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Authors: Shannon McCrimmon

The Summer I Learned to Dive

BOOK: The Summer I Learned to Dive
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Table of Contents

  
Chapter 1

  

  
Chapter 2

  

  
Chapter 3

  

  
Chapter 4

  

  
Chapter 5

  

  
Chapter 6

  

  
Chapter 7

  

  
Chapter 8

  

  
Chapter 9

  

  
Chapter 10

  

  
Chapter 11

  

  
Chapter 12

  

  
Chapter 13

  

  
Chapter 14

  

  
Chapter 15

  

  
Chapter 16

  

  
Chapter 17

  

  
Chapter 18

  

  
Chapter 19

  

  
Chapter 20

  

  
Chapter 21

  

  
Chapter 22

  

  
Chapter 23

  

  
Chapter 24

  

  

  
Finn’s story continues

  

  
Acknowledgements

  

  
About The Author

THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO DIVE

Published by Shannon McCrimmon

Copyright © 2012 by Shannon McCrimmon

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

For Chris

Chapter 1

I bit on my fingernails, a terrible habit that I wish I could quit, scrutinizing my graduation speech for the millionth time. No matter how much I edited it, I still wasn’t satisfied. Trying to find the perfect words to convey within a matter of minutes is a feat most can’t accomplish. I wondered what sage advice I could offer to an audience that probably wouldn’t be listening anyway. What could I say that would leave a lasting impression or make a difference for that matter? I wanted what I said to be perfect and memorable, but instead it was going to sound cliché like any other valedictorian speech.

My mother knocked on my bedroom door interrupting me as I hit the delete button several times in frustration. I sighed and said,  “Come in.” She walked in and tilted her head to the side, giving me that look – the one I knew all too well.

“Finn, how long are you going to spend on that speech?”

It was a reasonable question. More than three days had passed since I began writing it and I still wasn’t finished. Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. She stood over my shoulder reading the words I had typed. I looked up at her seeking her approval. Her opinion was what mattered most to me, more than anything in the world. I knew she was the one person who could make the speech perfect.

“So, what do you think?” I asked her. She gestured for me to move so she could sit in front of my computer. She sat down and began reading it silently to herself analyzing every word, every phrase. Her face unreadable, she finished reading and looked at me.

Her forehead creased. “Finn, it looks good. I would just finish it with an inspirational quote, something...” she thought for a moment, “something motivational.” She stood up and tapped on the chair motioning for me to sit back down.

“A quote,” I said repeating her.

She looked at her watch and frowned. “You’ll find one. You just need to find it soon because we have to leave within the next hour.”

I bit on my nails again looking at the time on my computer screen. The ceremony was within an hour and I still wasn’t finished with the speech. I looked at her anxiously. She could read the expression on my face.

“It will make it better,” she added.

“An inspirational quote. Got it,” I said as I searched on Google for “inspirational quotes.”

“You’ll find something,” she said, leaving me alone in my quest for perfection, if there were such a thing.

Searching for a few minutes, I found the quote that I wanted. Henry David Thoreau summed up what I wanted to say. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

***

I stood inside my school’s gym and watched as the other students hugged each other and said their goodbyes, upset that change was imminent. It was awkward watching them, like I was an outsider. I definitely was not an insider. I felt like I should do something, instead of standing there feeling ridiculous. I didn’t know who to talk to. No one really knew me. I didn’t give them the time. I saw my mother standing at the edge of the bleachers. She was smiling proudly at me. I had pleased her with my speech. I’m glad someone was happy with it. Sure there was applause at the end, but it seemed like forced etiquette. The speech wasn’t authentic enough for me. It was a struggle to try and motivate people toward greatness when I had barely lived. I began to walk toward her with my diploma in hand but was stopped by Carter Davis, one of the best looking boys in the school.

“Hi Finn. That was a great speech,” he said. I looked up at him. His brown hair was cropped short to his perfectly shaped head.

“Thanks,” I said, suddenly fidgeting and mindlessly playing with my hair.  It was a horrible nervous habit that only hot guys in my presence could evoke. We had never talked to each other until this day.

He smiled at me. “Will you sign my yearbook?”

I nodded yes, even though I didn’t know what to say to him. “Sure,” I said and took it from his hands. I told him to have a great summer and good luck in the future; basic clichés’ that are reserved for occasions like this. What else can you say to someone you don’t really know?

He read what I wrote, not saying anything. He looked at my empty hands.

“I didn’t buy a yearbook,” I admitted.

