Cyrus laid on his bed and stared at the ceiling. The day had been simultaneously the longest and shortest day of summer. It was the day that his three best friends were leaving for several weeks.
Buffy was heading to a basketball camp. She wasn’t originally planning on going, as she knew everyone on the boys basketball team was going to go, but her team had decided it would be a fun bonding activity and did a few fundraisers to get them all into the all girls session. So as the people from the first session were returning Buffy was packing to leave for 3 weeks to play basket and socialize.
Cyrus had stopped by Buffy’s house the day before. Andi was there too, and the said their final goodbyes, knowing that by the time they got up the next morning, Buffy would probably have already boarded the bus and hit the road. It wasn’t far away, but departure was early regardless.
Buffy hadn’t reached out to him. It was understandable, as with a camp with constant activity, there wouldn’t be a lot of time to check her phone. Not that Cyrus had anything to share. He just would’ve liked to hear something from Buffy, something fun she did, how tired she was, whether or not she was there safely.
Jonah’s leave had been more sudden. It had happened a few days prior, when his grandmother fell gravely ill suddenly. Within a few hours, the small family packed and began the long drive to a little town in Illinois, more than 10 hours away. Jonah didn’t even mention it until about four hours into the drive. Andi had been furious, but Cyrus understood. Andi had her reasons, he had his.
Jonah had probably reached out to him the most since leaving. Jonah and Cyrus didn’t have the most history, as that award would have to go to Andi, but Cyrus could comfortably say that he was Jonah’s main support system. It wasn’t because Jonah or Cyrus chose for that to be their friendship, but Jonah didn’t like getting help, and Cyrus swore he would always be there for his friend. Jonah had called Cyrus each day. Apparently this was not a trend among the other girls, but it didn’t seem something he should ever try to show off, for the sake of all of his friends.
Andi was heading off on a road trip with Bex and Bowie. It was something Bowie planned, a throwback trip, stopping at all the restaurants his band had enjoyed when they were still traveling. Andi was excited about it and Cyrus wouldn’t be one to spoil the fun, especially after everything Andi had done to make summer fun this year. In the three weeks of summer that had passed, Cyrus had more fun than all his time at home for previous summers, minus the vacations that lead to some family time that Cyrus would never admit to caring about so much.
Andi had always been the “planner” of the group. Cyrus confronted her about it once, trying to make sure that she wasn’t just doing this because she felt pressured to. However, Andi did secretly love it, despite never usually saying it so explicitly.
One thing that particularly stood out was Andi’s Shadyside Craft Festival. Well, it wasn’t hers, but she and a few friends and teachers from SAVA planned it. It was a 2 day event with people selling, buying, and even teaching crafts. The whole group went to support Andi, and so had a few of Andi’s other friends, like Walker, Libby, Amber, and Kai, her ex from SAVA. Cyrus invited his whole family, and saw quite a few familiar faces from school. The girl who always gave out gum next to her locker, the boy who once tried to roller skate through the school. Cyrus even swore he saw the boys basketball team captain, though the name had slipped his mind.
The girls basketball team had used the opportunity to make some amazing stuff to sell, with loads of help from Andi. Cyrus had taken the opportunity to learn how to make little polymer clay charms, and Andi had introduced them to some of her SAVA friends.
And now, Cyrus was laying on his bed, trying to find shapes in the poorly painted walls from when he was 7. No text messages. No calls. Just a Spotify playlist and loneliness.
Eventually Cyrus headed downstairs to make a snack or something. Not necessarily because he was hungry, but he was bored, and cooking had become a hobby of his after last summer, when his parents took him to a fancy cooking class. He had a few cans of garbanzo beans and was searching for cumin in the back of his spice cabinet when he heard his phone buzz.
Cyrus set his stuff down on the counter and checked his phone. Strange. It was Amber. He had never received a text from Amber personally. He had been in a big group chat with her, but for the most part, Amber was Andi’s friend.
“Hey, I know this is random, but I have something I need to talk to you about. I made a whole bunch of baked goods and such. I can pick you up in 30 minutes. If now’s a bad time, just let me know, but I figured with your squad gone you might need something to do anyway.”
As many trust issues as Cyrus had, Amber seemingly had changed, and she was right. He did need something to do. So he sent his address, left a note for his parents, and slipped on a pair of shoes and a jacket to stand outside and wait.
Amber’s car was exactly how you would imagine a teenage girl’s car. There was light blue fuzzy dice hanging from her mirror, at least three cup holders with old Starbucks cups, the faint smell of a beachy air freshener.
“Hey...” Cyrus started.
“Sorry,” Amber tucked her hair behind her ear. “This is really stressful, and I’m not sure where to start.”
