Caution: This post exceeds 1300 words!
Greg Stewart was the captain of Roosevelt High School’s winning football team. Maya Gilbert had grown up with him, so she knew him pretty well. His father was always on him to “be a man” and things like that. Maya liked to surprise him with questions like this one. Sometimes, he’d laugh and sometimes he’d look at her funny. This time, strangely, he looked up.
“Greg?” she asked blithely, curiosity on her face as they sat together on the porch swing her father had built for her mother. All around them in the garden, crickets were tuning up their violins for the night’s concert.
He blinked. “Sorry,” he replied, looking slightly sheepish at her.
“No, no,” Maya chuckled impishly, wagging a finger in his face, “there’s no ‘sorry,’ here. What is it?”
“I was just thinking about something from when I was a kid.”
“What?” Maya’s big brown eyes were, if anything, even bigger.
Greg was silent for a while before he spoke, his eyes taking in the look on her face.
“When I was thirteen, my scout troop went on a hike up Mt. Bear.”
“Yeah,” Greg smiled. “They called it that ’cause it looked like a bear’s head if you looked at it just right. Anyway, that’s what our scout master, Mr. Davis, said. It wasn’t a big mountain, but it took us almost five hours to get to the top. When we got there, the sun was just dipping down behind the horizon. So, like, the western half of the sky still looked like daytime and the eastern half looked like night, including a few stars, even. But right above our heads there was this purple blue color that my scout master said was called ‘indigo’. So, yeah, I guess, to me, a dream is that color.”
“What? Indigo?” Maya replied, pulling her head back like a cat whose nose has just been touched.
“Kinda and kinda not,” Greg mused. “It couldn’t be just any indigo, see? It’d have to be that incredibly pure color up where the air is thinner, like on a mountain top.”
They were quiet for a while, Maya’s eyebrows drawn together as she considered what he’d said.
“What’s your dream, Greg?” she asked finally, too curious to want to wonder for long.
Greg smiled, “I’d like to be a boy scout leader, like Mr. Davis, and bring a load of boys up a mountain like Mt. Bear so they could see how small the world looks and how much clearer the air and the sky seems way up there. Not just that, though. I wanna show them how amazing the whole world is, from the biggest things to the smallest things and how to have respect for it all.”
“That’s your dream?” Maya whispered, her brown eyes big with wonder this time.
“Go ‘head and laugh,” Greg moaned, looking over his left shoulder, into the garden, away from her. “I know it isn’t that macho.”
“No,” Maya smiled, “it’s beautiful. It shows what kind of guy you really are.”
“Think so?” he grinned lopsidedly.
Maya curled herself into his arms like a cat on a warm lap. “I wouldn’t say it, if I didn’t believe it.”
“May-babe,” her father’s voice called gently from the front door, then. “It’s eight o’clock: family prayer time.” That was Maya’s father’s polite way of telling her to send Greg home. She debated telling her father, for probably the hundredth time, not to call her “May-babe” in front of her friends, then gave it up. It wouldn’t matter how she said it or how many times, Dad would keep using it, friends or no friends. In the garden, the crickets had ceased tuning and a number of frogs had joined in. What instrument would frogs play, anyway? Trumpets, Maya guessed.
She sighed and stood up. “I have to go inside.”
“Okay,” Greg shrugged, smiling as he came to his own feet. “See you in school?”
“Sure,” Maya responded, giving Greg a light kiss on the cheek that required her to stand on her tip-toes. “Good night, Greg. I had a good time.”
Greg bent to kiss her back and Maya suddenly felt her face grow very warm. It was still hard to believe that the captain of the football team was interested in her, had asked her out even if she had known him all her life. He’d even gone through the usual “have her back home sooner rather than later or I’ll hunt you down” speech her dad liked to give any guys that took her out. Last year, when she’d started dating, she’d protested that. But she was seventeen now and used to it. Anyway, Maya’s father shouldn’t have any problems with today’s date. Greg had taken Maya to the local fair, picking her up at just before lunchtime and bringing her home at right around seven. She even had a few nice souvenirs from the experience that Greg had won for her.
After family prayer was over, Maya’s brothers were scrambling around in the bathroom, fighting to brush their teeth at the same time. Not wishing to wrestle with them for control of the bathroom sink, Maya seated herself at her father’s feet, leaning thoughtfully against the pillar of his leg. In front of her, the television screen flickered from channel to channel as her father searched for a program that interested him.
“Daddy?” she asked, her mind still on Greg’s response to her earlier question.
“Mm?” he replied absently, pressing a button on the TV’s remote control that caused the program to change from a car chase to some kind of glass-walled laboratory filled with impossibly beautiful people.
“When you were a boy scout,” she mused, “did your scout master ever take you up a mountain?”
“Several,” he told her. The laboratory suddenly changed, becoming a pair of women arguing with each other, then a policeman shoving a man with a blurred face up against a car door. “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” she tried, “I asked Greg what color he thought a dream was.”
“Deep question.” The television stopped flickering, settling on a pair of figure skaters doing complex moves to Beethoven’s Für Elise. “What did he say?”
Maya hugged herself. “Indigo, like the color between night and day on top of a mountain when the sun is just setting.”
“Deep response,” her father replied, laying the TV remote on a table by his elbow.
Maya nodded, thinking. “Do you think Ethan would like to have a big brother?” she asked.
“Ethan has three big brothers,” her mother replied, coming into the room with two cups of warm herbal tea and setting one on the table next to the remote. “I don’t think he’d like to have a fourth, do you?”
“Mom!” Ethan’s frustrated voice called, as if on cue, “Randy threw my toothbrush into the toilet!”
Mom sighed and shoved herself out of the easy chair she’d just settled into, placing her tea cup on the table with Dad’s as she stalked back out of the room again. Ethan was ten and, as the youngest in a family of five, was often the butt of the jokes his brothers liked playing.
“No, I meant Greg,” Maya clarified. “You know, someone not in the family he could talk to and who could show him things he won’t probably learn from his real brothers.”
“Why ask me?” dad replied, picking up his cup of tea. Maya caught a brief, sweet whiff of peppermint as he lifted it to his lips.
“You’re the dad, dad,” Maya replied, looking up at her father with an impish smile. “Doesn’t he talk to you?”
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to try and make his decisions for him.” On the television, a new couple had started skating to You Light Up My Life by Debby Boone.
“Okay,” Maya nodded, more than half to herself. “I’ll ask him, then.”
“Maya!” her mother called from the hallway amid yells and shouts from the boys as they headed to their rooms. “Bathroom’s free!”
Maya pushed herself to her feet, her new idea painting swirls of pure indigo in her brain.
This story came partly from a challenge my husband gave me and partly from the above linked Desk Drawer writing exercise. Regarding the challenge, my father had posted the picture shown at the beginning of this story and a friend of his suggested he write a story about it. Then my husband said that, if he didn’t, I probably would. That was followed by encouragement from my mother and… Anyway, this is the story I came up with. I hope you enjoyed it.