by Kyra Dusk
Every relationship has an anthem: a ballad, noise, or discordant clamor that represents their partnership. For Devony and Ian, it’s cicada songs.
They met when Devony’s mom enrolled her in the neighborhood swim team. “It’ll be a good way to meet other kids.” She didn’t understand how uncomfortable that could be for a soon-to-be sixth grader in a new city.
Devony walked through the pool’s iron gate with her towel wrapped snuggly around her. Other kids sat on theirs, talking and playing hand games. But nobody invited Devony to sit near them, so she found an empty stretch of concrete near the fence and hid under her towel’s turquoise threads.
Trees grew on the other side of the fence, their branches filled with buzzing insects. Their song was a welcome distraction until a boy with rusty hair ambled over. Then the insect calls rose into an excited crescendo.
“You’re new, right?” he asked.
“How can you tell?”
“I do this every summer, and I’ve never seen you before.” The boy crouched down next to her and lowered his voice. “Can I teach you a trick?”
Devony matched his covert volume. “What is it?”
The boy’s eyes darted to the coaches. “You’re not allowed to get in the pool without permission, but you get in less trouble if you bump into someone and ‘accidentally’ push them in.”
“Are you asking me to push you in?”
“Or I can push you.”
Devony smiled and let her towel slide to the ground.
Her swim-team friendship with Ian spread to their houses, where they hung out afterwards to watch cartoons. It continued through the awkward years of middle and early high school.
Then, the summer after their sophomore year, they stood in a grassy field outside a firework stand. Smoke drifted in the twilight as they took turns setting off bottle rockets. When Devony handed the lighter to Ian, their fingers brushed and both of them froze.
Fireworks still popped and sizzled. Cicadas buzzed during the lulls between. But time seemed to stop as their worlds shifted and realigned.
“Do you know how, in cartoons, fireworks always go off when people kiss?” Ian asked.
“I think it’s supposed to be metaphorical.”
“Want to try it anyway?”
Ian’s shirt smelled like gunpowder as Devony wrapped her arms around him. The crackle of embers overhead sounded like applause. In the trees at the edge of the field, the cicadas roared louder than ever.
Devony and Ian dated through the rest of high school. They applied to the same university. When they got in, they rented an apartment together.
Senior year brought with it a new tension, a feeling of impending change as the adult world loomed before them. It was early autumn when Ian stuck his hands in his pockets and said: “Can we take a walk?”
Devony’s heart skipped a beat, imagining what their next step might be, until she saw the dead cicada lying on the sidewalk.
Kyra Dusk: For information about my published short stories and current projects, please see my Twitter account @DuskKyra.
Our Reader said:
This story of a tender but ultimately doomed relationship underscores the impact of sounds on our experiences, as well as how they shape our memories. A well-rounded tale of love and loss with sharp characterisations.