Intro to The Red Bracelet

The Red Bracelet will be a short story published here on LSO. Please stay tuned for a new chapter each Monday.

Sherry loved ice cream.

She licked her double scoop of black raspberry, savoring the sweet flavor while her tongue was painted a delicious shade of purple. To her left sat Val, who held a decreasing cone of Rocky Road. She took a lick and closed her eyes, relishing it. They didn’t get to have the delicacy of ice cream often, unlike the Maddegrade sisters.  

Val finished her cone with vigor. “Sherry,” she said, “why do you think the Maddegrades detest us so much?”

Sherry swallowed her morsel of black raspberry and looked down at the bench thoughtfully. Dedicated to the local park by the Maddegrades themselves, the small plate that irritated her back stated. She felt its annoying presence any time she sat on a park bench within the town’s radius.

She watched Val lick the last drop of Rocky Road from her wrist. She checked her own wrists for any neglected drops of black raspberry that had escaped from the safety of her towering cone. All she saw were her faintly sunburned arms, clad in various friendship bracelets.

Most were from Val, green and purple designs each. One had little yellow hearts knotted into its center. Val was so creative. On Sherry’s left arm was the one from Jacob, a plain red criss-cross pattern that was pale pink now, a year or so later. A warm feeling curdled inside and Sherry delved into her cone again. She couldn’t think about Jacob. Not now. Not with Val.

“The Maddegrades are none of our concern,” Sherry answered, rather abruptly. She looked across the park. They were alone, save the light breeze twisting through the trees and rattling their green leaves. Val didn’t seem surprised. She, too, tried not to hate the Maddegrades, but Sherry was the kinder of the two. Val pushed her bobbed hair out of her eyes as the wind tousled it playfully. Sherry was careful not to let her own curls steal her ice cream.

“They’re snobs, that’s what they are,” Val huffed, staring intently at the city across the park. A dark shadow seemed to pass over her usually-sparkling green eyes. She closed them, and when she opened them again the twinkle was back. Sherry knew Val wasn’t afraid of the city anymore, of the school, or of anything. Not after Jacob.

But they couldn’t think about Jacob right now.

“You gonna finish that ice cream today?”

“Sorry.” Sherry crunched her cone to its end. “There,” she retorted after gulping its sweetness down forever, “happy now?”

Val sighed, smiling. “I love ice cream.”

Sherry shook her arm to let the Jacob bracelet slide off of her heirloom wristwatch. “Val, it’s ten to five. You’d better get going.”

Val tossed her arms and groaned excessively, letting her hands slap against her uniform skirt. They both knew what ten to five meant.

“I don’t want to go,” Val whispered desperately. “I don’t want to go back to that horrid place.”

“I know.” Sherry took her friend’s hand tenderly. “You can make it through an hour, can’t you?”

Val sighed again. “I’m sorry, Sher, I really am, but you just don’t understand how embarrassing it is to go see a therapist every week.”

“At least you won’t see her again till next Tuesday. She can’t be all that bad,” Sherry added, trying to convince herself as well as her friend.

“I just don’t want to talk about my ‘problems,’ Sherry. That’s all there is to it.”

Sherry couldn’t think of anything to say. Ever since she and Val started high school last August, things had changed. Val’s family had changed. Val didn’t change at all, of course, except for her health. She was growing thinner and thinner without her brother around anymore. It had been hard on everyone, Sherry and her own family included. It seemed everyone in the whole blasted town had known eight-year-old Ryan Tucker after that terrible accident. But not before it. Liars, all of them. Val’s parents had to practically hold their breath when they accepted the Maddegrade family’s “charity.” On that day, both the Maddegrades and the Tuckers swallowed their bitterness toward each other. It was what Ryan would’ve wanted. At the time, Sherry thought Ryan’s death might bring the town together, no matter how horrific it was. But in reality, the unexpected passing of Ryan Tucker split people apart. She was trying to help Val stop acting out. Today’s ice cream was part of it. If it hadn’t been for the two spare nickels Sherry found in the schoolyard, Val would’ve been at home brooding. But not on Sherry’s watch.

“All right, I’m gonna go now,” Val relented. She gave Sherry a quick hug. They both knew it meant the thank you she couldn’t swallow the courage to say aloud. And not just for the ice cream, but for trying to fix things with Jacob and helping Val get back on the right track. The former had been ten times more difficult than the latter.

Sherry released her friend and watched her strut down the sidewalk. Then she was alone, crumbs from her cone splayed across her lap. Her eyes couldn’t avoid being attracted to the red bracelet on her left arm. Once again, she was alone. And young, sweet little Ryan wasn’t around to cheer her up with his antics while she babysat, Val was still spewing anger at the poor therapist, and Sherry herself had to force her heart to stop skipping beats whenever she reminisced about the red bracelet or the thought of Jacob presented itself to her mind once again.

There she sat, her body feeling filled happily with ice cream, hoping it was still cold enough to freeze the knot in her stomach, just now, temporarily. She discarded the ill-born thought of taking the bracelet off yesterday after she tried the idea. Her wrist immediately felt naked without the softness of the bracelet around it, like a miniature hug.

That was all Sherry wanted right now anyway.

Sherry sat on the bench, numb to its dedication plate poking her back. The Maddegrades were always breathing down her neck, especially their twin daughters who had stolen Jacob from—“Sher!” an oddly familiar voice shouted, interrupting her thoughts. Jerked back into reality, Sherry twisted around to see Jacob Longsworth himself sprinting across the abnormally green park grass.

Jacob swung his lanky frame over the side of the bench Val had vacated a few moments ago. Letting out a gusty sigh and making the most direct of all eye contact, he spoke two words.

“I’m sorry.”

Sherry’s smile wasn’t forced. Before she knew it, she was crying softly and Jacob was taking her small white hand in his larger, tanned ones, whispering, “I’m sorry, Sher. It’s okay. I’m here now.”

The knot in her stomach unraveled.

Sherry loved ice cream.

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