Emily and my paths crossed at exactly the right time. I had "sort of" known her for years. She was the blonde girl with a mouth full of braces who ate with the drama kids, the girl who sat in front of me in Ethics and Morality my entire junior year, picking apart the cuff of her uniform sweater. I lent her my notes once or twice, but I had never spoken to her, never broken the wall that exists between strangers.

How it happened doesn't really matter. What matters most is the fact that it happened. School ended in May and as the pollen count went down the days lengthened, the humidity increased, and obligation melted away. That was when something happened between Emily and me. Maybe it was because we were both broken in the right way, like two porcelain jars that had been dropped and shattered. We had cracks that fit into each other, and somehow, that summer, we made each other whole.

Emily looked to me like the great state of California: 5'7", arms and legs bronzed by mornings spent at the pool, waves of golden hair cascading down her back, and eyes that sparkled like chunks of sky among long dark lashes as she laughed. I couldn't have been more different: from my dark, short curly hair, to my chocolate eyes, and my tendency to treat life with a kind of serious pensiveness. But it was our differences, and the friction created by them, that lead to the jumping sparks that began the fire of those months.

Emily had within her grasp a kind of freedom that I had only dreamed of possessing. Her 1992 Toyota Corolla, respectfully named Little Blue, offered us the world. Every time the car started it revealed to us the possibility of just beginning to drive and never stopping, going into the great unknown where anything could happen and most surely would. Emily was a creature of the summer and I desperately wanted to be one, too.

The memories ran together like a sweet golden river. With the warmth of sunshine on winter shoulders, the two of us flitted in and out of boutiques where we couldn't afford a thing.

It was a summer of lists: sunglasses, iced coffee melting in thin plastic cups, a concrete picnic table, thighs red from sweltering seats, crumpled dollar bills and four quarters, one pocket-sized notebook with a bent, bright green cover, plenty of empty lined pages, and a capless pen. Lists of what we wanted to change about ourselves. Lists of what was wrong with the world. Lists of who we wanted to kiss and lists of our dreams for the summer. Lists were perfect for us; they offered a possibility of something unbelievably wonderful. They were something to dream about. They were stories of the future and once they were written what did it really matter if we completed them? The idea existed, and somehow that was all we needed.

Nine o'clock was early. The fireflies were our light as we stayed up all night, lying to our parents, wading through the humidity and stumbling roots deep within Cherokee park, exploring a world of night time, dark paths, deep woods, and discovering our secret spot.

Emily took me away from my inner-city home and out into the endlessly reaching suburbs, down streets of brick homes, black roofs, and green clipped lawns. At two a.m. we wandered down streets vacant of cars and illuminated by sparse streetlights, and I cried at the sky that burned live with stars above me.

"Emily, look at the universe!"

Emily taught me how to break rules. Little Blue's engine chugged as we passed 25 mph and headed into the unknown realm of illegality. She slid through red lights with ease as my shoulders tightened and then slowly loosened.

The little rules that we broke piled up around us: an afternoon spent in Panera Bread, eating only things we had not purchased from the bakery, turned into a summer of afternoons eating salsa and scoop chips from the grocery store down the road, constantly refilling a clear plastic Panera cup that was weeks old, enjoying the purple bench seat, the aroma of bread, and the sweet, pointless music that invaded our ears.

Emily bubbled with a kind of contagious emotion. Something was always weighing heavy on her heart: the malnourished children she had met in Guatemala, or the way our world was so quick to turn on the kind of deep love that makes us human. Emily and I knew how to cry.

But, at the same time, Emily taught me how to laugh, and we rolled around on the floor, our sides splitting with unstoppable bubbling. Life was funny.  

The summer passed the way summers do. You're in the middle of it until you're not, and then it begins to rush past you until school looms on the horizon and August brings with it the final sticky finale. Our lives were suddenly filled with "remember whens."

The last weekend before school we pitched her tent on the stretching lawn that unfolded behind her home and settled in upon the lumpy ground, watching the stars rise through the thin netting of the tent.

"I don't want to start this year," she whispered. "It's the beginning of the end." I rested my face on her shoulder as the tears welled up in her like a wave.

"Are you afraid?" I asked, my words almost hidden beneath the night sounds that spun around us. She nodded slowly.

"Nothing will be the same." Eyes stinging, I sat up, staring down at her face that sparkled in the dim, celestial light.

"Everything will be perfect, Emily. There is nothing to be afraid of." My voice was as sure and steadfast as the memories that jumped and sparked within me. I knew that I was telling the truth.

At that moment, it seemed like I could plan the future. We made marvelously detailed lists about all of the things we would do our senior year. We knew for sure that nothing would change; we would be creatures of summer, living on whims and fizzing laughter forever.

But the days shortened, the air sharpened, and the shadows of fall gathered, casting into relief the cracks that riddled Emily, the cracks that summer's high noon day sun had hidden from me. Emily began to falter, her moods lashing out violently, her life forming into patterns of desolation. Schoolwork went by the way side as anger bubbled within her.

In October, she totaled Little Blue, destroying all connections we had to freedom. In November she made out with the boy I liked in our secret spot in the park, decimating it, forever dirtying it. By December, she was failing four of her classes, which left the bright dream of college teetering in the balance. Suddenly, her ideas did not seem infallible. Suddenly, we did not fit. Emily crumbled before my eyes.

Silence gathered between us.

Soon, nothing was left.

I painted the memories. The golden greens and sparkling blues of day mingled with the rich purples and
glowing oranges of night.

Fiona Grant is a freshman English major from Louisville, Kentucky. She hopes to gain and share a deep-seated understanding of our cosmos, reality,
and all that is human actuality.