Seven Weeks Earlier
Anna mused that there were few things, at least in her limited experience of life, that were more beautiful than a waterfall. She closed her eyes against the fine mist blanketing her face and listened.
It was a combination of things really. The constant thunder of its endless pour over the sides of well-worn rock, but when you listened closely it was as if there were hundreds of individual streams all calling out their own unique, triumphant cries as they jumped over the side in complete and joyous abandon, and when you put it all together it became one voice, like a well-trained symphony.
And that was what she saw of it with her eyes still closed and her head thrown back, breathing in the chilly vapor that seemed to refresh her to her innermost core, yet another element of its glory.
She slowly opened her eyes and began moving backward out of its delicious spray to fully take in the sight. She drew in a breath and experienced a shiver of pure pleasure. It was mesmerizing to watch and she grinned foolishly at the thought that those hundreds of slivers of water looked like strings of diamonds leaping into the shimmering robes of an angel, rippling the gown as they flowed to the bottom.
She heard voices headed her way and it broke apart the magic of the moment.
What is it about people that they can rarely be in tune with nature? She thought in exasperation. They're always loud and oblivious to everything around them except the sounds of their own voices. She watched as the group came stomping over, somehow managing to be heard over nature’s thunderous music. As they reached the rocky edge they stopped in unison, and in that brief moment there was absolute silence. Hmm, perhaps not so unaffected after all, she thought with a small smile. She watched them for a few more seconds before making her way back to the park’s expansive lawn.
As she walked she laughed to herself thinking that her ungenerous thoughts of the group were just a mite hypocritical. In a few minutes her friends would be arriving and the six of them would hardly be pensive and quiet as they made their way down the river bed to the main waterfall. Giving her head a shake she focused on her surroundings and smiled widely. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out in full force and she knew the grass would feel amazing on her feet, so she slid her sandals off and curled her toes in the soft green blanket. She dropped down on the spongy warmth and stretched out on her back, closing her eyes blissfully as the breeze from the falls tickled across her face. Just give me a pillow and I could easily take a nap, she sighed. She entertained the thought for about two seconds before deciding against it. The girls would be there any minute and she shuddered to think of the different methods they might use to wake her up…cold water in the face, a spider on her chest, shouting in her ear, hmm, yeah, staying awake was definitely safer.
She stared up at the sky and decided to play her favorite childhood game while she waited-cloud animation. There were large pieces of white fluff scattered and floating across the great blue and she found her first cartoon immediately as a Viking ship came into focus, proud sails billowing in the wind chasing after a...large dog? Yup, complete with a lolling tongue. To the west a clown on stilts was bending down to pick up....nooo, not a clown, a transformer, and he was stepping out of another dimension. Good one, she mentally applauded...
"Anna bo banna fo fanna!"
She sat up and grinned as she spotted her friends making their way across the clearing. Her lip twitched at the sight of Jenna singing and bopping her head, her wavy long black hair swishing back and forth. She bumped her generous hips against her sister Jess who laughed and bumped her back, though when Jess did it the motion was far more sensual. With a classically beautiful face and an hourglass figure that tapered into long legs, Jess always looked like she’d just stepped out of a magazine. The siblings did a dance skip and Anna grinned before shifting her focus to the others.
Macey was watching the sisters with an expression of mock hilarity, a look that was often seen on her exotically attractive face. She was smiling from ear to ear, and God Anna loved that smile. White and wide and genuine, it was nearly always present. She giggled as she watched Macey reach out and goose Jenna, laughing loudly as she dodged retaliation.
“Hey, what about me?” Jess sulked teasingly.
“Ooh baby, get over here,” Macey made a kitty sound.
Anna grinned as she caught Holly’s eye roll in her peripheral.
Marina caught it as well, “Oh come on Hol, you know you want some!”
Holly looked up at the much taller blonde and smirked, “Don’t even think about it,” she warned.
Marina made a move towards her and Holly darted away with a squeal, her wavy brown hair streaming out behind her.
God I love my girls, Anna thought. All so different yet they complemented one another perfectly.
They reached her and she hopped to her feet, joining the two sisters of the group in song, doing a little shimmy shake.
"Party tonight!" Jess clapped Anna five and bumped hips with her, still dancing.
"You know it! So what guy are you lusting after today?" She raised an eyebrow, her lip curling in a teasing smile.
Jess smiled back at her in a very impish way, so Anna prodded, "Who is it, spill!"
"Nathan Ryden," Jenna stated, "she totally made out with him the other night at the pier."
"I did not make out with him, it was just one kiss!"
"Uh huh, is that what we're calling five minute long tongue action these days?"
Jess glared at her sister, then gave it up and grinned. "Okay," she confessed," I guess I made out with him a little."
"Nathan, really? Since when do you like him?" Marina piped in as she tied her long blonde hair back in a lopsided ponytail.
"Do you really need to ask that question," Jenna rolled her blue-violet eyes, "it was just a matter of time since he's one of the last remaining cute guys in our town that she hasn't had a fling with."
