Apple and Sunny always emerge when the weather becomes warm. Half the town is convinced neither of them exist in the fall and winter, simply materialize at the first flower’s bloom, slim feet in roller blades, skin glowing, shirts just short enough to make the boys stare.

They are always on the move, Apple and Sunny. Rushing past the beauty salon, the overpriced boutique, the post office, the bookstore. They stop in front of the church on Main Street to look up at the scaffolding. Their arms wrap around each other’s waists, and sometimes they do this, they entwine their limbs so tightly together they are like one writhing animal, pink and brown skin melded into one. And then they are off again, laughing at the cars that honk at them.

Honey wishes she could be a part of them, could have once been a part of them. A three-headed beast to take on the world, but Honey does not exist in the summer. Apple and Sunny lie on the grass in the park, flat stomachs facing the sun, soaking up Vitamin D, their fingers twisted together, and Honey watches them from the library window. She could have been that once, proudly girlish and open to the world. But doubt unfurls in the pit of her stomach, whispers the things she knows to be true, and Honey buries her face in a book again.

Most parents think Apple and Sunny are too everything. Too loud, too happy, too shameless, too—

Sometimes Honey follows them to the top of the hill at the edge of town where she realizes why she so wants to be Apple-and-Sunny. Their pink mouths press against each other, soft and open. Hands in hair, thighs interlocking, their short shirts pulling up higher, higher, and Honey has never felt another girl’s breasts before, but Apple and Sunny make them look soft, welcoming. Honey sometimes touches her own in response, imagining the weight of somebody else’s in her palm. She touches her knees, wondering if Apple and Sunny’s are smooth like hers or scraped and calloused, relics from years of rollerblading. They are wild and they are alive, and Honey thinks if she could just taste it, she could be, too.

After Apple and Sunny are finished, they race down the hill. Faster, faster! they urge each other. Honey’s heart leaps into her throat, threatening to land on the asphalt in front of her. The hill is not steep, but it is high, and her nightmares are filled with visions of long limbs and pretty hair tangled up and speckled with blood, there at the bottom of the hill.

But Apple and Sunny make it, turning off into the grass where they fall over each other laughing. Big laughter. Solid laughter. Honey imagines she could join them, cackling up to the sky as if daring it to tell her she cannot.

One summer, the girls disappear just as the humidity becomes oppressive. There are whispers about it among the town. Where have they gone? Good riddance, some people say when they think nobody else can hear. And then after a few weeks, they say it louder. In the beauty salon, the overpriced boutique, the post office, the bookstore. Girls are not meant to be so proud, they say.

Honey alone is devastated, though she dare not say this in front of her parents. Instead, she goes to the top of the hill at the edge of town, stands on the spot where Apple and Sunny would be. She touches her lips. Perhaps Apple and Sunny needed more space and more air, somewhere their open laughs to the sky would be greeted with joy, where girls are meant to be proud.

Honey has never seen where the road goes at the bottom of the hill. She imagines she could toss something down and it would keep rolling and rolling and rolling, on forever.

***

Camille Clarke is a Midwestern writer currently living in the South. She is working on a novel in between cups of tea. Find her on Twitter where she mostly tweets about how adorable her nephew is: @_camillessi.