Patriotic music bombarded the park as the high school marching band kicked off its farewell concert. Seated cross-legged on an army blanket with Tim, Brandon and one of the tenth-grade English teachers, Theresa, a bleached blonde who kept sneaking glances at Tim’s buddy, Rachel smiled and sipped her cola. The sun had started to set, leaving far corners of the park in slightly strange, shadowed patterns, and Rachel shivered as a chill brushed through her.
Tim noticed, and slipped out of his jacket as she started to protest.
“No, Tim, keep that. It’s my own fault, I wasn’t planning on staying past the barbecue.”
“I insist.” He draped it gently around her shoulders, his woodsy scent enveloping her.
“Thanks,” she said, her voice a whisper as the band paused between songs. “You think they have fireworks?” She couldn’t keep the enthusiasm from her voice. The only fireworks she’d seen the past few years came from Davie when he dropped a soufflé or something equally disastrous.
Tim shrugged. Brandon looked over and shrugged, then managed a smile in Theresa’s direction. The band broke into an ear piercing rendition of “We Will Rock You,” a tune Rachel recognized, although the real title, if it had one, eluded her. Teenagers began a pattern of stomping and clapping in time to the music.
But the name of the song wasn’t as worrisome a question as to when she should leave. She had to make candy for tomorrow’s fellowship refreshments. Even though they wouldn’t necessarily be expecting her, she wanted to show nothing as far as her service had changed. So why was she hanging here, swatting mosquitoes and enjoying sitting with Tim? She decided it must be the fragrance of smoky campfires and toasting marshmallows.
He leaned toward her, to speak gently into her ear. “Have you come up with a solution yet?”
Still staring straight ahead, at the musicians, Rachel didn’t need to see his face to know what he was talking about. An inkling of irritation shot up her spine, ruining the peace of her after-fattening-picnic mood.
He must have taken her silence for lack of response. “I felt so bad seeing that they shot you down at the bank. That must have been really tough.”
Rachel clenched her teeth. What was this, now he had to rub it in?
“If you don’t want to talk about it, just say so. Otherwise I’m going to keep asking questions like “How bad off are you? Will you have the stuff you need for my party next weekend? What if you-”
“Please stop!” Rachel whirled to face him. “You’re right. I don’t want to talk about it.” She yanked his jacket from her shoulders and dropped it in his lap. “Thanks for that, but I have to go.”
She saw Brandon and Theresa eyeing her curiously, but she didn’t care. Could she not have one pleasant afternoon without having to worry about her future? With a glance at Tim as she rose, she answered her own question.
Obviously, no, she could not.
What’s your favorite July 4th memory? Why?