“Oh,” he said. He looked around the gym and smiled at a group of his friends. He held up a finger to them, motioning he’d be there in a minute. “So, a lot of us are going out to Lido’s Pizzeria. I was wondering if you would like to come, too?” he asked.

I shook my head no and smiled. “Thanks, but I can’t. My mom and I are going out.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. Maybe I’ll see you around some time.” He shrugged. I was speechless and didn’t know how to keep the conversation going, I was too nervous.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said quietly.

“I’ll see you.” He touched my shoulder and gently squeezed it and then walked away. I touched my shoulder, feeling the goosebumps that had just formed and then kicked myself internally for being a shy buffoon. It would have been nice to get to know him, to hang out at the Pizzeria.

I walked over to my mother, her grin wide. “Finn, you were terrific. I’m so proud of you.” She beamed. “The quote at the end was perfect,” she added.

“Thanks.”

Still grinning, she said, “The speech was impeccable. I couldn’t be more proud than I am now.”

I smiled at her, unable to imagine a time where I could feel happier. Winning her approval, seeing that everything she and I had planned had come to fruition, it made me feel proud. She turned away from me and stared at Carter and his friends and then back at me.

She nudged me lightly. “You should go talk to your friends. I’m sure you want to say goodbye to them.”

“No, that’s okay,” I said, shaking my head instantly. “I already said goodbye,” I lied. There was no one for me to say anything to, no one who I had even gotten to know well enough to care about not seeing again. All of them, every single one of them, they weren’t people I could really call my friends. I had never given myself the opportunity to get to know anyone well enough, or allow them to get to know me. In their eyes, I was the smart girl, the girl who studied all the time, the girl who was “most likely to succeed.” That was what I was awarded in senior superlatives anyway. I envied them for their carefree ways, their ability to effortlessly go with the flow, and to take things as they came. That wasn’t me. Studying and academics took priority, not friendships. I had a plan.

From the time I was a little girl, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be a heart surgeon, married by the time I was in my mid-twenties and the mother of three children before my mid-thirties. I planned to live in a nice house and go on vacations to the Caribbean and Europe. This was my plan.

I glanced at them laughing, hugging each other, saying how much they were going to miss each other. A small part of me pained at the sight of it but realized it was too late to develop a relationship with them. The past cannot be changed.

“Are you sure?” she asked me, trying to read my expression.

“Yeah.” I nodded. “Let’s go.” I wrapped my arms in hers and began walking, not even bothering to say goodbye to anyone. Walking out of the school, I realized that it would be the last time I would ever step foot in it and see people that I had gone to school with for years. But I didn’t feel anything, not sadness, nothing. I was too focused on beginning my life.

We drove home blaring music, singing at the top of our lungs. We were basking in my triumph, for what I had managed to accomplish—a full scholarship to one of the best women’s college’s in the nation. It was what we had planned all along; my acceptance to a prestigious college. My mother smiled at me, singing out of tune. I laughed at her inept ability, fully aware I sounded just as bad.

“I have a surprise for you,” she teased.

“What is it?” I asked eagerly.

“Well…,” she paused relishing the moment of suspense.

“Mom,” I pleaded.

“We have dinner reservations at Chateau Martin,” she said.

Chateau Martin, one of the most expensive restaurants in town, was way too fine for us to frequent. I had been once when I won the spelling bee for my school in sixth grade. It was opulent and rich, making me feel like a princess eating amongst dignitaries.

“That sounds perfect.” I started humming along to the music and then abruptly stopped, thinking about what it would cost her. “It’s expensive though,” I began.

She shook her head. “It’s worth it,” she said, her face glowing, the happiest she has ever been. “And you can wear my black dress.”

I
loved
her black dress. I had envied it for a long time. Fashionistas would call it a classic, an Audrey Hepburn dress. It would make me look like a young woman on the threshold of adulthood, instead of a teenage girl going out with her mother. My more-than-blah wardrobe would not have sufficed for Chateau Martin. Wearing my mother’s dress made the evening more than perfect.

“Thanks Mom.” I smiled. We started singing again. I wondered if the day could get any better.

We walked into our home, a town house in Tampa, Florida, a warm and large city that rests off of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s all I’ve ever known. My dad died in a car accident when I was two years old and my mom has taken care of me ever since. Things were tough at times because money was scarce. Her menial salary at her secretarial job barely covered my private school education even though I received a partial scholarship. “You need this to get into the best colleges,” she would say when I worried about the money she spent on me. “This is going to help you achieve your goal of becoming a doctor.” Her sacrifice was financial; mine was social. While the other kids in my school were going out and having fun, I spent countless hours studying for the SAT so that I could get a better score, a score worthy of a prestigious college. It’s a shame to say, but all of my childhood years have been a blur, passing by so quickly. I don’t recall any memories that I’ll look nostalgically back on once I’m older.

