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Electric Blue Love by Rebecca Jenshak (1)

“No, not that one. The one next to it.” My mother pointed to a large box on the top shelf of her closet. My brother, Donnie, awkwardly lifted the heavy cardboard and dropped it onto the bed.

“That it?” he asked and shifted anxiously toward the door.

She opened the flaps and as the pastel and floral prints peeked out, my mother grinned. “Yes. This is the one.”

“Cool, I’m out of here. Leo and I are going to the park to shoot hoops.”

Standing taller, my mother turned to face Donnie. “Did you make your bed and clean the hall bathroom?”

“Yes and yes,” he muttered. “All my chores are done.”

“Alright, say goodbye to your sister. And don’t be out too late.”

While Donnie wrapped one arm around my back and leaned in – his version of a hug, my mom called for Leo. My brothers collided in the doorway.

Twins, but not identical, Leo and Donnie had the same build and height. Among their differences were hair styles and clothing. Donnie kept his hair cropped short and styled and preferred collared shirts and skinny jeans. Leo’s hair and clothes were untidy, in a word, but he was attractive enough to pull it off in a carefree, too-cool-to-care-about-appearances way. Both sets of their light eyes, the same shade of laser blue as mine, turned to me.

“What’s up?” Leo asked as he pulled a hoodie on over his head.

“I’m heading out in about an hour.” I stepped forward and hugged Leo tightly. He hugged me back, using both arms – another noted difference between the twins. “Stay out of trouble.” I pulled back and ruffled a hand through his long, unkept hair.

When we were alone, my mom started pulling out the clothes stashed away in the box.

“I finally went through my closet again and got rid of everything that doesn’t fit or is too young for me.” She rolled her eyes dramatically like the idea she was too old for anything was outrageous. At fifty-two, my mother was still beautiful. The last five years had brought more lines to her face and her body had softened, but the light in her eyes and the determined and confident way she held herself was timeless.

Her clothes, however, were not.

“These are just the spring and summer items,” she said as she laid out a series of dresses that were circa the late nineties.

I smiled as I stepped toward the mountain of clothes. Lifting a long, pink sundress with large white and blue flowers, my mind skirted to our family photo album. A picture from my sixth-grade graduation where my mother wore this dress while sandwiched between me and my father flashed vividly in my mind.

Every piece of clothing told part of a story. Our story. And I inspected each article the same way, letting the memories of my mother standing beside me through important life events warm my insides.

Her scent clung to the fabrics and I lifted the dress to my face.

“Try this one on. It was my favorite.” She tossed a shorter blue dress with another floral pattern my way.

While I pulled the dress on over my tank and leggings, my mother continued to pick through clothes and lay them on the bed for my inspection. Trying on my mother’s worn and outdated clothes always transported me back to when I was younger. I’d sneak into her closet and rifle through each item, try on shoes or jewelry to make a complete outfit. I couldn’t wait for the day I’d be able to fit into my mother’s clothes and even though I’d been wearing her hand me downs for years now, it was still just as exciting every time she had new items for me.

“Hmm.” She considered me and the dress. “It’s a little big. You’re more petite than I ever was, but I could take it in a bit in the waist and shoulders.” Her hands pulled at the fabric to show me how it would look. “What do you think?”

I stared at my reflection in the floor length mirror of my parents’ bedroom. She was right, it was a little big, but making do was practically my life’s motto. “Not necessary. I’ll wear a belt with it.”

“It’s really no big deal. The alterations are easy. I could pin it this afternoon and then mail it and any of the others you want.”

With an exaggerated gasp, I gripped the skirt of the dress in both hands. “No way. I want to wear this one back to school today.”

Her pleased smile was my reward.

I tossed a few other dresses over my shoulder and motioned toward the remaining clothes. “I’ll put the rest in my closet for this summer. These will be perfect for work.”

I leaned in and kissed her cheek before scooping everything into the box. I texted my roommate and best friend Tasha while I packed. A week in New York for Spring break had been amazing, but I missed my friend and our cozy apartment.

 

Me: My flight gets in at four. When do you get back?

Tasha: Just got in! Can’t wait to see you. I missed your face! Party at Todd’s tonight so get your dancing shoes on! No excuses!

 

Her excessive use of exclamations points was a good indicator of her state of mind. There would be no denying her tonight.

With a smile, I tucked my phone in my purse and glanced around my old room. The walls were a faded pink and Einstein and James Clerk Maxwell decorated the wall with their genius and inspiration. The girl that had pinned them to the wall had changed, but my love for math and science had not.

In just a few months I’d finally be able to move back to New York City and start applying everything I’d learned in school. I was ready, but I was beginning to feel the loss of my carefree college life. Not that it hadn’t been hard work maintaining grades and keeping up with the twenty thousand other students all vying for top spots. Still, I was allowed a certain sheltering from the real world. I could forget that I was from a low-income family whose parents hadn’t gone to college or held down fancy jobs. With Tasha as a roommate and friend, I felt normal for the first time in my life. She’d taken one look at me in our introduction to psychology class freshman year and told me she had my back. And she had. Still did.

“Well, I’m off,” I announced as I entered the living room, pulling my suitcase behind me.

“Cookies for Tasha on the counter and bagels from Kossar's for you.”

“Thank you.”

“Got everything you need?” My father asked, standing from his favorite easy chair and pulling out his wallet. “You need cash for the taxi or for a soda at the airport?”

“Nah, I’m good.” I stowed the food in the front compartment of my baggage and then practically threw myself into my mother’s arms. “Thank you for everything. I’ll see you in a few months.”

Her eyes were misty as I pulled away, but she nodded and smiled proudly.

“It’s always too quiet in this house after you leave,” my father said as he squeezed me tightly and placed a kiss on top of my head. “We sure do miss you.”

“Miss you too.”

“And, uh, be sure to thank Tasha’s father for arranging the ticket for you again. I hope it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.”

I winced at the look that crossed my father’s face. He was old school and proud. He didn’t like the idea that someone else paid my way, but Tasha’s dad was a big wig at one of the airlines so getting me on a flight home for Spring Break was no big deal – her words. I was grateful to not have to take the bus and my family was grateful to see more of me.

“I will. I promise.”

After another round of hugs and loving glances, I stepped out into the city and inhaled deeply. I wanted to soak up every drop before I headed back to Connecticut. I thought about how little time I had left before I’d return for good as a career woman.

Had I lived enough in the four years I’d been gone? Had I experienced enough late nights and partying so that I wouldn’t look back on this stage of my life with regret? I knew the answer to both of those questions was a resounding no. Practical and worried about the ramifications of getting too carried away, I’d lived cautiously.

Tasha’s text about the party tonight was fresh on my mind. Maybe with the last months of college, my grades secure enough to relax a tiny bit, I could start spending more time on the extracurricular activities I’d neglected. Namely, dating.

Tasha would be on board and maybe with her help and some research of my own, I could think about a real boyfriend. Someone to celebrate the end of one chapter and the start of another. And I had just the someone in mind.

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