It was Thursday. Mia opened the curtains on her bedroom window and looked out over the new backyard. It was mostly flat, with no trees, and a hole in the middle that had been a fire pit in a past life. The concrete slab that served as a feeble patio was already sunbaked by the late morning sunshine. The patio table and bright red seat cushions her mom had picked out at Lowes looked out of place against the backdrop of the weather-beaten house.
Mia looked around her room as she brushed out her hair. The three windows flooded the space with light, illuminating the bare walls and neat stack of things collected for college in three short months. It felt silly to move everything and unpack it, just to pack it back up and do it all over again, so her room existed in a limbo between packed and unpacked. She hadn’t been there long enough for the mess to cause her stress, but she still spent as much time out of her room as possible. Precautionary measures, she kept telling herself. Besides, she’d much rather spend her mornings sitting on her pathetic back porch.
With a cup of cheap iced coffee poured from a jug bought at Wal-Mart in hand and the only book she’d managed to unpack tucked under her arm, Mia slid the patio door open and shut before settling into one of the red seat cushions. She got two pages in when the sound of a squeaking screen door caught her attention.
In the backyard to the right of hers, Mia watched a girl walk back towards a trampoline with a yellow notepad tucked under her arm. Her hair fell in an inky black wave around her shoulders, bobbing slightly as she walked barefoot through the recently trimmed grass. She already had her headphones in, connected to the phone in her hand, and Mia could see her mouthing along to the words of a song.
The girl set the legal pad on the trampoline and pulled herself up with ease. She looked over at Mia, and Mia reached for her iced coffee in a feeble attempt to make it look like she hadn’t been staring. The girl waved, and a peak of hope shot through Mia’s chest. She waved back, hoping she didn’t look too eager. The girl focused her attention on her legal pad, and Mia did her best to focus back on her book.
Ever since they had moved in the previous weekend, Mia had spotted the girl next door a total of six times. From those chance encounters, Mia had already learned a few things about her. She’s a cheerleader at Northern, where Mia’s starting classes in the fall. She has two younger sisters and a dog. She’s some sort of writer or artist, because she’s notorious for spending her mornings on the trampoline scribbling away on her legal pad.
One thing she hadn’t figured out? Whether she likes girls as much as Mia does.
Or her name.
Yeah, she should really get on that.
Mia sighed to herself, taking another drink of her iced coffee. She had been more than okay with moving, given the circumstances and her mom’s amazing new job offer. Every day, though, she found something to miss about her hometown. She had never realized how much she knew about her hometown. She missed knowing her neighbors by name. And she really missed knowing who her age is into girls.
As the girl next door scribbled away and Mia split her time between her book and her neighbor, clouds began to roll in from the west. It must have been about eleven-thirty when the girl next door sat up, giving her phone an exasperated look. She flipped her legal pad back to the front page and clipped her pen to keep the wind from catching the pages. Leaving the legal pad, she got off the trampoline and walked back towards the house. Mia took the last water-logged drink of her iced coffee and settled back into her book, figuring she’d be back out in a moment or two.
Mia flipped the page to a new chapter when a fat raindrop hit in the middle of the page. She looked up, where the light gray clouds she had noticed earlier had transformed into thick, black thunderclouds. As more rain began to fall, Mia scooped up her cup and the seat cushions. She was about to run into her house when she saw the yellow legal pad still sitting on the trampoline. There was no sign of the girl next door coming back out to grab it. Mia dropped the seat cushions just inside the door and sprinted over without a second thought. She grabbed the legal pad and ran back into her house as the floodgates seemed to open up.
When she reached her spotless kitchen, Mia set the legal pad down on the counter with her book and dumped the ice from her iced coffee into the sink. There were two big wet splotches on the front of the legal pad, and the ink was already starting to run. Mia tore off a paper towel and dabbed at the splotches, trying not to smear the blue ink any more than it already had. She unclipped the pen and lifted the first few pages to mop up any water that had bled through.
Once she had dried up as much water as she could manage, Mia let herself read the front page of the legal pad. It seemed to be an excerpt from some story the girl next door has been working on, detailing a bowling date between the two main characters. There were only a few pages of it, and Mia really wanted to read more the second she finished what was there.
