When Summer Comes: A Short Story
By Elizabeth Peterson
(c) February 2017 All Rights Reserved.
Summer was Lila’s favorite time of the year. It was light in the morning, no matter how early she woke to race out into the early morning air. Dew drops and grass clippings stuck to her feet as she ran until the dandelion yellow sun rose high in the sky and the dew lifted. When it was too hot to run any more, it was time to jump in the pool. There were juicy red watermelon slices and cold glasses of lemonade to snack on between rounds of swimming and splashing.
By the time dinner was over and the last drop of ice cream licked from her fingers, it wasn’t such an awful thing to be sent off to the bathtub. She didn’t complain too much when Mommy pulled the fresh cotton nightie over her head, and by the time she was snugly tucked between crisp sheets, she could barely hold her eyes open long enough to ask all the important questions.
“May I have another drink of water?”
“How about berries for breakfast tomorrow?”
“Can I just wear my swimsuit all day tomorrow? It sticks when I’m hot.”
Lila fell asleep every night marveling over the wonderful treats of summer.
Then, so gradually that she almost didn’t know it was happening, summer changed into fall. First the morning dew felt cold on her toes. Then one day, it wasn’t warm enough to get into the pool. After enough of those cool days, the WORST thing happened—the pool was covered up with a great, billowing gray cover.
Lila watched in horror as the cover settled over it and her Daddy began tying the edges down.
“But I want to swim!”
“It’s too cold now. You would be frozen like a popsicle!” Daddy was smiling, but Lila did not smile. This was the saddest day she could remember.
“But,” Daddy said, almost as if he could see the tears Lila felt piling up behind her eyeballs. “After fall, and winter, and spring, summer will come again. Then we will swim and play in the sun some more.”
“Summer will come again?” Lila asked, needing to make certain.
“After Winter.” Daddy promised.
A single brown leaf floated down and settled onto the tarp as Daddy fastened the last corner to the pool and beckoned for Lila to come inside. She looked over her shoulder at the gloomy gray pool cover and whispered to the pool.
“Summer will come.”
There were fun things to do in autumn. There were leaf piles and pumpkin patches and huge roaring bonfires. Lila roasted marshmallows and ate s’mores until her cheeks were stuffed like the little brown squirrel that collected acorns under the oak tree.
But even with her cheeks stuffed full of chewy, gooey marshmallows, Lila looked longingly at the pool.
“Is it summer yet, Mommy?” She asked.
“Not yet,” Mommy said, and put a hat onto Lila’s head with a smile.
“Oh no…” Lila sniffed and thought she might cry, but there was another marshmallow to roast. She decided she could probably wait one more day for summer to come back.
But the next morning when she slid out of bed, the floor was cold under her toes and she had to hop quickly from one foot to the other while she looked for her fluffiest pink slippers.
That wasn’t even the worst of it. It grew colder, and colder, and colder every single day!
One day early in December she cautiously asked Mommy if it was possible summer might come back soon.
“Not yet.” Mommy said. “But today we’ll set up our Christmas tree.”
Lila squealed and danced around the living room with delight. If Christmas was coming soon, she could wait a little longer for summer.
Christmas-time was so wonderful that Lila almost didn’t think about summer at all. Between the candy-canes and hot cocoa, and singing Christmas songs in the golden glow of Christmas tree lights, she even began to think that if it could just be Christmas always, she wouldn’t worry so much about summer.
But then one day, Daddy and Mommy started taking the lights down and boxing up Christmas decorations.
“Why are you killing Christmas?” She wailed.
“It wouldn’t be as fun to have Christmas if it was Christmas all year long!” Daddy said.
“We’ll have Christmas again next year, Lila. But first are birthdays and spring, and summer, and autumn…” Mommy kept talking but Lila had stopped listening.
Summer! It must be nearly back by now. She went to the window to check, but it was still cold and gray outside.
The days kept passing, each day newly cold and dreary.
Every morning Lila pressed her nose up against the window and asked, “Is it summer yet?”
Every morning Mommy shook her head no.
The wonderful soft grass she loved had turned into a prickly ice wasteland. The fresh warm breeze had become cold and snappish. Lila bundled up in her warmest coat, hat and gloves, and stepped outside. Her nose turned red and her eyes watered as she asked again.
“Is it summer yet?”
“Not yet, sweet girl.”
“UGGGGGGGGGH!” Lila groaned the loudest groan of all.
It was a black and gloomy time.
What if summer wasn’t coming back at all?
What if Lila was doomed to a lifetime of cold toes and watery eyes?
What if the pool cover could never come off again?
After days of asking when summer would come back, Lila finally gave up hope.
Then, one morning, something felt different. Lila could hear the twittering of a bird outside. Golden sunlight peeked through her window blinds. She tip-toed down the stairs and stood in front of the great front door, hardly able to breathe for wondering.
As the door creaked open, a warm breeze ruffled her nightgown.
Lila knew then. She didn’t have to ask again.
Dewdrops and cut grass stuck on her feet as she raced outside and jumped into the bright splotch of sunlight on the lawn.
“Summer came back!”
Summer was Lila’s favorite time of year.