Rising and Falling and Crashing
By Alice Rosenberg
The five “Yearlies” stay on the tiny beach island over the summer, while the rest of their boarding school friends go home.
Lucy wakes to the sound of an osprey calling to its mate and sunlight streaming in through the cracks in her shutters. When she closes her eyes and holds her breath and blocks out all other sounds, she can just barely hear the waves crashing on the shore and pulling back into the water.
The landing at the top of the stairs will groan underneath the quiet weight of her foot, and 100-year-old support beams will groan back. The bottom of the screen door that refuses to fit inside the frame will swing open first, boasting to the rest of the house how lucky it is to be the first one outside every morning, and the last one inside every night. The cushions will still be damp with morning dew despite the fact that in a few hours, the sun will make them too hot to touch.
In less time than that, the front gate will swing open, the vines wrapped around it shaking at the impact of warped wood on the rusty metal latch.
There will be a steady stream of people, sandy feet hovering outside the door and dripping bodies leaning in, yelling upstairs at the top of their lungs, only to be met with a reply from right behind them, then loud laughter from both of their mouths.
In less time than it takes for the sun to heat the house, and the cushions to dry, and the leaves to lose their moisture, the island will be awake.
But, for now, there is just Lucy, and the sunlight in her window, and the ocean waves, rising and falling and crashing and rising and falling.
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Do you know what it’s like to communicate with your family across a salty ocean’s divide? Do you want the sun and moon to enter your home with stories written in embers? Do you seek voices that will punctuate the darkness? Welcome to the other side of everything. It’s the other side of silence, the other side of childhood, the other side of hate, the other side of indifference, it’s the other side of sides, where the binary breaks down. It’s a new paradigm, a destination, a different perspective, a mindset, a state of openness, the space between the endless folds in your forehead, hopes for tomorrow, and reflections on the past. This anthology of diverse voices is an everything bagel of literary genres and love songs, secrets whispered in the dark of night, conversations held with ancestors under the sea.
She thinks for a moment how wonderful life could be if this was all there was, just endless summer and soft morning light. She wouldn’t have to worry about family weekend, or required readings, or anything else for that matter, because all that would exist would be her, and the four other Yearlies who stayed on the island when everyone else went home. The ones left behind because their parents were too busy with their very important lives to bother with their teenage children, with their —
“Lucy?” a voice calls from downstairs, distracting her from her thoughts. It’s probably Max. He’s always the last one to leave.
“What do you want, Max?”
“We’re leaving! Let’s go!”
These not-so-quiet words are just a formality. They both know exactly where they’re going, exactly what time it is, exactly where the others are.
Lucy begrudgingly rolls out of bed, moaning and groaning about how it should be illegal to wake up before the birds. She can hear the soft oomph of the peeling leather couch downstairs as Max drops onto it, his gangly legs kicking out in front of him and drumming against the coffee table in a beautifully impatient tune. She can see his arms stretching above his head from the landing, how the blush colored morning light falls onto his face like silk on a marble statue.
They walk out of the vine-covered house together, arms folded across their chests against the early morning wind, feet walking in an effortless rhythm with the other. Before they’ve even reached their destination, voices break through the leaves, and it sounds as if the branches themselves are the ones having the conversation, not their friends waiting for the late comers to arrive. In just a few short steps, they will call out to the others, smiles on their faces, bare feet eagerly running across the boardwalk to meet them.
I began to write this piece after a Saturday workshop with the opening prompt of “write about waking up in summer.” For my whole life, I’ve spent my summers in Fair Harbor, a little beach town near Long Island. I wanted to write this story based on Fair Harbor because I have countless memories there, and I know what it feels like, sounds like, smells like, to wake up there on a sunny day in July.
Alice Rosenberg is a 14-year-old writer who keeps track of all of her ideas in one of her many, many notebooks. She loves rainy days, poetry collections and forget-me-nots. Her bedroom walls are filled with magazine cutouts and other paraphernalia she has collected over the years. Her favorite word is "opia," which is the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.