitting the floor as they raced past the wild brush beside them. The other two girls followed behind, choosing to walk instead due to the deathly heat from the sun.
Sweat dripped down her forehead as the heat began to chase after her. The only thing that protected Angela from the summer sun was a thin layer of SPF thirty sunscreen and the cool breeze from the ocean shore. Her feet rushed through the dust as she ducked over bushes, branches, and tree roots. Footsteps could be heard behind her, along with heavy gasps for air.
“Come on Kat; I know you can keep up!” With a slow walk, her friend finally made it up the hill to the top of the cliff, the wind harsher at that height. Katherine’s wavy hair turned frizzy in the summer heat, not that she cared. Her sweat felt like hot glue that got stuck to her armpits and inner calves. A laugh escaped her lips as well as a loud cough from her being out of breath.
“That’s not fair! You’ve always been faster than the rest of us!” As Katherine sat down on the dry grass, another girl came up behind her.
“Have you tried walking like the rest of us? I don’t want all that perspiration to mess with my hair; I just got it done.” She began to check her hair in her compact mirror again. Her fingers pushed her baby hairs behind her ear as she added another layer of lip gloss to her lips.
“Not all of us can be as pretty and perfect as you are, Jeanette.” Angela said sarcastically with her classic eye roll. She set her backpack on the ground next to Katherine, already pulling out the sandwiches.
With a hand on Jeanette’s shoulder, a look of happiness with slight worry crossed the youngest girl’s face. “Guys, no fighting! You both get so easily upset when you’re hungry.” With that, came a loud growl from all the girl’s stomachs. Katherine tried to stifle her laughter but ultimately failed.
“I mean, Lexi’s not wrong. We barely ate anything before we walked up here.” Katherine said as she pulled out a picnic blanket from her backpack. All the girls sat down on each corner of the blanket as Angela handed out her famous grilled cheese sandwiches.
Jeanette fixed her scrunched-up dress fabric that went down to below her kneecaps. Placing a napkin on her lap, she ate in big bites to make sure not a single crumb got stuck on her new outfit.
Kat zoned out to the sound of the ocean waves and rustling trees until a slight nudge brought her back to reality. Her white collar puffed out against her dark green sweatshirt, while her pants were held together by cheap stitches.
Lexi gazed down at the beach below the cliff they were sitting on, wondering how far the drop would be if something fell below. She stood up, making her way closer to the edge of the cliff. Her eyes stared out towards “Haystack Rock”, looking like a fist coming out of the sand below. There were families spread out across the sand, as the high tide made it perfect for summer play. “Hey, Angela? How’d you even find this spot anyway? I mean it’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong but, it’s just so far off the trail.”
“I was walking over to Jennette’s place to get my jacket back ‘cause I left it at her house from last week’s sleepover, and I saw this, like, a kid in the forest. So, I ran after him but all I could really hear was his laughter. Just as I found him and I was about to reach him, I found this place and the laughing stopped. It was creepy as hell, but at least we got a boss hangout spot out of it.”
They all gave Angela weird looks, just as Katherine realized she forgot to pull the apple juice boxes out of her heavy book bag. As she dumped them into the middle of the blanket, both Lexi and Jennette had pressing questions.
“So you saw this creepy child, in the woods, and didn’t even say anything to us about it after?” Jennette’s facial expressions went through all the seven stages of grief.
“For Christ’s sake, you could have been murdered! Or kidnapped! I don’t know what ghosts do but you could have gotten hurt!” With a clear look of panic on Lexi’s face, Angela put her hands up in defense.
“Well, I’m not murdered so, I think we’re good here! Nothing bad has happened, and probably never will. We get a nice place to hang out before summer is over and I don’t die. I’d say that’s a literal win-win situation!” Shock swept over the girl’s faces in very distinct looks of pain, anger, and sadness.
That’s the moment when it hit them, summer was coming to an end. Angela would have to go back to California, leaving Cannon Beach for at least another two years. By then, the other girls would be in college or living in some big city away from this small town like in the movies.
By then, Jennette would be living in Paris owning her fashion line. Katherine would be working at NASA, and Lexi would be a famous author who’d be too busy signing autographs to even consider coming back home. The moment of silence left as the sunset in the distance, and the napkin that Jennette kept in her lap ran off with the wind. At that moment, the summer sun felt like it had pressed pause. That it would stay in a permanent state of golden hour forever.
