There's something about the heat, the nasty, sticky, burningness of it all, that seems to intrigue people.
I personally don't understand it. I'd be fine sitting alone in my air-conditioned abode with a Popsicle and maybe my cat, peering out at the burning pavement and the kids playing around on it. What confuses me the most, I guess, is how their shoes don't melt. Seriously, I can see the warmth shimmering in the air above the tarmac.
So, all this to say, I don't go outside. Not in the summer, at least. I enjoy most doing a whole lot of nothing, as I have previously stated. The only problem with that perfect plan? I have this headache that comes and goes. It's called my sister.
"Jax, you have to come outside!" she squeaks, her voice sounding like she's been inhaling balloons. Which she probably has been, for all I know. "It's so pretty! The world's in technicolor!"
"I think you've sunburned your eyes," I reply, trying my very best to be as irritable as possible. The more annoying and offstandish I am, the less she'll bother me. Hopefully.
Thing is, she doesn't pick up on social cues very well. "I don't think that's possible," she says, tilting her head to the side like she's trying to get the helium she inhaled earlier out of her brain (one might say she's a total airhead). "But anyway, it's amazing! And James Rikki is getting everybody snow cones, and then we're going to the beach!" She grabs my hand, trying to pull me off my chair where I'm reading Divergent. "Come on, Jax!"
Pietro, our cat, leaps off my lap as my sister tugs me forward. I pull back, annoyed. "You made Pietro leave," I huff, yanking my hand out of hers. "Come on, Sarah, let me be."
"No-o," she sings, flicking sun-bleached hair over her shoulder. "You're definitely coming."
I want to protest, but my headache is returning. See what I mean? It's literal and figurative. She's a headache and she causes one. Why insult someone on one level when you can insult them on two?
Then, before I can argue any more, she tears the book out of my hands and runs out the door with it, letting a blast of hot air in. Ugh.
I curse in frustration. Now I have to go outside if I want to get it back. I force my too-small flip flops onto my feet and burst through the door, out of my sanctuary of friendly A/C into the horrible world of summer heat. It's disgusting. The moment I arrive outside, it's like the sun is trying to boil my skin off of me. My eyes feel like they're melting like James Rikki's snow cone. My flip-flops are oozing plastic onto the ground—
Oh no, the book!
If I'm doing so badly, then the book must be pulpy sludge by now. I run across the lawn, ignoring the fact that breathing in this weather is like snorting roadside dust and salt. Pfft, I think to myself, I should be fine...that's the literal description of my personality, now let's make my lungs match!
Opening the gate to the outside street, I can see through the shimmering heat the sea, gleaming invitingly. It's probably so cool and nice...no. I can't. I want to get back inside my nice comfy A/C filled home and read until my eyes literally melted. But I can't read if the book has been kidnapped by the headache.
I spy her over by the snow cone truck. She's holding my book in one hand and a dripping snow cone in another—
Oh no. That isn't good. Snow cone syrup could damage that. And that is a library book.
I run across the street like a maniac, hoping that I don't get smooshed into the pavement like a grouchy teenage bug by a car driven by a myopic grandmother. I try to snatch the book from my sister, but before I can, she holds it out of reach. She throws her snow cone in the garbage and yells, "come and get it!"
"Sarah Carter, if you don't give me that back right this instant–Sarah, that's a library book!"
Sarah runs to the surf, tears across the boiling sand (how is it that her feet aren't completely scalding hot right now? Magical headache technology?) and...throws it into the water.
I'm so mad I can barely breathe. I mean, I couldn't breathe before, but now I have worse problems than possible cancer. The library is going to kill me, and so are my parents. Salt is very corrosive.
Cursing, I stumble across the boulevard and slip and slide over the boiling sand of the beach, then fling myself into the water after the book. For all I know, it's drifted off into the waves and ended up on the coast of Indonesia by now. However, the water is pleasantly cold, like natural A/C. I wade in up to my shorts, hunting for the book. Then, suddenly, I see it on the sandy bottom, three feet to my left.
"Yes!" I mumble to myself. I probably sound crazy, but at this point, I don't really care. I just want to get out of this oppressive summer heat. Why can't it be winter all the time?
I scoop the book off of the floor of the sea and hold its soggy remains in my hand. I sit down hard, relaxing in the surf. I have to admit, the feeling of water is nice.
Sadie and her friends are laughing on the beach. I don't care. I just kind of sit in the water, enjoying myself for a moment before I can go to my other haven.
Then I hear a voice, spitting curses. "Stupid kids...freakin' took my notepad...probably pulpy hash on the bottom of the Atlantic..."
I look over from where I'm sitting. It's a kid with freckles, thick eyebrows, and chin-length red hair. "Did they throw your stuff in the water, too?" I ask, clutching my book. I'm not a very social person, but this kid looks like they could use a helping hand.
"Yeah," they grumble, fishing around in the water. "Jimmy knows I hate the heat."
"Yo, me too," I agree. "The sea's pretty nice, though."
"I guess. Aha! Here it is!" They triumphantly produce a soggy, nasty-looking drawing pad from the bottom of the ocean. I don't want to judge (oh, who am I kidding, I judge everything) but it looks a lot worse than my book does. I'm suddenly grateful for not being an artist.
They don't seem to care, though. They shove it in the back pocket of their jean shorts and offer me a hand, lifting me up out of the water. "What's your name?" they ask, not sounding particularly interested. Granted, I wouldn't be either.
"Jax. Jax Carter."
"Huh. Sarah your sister?"
"Jimmy's mine. My brother, I mean."
"I'm Avery, by the way," they add, holding out their hand. I shake it.
"Nice to meet you."
We stand there awkwardly as I examine Divergent. It's hurt, but not nearly as bad as that notebook. Suddenly, I have an idea.
"You hate the heat," I remark, glancing at them.
"Yeah, you just noticed?" they retort.
I glare at them. "I was actually gonna ask you if you wanted to come over. My sister won't bother me if someone's over."
They give me a lopsided grin, and I know we're gonna be friends. "Sure. Just promise me we can clean out my notebook."
"Sounds good. This is a library book," I tell them as we start walking out of the surf.
"Oof, bad luck!" They agree. I laugh.
Once we get back to the house, we're both completely dry. As the A/C envelops us, we both let out a sigh of relief, and go to fix what the kids stole.
Funny thing, though? As much as I hate the heat, part of me is grateful that Sarah stole my book and chucked it into the water. It may be a very small part, but I'm still grateful. I'm glad I met Avery, because hopefully my summer won't be as miserable with them around. And now I know that the sea doubles as A/C.
But don't tell Sarah any of that. She's already got an overinflated ego. Like most of the kids in this town. But like anything else, we live by sea, salt, and sun. And Sarah's got all three.
Well, maybe she hasn't got sun yet. But I honestly can't wait to see her face when she realizes she's sunburned. That, right there, is not sea, salt, or sun. That's just karma.