When school let out, Helen and I
spent every passing moment together outdoors;
under the sky, blue with the youth of day, we could
talk and laugh and share time without the burden of
schoolwork to trundle home to. She liked to
come up with stories, and we'd trade ideas as we
lay on the grass, each with one hand under our heads
and the other pulling dandelions, scattering
the globe of seeds with each puff of breath and dream.
We talked of castles in the clouds, we imagined flight
and the feeling of weightlessness without the gravity of life.

Naomi and I spent weekends at the library, whispering
in between shelves as we searched for summer reading books;
we would whisper about each character we had just met,
about their adventures and about their worlds. We told each other
that when we grew up, we were going to become explorers,
so that we too could chart out new adventures and learn to
discover ourselves properly. If we never found a new path,
we’d become doctors instead—we’d help the needy and the sick,
give them another day to find an adventure for themselves instead.

Whenever the sun petered into grey and the clouds broke rain,
Audrey and I would go the movies. We’d buy popcorn and
sour candy that would leave traces of sugar on our fingers, and
we’d watch the films through critical lens—the stories did not
end on screen, and afterwards, as we waited out the rain
under red striped awnings or walked home together, we’d discuss
the various endings and lives that the remaining characters
could have lived out. We wondered if, after the summer, and
the school year began anew, whether or not we’d be able to find that
we’d like, where our lives would go, and where’d our paths would take us.
If anything, we could always muster through and await the next cycle,
the next summer of possibility, when we could return to the sun,
chart new adventures through library shelves, and find solace in the dark.
We never thought that one day we’d be barred from that same space of summer.

STEPHANIE TOM is a high school student living in New York. She writes and serves as an editor for both her school newspaper and literary magazine. She has previously won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her poetry, and her work has either appeared in or is forthcoming in Dear Damsels, Hypertrophic Literary, and The Rising Phoenix Review, among other places.