Monday, July 13, 2015

Red Beret: A Short Story

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By: Lillabeth B.

It was my sister’s biggest mistake, and my greatest victory.    
She knew I hated purple. I’ve always thought it was too dark and deep, like a lie’s shadow. So when my birthday came around a few years ago, she took the chance to both aggravate me and to get me into a load of trouble with mom.
            When I woke up on July 27, Lydia was standing over me, smiling her sweet, innocent smile that only meant trouble. “Happy Birthday, little sister!” she cried in her fake happy voice. “I got you a little something!” She handed me a circular silver box with a heart sticker s lazily lapped on.
“Guess what it is! Guess! Guess!”
“It’s a hat,” I groaned sleepily.
“That’s obvious! Be more fun, Ava! What kind of hat?”
“Heck, I dunno! Just give me the box.”
I reached out and snatched it from her silky, moisturized hands. “Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” she said, acting disappointed, though she was really preparing to assault me.
“Yep. You.” I took off the lid, buffering for the monstrosities that lay beneath it. Sure enough, it was an ugly, store-bought, crocheted purple beret. But I saw something in it that my sister didn’t. I gasped in delight. My sister couldn’t hide her surprise and disappointment. “You…like it?”
“No,” I answered, grinning at my victory, “but it has the potential to be something great.”
It took me no time at all to dress in my usual t-shirt and jeans and head over to Jo-Ann Fabric, our local cloth store. I made a beeline for the guy at customer service. “Look,” I said. “I got twenty bucks in my pocket. Do you want it?”
“Well… Um…” he stuttered.
“Good. Now, do you have some dark red fabric dye back there?”
“Er… Well, not dark red, but there’s some scarlet.’’
“Even better. If you let me dye a little something I have, you’ll walk out of here today with more in your pocket than you walked in with.”
He grinned foolishly. “Whaddya want dyed?”
I handed him my beret, and he dashed out the back door like a bee to honey. Ten minutes later, he was back. “It’ll take a while to dry, Miss. Come back Sunday afternoon, and…”
“Sunday? You got it.” And then, I was gone. Well, I went through the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday doing what I normally do; yelling at Lydia, getting scolded by Mom and windsurfing at the beach. But all the while my excitement was growing and growing. Eating lunch on Sunday was like trying to make a squirrel attend a dinner party.
“What in the world are you so restless about, Ava?” Lydia demanded as I swirled crackers in my soup while watching the clock.
“You haven’t eaten I bite! Did I do something wrong?” Mom inquired.
“Of course not, Mother! It’s cooked with love, after all!”
“Oh, you flatter me, Ava!” Mom laughed. The grandfather clock struck one, and I jumped out of my seat. “Thanks for the soup, Mom! Tasted fab!” I yelled over me shoulder as I dashed out the door.
There was a different boy at the counter that day. His curly red hair came down to his shoulders and he wore a basketball t-shirt. He was hunched over the computer, so I couldn’t see his face. As he heard me approaching, he started talking. “Welcome to Jo-Ann, how may I help…you?” he asked as he looked up.
“Oh, hi…” I said, staring into his deep blue eyes. I shook me head to clear it. “Um, I had something dyed yesterday, a crocheted beret. I was wondering of I could pick it up.”
“Oh, sure, sure,” the boy said. “Just give me a second while I go get it.” He was out the door in a flash, and my cheeks were red. When he walked through the door, he was holding something behind his back.
“Close your eyes,” he instructed.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“I said, Close your eyes.” I did, and I felt him settling something on my head. “You can open them now.” When I did, I saw someone I didn’t even recognize. She was beautiful, with bright blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles over her pale skin. But her most breathtaking feature was the scarlet beret standing lopsided over her long, straight red hair. The boy took away the hand mirror and asked, “Do you like it?”
“Do I like it?” I repeated. “I haven’t looked this good since I was a newborn baby with cute eyes too big for my head!” The boy laughed.
“Please, don’t compare yourself to a naked, squealing baby. You’re too good for that.” I stopped a moment while I tried to decipher his words. “To good for…” “Um, maybe we should move on with checkout,” he suggested.
“Oh, yeah, yeah. Should I go to the front for that?”
“Oh, no, I can do it here.” he said.

There was a pause while he pulled something up on the computer. “This says you already paid 20 dollars.”
“Oh, yeah, that was yesterday.”
“Well, it only cost five dollars, so let me give you your fifteen back.” He handed me a stack of cash.
“Now, all you need to do is put your name and email on this piece of paper and you’re free to go.” He took some paper from a printer and put it on the counter, along with a pen.
“Wait a minute. What do you need my name and email for?”
“Dunno. It’s policy.”
“Oh. Well, I guess…” I wrote my name, Ava Natlund and my email, avasmailsack@hotmail.com. The boy took the paper.
“By the way, my name’s Chad if you ever need anything.”
“Thanks, Chad. I’ll ask for you if I ever need help dyeing anything.”
“No, I’ll ask for you. Have a great day!” Before I could say anything, he was hunched over his computer again.
“Yeah, you too…” I said and walk out, all the while thinking about his last words. “No, I’ll ask for you…” 
Monday afternoon, I was checking my email. The first thing that popped up was a welcome letter from PrincipalWalhum@MigvieCountieSchools.com. I took one look at the subject, Welcome to Sunleaf Prep!, and passed it by. The next one was from LydiaLady@hotmail.com. It’s subject was Where did you get that funny hat? I selected it and hit the delete button. The last one caused me to gasp in surprise and wonder. It was from ChadTheMan@gmail.com. I didn’t have to think about it, I opened it and read it. Here is what it said:

Hi Ava,
Please dont be 2 alarmed when u read this. I didn’t want 2 ask u face 2 face. It would be way 2 embarrassing. But I had 2 ask u somehow. Will u go out with me Monday night? If u dont want 2, just dont answer this email. Plz don’t scold me or something. I had to ask.
Thnx, 
Chad
            Ok, I’ll admit it—I smiled. This was exactly what I wanted! I wrote back:
Chad,
Yes! I would love go out with you. How does 5PM suit you? Should I wear the hat?
Sincerely,
Ava Natlund
I quickly ran to Mom and told her I’d be out tonight. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Oh, me and some new friends are just going to have some fun.”
“Ok, but be back by 10.”
I quickly checked my email:
Hi Ava,
5 would be great! u should totally wear the hat. Dont dress up—just wear what ur wearing. Maybe even wear a swimsuit underneath, lol.
Thnx,
Chad
So I wrote: 
Dear Chad,
Have you ever gone windsurfing?
Ava Natlund
He wrote:
Hi Ava,
Nope! Swimsuit it is! Meet me at the Franklin Pier!
Chad
That night, at the Franklin Pier, I waited for what seemed like hours, but was probably five minutes. Then, a redhead in a basketball swimsuit came walking toward me. “Hey,” said Chad.
“Hi,” I replied.
“Windy tonight.
“Yeah. So, when are we going?”
“Right now.” I handed him a windsurf board. “My sister never uses hers.” He took it and we walked off into the sunset, toward waves and wipeouts and adventures of all shapes and sizes.
And so it begins.


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