Winter with Periwinkle

by Redfern Boyd

Summer gets all the glory. People talk about their lives changing during the hot months. Our season was winter, especially the limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. That time belonged to us, me and Periwinkle, and to our families, who lived the other eleven and a half months six hundred miles apart. Mine in Michigan, hers in Vermont. And we always made the most of it. Snow forts, cocoa, locking eyes across the dinner table and dissolving into giggles, everything the season should be. Even with the time between us, we were thick as thieves.

Periwinkle Hannon and I were no less than destined for each other. Our mothers had roomed together at UVM, so they were a different sort of friends from the dinner-party whisperers whose kids I dodged, kids with names like Rose or Freddie or Sara Jane. Periwinkle was a weird name, but a good weird, not like Tuesday Annabel Swick. Her name was the crunchy December sky at dawn and dusk. Mine was the dullest day of the week, when you’ve survived Monday but you haven’t crested the hill.

We were partners in crime, maybe sixty-forty. Or seventy-thirty. Our escapades were my inventions, guaranteed to get us into trouble, but only if we were caught on the roof with a length of rope tied to the nearest tree limb or if the newts slithered out of our windbreaker pockets. But Periwinkle went along, a good follower and a good loser. Lucky, because I liked leading and winning. I walked one step ahead of her, ran a couple paces faster. My classmates hated me for it in a way she never would.

Still, I couldn’t stand to see her hurt. Whenever her family came to our house, the older rascals who infested our neighborhood hassled her to no end about her name. I’d chase them off with a hockey stick or a bit of blackmail – most recently, my theory on why they’d snuck away
from the school bonfire with the Carlisle girls from the next street over. They’d accuse me of having nothing to do with my otherwise pathetically lonely existence besides eavesdrop, but they’d back down.

And then Max happened. My sister, Sondra, brought him home the year she was sixteen and we were thirteen. It was the fourth time in all our lives the Hannons had driven out to Detroit in their rusty old station wagon. It turned out to be the last time. Sondra was sophisticated – less than gorgeous, if you asked me. Periwinkle was always trying to get into Sondra’s makeup vanity for what she called “experimental purposes.” I nicked a stick of eyeliner for her once. Sondra read me the riot act, but I actually liked the way Periwinkle looked with it. She knew what she was doing, too.

The week leading up to Christmas, shortly after the Hannons arrived, Sondra started looking like a clown with everything she wore. She told me to shut up when I pointed this out. The next day she strutted in with a buff senior on her arm. Neat brown hair. Mismatched eyes. Mother loved him.

Periwinkle practically blew a fuse when she saw him. The look on her face made me sick.

Max spent Christmas morning with us, and then he and Sondra went for a spin in his Camaro. Periwinkle and I lounged the afternoon away, on our backs in front of the fire, rummaging through our gifts and leaving the adults to prepare the big meal in the kitchen. My parents had given Periwinkle a bound journal, despite my reminders that Periwinkle hated writing. Now here she was doodling away at a list. I rolled onto my stomach and saw his eyes at least three times. “What’s so great about his eyes?”

“You haven’t noticed how one’s blue and one’s brown? I’ve never met someone with mismatched eyes! Gol-ly!”

Periwinkle only said gol-ly when she wanted something. “You’ll never have him, you know that, right?”

She brushed it off. “A girl can dream.”

“Can’t you see how stupid he is?”

“He’s not stupid.”

“Yes, he is. A big dumb jock.”

She sat up. “How can you say that?”

I shrugged. “Okay, forget I said it. But don’t get your hopes up. He’s going to college next year, probably. He’s an old man.”

“He’s beautiful.”

“I can’t wait to see how fast he dumps Sondra for the next one.” I rolled onto my back. “Trust me, Periwinkle. Thirteen’s too young, anyway.”

She looked at me for a moment before lying back down. “You’re just jealous because you’ve never felt this.”

I opened my mouth, but I didn’t have a comeback. I’d never really looked at boys in that light, they were just kind of there. And they treated me the same. Still, I had my pride to protect. “For your information, I have made the conscious choice not to cheapen my life with silly thoughts of romance.” There.

“Such a liar,” she muttered.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“It doesn’t matter!” I said. “Unless you want to end up like Sondra, falling at any guy’s feet?”

“It doesn’t look like she does that. They seem to respect each other.”

“You don’t know how many boyfriends she’s had.”

“Well, if it makes you feel better, I won’t end up like ‘that.’” She made air quotes.

“You’re in dangerous territory.”

