THE NEIGHBORHOOD POOL ALWAYS OPENS
up on Memorial Day weekend. When we were little, Margot and I would count down the days. Our mom would pack ham and cheese sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, carrot sticks, and a big jug of apple water. Apple water was watered down sugar-free apple juice, but mostly water. I begged for soda out of the machine, or fruit punch, but no. Mommy would slather us up with sunscreen the same way she slathered butter on a turkey. Kitty used to scream her head off; she was too impatient for the rubdown. Kitty’s always been impatient; she’s always wanted more, now. It’s funny how much of who we are as babies is who we are as we get older. I’d never have known it if it weren’t for Kitty. She still makes the same screwy faces.
Kitty isn’t doing swim team this year; she says it isn’t fun anymore now that none of her friends are doing it. When she didn’t know I was watching, I saw her looking at the meet schedule on the community board with wistfulness in her eyes. I guess that’s part of growing up, too—saying good-bye to the things you used to love.
Everyone’s lawns are freshly cut, and the air smells of clovers and green. The first crickets of summer are chirping. This is the soundtrack of my summer and every summer.
Peter and I have staked our claim on the lounge chairs farthest away from the kiddie pool, because it’s less noisy. I’m studying for my French final, or trying to, at least.
“Come over here so I can get your shoulders first,” I call out to Kitty, who is standing by the pool with her friend Brielle.
“You know I don’t burn,” she calls back, and it’s true; her shoulders are already tanned like golden brioche. By the end of summer they’ll be dark as the crust on whole wheat bread. Kitty’s hair is slicked back, a towel around her shoulders. She’s all arms and legs now.
“Just come over here,” I say.
Kitty trots over to the lounge chairs Peter and I are sitting on, her flip-flops clacking against the pavement.
I spray her with the sunscreen and rub it into her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t burn. Protect your skin so you don’t end up looking like an old leather bag.” That’s what Stormy used to tell me.
Kitty giggles at “old leather bag.” “Like Mrs. Letty. Her skin is hot dog–colored.”
“Well, I wasn’t talking about any one person in particular. But yeah. She should’ve worn sunscreen in her younger days. Let that be a lesson to you, my sister.” Mrs. Letty is our neighbor, and her skin hangs on her like crepe.
Peter puts on his sunglasses. “You guys are mean.”
“Says the guy who once toilet-papered her lawn!”
Kitty giggles and steals a sip of my Coke. “You did that?”
“All lies and propaganda,” Peter says blithely.
As the day heats up, Peter convinces me to put down my French book and jump in the pool with him. The pool is crowded with little kids, no one as old as us. Steve Bledell has a pool at his house, but I wanted to come here, for old times’ sake.
“Don’t you dare dunk me,” I warn. Peter starts circling me like a shark, coming closer and closer. “I’m serious!”
He makes a dive for me and grabs me by the waist, but he doesn’t dunk me; he kisses me. His skin is cool and smooth against mine; so are his lips.
I push him away and whisper, “Don’t kiss me—there are kids around!”
“So nobody wants to see teenagers kissing in the pool where kids are trying to play. It isn’t right.” I know I sound like a priss, but I don’t care. When I was little, and there were teenagers horsing around in the pool, I always felt nervous to go in, because it was like the pool was theirs.
Peter bursts out laughing. “You’re funny, Covey.” Swimming sideways, he says, “ ‘It isn’t right,’ ” and then starts laughing again.
The lifeguard blows the whistle for adult swim, and all the kids get out, including Peter and me. We go back to the lounge chairs, and Peter pushes them closer together.
I turn on my side and, squinting up at the sun, I ask him, “How old do you think you have to be to stay in the pool for adult swim? Eighteen or twenty-one?”
“I don’t know. Twenty-one?” He’s scrolling on his phone.
“Maybe it’s eighteen. We should ask.” I put on my sunglasses and start to sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from
The Sound of Music
. “You need someone older and wiser, telling you what to do.” I tap him on the nose for emphasis.
“Hey, I’m older than you,” he objects.
I run my hand along Peter’s cheek and sing, “I am seventeen going on eighteen, I-I-I’ll take care of you.”
“Promise?” he says.
“Sing it just once for me,” I prompt. Peter gives me a look. “Please? I love it when you sing. Your voice is so clean.”
He can’t help but smile. Peter never met a compliment he didn’t smile at. “I don’t know the words,” he protests.
“Yes you do.” I pretend to wave a wand in his face. “
Wait—do you know what that means?”
“It’s . . . an unforgivable curse?”
“Yes. Very impressive, Peter K. And what does it do?”
“It makes you do things you don’t want to do.”
“Very good, young wizard. There’s hope for you yet. Now sing!”
“You little witch.” He looks around to see if anyone is listening, and then he softly sings, “I need someone older and wiser telling me what to do. . . . You are seventeen going on eighteen . . . I’ll depend on you.”
I clap my hands in delight. Is there anything more intoxicating than making a boy bend to your will? I roll closer to him and throw my arms around his neck.
“Now you’re the one making
s!” he says.
“You really do have a pretty voice, Peter. You never should’ve quit chorus.”
“The only reason I ever took chorus is because all the girls were in chorus.”
“Well, then forget about joining a chorus at
. No a cappella groups either.” I mean it to be a joke, truly, but Peter looks bothered. “I’m kidding! Join all the a cappella groups you want! The Hullabahoos are all guys, anyway.”
“I don’t want to join an a cappella group. And I’m not planning on looking at other girls, either.”
Oh. “Of course you’ll look at other girls. You have eyes, don’t you? I swear, that’s just as silly as when people say they don’t see color. Everyone sees everyone. You can’t help but see.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“I know, I know.” I sit up and put my French book back in my lap. “Are you really not going to study at all for your
history final on Wednesday?”
“All I need to do at this point is pass,” he reminds me.
“It must be nice, it must be nice,” I sing.
“Hey, it’s not like William and Mary is taking away your spot if you get a C in French,” Peter says.
“I’m not worried about French. I’m worried about my calculus exam on Friday.”
“Okay, well, it’s not like they’ll kick you out for getting a C in calculus, either.”
“I guess so, but I still want to finish well,” I say. The countdown is really on, now that May is nearly over. Just one more week left of school. I stretch out my arms and legs and
squint up into the sun and let out a happy sigh. “Let’s come here every day next weekend.”
“I can’t. I’m going on that training weekend, remember?”
“Yeah. It’s weird that the season is over and we won’t be playing any more games together.”
Our school’s lacrosse team didn’t make it to state championships. They knew it was a long shot, because as Peter likes to say, “There’s only one of me.” Ha! Next weekend he is off to a training camp with his new team at
“Are you excited to meet your teammates?” I ask him.
“I already know a few of the guys, but yeah. It’ll be cool.” He reaches over and starts braiding a section of my hair. “I think I’m getting better at this.”
“You have the whole summer to practice,” I say, leaning forward so he can reach more of my hair. He doesn’t say anything.