Find the Cost of Freedom

© 2020 Rebecca Grace Allen

Charlotte pointed at the door. “I’ll be right back. Just gonna go in and grab my guitar.”

“Okay.”

She disappeared into the building. Timothy shifted his bag around to the other arm as he waited. The news that she’d had a boyfriend, one she’d traveled across the country with, heard live music with, slept with, was a lot to take in. He didn’t want to be envious of a dead soldier, one whose fate had been forced upon him by his own flesh and blood, whose life had been lost in the very manner Timothy feared the most. But Charlotte had done things with him, the kinds of things their peers were doing while he’d been at home, wishing he could put his broken family back together like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle.

Half his generation existed in ways that seemed impossible to him. People living in communes, taking psychedelic drugs—a carefree, uninhibited existence that somehow ran parallel to all the turmoil and war. He wanted to be out there, experiencing things, and yet he didn’t. He had no desire to drop acid, not when he knew what was actually in those drugs. He’d studied the molecules in ’shrooms, the chemical makeup of LSD. He had enough trouble deciding what was right without adding hallucinogenic, mind-altering compounds to the mix. But sometimes he wanted to let go, to be free.

Even if he wasn’t sure what freedom looked like.

It wasn’t living in the world of free love he’d been missing out on, that was for sure, but the fact that Charlotte had gone all the way was even more intimidating. He couldn’t conclude that she was easy. Not that he expected her to be chaste. It was 1970, for Pete’s sake. The feminist movement was in full swing. Women took birth control pills, had sex. He was the one who was behind.

She returned a few moments later with her guitar case in hand. “You play at all?”

“No, but I do like a lot of groups.”

“Such as?”

“You really want to know?” A bob of her head as they walked toward the Commons encouraged him to continue. “Bob Dylan. Janis Joplin. Jefferson Airplane. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Just about anyone who was at Woodstock.”

“I went. Just before heading out here for school.”

Okay, now he really was jealous. “I wish I could’ve gone. Kathryn said hearing The Who play live was life-changing.”

“It was pretty far out,” she said. “Jimi Hendrix was, too.”

“What was it like? Being there.”

“It was…” she looked up at the sky, “…complete disruptive power and total joyful vengeance. Like we really could use music to change the world.”

Wow. An entire letter from Kathryn, and Charlotte had managed to express that concert for him in two sentences. In words more poetic than he could’ve dreamed.
They neared a shady spot under a tree. Charlotte put her guitar case on the ground and pressed her back against the bark. Leaves blocked out some of the sunlight, dappling her face in brightness and shadow. Her curls fell over one shoulder. Timothy watched the waves shift in hue as the light hit it, golden in parts, auburn in others. “Your hair changes colors with the light, you know.”

“You’re the scientist. Tell me why.”

Timothy leaned in, feeling a bit more comfortable with himself. A lot of things were hard for him to talk about. Science was not.

“The color itself doesn’t actually change. Hair is a physical object, and color is the result of that object reflecting light and then interacting with our eyes.” He meant to keep looking at her hair, but for a second, his eyes betrayed him, dropping to the spot where the strands brushed at the swell of her breasts. “A chemical gets its color by electrons absorbing energy and becoming…excited.”

She smirked. “Excited, huh?”

He jerked his gaze upward. There it was again—that mischievous glint in her eyes.

“Yeah,” he said, mouth going dry. “Excited.”

Timothy ducked his head. The move, as usual, made his hair fall into his eyes, but before he could comb it away, Charlotte’s fingers were on his forehead. She gently brushed the strands back, causing the skin beneath to tingle, every nerve ending coming alive. Their eyes met, and Timothy swore he felt electrons charging the air.