She has to, you see, because Mommy put her in the dress with the floofy skirt to take pictures for Grandma and Grandpa, and it swirls when she moves at all, so full-on twirling is required.
She manages to stand still for the pictures. Out on their wooden porch, leaning her back against it, she smiles for the camera, but in her head, she’s already on the lawn, twirling in the soft, cool grass.
As soon as Mommy says the pictures are done, she kicks off her shoes and runs down the steps, stopping near the big tree where Grandpa hung her tire swing last year.
She spins round and round until her head is as dizzy as the wind-tossed leaves on the branches above her, and then she collapses onto the grass and squinches her eyes closed and lets herself get lost in the spinny spacey feeling that comes from twirling.
When she opens her eyes, she thinks she’s become one with the earth, because she can feel the world spinning and see the clouds circling above, and she thinks it’s the best feeling ever.
Even when she’s twelve, fifteen, seventeen, twenty-two, she keeps doing it whenever she has a private moment in the yard, or on the beach at the summer place Mom bought with her new husband.
She doesn’t need a special skirt anymore.
But when things press too close, or her head and heart are too full, she channels her inner child and spins and spins until she can’t keep her balance, and falls, laughing to the ground.
She likes the beach best… warm sand, the ocean tickling her toes… she’s lying there, feeling the world spin with her when a shadow falls over her.
“You okay?” a male voice asks. “I saw you fall.”
She sits up, and her brown eyes lock onto a pair of blue ones that rival the ocean for depth and purity.
“I’m good,” she says. “I was… it’s hard to explain.”
“Spinning,” he says.
“Twirling,” she corrects. “It’s like getting high… only cheaper… and…”
“Can I try?” he asks, interrupting. He extends a hand, and she takes it, letting him help her to her feet.
She twirls, and he follows her, only this time instead of collapsing onto the sand, they spiral into the waves and come up, soaked and silly with joy.
“I’m Eric,” he tells her.
“Sophie. I mean, I’m Sophie.”
They go for a burger and a beer and talk long into the night. She’s too old to need to sneak back into her mother’s house after a date, but at the same time, she’s a little disappointed Mom isn’t on the couch, waiting to grill her.
Only now it’s not always literal twirling.
Sex with Eric, that’s a kind of spinning, swirling dance, too. It’s so good. He’s so good. And he gets her. Like, really gets her.
At their wedding… they dance respectably while people are watching, but after the guests leave, they go back to the arbor that was placed on her grandparents’ broad, cool lawn, hold hands and twirl under the stars until they’re twice drunk, once from the champagne they drank earlier, and once from their shared motion.
“I’ve been thinking,” Eric says, “about what brought us together.”
“You found me lying on the beach,” Sophie answers.
“No, that’s how we met. What brought us together was centripetal force.”
“It’s when spinning pulls an object toward the center. You’re my center. And I’m yours.”
“I love you,” Sophie says, because what else can you say when your heart is still swirling?
“I love you, too,” he answers, “Twirly girl.”