Ariel has sunset hair, pink with hints of orange and I like to run my fingers through it as often as I can, braiding it, stroking it, playing with it. A clear butterfly clip always pins her grown out bangs back. Last summer she had plain brown hair and I loved her just as much.
I catch the beach ball and my thumb lands on the question "If you had to be physically attached to someone for the rest of your life, who would it be?"
I don't even hesitate. From the other side of the cross-legged circle, she smiles at me.
Laughing, we cover each other's arms with blue paint in the arts & crafts cabin, careful not to get any on the stacks of bracelets we wear. All year, she wears friendship and band bracelets. They complement her Gorillaz t-shirt. Each bracelet has a meaning to her. The only one on my wrist that really means anything is the one she made for me last summer.
She laces her neon pink Vans backwards with bows at the toes, so I do the same with my navy blue Converse. I keep them like that all year, a small reminder of her. We braid our hair and tie bandanas around our heads, Rosie the Riveter style. We wear short shorts and tight tank tops and pretty shirts. We are beautiful. We are fifteen, the oldest at Camp Middlesex. We are boy crazy. We are crazier about each other than we are about boys, but we don't yet understand what this means.
Will anyone ask us to the dance? We slow dance together when the boys don't come through. With each other, we don't have to stay an arms' length apart to "leave room for the camp spirit." The counselor who jokingly brought the yard stick to measure distance between dancers skips right over us. We're just two girls swaying back and forth. It means nothing. It means everything. But we're just two girls. Just dancing.
On movie nights they separate the boys and girls. Ariel and I nuzzle into each other on top of my sleeping bag, snuggling under her blanket. We giggle over snacks, our legs intertwine, our feet find each other. I've never felt this close to anyone before. Even in this dark rec hall, she is a light.
On the last day of camp, we hug and cry and cry and hug, our fingers covered in hardened wax from the candlelight ceremony that happened minutes earlier. Her waxy hands grab my face and wipe away my tears, she kisses me on the forehead. She will miss me, she says.
I will miss her too. Her pastel pink hair. Her bracelets. Her endless hugs and her backwards laces. Her enamel-less front teeth and her eyes that squint when she smiles. Her small hands that hold mine when we walk down to the flagpole from Hilltop Cabin. I will miss her, how for two weeks a year, she feels like home.
Heather Domenicis is an Upper Manhattan based writer moonlighting at a tech startup. She holds an MFA from The New School and is a Non-Fiction Editor at LIT Magazine. Her work can be seen in Hobart and [sub]liminal and she is writing a memoir about her childhood. She sometimes tweets @heatherlynnd11.