The leaves were confettied brightly over the sidewalk as if a parade had just passed, and Flannery did not think she had ever in her life seen such colors. They would get deeper and more heartfelt, she knew, with warm oranges and pomegranate reds, and she could hardly wait for the experience. Like every other sensation, that sight was still before her. But already they were goldenrod and butternut on the ground, and up in the trees (she looked skyward) infinite greens, all the apple and lime and melon flesh she could imagine. They were so beautiful she wanted to eat them or breathe them, take them inside her, make them part of herself. At the very least, she wanted to not ever forget them. She told her memory to hold on to them; there might come a time later when she would need their solace.
She came from a place where autumn meant oncoming dampness and fog, the new drawl of the school year: a plain, dull gravity of shoulders and hope. Nothing like this fierceness of light and the brisk bite of cold on the cheek, which seemed playful, a love nip, rather than a somber slap of warning that winter might come. She was not yet wary of the winters here, having not moved through one. She knew this approaching splendor meant death and decay, the boding of ice-prisoned branches and slippery black streets, butcould not make herself feel the grief in it. All this vividness she could read only as exhilaration. Not melancholy.
Flannery abandoned herself to movie clichés of the East she'd learned as a girl in the West. She kicked her tennis-shoed feet through the leaves. She buried her hands in the pockets of her coat, which had a serious weight she was not used to. She knew that this lift of fall glory, which brought her to a shocking peak of happiness--from where, suddenly, she had a complete panoramic view; could see the shape of her future, the blank scope of her forthcoming cities and days--she knew that she would never again reach such a height of pure, sensual pleasure. Never again in her life.
She was seventeen. She had no idea about anything, really. And she was about to meet someone--literally, around the next corner.
Within that person, a new and altogether unsuspected happiness waited.