Smell of Sunshine


Sulli felt it happening again. She was hypnotized and her eyes glazed over. Remembering the summer after she barely graduated high school, it was ’99 … just turned 18.

She rolled over in bed. Hate this bed. Hate this house. Hate this quiet, darkness. It took over every empty corner, neglected room. Dad had become a ghost just like her mother. She never saw him. When she did he was rushing around somewhere, grumbling about something, frowning. The lines on his face had grown deeper. Two strangers thrown living together, her family had fallen apart in just months. Her brother was at college, she never knew him anyway. Her sister moved out years ago, across two rivers, may as well have been two states. A once bustling and lively household was now cold, empty, lifeless. The happy memories were stuffed in a box and shoved in the dark basement.

Sulli’s phone rang. It was Beth, she knew it was Beth, it was always Beth. She had a plan for today, and she was break of day early, always.

She was a stickler for plans and timeliness, rarely swayed from her routine, and was always ready to make the most of a day off. Sulli counted on her for all of the above, as long as she could anyway. She slowly learned Beth was not the only mastermind. All of her peers had prepared a projection of sorts. Short term strategies, long term timelines, intentions arranged, formulating futures.

Sulli found somewhere between closely counted college credits and detailed designs for downtime and drinks, decisions grew larger with age.

Each year was a higher ante in the pot, poker faces all around. Agendas were crafted carefully by each of Sulli’s friends. College, career, family. Sulli always thought them fools, even Beth, for making so many plans. Laughing to herself, how much faith they put in the future, how little credit they gave to life’s surprises. Life and it’s good friend Irony, making you the punchline to their inside jokes. Had nobody heard of Oedipus?

As they got older Sulli’s friends pulled it off, plots and plans of all kinds. Houses turned to homes, precious paper proving perfect performance. And then came the weddings. Sulli felt like the Grinch of grooms and gowns. Watching from the sidelines while her friends won the game. Maybe it was because Sulli’s future failed before she even envisioned one. Maybe it was because she couldn’t commit to dinner at breakfast, the future was now, right? Maybe it was because her heart shrunk three sizes that dreaded day of death and derailment.Whatever it was, Sulli was stuck sulking attending her own carefully crafted pity party… one please.

Beth called or showed up at Sulli’s house every morning. If it wasn’t for Beth Sulli would never have graduated high school. She was like a bodyguard for Sulli throughout their senior year. She shielded Sulli from almost all the looks. The sad eyes that made Sulli feel like a three legged dog, missing an eye, orphaned, left at the pound.

‘Hello!!!!! Sulli!!!! Wake up!!!!’ Beth screamed at Sulli through the phone.

There was no arguing with Beth. She was a go-getter, certain to be the CEO of a company one day. She was bossy, controlling, smart, and beautiful. Sulli would’ve loathed her with jealousy if they hadn’t met when they were five. Her long blonde hair was shiny and straight, she had big blue eyes, and a perfect smile. The boys were wild for Beth and approached Sulli to be their advocate. But she never wanted for any of the boys that solicited Sulli for her love and affection. Beth always was attached to someone, always had an exclusive boyfriend. Although Sulli joked about loathing Beth for her looks she wasn’t just another fancy face. She loved Beth for being mature, loyal, loving, forgiving, and fiery. They rarely had a fight due to the damage they were both capable of doing. Secrets remained such and respect was utmost, it was tough to have other friends after Beth. The standard was high.

She picked Beth up at her house only two blocks away. Beth played co-pilot and deejay switching out Cd’s and blasting music all the way to the wave pool. She always knew how to have a good time and always snapped Sulli out of what she cleverly called, ‘The Sulli Sulk’. She taught Sulli how to do her make up, got her out of bed, and always guarenteed fun. She looked over as Beth started dancing and they both laughed. She loved how Beth made her remember she was a teenager, without a care in the world. She considered her family and Beth’s family took Sulli right in, anytime, and all the time.

Sulli to this day was close with Beth. She doesn’t know if Beth really understands how much she means to Sulli and how much she had helped her in the past but she always tells Beth ‘I love you’ and rambles on to Beth about the deepness of their relationship. Beth has become the CEO Sulli always knew she would be, and in her adulthood has put up many cold walls herself. The men that always were by Beth’s side made her that way. She was happy now but a shadow of darkness was in her eyes too. Life threw out Beth’s big plans too but that didn’t deter Beth the way it had Sulli. She really was something, a beautiful anomaly, no doubt.

They parked and went into the wave pool to set up shop. It was the perfect summer day, smelled of sunscreen and sunshine. Today ended up being one of those days that changed Sulli’s world, like the warm breeze, it wasn’t death stepping into Sulli’s heart this time.

It was the first time she would ever feel butterflies in her stomach. The first time she would look at a man and think of the excitement of lip locking and love. It was her first. And she met him as he hung, soaking wet, battered by the man made waves of the pool. Like a bad romantic movie he came up from the water and carelessly brushed his wet hair out of his eyes. They were huge brown eyes with glints of yellow and green as the sun shone in them. He smiled and laughed as he hung on through the end of the waves. Sulli let him and as the waves stopped took her chance to introduce herself.

His name was Jake. Not Jacob. Not Jacoby. Just Jake. And she loved him right then and there in the sunshine and the sweet smell of summer and sun tan oil. His brother who was older, more handsome by mainstream standards, and far more confident, was already making the moves on Beth. She didn’t seem to mind either. They were invited to a party at their house that weekend.

From that weekend sprouted years of love between Sulli and Jake. He took the place of Beth, of Sulli’s father, and became Sulli’s entire life. They lived together eventually. She moved in with his brother and his Dad. They accepted her as part of the family. Sulli and Jake were sure to get married but love doesn’t work that way in real life. They were too young, Sulli was too curious, and one day it all came to a bitter end. He wanted nothing to do with Sulli anymore. After five years of love and a life Sulli thought was going to last forever. It was gone. Just like her mother.

‘Mummmy!!!!!!’

Sulli snapped out of it. Jude was dressed in his reindeer pajamas.

‘Tell me more about your siiiiiiister….’ Jude not having any siblings filled him with more questions on what it was like to have one.

Sulli remembers how she passed away two weeks after she and Jake broke up. It was the finality of their break up. He refused to come to the viewing, funeral, wake, anything. She was back into the house of darkness and that blow in the ring hit Sulli with an uppercut. Almost a knock out.

‘I’ll tell you tomorrow Jude, it’s time for bed.’

Christmas was just a few days away. Sulli was back in the house she once hated, hearing Irony snickering at her again. But raising her son created a whole new feeling to it. Jude brought light to the dark house. Sulli couldn’t do it without him. Her Dad lay downstairs recovering from his own battle, cancer and equally difficult, cancer treatment. She could here him silently praying every night that the cancer was gone.

She fell asleep quickly after Jude and had trippy dreams of ancient, haunting love. Awake at dawn, she stepped outside to enjoy the crisp December quiet. Shaking off her strange sleep Sulli took a deep breath, it smelled of nothing but sunshine and tanning oil.


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