Emma woke up around noon. She opened her eyes, saw her bedpost. Must have fallen off the bed while she slept. A cluster of dust bunnies huddled on the right side of the post.
She imagined them planning their next attack on her throw rug. Standing around a little map of her bedroom, the general seated in a little throne made from a gum wrapper. They would attack from the north and east, cornering her beloved rug between the dresser and the bed. It would have no chance against their fire arrows and cannons. The epic battle would last four days, the throw rug about to surrender and begin composing a treaty to the dust bunny general—
Emma realized she had fallen back asleep and forced herself up. It was now a quarter to one. She untangled herself from her comforter, a butterfly about to emerge.
She blinked four times. Quick. Quick. Slow. Quick.
The room was well lit by the sun. She avoided tripping over her piles of Hemingway and Faulkner, but kicked Melville all over the floor. She chuckled at her own symbolism.
Emma dragged her feet to the kitchen and poured water into her old teapot. It reflected the sun’s light into her eyes.
The teapot’s impact echoed from the sink. She picked it up and slammed it onto the stove. She grabbed a mug, debated which tea to drink. English Breakfast seemed the most logical. It also made her feel regal.
After drinking her tea, Emma got ready for the day. It was almost four.
Her phone’s blue light shined through her living room. It was a message from her friend, Erica, who wanted to go on a walk. Emma looked at the pile of reading she had to do that weekend and decided to go on the walk.
They met at the park at the edge of their neighborhood. When they were kids, they would play there after school— tag around the slide, backflips off the swing set, castles in the sandbox. The slide was taken away when they got into middle school, the swings in high school. Oddly, they left the swing set’s frame, only removing the swings. So, a rusty lower-case N stood in a mixture of gravel and bark, victorious in its war with time.
Emma stood by the frame, ran her fingers over the rust. The blue paint that mirrored the summer sky was still clinging to parts of it. Some was eaten by rust. Her pinky finger moved from the rust onto the paint, but it flaked and fell to the ground. She stared at the lonely flake as it lied on the cold gravel.
By the time Erica arrived, Emma had lied down by the flake and began staring at the sky through the gaps in the trees.
Erica approached hesitantly. “Emma?”
“You doin’ ok?”
Emma shook her head, “Yeah. Yes. I’m fine. Yes.” She picked herself up and brushed off her arms and legs. “How are you?”
“I’m good, not laying in gravel, the usual.”
“Hah hah. So clever.” Clouds of dirt and bark glowed in the evening sun. “Do you have anywhere in mind?”
“I was thinking about going through the woods to the pond.”
Emma agreed, and they headed off, talking about what they had done over the summer, the people from high school they hated, and their confusion over Pierce College’s registration process.
The conversation was fairly one-sided. Erica dominated, choosing which tangents the conversation should go on, like a park ranger leading a hike on a trail with many forks.
Emma didn’t mind. She understood that Erica exaggerated her views a lot. It seemed like Erica found some comfort in portraying a caricature instead of her real self around other people, like how a sunny winter day looks warm, feels cold.
They arrived at the pond around five-thirty. A mallard couple swam by the dock they stood on. The sun danced on their ripples. Emma assumed they were on a date.
Erica stared at the mallards. “Remember when we came here after Josh broke his arm in 7th grade?”
“I remember seeing him in gym. We were playing dodgeball, and he was the last one left on his team and he took a huge drive to avoid one of those red, smelly balls, and he hit the floor, and there was this empty thud, followed by him yelling, ‘Fuck!’ and the teachers debated over scolding him before they realized he needed help, and…”
Emma had heard this story a hundred times. It happened every time they came to the pond or Erica thought about something bigger than herself.
“… We all came here after school, and we started trying to figure out what had really happened…”
“Yeah, and Dina wouldn’t shut up about all the blood.”
“I know! There wasn’t even that much of it either!” Erica laughed at the memory. Emma smirked.
The two sat on the edge of the dock with their feet in the pond, kicking cool water into the warm air.
Emma focused on trying to create a momentary rainbow while Erica recalled other stories about Josh, Dina, and other people from their childhood. She considered it a good use of her time.