Published in Think Journal in 2010; Finalist in the Delaware Beach Life Writing Contest 2007
Part 2 (Read part 1)
“If you blow away a dandelion, first close your eyes and make a wish,” Penny said one afternoon in August. She pulled one from the grass, held it like a wand, and blew, the puff of seeds scattering hazy white.
Nols rubbed his forehead, fingertips collecting oil. The corners of his eyes burned. They did not talk about his bloodshot eyes or the odor of stale beer lingering on his clothes. It was six hours after he had come home drunk and his parents threatened to throw him out again. He’d left, walked four miles to her place, and sacked out on the floor, but hardly slept.
Two hours before work, they lay tangled together in a field, Penny’s head on his chest, her arm across his stomach. The flower scent of her sweet shampoo lingered, honeysuckle or lavender, he guessed. Her cool fingers moved across his skin like waves. Nols had never met a girl like her. He liked to watch her in those quiet moments. He liked to listen to her voice, the rhythm of accent flicking on her teeth.
“I wished to one day become an artist. Watercolors, maybe,” Penny said. “Allen?”
No one had called him that in weeks. “Huh?”
He didn’t want to. At nineteen, plucking dandelions had gone the way of rubbing buttercups on your chin. Kids’ stuff. But he’d fallen for her, fallen hard. Fallen faster because he knew that soon, Penny, his first real love, was doomed to leave. He existed inside a wave all summer, her forces and tides pulling him along, sweeping him far away from shore.
“Ok,” he said. Nols picked up the dandelion, looked at Penny, and before he blew, he closed his eyes, trying to not ask for the impossible: that she might stay past summer.
After Nols and Moises had drained half the rum while cruising, they scanned around the radio for quieter music. Super star in your own private movie, Mazzy Star sang absently over lazy electric feedback. I wanted just a minor part. They were at a red light, the engine of the Camaro rattling like an old man’s cane, always near breakdown. The night was so hot they kept the windows rolled up and blasted air conditioning until their fingertips ached with chill.
A black and white patrol car pulled alongside. The cop stared through Nols.
“We’re busted for sure,” Nols said, the last word slurring. Part of him didn’t care—he’d been at the station
an hour ago. They’d called him in because Assateague Island Seashore Officials found a body in the surf and needed positive identification. Penny had been missing for six days.
“Take a breath,” Moises said. “Take a breath.”
“He’s looking right at me. He knows.”
“He’s testing us, to see if you’ll freak.” Moises slid the rum behind the seat, slow and easy. “Nols, just be cool. Don’t look.”
Ten seconds passed as the standoff continued— Nols looked ahead, willing the traffic light to change; Moises tapped his thumb on the steering wheel in time with the music. The light dropped to green.
Finally, the cop turned up an alley near Michael’s Deli, heading towards the beach.
“That was too close,” Nols said and sighed, leaning his head against the window, remembering the evening they called the police about Penny. When he couldn’t find her that morning, Nols called everyone they knew. And when she missed work in the afternoon, he dialed 9-1-1.
“Take a breath,” Moises said.