by Lisa Ferranti
Rock, Paper, Scissors
The first word Rory said to me: ignoramus.
Sixth grade science, geology. Metamorphic. Sedimentary.
“You mean igneous?” I said.
“Just testing you.” He smirked. Right cheek, dimple.
It was the year I spelled my name Maddi, the dot a squiggly heart. My hair hung in a dark sheet to my butt. A chain dangled from his belt.
His paper covered my rock, so I agreed to go with him to the lake after school. We jumped from one boulder to the next, slipping on foam and grasping hands for balance, letting go as soon as we were steady.
Mother May I?
Rory flung pebbles at my window, and we snuck out to the lake late at night. Not asking permission a small rebellion. I helped him memorize the periodic table while he tossed stones that the water happily swallowed.
“What good will it do me to know H stands for hydrogen?”
“Hydrogen’s the most abundant chemical substance in the Universe,” I said.
We lay back, counted stars. I counted the years until college.
Spin the Bottle
Our favorite summer pastime: scouring the shoreline for glass. Rory kicked an emerald bottle, its edges rounded, the smooth spout pointing at me. I nudged it with my toe.
A low cloud skirted the sun. Dark stubble, that seemed to have sprouted overnight, obscured his dimple.
We sat on the break wall, watched the last of the sunset, the squawk of seagulls our soundtrack. His knee rested against mine, and we turned our heads, so we were face to face. I thought we might kiss, but then he looked away, the moment passing.
Barbie Deluxe Styling Head
Rory didn’t want to, but I made him. We were at the lake, night before the start of freshman year.
He always carried his Swiss Army knife.
I stretched a hunk of my long hair toward him.
“I need to look serious. Smart.”
He finally snipped, and dark strands fell to the sand. It took him a long time to get through all of my hair with the tiny blades. I stood still in the twilight, watched gulls land and comb the beach.
When I got my college acceptance, Rory was the first person I wanted to tell, even though sophomore year our paths had diverged. He’d joked he took the road less traveled, to the vocational school. I’d gone the Honors route.
I texted him, Ivy League, here I come.
guess ur not an ignoramus, Madelyn.
c u at graduation?
too much pomp, not enough circumstance, he texted. Then, bet u’ll look cute in ur cap tho.
u mean mortarboard.
I’d heard he was mixed up with some questionable kids, and I wanted to tell him be careful. stay safe. But instead, I added a smiley face emoji, and, at the last second, a heart.
The day my mom called to tell me I was at the beach with friends from school. One bad drug laced with another, worse one, and he’d overdosed. I walked along the water’s edge, pushed a loose strand of hair behind my ear. I touched the blunt ends that reached only to my chin. No more pigtails. No Rory to pull them, anyway. Not in a long time. Not that Rory. Not that Maddi. I picked up a stone, perfect for skipping. But I held onto it, worried its smooth surface with my thumb, not wanting to let go, to hear the hollow plunk it would make before sinking.
Lisa Ferranti‘s fiction was a Top 25 finalist in a Glimmer Train contest, twice short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and a Reflex Fiction finalist (BSF 2019 nominated). Her stories have appeared in Spelk, Lunate, New Flash Fiction Review, Literary Mama and Lost Balloon (Wigleaf Top 100 2019), among others. She lives with her family in NE Ohio.