"You are so mean to me, and you make me sound so bad!" Jess pouted.
Anna draped her arm around her shoulder. "Don’t listen to her, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being boy crazy Jenna just likes giving you crap."
"Oh pu-leeze," Jenna drawled, "this coming from you? You've kissed exactly two people and it took eons for you to get to that point both times!"
Anna blushed and shook her head. "It's not my fault that guys look at me and see a cute little sister."
That earned her a chorus of boos.
"Anna, what are you talking about, you’re gorgeous!" Jess put a hand on her hip, a frown creasing her brow.
"Yeah, false modesty is very unattractive," Jenna added.
Anna smirked. "Hey, I'm not being falsely modest, I just happen to know that my pixie look does not elicit strong sexual urges from the opposite sex. Since some of my friends have guys eye-screwing them everywhere we go, I should know." Being five foot three and petite of build she was convinced she was too tiny and childlike to ever be considered sexy. It was only her silvery blonde hair and unusual turquoise eyes that allowed her to admit she was attractive.
"What about Austin?" Holly offered.
"He doesn't count."
"And why not?"
"Because he’s like a brother to me,” she held up a hand to stop the objections, “yes I know he feels differently, but I just...I don't know."
"But he's tall and handsome, and obviously does not think that you're too childlike,” Jess pointed out.
"Well that's just because I have such an amazingly sexy personality! See, I'm not falsely modest, in fact I find myself fantastically awesome." She stuck out her tongue and laughter filled the air around her.
"Eh hmm,” Holly cleared her throat as the laughter died away, “if you want to talk about pixie-ish, let's talk about me instead." She waved her hand over her body and raised her eyebrows.
Anna shrugged smiling, "We're both pixies." Holly was a little taller but even slighter in stature if that was possible.
"So," Marina chimed in, tapping her foot in mock impatience, "are we going to stand around all day discussing our looks, or go see our waterfall?"
“Eww Mar, you be-otch,” Macey laughed and poked her in the side.
They headed down to the river bed and began their trek towards the great falls, a much taller version of the one Anna had been soaking in before they arrived and therefore the main attraction, although privately Anna preferred the entrance falls. There was just something less tame about them-explosive and wild, the way she secretly wanted her life to be. Glancing around at her friends she wondered if any of them felt the same.
Over the years of their friendship, particularly once they’d turned sixteen and could drive themselves, they’d spent a great deal of time at this particular park. So much time it had begun to feel like an extension of their backyards. The previous year had rend some changes in that routine however, since she and Holly had graduated a year before the others and Holly now resided in the state of North Carolina where she attended college during the school term. Their group of six had become five for a time and they'd all felt the loss.
Anna had continued to live at home, taking some courses at the local community college, but she was currently toying with the idea of moving to California once the summer ended. Macey would be relocating to Buffalo for university and Jenna was considering the same....soon they would be living separate lives. It was equal parts exciting and profoundly sad, the duality giving her a head spin.
When they reached their destination they all stopped to pay homage to the great waters rushing down from high above. Though it was narrow, the sheer height from which it fell was greater than that of Niagara Falls making it impressive in its own right. Sometimes, when there were few people around, they would swim at the base of it. Today the park was busy and they would not escape notice if they were to jump in with their typical banshee cries so they restricted themselves to the benches that lined the wooden railing.
Their conversation consisted mainly of their impending trip to Europe. The journey overseas would begin in two weeks, a mere two days after the remaining four girls received their diplomas. They had been planning their great escape for a year and it was hard for them to believe it was almost here.
The vacation would center in London, with side trips to France, Ireland and Italy. At first they had thought to stay in Paris for the greater part of it, but the language barrier presented a problem. They’d finally agreed on five days each in Paris, Venice, and Dublin, the remaining two weeks would be spent partying at the famous English pubs and clubs in and around London town. Initially they'd intended for their trip to last the entire summer, but Holly had an internship, Jess a job obligation (bleh), and Macey's parents wanted her home for a bit before she moved into the college dorm-so they’d narrowed it down to a month.
"Sooo, are we ready to head back?" Macey inched in that direction indicating that she was and they all stood. Macey was never overtly demanding, she would always tell you what she wanted in a question, but after years of friendship they all knew that when she was done with a particular place she would become mildly and increasingly irritated if they continued to stay.
They walked back through the canyon continuing their discussion of Europe. Holly had been doing her research (she could always be counted on for that, organization and planning were her specialties) and she had an itinerary made up for them. Anna insisted however, that they leave some things blank. She liked surprises and doing things in a fly by night fashion, as did Marina which was evidenced in nearly every one of their excursions.
When they were once again at the grassy field that led to the parking area, Anna halted to salute her entrance waterfalls and turned to the girls with an expression of thoughtfulness. "Isn't it amazing how two hundred years from now, barring any major catastrophes, that water will still be pouring down over those rocks?"
"You think too much," Marina grinned, pushing her playfully.
She shrugged, smiling back. Well I think it's cool, she thought defensively, it's just too bad I won't be around to see it.