This story is by Amie Nguyen and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Shaun thought his entire world was going to end. There was little use in pushing away the waves of embarrassment that swept through him as he picked up the two-pronged campfire skewer. The world saw a two-pronged campfire skewer – but to him, it was a memory of love and service. He packed the two-pronged campfire skewer into the bin.
He was brought into the attic again to help his mother pack for Danaj family weekend. The coming weekend would bring him the refresh he needed. The days would be spent on Uncle Todd’s Sabre yacht with the sun beating against the waves and wind, he would have the joy and camaraderie of his cousins, he would spend the nights in fireside chats where the kids caught up on the rollercoasters of their college experiences, and more importantly, he would have a break from mundane life in paradise at Grandpa Jimmy’s cottage. He would be able to forget all that ailed him.
There was the excited anticipation and the counting down of days. He went to bed thinking of the sand-lined beach and pretty girls. He triple checked his packing list to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. He went to the store with his mom to buy Hershey’s chocolate and graham crackers and marshmallows for fireside s’mores. He felt not much different than he had before the first ever Danaj family weekend seven years ago. He was thirteen then and twenty now. His love for s’mores never changed.
His love for Sarah did. It was a year ago today that he decided to tell her he no longer loved her the way she needed to be loved. It was a year ago today that he had broken the heart he once immaturely promised he would love forever. It was his one-year anniversary of love and loss.
He had chosen this day in particular so that the following days could be spent in the haven and paradise of Grandpa Jimmy’s cottage. He was particularly grateful that the same chain of events would follow this year. The anniversary of his decision to break Sarah’s heart brought back remorse and guilt and sadness, but it was dulled by the overbearing excitement and imposed hopes that he declared the family vacation would bring. What did it matter if he felt sad now if he knew he would be spending the next few days in bliss? He packed the two-pronged campfire skewer into the bin, the one Sarah had bought and given to him so he could roast two marshmallows at one time.
He was eager to tell all his friends and coworkers of the upcoming trip, for it was the best part of his year every year. He could hardly focus during class lectures and was far too preoccupied in swiping through old pictures taken at Grandma Jimmy’s to be taking notes.
Saturday morning came and the car was packed. Shaun and his parents arrived in Cape Cod before noon and everything was the way he remembered. He was embraced in warm hugs from his aunts who gave him their annual commentary on how tall and handsome he was growing to be. His uncles asked him how many protein shakes he downed in a day.
The sun was bright and the wind blew softly. The steady rise and fall of the waves could be seen and heard just outside the window. There were pretty girls out tanning on the beach, sunkissed and sipping pink lemonades. He was in paradise and could ask for nothing more. He hardly even remembered that it had been one year and one day since he had broken the heart he once immaturely promised to love forever.
Until Grandma Jimmy lit the bonfire and it was time for s’mores. He went to the bin and pulled out the two-pronged campfire skewer, the one Sarah had bought and given to him so he could roast two marshmallows at one time – one for her and one for him.
It was then that he realized a change in setting could only change his state of mind for a period of time. It was his head that he always had to live in. The two-pronged campfire skewer brought back every memory of all the ways Sarah cared for him, the way she was always eager to hear about how much he loved s’mores, the way her two beady eyes lit up in appreciation whenever he made her one.
The waves of the beach continued to rise and fall through dusk. Uncle Todd’s Sabre yacht could be seen docked in the pier. The weather warmed every inch of his skin. He was with people who loved him dearly. But Shaun only roasted one marshmallow on his two-pronged campfire skewer.