A summer I could never forget

A summer I could never forget

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A summer I could never forget_L
Illustration: Brian Wang
Ever since I could remember, I've hated summer. Summer meant waiting two whole months in the sweltering sun for the school year to begin again.

I didn't particularly love school, but doing something and being busy was better than doing nothing. However, this summer changed my perspective completely.

I was going to spend the holiday at my grandparents' house on an isolated beach. I love my grandparents, but being stuck in the middle of nowhere wasn't really my cup of tea.

When my mum kissed me goodbye at the airport, she said: "Lucy, summer at the beach will be good for you. You'll have lots of fun."

Yeah, with no one else there except my grandparents, I thought to myself.

The first flight took six hours, then I took a smaller plane to the town nearest to where my grandparents lived. Grandpa picked me up at the airport.

"Wow, Luce, you have gotten so big!" he smiled.

"Maybe you just shrank," I teased.

He chuckled as we hopped into his old Ford. "We must get going; we're expecting visitors for dinner tonight."

I didn't ask him who, as I was sure they would just be Nan's friends.

For the first 30 minutes of the drive, the sun came streaming through the huge trees that towered over us in a way I had never seen before.

Then the coastline came into view. The water was a clear blue, dappled with lighter patches, which made it even more beautiful.

When we arrived, the lights in the house were all on and we could hear laughter and chatter.

Nan was sitting with an older couple and a bald-headed boy. They all turned when I entered and Nan got up to give me a big hug.

"Lucy! It's so good to see you! My, have you gotten tall," she beamed.

"It's great to see you, too, Nan!" I smiled.

"Lucy, this is Mr and Mrs Frost," she said, gesturing to the couple sitting next to her, "and this is their grandson, Matt."

It was the first time I took a good look at the boy. He looked no older than me, except his head was bald; not shaved bald, but getting-old-and-losing-your-hair bald. He also had, I might add, amazing eyes.

"Nice to meet you," I said. Mr and Mrs Frost smiled at me and the boy gave me a crooked smile that made my insides do a flip.

"Lucy is my daughter's daughter and she lives in Hong Kong. Isn't that amazing?" Nan told her guests, as I continued to stare at Matt.

He was so ... beautiful. He was probably a couple of inches taller than me and he had piercing blue eyes that reminded me of the glimpses of ocean I had just seen. His skin was pale white.

When he caught me staring at him, I quickly looked away, embarrassed.

Dinner was fun, although neither Matt nor I talked much. It was mostly Nan and Grandpa telling the couple about me - where I lived, what I was good at, how old I was ... When they all left, Matt smiled at me.

The next morning, I woke up to sunshine and the sound of the waves. I could hear Nan and Grandpa chatting in the room next to my small bedroom. I quietly got out of bed, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and went downstairs.

The view made me gasp; right outside the glass wall of the living room was the beach and the ocean.

As I walked out, the wind blew through my hair. The weather here was so different from back home. It wasn't too hot or too humid, just perfect.

When I reached the beach, I kicked off my flip flops to feel the soft sand between my toes. Closing my eyes, I focused on the sounds all around me.

"What are you doing up so early?" Startled, I opened my eyes to see Matt standing in front of me.

"Oh, I just wanted to explore a little," I said, trying to sound cool. I noticed how in the sunlight, his skin looked even paler than before, and his eyes were the same colour as the ocean behind him.

"Do you like it here?" he asked.

"Do you?"

His smile lit up his face. "You can't answer my question with a question."

"Can't I?" I teased.

"All right, if that's how it is. Why don't I show you around?"

I tried to keep my voice steady. "If you don't mind ..."

"Not at all. Follow me, my lady," he said with a bow.

Wow, that was cheesy - and weird. But what was even weirder was that I liked it. I liked him.

Matt took me on a tour, pointing out our few neighbours. His house was separated from ours by the home of a lady who lived with her seven cats. He asked a lot of questions. What did I like to eat, what were my friend's names, what sports I liked, and if I liked summer.

"Why do you ask so many questions?" I quizzed him.

"Because I want to get to know you," he said, with a serious look in his eyes.

I held my breath, just noticing how close his nose was to mine. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as he leaned forward. For what felt like hours, I stare into his amazing deep blue eyes.

Finally, he stepped back. I was the first to break the silence. "Now you know all about me, what's your story?"

He smiled at that. "Do you really want to know?"

I stared at him, puzzled. "Yes, I do."

He took a deep breath. "Well, my name is Matt Frost and I live in the city not too far from here. I have no brothers or sisters. My parents send me here every year thinking it'll do me some good. I love summer, and everything about it - the sun, the atmosphere, the noise, the birds, the quietness, and, especially the beach. I love to surf and skateboard, and I have a dog named Wave."

I smiled at the last bit. He was so cute.

"Can I see Wave?" I asked.

He looked at me for a moment, then took my hand and led me towards his house. After a quick hello to Mr and Mrs Frost we went upstairs. As quietly as he could, Matt opened his bedroom door. There, lying on the floor asleep, was a little white dog. I bent down to pat the bundle of fur.

"He is so adorable," I whispered.

Matt grinned at me, and I grinned back.

A photograph of three smiling people caught my eye. It was Matt with, who had to be, his parents - except the Matt in the picture had short curly brown hair, although he didn't look much younger than the Matt standing next to me.

"That was six months ago," he explained.

When I turned to look at him, I could see the sadness in his eyes.

"What ... uh ... what happened to your hair?" I asked, as politely as I could.

He stared at me, his deep blue eyes once more boring into mine. When he spoke his voice was no more than a whisper. "When I was three, I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood. A few months ago, it started to get really serious."

I had no idea what to say. I wanted to take away all his sadness, although I knew I couldn't. When I reached to hug him, he was surprised at first, but then, silently, he hugged me back.

I spent the rest of my summer with Matt, and he taught me how to surf and skate. I was having so much fun I was surprised how, for the first time ever, my summer holidays seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Despite this, I couldn't help noticing how, every day, Matt was getting paler and paler.

On the last day before I left, Matt and I had a picnic on the beach. The sun felt so nice and warm on my back and shoulders, as we talked non-stop.

Suddenly, Matt threw a piece of lettuce at me, starting a huge food fight. When I ran towards the cool water, Matt followed and tackled me. We both ended up in the water, soaking our clothes. We were both laughing until Matt leaned towards me and kissed me. It was amazing.

After a little while, he pulled away so that our noses were still touching and breathed: "You still haven't answered my question."

"Which question?" I asked, puzzled.

"Do you like summer?"

I stared into his eyes, his eyes that seemed as deep as the ocean.

"I love summer," I murmured.

I left the beach the next day. I was expecting Matt to come and say goodbye but he never did. Grandpa finally came and told me that if we didn't get going, I would miss my plane. I slowly got into the car, still peering out of the window, expecting Matt to appear. But he didn't. As we sped into the distance, I started to cry.

A week later, I got an e-mail from my grandparents; Matt had passed away the day I left. I read and re-read their message, with tears rolling down my cheeks.

I don't hate summer anymore. I love how the sun makes you feel all nice and warm, how the birds sing in the morning, how you get to have two whole months of doing nothing, how the sand feels in between my toes.

I love the atmosphere, the quietness and, most of all, I love how, together, all these things remind me of him.

Marley is a student at French International School

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