When I am nineteen, you let me go.
Until then, you keep me in your rocky shores.
I explore your roads on foot, on hitch-hiked rides with strangers, on bikes found in back alleys.
You give me G and G gives me a plate he makes in pottery class with his beach-tanned hands, its edges rimmed, its colours the purple and blue hues of a late-summer sunset, an inscription on its bottom written in capital letters, and it means everything at the time but I’ve long since forgotten what it said.
(You will remember: G was never mine, but is anyone really yours anyway?)
You make me feel safe and trapped, the circumference of your shape both a lasso and a jail.
You take my dad from me. You store his ashes in your ocean, pull at my toes, my feet, my ankles when I return to say goodbye and hello, again and again, and is it just my imagination or is the force I feel the result of a begging on your part or mine?
You show me your most sacred hiding places (the cave, the canopy, the abandoned cabin up the arm of your river), and I, in turn, tell you my most sacred secrets, mutter them into your dirt when I’m lying on your floor.
You never tell another soul.
You give me Z, a boy with the same last name as our disgraced Prime Minister, a boy doing brickwork at the hotel across the street from my office, the one I stare at when sitting on your curb smoking on my lunch break. Z is quiet about his past and I wonder if he’s been disgraced too. (Haven’t we all?) We spend weeks jumping from your cliffs into deep potholes. Cracking cans of Lucky stashed in your cold summer water. Lying side-by-side on your scorching rock face, our forearms, hips, thighs mashed together as we dry in your rays. Z’s lips don’t taste like disgrace when coated with your air or my air, a steady breath into each other’s lungs, a photosynthesis.
You take my virginity.
And I will want to lose it over and over and regret that I can’t. (Because how do we ever know for sure.)
You give me W, a boy named after a season, a boy with equal parts ambition and apathy, a boy with half a heart that loves, and half a heart destined to break others (mine included). W gives me a reason to leave you and I leave you in the spring after the daffodils push through your soil, after your weather warms enough to sit on the patio in old t-shirts and cut-off shorts on mornings made for drinking coffee.
I leave you not knowing I will miss you, forever. And that one day, I will be back.
Jennifer Todhunter's stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, The Forge, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions, and Wigleaf´s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.