Then it dawned on her: when she gives the legal pad back to the girl next door, she’ll be able to talk to her. She might even learn her name.
Wouldn’t that be something?
On a whim, Mia wrote her phone number on a strip of paper torn from the bottom of an old grocery list and tucked it between two blank sheets in the legal pad. Mia figured, what could possibly go wrong?
Mia grabbed a water from the fridge and sat down by the sliding doors, scrolling lazily through Instagram as she watched the heavy rain fall. There was a bright flash of lightning, followed almost immediately by a boom of thunder. Hardly a moment later, the girl next door ran into her backyard with not even an umbrella. Mia perked up immediately and grabbed the legal pad off the counter. She knocked on the sliding door until she got her attention, then held up the legal pad. The girl looked relieved and ran over to Mia’s door.
“I promise I didn’t steal it,” Mia said once the girl was inside, pushing the sliding door shut behind her. “It had started raining, and I didn’t want it to get ruined.”
“You are a lifesaver,” the girl replied, trying to avoid dripping all over the kitchen floor. “I hadn’t even realized it was raining until I heard the thunder just now.”
Mia opened a closet and handed her a beach towel so she could try to dry off. “I’ve seen you out here all week writing away. It obviously means a lot to you, and I’d hate to see something happen to it.”
“I really do appreciate it. I’m Sydnee,” she said, offering her hand.
Mia took it. “Mia,” she replied, shaking. Despite still being a little rain-drenched, Sydnee’s hands were warm.
“You just moved in last week, right?”
Mia nodded, sitting at the kitchen table. “My mom’s a nurse, and she got this great job offer at the hospital nearby. Packed up everything, drove off right after graduation, and the rest is history.”
Sydnee nodded, attempting to squeeze the water out of her shirt.
“I could throw your clothes in the dryer real quick,” Mia offered. “You know, if you’d like.”
“That’d be great, actually. Thank you.”
“Let me go find you something to wear in the meantime.” Mia practically ran up the stairs to her room. The fluttering in her chest made her feel like a twelve-year-old girl with a crush on some floppy-haired guy in a boyband, but she couldn’t be embarrassed about it. Who could be embarrassed about having a crush when that very crush was standing in their kitchen, bubbling over with gratitude?
Mia found a t-shirt and a pair of running shorts with a drawstring. Sydnee was curvier than Mia, but both articles were baggy on Mia. She hoped it’d be okay for the half hour or so it’d take to dry Sydnee’s clothes.
Her phone rang from her pocket as she turned to go back downstairs. Mia paused at the top of the stairs to answer the call from her best friend of lo and many years.
“I really can’t talk right now, Felix,” she said in lieu of a greeting.
“Well hello to you too,” he joked. “What’s got you so worked up?”
“There is a cute girl dripping all over my kitchen floor,” she said, keeping her voice low in case it carried into the kitchen. “And I promise that sounded slightly less dirty in my head.”
Felix laughed. “Whatever you say Mia.”
Mia rolled her eyes. “I’ll call you back later, okay? And I’ll spare you no details.”
“You better not. Especially if you expect me to visit the little Podunk town you’re now calling home.”
“We’ve been friends for how long now? You should know by now that when it comes to girls, I can’t keep my mouth shut.”
Felix laughed again. “Talk to you soon Kolter.”
“See ya Dunbar.”
Mia locked her phone and slid it back into her pocket before going down the stairs, taking them two at a time the whole way.
“I hope these’ll work Sydn—”
Mia stopped in the doorway to the kitchen. Sydnee was gone.
“Just my luck,” Mia said with a sigh, sitting back at the kitchen table. She reached for her book. Stuck just inside the cover was a folded sheet the same lemon color of Sydnee’s legal pad. With a surge of hope, Mia unfolded the sheet.
Sorry to leave all of a sudden, but the rain let up a bit, and my mom really needs me for something. Thank you so much for saving my legal pad from the rain; I’m indebted to you. If you need anything, anything at all, you know where to find me.
See you around?
PS, thanks for your number, it won’t go to waste (;