Cyrus understood. Whatever was going on was clearly bothering her, and despite the fact that she asked to share, Cyrus was going to give her the time she needed.
He reached out and turned the volume of the radio up. It seemed to be a lot of trashy top 40, but something needed to fill the silence of the car. Eventually the tension fell and the two were singing along to a song that they didn’t know the words to.
As Amber pulled into a parking lot, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Cyrus began to worry. This seemed like the type of place his parents would be skeptical of letting him go.
Amber was getting out of the car and grabbing the massive picnic basket from the backseat. “Hurry up, or you won’t get to see the butterflies,” she exclaimed, bent over trying to grab the lanterns.
Despite the fact that Cyrus had never spent any time alone with Amber, he began to feel safer. Amber was older than him, and she knew what she was doing.
So the pair began the trek through the little pathway between the trees when Cyrus came across one of the most breathtaking places he had ever seen.
The trees were farther apart leaving the sunbeams spiraling towards a creek, with water so clear you could see the little tadpoles. It was surrounded by wildflowers and Amber was absolutely right. There were butterflies everywhere, different colors, shapes, and sizes. The sun beginning to set at this point, leaving everything tinted slightly golden and if Cyrus could live in this moment forever, he would.
Amber snapped a picture of him. “Sorry,” she giggled. “I always take candids of people’s first time here.”
Cyrus felt self-conscious, like he always did when people took photos of him. It was why his Instapic account didn’t have any pictures of him on it. But with the beautiful scenery, it’s not like anyone who saw it would be focusing on him.
Amber began spreading out the picnic blanket she had brought. It was just a solid off-white, with a few little stains from previous users. She began pulling out the strangest collection of foods from her large picnic basket. There was a seemingly homemade loaf of bread,some jam, ritz crackers, some bottled coffee, peanut butter cookies, and four of his favorite, chocolate chocolate chip muffins.
“You really outdid yourself,” Cyrus smirked. Amber shoved his shoulder, and Cyrus couldn’t help but laugh.
“Come on,” Amber whined playfully. “I put in so much effort! I even found out your favorite kind of muffin just for this”
Cyrus sat down in the open spot and grabbed a muffin. “That,” he said, mouth full of muffin, “is greatly appreciated.”
“Okay so food check,” Amber started, suddenly serious, “Everything is vegan, but the peanut butter cookies and the coffee has tree nuts, nothing is gluten free because I completely forgot about that, but there are some fresh peaches still in the basket, and Teej said he was pretty sure you weren’t gluten free so I thought I was safe, and obviously-“
“Amber!” Cyrus interrupted. “ It’s fine. Are you okay?”
She began fiddling with her fingernails. “I’ve had a bad day, and I also have a few things I need to get off of my chest.” She took a deep breath, then continued. “I’ve apologized to Andi for who I used to be countless times. But I don’t think I ever apologized to you, and you were the one who...”
Silence fell between the two. Cyrus didn’t want to pressure Amber, and he was willing to wait. However, the silence seemed to completely eat at the blonde.
“I think I like Andi,” she said, barely above a whisper. “And I know that it sounds selfish but I needed to fix our relationship because other than Reed Wagner, you’re the only out kid at school and I need advice about what to do. I’m scared. My dad didn’t take it well when I told him, and what if I ruin all the rest of my relationships? Cyrus what do I do?” She sounded desperate and there were tears running down her face.
“I’m afraid I can’t force people to accept you, but I’m willing to do what I can to try. And most of all, know that you will always be accepted by me. Nothing has changed.” Amber’s eyes were still puffy with tears. “Do you want a hug?”
Cyrus loved hugs. It could mean anything, and it felt good to have someone’s arms wrapped around him. He felt secure and he loved knowing that others felt the same.
Suddenly, twigs could be heard snapping in the distance. Amber slowly got up, as not to scare what ever may have been lurking in the trees. She started toward the sound.
Cyrus stayed where he was. It wasn’t too strange to see coyotes or foxes at this point in the year. Besides, even if it wasn’t dangerous, Amber was still probably better equipped for that interaction.
But then Cyrus heard voices. It sounded like 90% of the boys at the school, so the other voice wasn’t totally recognizable, but Amber and this other figure were definitely fighting.
“You can’t leave me with him alone!”
“You literally left me all day, don’t complain”
“You have a car!”
“And Dad doesn’t know about you so I guess we’re even!”
Oh. If Cyrus thought about it he probably would have figured out things he wasn’t supposed to know, but he was too occupied trying to figure out who Amber was talking to. Her friend? Maybe a brother.
The pair rounded the corner. “Sorry my brother is crashing the party”
Cyrus looked up to meet the eyes of none other than the all too familiar, T.J. Kippen.