“Max is one guy. I’m not boy-crazy, Tuesday. I’ll be fine.”

I propped myself up on my elbows. “Not if it’s the wrong guy.”

“For Pete’s sake, it’s not like I’m going to try to steal him away from your sister.”

“I’m just saying I don’t want you to get involved in –”She let out an aggravated sigh. “‘Get involved?’ I like Max. It’s a fantasy. Please don’t do what my brain already does for me.”

“Excuse me?”

“Telling me what I should and shouldn’t ‘get involved in.’ It’s just like you.”

For the first time possibly ever, I heard bitterness in her voice. “What does that mean?”

She stood up and meandered over to the other end of the room. “You’ve always been the one in charge. Which was fine when we were younger, but…I need some space.”

I was kind of shocked. “I thought you had fun.”

“I did…but there was always this part of me that wondered, when’s it my turn? You know? Well, you don’t.” She sat on the far edge of the couch.

“I mean,” I said slowly, “I think I was pretty good, for the most part…”

“Except for your obsessive need to be first and to win everything.”

“So, you’ve had this list of gripes for a while now.”

“What was I supposed to say? You scared me sometimes, Tuesday, I’ll be honest.”

“I’ve always been there for you,” I argued, getting to my feet. “I beat up those boys. Remember how they made fun of you? Every day, almost. And then that one day they got a fist in the face?”

“And I got a kickball in the face.”

I blinked. We hadn’t played kickball since we were nine. That day was mild, the street was plowed. One of the boys, the youngest, blond, moronic-looking, was chanting “Peri-tinkle” over and over, the funniest thing the others had heard all day. Their jeering interrupted our game. I was already in a bad mood. I marched up to the blond one and slugged him in the face. And something in me had snapped big-time because I knocked him down and took my fists to every inch of him within my reach. By the time the other boys pulled me off him, he was curled up and whimpering. I dusted my hands off, spat in the slush at the other boys’ feet, and tried to refocus. Then I remembered: Periwinkle was up, four to three. I wasn’t really aware of myself until I’d picked up the kickball and chucked it at her. She was standing a few feet from me and it hit her smack in the forehead. She wobbled and swayed and then her knees buckled. The red lifted from my eyes and I found her out cold. It took me a while to register that I had done it, but when Mother came to the door demanding to know what all the shouting was for, I told her the boys had thrown the ball at Periwinkle’s head and I’d chased them off. She believed me.

“Yeah,” I mumbled. There was no reason for this to be so vivid in my mind. “I guess so.”

“That’s the day I started to wonder whether you really cared about me at all.” She glanced at the carpet and scoffed. “Well, once I came to.”

I was trying to swallow my heart from my throat. “I’m…I’m really sorry, Periwinkle.”

Her eyes met mine. My pulse skipped. “I think that’s the first time you’ve ever said that.”

I’d apologized plenty in my life, with some coaxing, but probably never to Periwinkle. The sudden need to make up for lost time filled me from the bottom of my soul, almost overwhelming the bother about Max, about Periwinkle liking Max. Almost.

My feet were heavy as I came toward the couch. The room dimmed like a dying TV screen. I sat down next to her and leaned in as if to hug her, and I didn’t stop leaning until my mouth found the left corner of her mouth, Soft and tender, like peach skin. When I leaned back, Periwinkle was staring at me, white as a sheet. I could tell by her ponytail that she was shaking. Part of me didn’t know what I had just done, and part of me was completely sure. I had never been in love. I had never been in love with a boy. I hoped this was an okay apology.

A minute or maybe a lifetime later, we saw Mother and Mrs. Hannon in the doorway.

***

At Christmas dinner, Sondra sat beside me, Max across from her. Periwinkle across from me, as usual. It was deadly silent. Mother requested the roasted potatoes. Periwinkle handed the dish down the table. Roasted potatoes were her favorite, and she hadn’t taken any.

I tried three separate times to catch her eye. Periwinkle didn’t look back.

***

Redfern Boyd is the pen name Cecilia Gigliotti has thought of going by since she first drafted this story nearly eight years ago. Much of her work deals with pop culture, childhood trauma, and things famous people have said when they thought no one was listening. Her essays, poems, and photography appear in publications including The Atticus Review, Outrageous Fortune, The Route 7 Review, Transformations, Riza, Blue Muse Magazine, Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan, and DoveTales: Writing for Peace. She ghostwrites for Galatea Addictive Stories, an app powered by the online publishing forum Inkitt.