“I just don’t like to swim,” she insisted as Ashley’s persistent whine for companionship began to annoy her.
“You’re no fun anymore! All you want to do is stare at your phone and hang out with your boyfriend,” Ashley sneered. She put a particular emphasis on the word boyfriend that made Madison cringe.
“I JUST DON’T WANT TO SWIM,” she insisted, leaning forward a little in her lawn chair, pressing her fingertips into her ribs as she crossed her arms tighter with insistence.
Her sister’s eye-roll was enough to express her grievances as she kicked off of the pool wall. She shined like a dolphin and disappeared, with a neon splash of swimsuit, underwater. Madison untucked one hand from the cage of her crossed arms and pulled the brim of her hat down further over her eyes. She smoothed the bottom edges of her baggy t-shirt and surveyed the smooth skin of her long, tanned legs stretched out on the chair in front of her. Her toes were painted white for summer, and she wiggled them a bit in contemplation, considering summer time and sisters and the human anatomy in a boundless, moment long daydream. She pulled her phone from under her leg and began to scroll with her right hand, the left still holding the edge of her t-shirt under her arm pit. It was hot, but she wasn't taking it off.
She scrolled for a few moments, double tapping mindlessly. She watched virtual red hearts appear and fade away on filtered images of the lives of her friends and family. The more she scrolled, the more anxious she became. She held her phone at the ready position, only about a foot from her face with a vacant expression and her hat still low. Just over the top edge of the screen, she watched her family splash in the pool.
Her sister Ashley was twelve now, four years younger than she was, and still as child-like as Madison had always known her to be. Her beautiful brown eyes could make any jaded stone heart melt into lava. Her voice reflected such a clear, innocent sincerity when she spoke that it was easy to want to shower her with affection and attention. Their parents, further off in the distance of the pool, laughed adoringly. They held the bubbly-soft brown body of their newest child just within the water’s wavy surface. She was an orphan, adopted by the altruism and grace of two all-American adults who loved each other enough to still have a rock-solid bond after twenty five years of marriage. They named the baby Hope.
Madison thought about her often, as was easy to do. She was a calm and even-tempered baby whose stoicism seemed to reflect a seemingly odd understanding and deep perception that wasn’t typical for a child so small. She thought about what Hope meant to her aging parents, and about what’s in a name. How does someone even make such a decision, deciding in infancy who a person will be their whole life? She thought about her boyfriend’s name, Miguel, and wondered what Miguel would've looked like as an infant. She wondered how old was too old to become a parent. More importantly, how young was too young?
She picked up her phone again and inhaled sharply as her fingerprint revealed the homecoming photo of her and Miguel on her home screen. The silvery sheen of her dress matched the details of his rented tuxedo, and the braces across his beaming smile. Her hair was curled and pinned up in a silver tiara, the way her mother had done her own hair in her pageant days. She remembered the happiness of that night, and her love for Miguel. She swallowed hard and the lump in her throat returned. Her heart began to race and her fingers trembled as she touched his contact and began to text:
Can we talk? I’m pregnant.
She closed her eyes and hid the phone back under her right leg, pulling her hat lower still, as a tear slid down her shaded cheek.