Taryn Tilton (fiction, 16) has published a novella, Cherry Cherry, which won 1888’s 2017 Plaza Literary Prize:
an excerpt from Cherry Cherry
Jen is a junior. Jen is Annie’s sister.
At this moment, the first day of summer, I don’t think anything of her.
We are by the pool. Annie calls me every day to invite me to swim even though we both know I’m going over anyway. Sometimes the other girls come, but not always. I ride my bike.
Generally, we swim or we sit and read Cosmo. Sometimes, when we’re very bored, we run through the sprinklers. The water sparkles on our skin, and we push our fingers into our forearms and thighs to make pools of it.
Annie has long black hair, a white swimsuit with daisies on it, and a thin necklace with a single pearl, the chain like a unicorn hair in the sun. When she laughs her eyes disappear, a droplet nesting in her collarbone, the pearl knit to her sternum, Annie.
And when we feel like swimming, we really swim, brine our eyes and scour our lungs with chlorine, host underwater tea parties in some crystalline kingdom or bind our ankles with diving rings like mermaids. But we are not actually mermaids, so when our arms get tired, when our eyes and lungs are burning, we force ourselves up and rest.
Every day like that, more or less, and every day Annie’s mom brings us snacks. But today, a week into summer, Annie’s mom is on vacation.
Annie and I are by the pool. We hear the door click open. I look over my shoulder. It’s not Annie’s mom, though in the shadow of the house she is still a constellation of dark washes, a loose black shape, and I find myself wondering what form she will finally take.
It is Jen, of course, but I had not expected her to step into the sun like that, her skin reflecting the light in clean planes, her hair dark and thick, heavy and rich over her shoulder. She’s wearing bleached cut-offs and a tank top, black. She has an easy grace. She is bringing us Doritos in a mug. “Sorry,” she says, “I couldn’t find a clean plate.” She sets it down on the rippled glass of the poolside table and leaves as she came, soundlessly, except for a single bird trilling in the distance, in cahoots, announcing her exit. The door shuts, a dog barks.
Annie’s already eating. The Dorito dust sticks to her wet fingers and she tries to wipe one on me but I lick it instead and she giggles.
We read Cosmo. It gets warped from the water. “Whatever,” Annie says. The advice is the best, the embarrassing stories second best. Someone tripped over a backpack, someone called the wrong number, someone wore a too-tight skirt and it split. If no one is home, we read the sex parts. Jen is home so we don’t read the sex parts.
We do it again the next day, and the next. The summer stretches before us, infinite and the same, without event or task, like before we learned there were seven days in a week.
. . . purchase Cherry Cherry from 1888 here.
. . . or find the novella on Amazon here.