I was walking home from school when I saw her, sitting by the lake with her gaze turned outward. She was forever talking about the ocean back home, down every little passageway, at the end of jetties, piers and sandy beaches. She talked about its deep blue and green, how the colors and transparency varied with the seasons. “I wish the water was as clear in the summer as it is this time of year,” she’d say. “It looks so inviting, but I’m just no good at swimming in the winter.” She would explain how algae gave the ocean a greener color during the summer months, and that she hated this because her one true fear in the world was jellyfish, who were harder to spot in muddy-green summer waters. I sensed she wasn’t thinking about algae or jellyfish now, though, and walked over to her and put my rucksack on the ground. The thump startled her. She looked up at me as if I had just entered her room without knocking. Not so much anger as simply a very real sense of surprise, sort of a ‘caught in the act’ kind of look in her eyes, though I couldn’t figure out what kind of ‘act’ I had caught her in. “Mind if I join you?” she shook her head quietly, growing more into a smile now. I sat down, another thump, and looked out over the water. She was fiddling with her sleeve. I often saw her do this, but I couldn’t figure out if it was a nervous habit or just a habit. “What are you doing out here?” I asked her. “Just looking at the water, you know how much I miss the ocean…” her voice drifted off into a sigh that she had practiced a thousand times. If I ever needed a sigh for a movie, she’d be my first call. “Yes, I believe you’ve mentioned that once or twice,” I said, hoping it would come out funny. Anything I ever said was meant to be taken as a laughing matter. Blame sit-coms. “Well, that and just thinking.” “What are you thinking about?” I asked. “The usual. School. Homework. Christine and the other girls. Boys… I don’t know, stuff,” she cut off. She picked up a small stone and looked at it in the palm of her hand. My eyes followed the traces of her fingers on the stone, feeling as if the weight of the stone was in my own hand. “Stuff?” I asked, trying to sound overly amazed. “I never knew anything classifying as ‘stuff’ happened around here!” She laughed (mission accomplished) and shook her head. “What do I do with you,” she said, not waiting for a reply. She leaned her head on my shoulder and gave another sigh. “Just think,” she continued, “next year we’ll be grown-ups with futures and responsibilities and a lack of imagination. How very sad and grey the lake will look then.” “Well,” I said, taking her hand in mine, “we might be grown-ups, but that doesn’t mean you and I will grow up any time soon. I actually have it on good authority that I’ll ‘never grow up’!” She laughed again, “who’s this ‘good authority’ of yours?” “My mom. After I broke her new vase tossing a football indoors.” “You did not,” she said, exasperated, “the new one I saw in her windowsill just before Christmas?” “That’s the one. Lucky you got to see it. It was gone three days later.” She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the story, and she ended up biting her lip in an obvious effort not to show any effect. “The way I see it, we can either sit around waiting for tomorrow or next year, and dread the times ahead, or,” I said, pausing for dramatic effect, “we can leave our youth with a farewell so grand that it won’t ever truly leave us.” Her eyes started shining with something more than the lake’s reflection, and her grip on my hand grew stronger. “What do you have in mind?” she asked.