A Becoming

by Nikki Gonzalez

The day after Holly Kelby drowned in the pond on the Andrews farm, she was sitting in the front row seat of Ms. Jamison’s World Literature class, the seat she had always occupied. No one seemed to notice the wet leaves that stuck to her—late October leaves whose colors had faded into drab hues of brown—that she’d pluck off and drop to the linoleum floor where a puddle was forming underneath her as she dripped a steady drip. No one questioned that she was wearing only a small, fitted red top above a shabby pair of cut-offs, clothing notably inappropriate for both school and weather. No one seemed to smell the dank odor that wrapped around her in a thick, cool fog, a concoction of smells of decaying foliage and aging pond life. Ms. Jamison kept talking about Allende, without pause or look of concern. The other students kept scribbling notes or nodding off, as they always did.

But Flinn Andrews noticed.

From his seat, Flinn saw when Holly entered and took her place. He heard the soft squish of her clothes as she sat. When her hand raised high to each of Ms. Jamison’s questions, the long length of her arm exposed, now a ghostly pale.

But Ms. Jamison never called on her.

She wouldn’t call on Holly the next day, nor in the weeks that followed, though Holly would continue to stretch her arm up, soggy and reaching. Each day she’d slosh unnoticed into the classroom in the same wet clothes that smelled of the very pond she had drowned in.

Holly didn’t ever speak to Flinn but sometimes she’d turn to stare at him. He’d avert his eyes from hers, unable to stomach their new darkened color, a sheen of green across them. Flinn would now hurry past the pond, unable to look at that, too.

By mid-December, Holly stopped dripping. Leaves didn’t cling but her clothes made a crunching noise when she sat. The odor became, instead, a cloud of icy air radiating off her; her eyes, each day a crisper white. Flinn noticed, too, her body moved rigidly, her arm slower to raise to Ms. Jamison’s questions.

And Flinn understood: She’s freezing over. 


Flinn Andrews had a crush on Holly Kelby forever. Even before they were chosen as king and queen of the Strawberry Patch in middle school. Before they were paraded down Main Street in second grade dressed as assorted produce to celebrate the harvest festival. Maybe even before kindergarten when they rode the school bus together, a ride past fields and pastures that lasted forty-five minutes until the stretches of farms became city blocks of houses so close together Holly would imagine one neighbor sticking their arm out a window to borrow sugar from another. She thought this hysterical. And sad.

If ever Flinn complained about having to wake so early to get to school, Holly would point to the horizon where the sun was beginning its ascent, bathing crops in gold, and say, “But look at what we have.”

It was her idea to go for a swim that night. He kept reminding himself of that each time the gnawing feeling would return to his stomach when he looked at her now. She had sidled up next to him at school. “How cold do you think that water in your parents’ pond gets about now?”

She was waiting for him that evening at the wooden post that marked the back corner of the Andrews’s plot, a towel slung over her shoulder. The sun was nearly set so she was mostly shadows, but Flinn could see that her top was red and he liked that. They walked the foot-worn path to the pond. After wriggling out of sweatpants layered over her shorts, Holly led Flinn into the water.

“We’re so lucky to have this,” she said, twirling in circles, her arms spread wide so that water sprayed from her like a fountain.

She went under while the moon was behind clouds. Only darkness reflected from the surface of the pond, so Flinn couldn’t be sure how long she was truly gone before he noticed. The silence alerted him. Her splashing and hushed giggling all gone impossibly quiet. He whispered her name. He stretched his arms to find her, catching only grass. He whispered her name once more.


School resumed the first week of January after winter break. From his fourth-row seat, Flinn heard Holly making her way towards the classroom. A heavy, dragging sound echoed. When she finally reached the doorway, Flinn saw. First her unblinking eyes, wide and white. The ice that covered her body in a patchwork of broken sheets with piercing edges, the red of her top a faded blur below its thickness. Holly scraped her way to her seat, but could not bend to sit down, so she stood at the side of her desk. When Ms. Jamison asked about Lahiri’s symbolism, Flinn watched Holly’s arm begin to rise, then freeze completely midway. She stayed like this the rest of the class and when it dismissed an hour later. Flinn watched frozen Holly as Ms. Jamison turned off the lights and locked the door. And a weird thought popped into his mind at that moment. Perhaps it was the way the sun sparkled off her: She looks beautiful. She looks so natural.

That evening, Flinn snuck past his parents to the toolshed, slipping in to find the sledgehammer. With it tossed over his shoulder, he lumbered through the cornfields, past the wooden post, and down the worn path to the pond, white and unmoving. With the first few swings from the banks, Flinn broke through, creating a hole where the dark water undulated. He stepped in, the water only at his ankles but sending a shock of cold up the lengths of him. He swung again and stepped deeper. And he swung again, thinking, We are lucky, indeed.

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