“We have a few hours before we have to be at Chateau Martin.” She sat down on the couch and took off her shoes. I sat down next to her and leaned my head back against the couch cushion relieved it was all over.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do when you leave,” she said. I titled my head forward and looked at her.

“I’ll visit every weekend,” I said, feeling guilty.

“It won’t be the same. You’ll become too busy with school.” She touched my hair slightly and frowned.

“It’ll never change, don’t worry.”

“It’s fine, Finn. I’ll just miss this, the two of us. It’s always been you and me, and I’m going to miss that.” She stood up and wandered into to the kitchen.

“It wasn’t always just us. Dad was with us for a while,” I said loud enough for her to hear me. We rarely discussed my father. I was baiting her. I wanted her to say something I suppose, to have some type of reaction about him.

She sighed heavily and walked back into the living room. “You’re right. He’s been gone a long time though, Finn. I guess that’s why I just think of you and me.”

“Do you think Dad would have liked my speech today?” I asked, turning to face her. I was so curious about my father. I didn’t know much about him, only the little things she told me. I had my images of him, of memories I wish were real. But deep down, I knew that what I remembered about him was just a fabrication I created because I was desperate to know him. On a day like this, I wanted so badly to have him in my life.

“Of course. It was a good speech, especially the quote.” She was trying to make a joke, but I knew she was serious. It had been her idea and she wanted credit for it. I didn’t say anything else. I sat quietly and wondered how the day would have been had he been there. I daydreamed, picturing him and her in the audience applauding loudly, standing up and cheering for me; my parents and my grandparents embracing me, taking numerous pictures of me trying to capture the day. Secretly, that’s what I wanted. I wanted what everyone else had today— family members supporting their loved one. I was thankful I had my mother, but I wanted more.

“What are you sitting here so quietly thinking about?” she asked, sitting down next to me.

“Nothing,” I lied.

“For thinking about nothing, you have quite a pensive expression.”

“It’s nothing,” I lied again. I wasn’t willing to tell her this, to divulge my most inner thoughts. I didn’t want her to know that I was thinking about my father and his parents, the grandparents I hadn’t seen or heard from since I was two. I didn’t want to share with her that their absence left a void in my life. I wanted to know them so badly and had never gotten the chance. Why they didn’t want to share their lives with me was a mystery I could never figure out.

***

“Finn, you should get dressed. Our dinner reservations are for seven o’clock,” my mother said. She looked at her watch.

She was wearing a charcoal colored wrap dress. Her long light brown hair was wound tight in a simple, yet classic bun. Her makeup was impeccable. My mother was strikingly beautiful. She could wear a garbage bag and still look gorgeous. Although she was in her late thirties, she still looked ten years younger.

“Okay.” I stood up and stretched. I ambled into her room and headed toward her large walk-in closet. The black dress was zipped up securely in a pale gray garment bag. I unzipped it gingerly, trying to be careful. The zipper was stuck. I tugged on it; it wouldn’t budge. I pulled on it again with more force. Still, it wouldn’t unzip. I grabbed the garment bag in haste and accidentally hit the shelf above the clothes rack. Several envelopes fell to the floor. I picked them up, intending to place them back where they belonged, but when I saw they were addressed to me, I was curious. They were all postmarked from Graceville, South Carolina from Charlie and Lillian Hemmings— my grandparents.  I had not seen nor heard from them in over sixteen years. None of the envelopes had been opened. By the size of them, they looked like cards. I immediately sat down on the floor and held one in my hand. It was postmarked from just a few weeks before. I ripped the envelope open, took out the card and looked at it. A graduation cap with the caption
“Congratulations graduate”
was on the front of the card. On the inside in near perfect script,
“Finley, we’re so proud of you and love you very much. Love, Nana and Grandpa.”
  They had included a check for two hundred and fifty dollars. I forgot about my mother’s dress, throwing it on the floor. I opened another envelope, it was a birthday card. A picture of a cake with five candles was on the front. Again, inside in perfect script:
“Finley, have a very happy fifth birthday. We miss you and love you. Nana and Grandpa.”

BOOK: The Summer I Learned to Dive
3.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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