Lexi was the first to start crying. She’d always been the most tender-hearted out of all of the girls. At first, it was a quiet stream of soft tears that fell down her face. But, it soon turned into waterfalls that could not be contained. “I don’t want to leave you guys! I love you so much! And I’m just so,” she was cut off by a loud sniffle, trying to keep her tears from choking out her words. “So glad I met you all this year. I don’t want to go back to homeschooling. I want to hang out with you guys at school!”
As the others began to push out their feelings, the wind died down almost immediately. The waves went silent as the rumored whispers of that thick forest spread to life. Beckoning one girl after the other to come in and get swallowed by the darkness. Katherine reached down into her bag, grabbing a flashlight to look as fireflies began to light up the deep crevasses of the scene in front of them. Then, the laughter came back.
“I told you! I told you there’s a kid!” Yelled Angela, wiping her eyes that were already in pain from how heavy her tears fell. Jennette began to back up, panicking from the noises and forgetting about how close they were to the edge. Lexi grabbed her hand, pulling her back to the blanket as she held the two together.
“Yeah, yeah, we get it! Now how do we make them stop!” Jennette yelled out, not even sure whom she was yelling at at that point. Katherine’s hand shook as she held the flashlight tightly, in order not to drop it. Angela picked up her backpack, “I told you guys I’m not crazy!” As a track girl, she could often run laps around her friends at any given moment. Now, was one of them.
Racing into the woods to catch that childish voice, all three girls screamed after her. Lexi followed behind her, always trying to be the person she never could be. Jennette soon followed, worried for her friends and refusing to miss out on the off chance something amazing or dangerous might happen. Katherine had always been told to stay put when she was in danger. But now, she knew she couldn’t just sit back and wait. After picking up the blanket and shoved it into her bag as she raced towards the fireflies. She chased the bare outline of light that surrounded these girls as they ran in a semi-straight line.
“I really wish you would stop thinking with your feet instead of your head!” Yelled Katherine, the dirt crunching underneath her shoes. The Wind rushed past them all and in a flash, Angela’s babbling stopped. The girls that Katherine was following came to a complete stop. A gash was left in the earth, a ravine that was surrounded by a thin layer of fog around its borders. Lexi stood there with tears running down her face, and Jennette was in a state of pure shock to even comprehend what she had seen.
“Guys? Where’s Angela?” Katherine asked, who had been a few paces behind the three. A pause came between the two girls, and all Jenette could do was point down. Katherine walked closer to the edge and looked now. On the sides of the walls looked to be either tiny pieces of clear glass or crystals, cutting up anyone who goes down.
A solid moment passed before Jennette was able to collect her words in a whisper. “All I heard was a scream, and then she was gone.”
Kat turned her head towards her friend once more and asked. “You didn’t hear a thud? What if she’s still alive down there?” She pointed her flashlight down into the abyss, the light swallowed whole. Lexi sobbed in pain and terror, terrified by the sight.
Jennette stared at her in a form of panicked confusion, “Of course she’s dead! Do you see how far it goes down? How are we going to explain this to our parents? To her parents?” She continued rambling on with anxiety, horrified at the sight below. Lexi was shocked in a state of fear but knew in her gut what she had to do.
“We need to go down there.” Lexi turned to her, continually wiping the tears off her cheeks. Kat turned to Jennette, only to see her backing away from the ravine. Her back hit the tall white oak tree behind her.
“Jenn, we made a damn promise that whatever we do, we do together. If there’s even a sliver of a chance that Angela is down there alive and all alone, it is our job to protect her. We made a pact.”
Kat wasn’t lying, and as much as Jennette hated it, she knew it was the truth. If the others jumped down, she would be blamed for their disappearances and probably sent to jail. Then, she’d be all alone again.
Jennette reached over and took Lexi’s hand. In turn, Katherine took hers. They walked over to the edge of the cliff, staring down at the abyss below. With a slow nod to each of the girls, they took a deep breath. Jennette was the most anxious out of the three, tempted to stay in their realm in order not to die.
In a single breath, they jumped. With that jump, they were onto a new adventure in their lives. Whether it was death or a new rebirth.