He remembered the first time he’d laid eyes on her. She had worn a floppy sun hat which almost blended into her fuzzy, straw-coloured hair and was quite attractively slumped against a rock wall.
Her eyes were squinting hard out at the beach which was swarming with activity. It was the beginning of Summer and everyone always had the same idea to come early so as to beat the crowd, it never worked of course, but it gave strangers something to complain to one another about.
“Awfully crowded isn’t it?”
The girl had drawled the words out in a hushed contralto. She sounded older than she looked.
He felt a little stupid at not knowing how to add on to such an overworked question which was more of a statement than anything.
After a few more moments of silence she slowly turned her head to face his. It was then that he realised she was only a child. Not like he was a mature man really, (although, twenty is quite old in a way) but she had such a baby face he was sure she’d only be his age at most. She was staring at him in an inquisitive sort of way, as though she’d not expected to see him there even though she had just spoken to him about a minute ago.
She said it in the same low, sultry voice which contradicted her youthful face whilst peering at him through heavy lidded eyes.
To this comment he simply shrugged his shoulders and gave her a lopsided smile. After a pause he replied with a non-committal “I guess.”
He didn’t quite know how, but by the end of the night, he was sure that he was in love with this strange but enchanting girl. Her name was Cynthia. He found this out, not from the subject herself but from one of his non-descript, old school acquaintances whom he vaguely recalled ever knowing.
“She’s a flapper if I ever saw one!”
Allan Newport had made the statement with a vigorous shake of his head which would have misled anyone into believing that he was an intimate acquaintance of the young girl in question.
“Know her well then?”
“Don’t need to. She’s got a reputation you know, popular. Been going around to parties since she was sixteen! Quite the little scandal!”
“She doesn’t seem the party type. Quite lazy-looking actually.”
Allan proceeded to slap him on the back. He found the man was getting on his nerves, there hadn’t been a single social interaction he had made tonight which hadn’t come straight out of a book.
“Ahhh. But that’s just it you see! She almost never dances, always sits in the front of the room all slumped but always gorgeous and made up like a fashion plate. She doesn’t need to prance around for attention. She knows she can get it without all that.”
He said it all with exaggerated gestures and with a wave of his hand he promptly excused himself to pursue another old school chum.
For the rest of the night he stood in the corner and observed her. Allan had been right. She never had to ask for attention, she commanded it. She was pretty, with her heavy-lidded cornflower eyes and luxuriously tanned skin, but it was more than that. It was the atmosphere that she brought with her everywhere. She hardly ever danced, or participated in games or anything, she was simply always playing hostess. Always in the middle of activity and excitement, but never a part of it.
The summer was spent with him beside her always. They never talked much, there were no organised dates and some days they wouldn’t even make eye contact. Cynthia was Cynthia. She was never pushy, or acted as though she missed you or was ever bored. He enjoyed this casual arrangement because he was young and determined to be complacent.
The same things were done everyday, like a sacred ritual. A late brunch always took place on the balcony of her villa, which overlooked the beach. A quick swim, or in her case, float would be necessary because:
“The water is too deliciously inviting. We simply MUST.”
The rest of the day would drag out slowly. The sun seemed to shine brighter and stay in the sky for longer for Cynthia’s pure enjoyment. They would drink cocktails and lay idly about doing absolutely nothing. Dinner parties and dances came about in a regular cycle, a routine which became so ordinary that no-one could really remember the week each day for day, instead seeing the whole season as one long, amorphous haze of youthful indulgence.
He thought back to that fateful night before the end of his holiday. As the last of the revellers stumbled back to their apartments, Cynthia sat ceremoniously slumped against the cool plaster wall next to the open bar. He had been feeling mysteriously peeved all night. Confused by his feelings for Cynthia – if indeed there were any – he had not been inclined to be as attached to her as usual. He had actually tried to be active and make new friends as well as dance with a few girls who he pitied had been passed over for the wilder, more boisterous girls around.
By the end of the evening, he had managed to pin down that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach as being restlessness. He hated to admit that his Grandmother had been right, but she had been right in saying one could have “too much fun.” A whole summer’s worth of relaxation had left him feeling useless and slow.
Tomorrow he would begin his trip back to school where there would be a ridiculous amount of catching up to do if he meant to to pass his exams.
It was then that he realised that Cynthia had not come up in his stream of thoughts at all so far, that he wondered if he should talk to her – but what of? They had been on each other’s arm for most of the season, there had been obvious and careless flirtation on both sides, but what more? Nothing of solidarity. As he looked at her through the large windows, her fluid figure loose and relaxed against the wall, he doubted if their relationship was anything at all. He felt no hurting of his heart or concern for her. He knew she must feel the way he did. It finally dawned on him that he was most probably one in a long line of other ‘friends’ she had entertained for the holidays.
The next morning, after packing his bags and sending off a few late letters, he contemplated showing up at her door and saying goodbye. In the end he figured a note would do and wrote one as short, vague and distant as he felt their relationship was to him.
Folded in half and tucked under her villa door, Cynthia found the missive before leaving to go for her usual morning dip.
‘Thanks for a swell holiday.’
Your Friend for the Summer.