Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
“Ah, my parents went out with some friends, so I was free to leave. Sooo,” she sings, clapping her hands together as she skips down the length of the dock.
I sit up and wipe my hands on my shorts as Lexi sits next to me. She bumps her shoulder with mine, and I turn to look at her, wondering what’s up. She stares at me with a devilish grin, waggling her eyes like a villain.
“What?” I ask.
“You know what. Give the Cromwell details. I need them, all of them. Feel free to go
,” she says, emphasizing the last word.
“You were there, too. What details do you need?”
“Don’t play me,” she drawls, shaking her head. “I’m sure there was a lot going on that I didn’t see. Plus, I know all about a little outing this afternoon, so don’t be coy with me.”
“What are you? Some kind of spy?” I accuse incredulously.
“Pe-shaw! No, I texted Brent. He told me. Well, he told me he saw you today, but he didn’t give any details. You know how guys are! Give! Me! Details!” Grabbing my shoulders and shaking me playfully, she adds, “Before I explode!”
“All right, all right!” I playfully swat at her. “But you can’t say a word to anyone, okay?”
She pretends to zip up her lips, turn a key, and toss it in the water. Then, she grasps my hand while she bounces up and down on her bottom.
What is wrong with her?
I swear she’s just been possessed by a jackrabbit. Seeing the expectant look on her face, I concede and tell her about the amazing afternoon I spent with Brent. Of course, I gloss over the more intimate details. I might be excited, but I’m just not a girlie girl like that. She’s a great listener though, only responding with oohs, ahs, giggles, and no ways.
After I finally finish, she asks, “So, is he a good kisser or what?”
I’m embarrassed by this question. It feels wrong to kiss-and-tell. Hoping it will tide over her curiosity, I simply say, “Well, I wouldn’t mind kissing him again.”
She slaps me on the arm. “I knew it! I knew it! By the way, you should never play poker. Your face tells me he’s a much better kisser than you’re letting on.”
“All right!” I chide. “You’ve tortured me enough, so now it’s your turn. What happened with Owen?”
Lexi goes on to tell me in way too much detail about her time locking lips with Owen and how his roaming hands are very, um…roaming. I hear more information about tongues and shuffling clothes than I want, but I try to be a polite listener. She’s very excited by the whole thing, and frankly, I’m happy we’re close enough that she wants to share these things with me. All these wandering hands though make me wonder something.
“So, are you guys, like, a couple now?” I ask.
“Am I his girlfriend? I don’t know. School starts soon, and summer probably doesn’t count.”
My heart sinks.
Is that what this weekend was with Brent? Summer fun?
“Oh. Well, did he ask you out again?”
“Yeah, next weekend.”
“Well, that’s encouraging.”
“Maybe. I hope so. I really like him. When we get to school, I hope he doesn’t take one look at the freshman meat and forget all about me. But I know how it goes. I was a freshman once, too,” she acknowledges. “If that’s what he wants though, I’ll just move on to the next.”
“Sure.” My eyes wander to the lake, looking into the reflective canvas for answers.
“Hey, don’t worry, Ruby. Brent likes you. He won’t stop texting me about you. That’s got to mean something. And I know he wants to see you again.”
“Yeah, ya think?”
“Girl…” She laughs. “The boy can’t help himself.”
She’s a total dork.
As we head back to our cabins for the evening, I see a text from Brent..
Send me your schedule, so we can talk this week :-)
I text him back with the days and hours I’m free to chat, and then I tuck myself into bed around ten o’clock. I try to get to sleep early because we need to be at the mess hall at seven in the morning for our weekly meeting, and then the kids arrive at nine. As I turn over and shut my eyes, my phone buzzes with another text. I’m half tempted to ignore it, but I know I won’t be able to sleep until I see who it is. I grab it and smile at the sight of Brent’s name.
Well, I am now.
Are you alone?
Huh? What does that matter? He knows I’m at camp.
Yes. No kids until tomorrow. Why?
Within a few seconds, I hear a knock at my door.
“Ruby,” Lexi says softly.
“Yeah,” I say and then clear my throat. “Come on in.”
She opens the door, wearing her pajamas. In the moonlight, I see her smile impishly before she steps away.
“Lex—” I start to call out after her, but then I see another figure enter the light. “Brent. What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to say good night.” His face lights up with a smile, showing off his dimples.
I slip out of bed to meet him at the door. “Shit, Brent, you could have just called or texted. What if someone sees you here?”
“I’ll be quick,” he says.
Suddenly, he glides his hand to the back of my neck, pulling me to his lips for a searing kiss. I think my senses are heightened in the dim light because his mouth feels more sensual than before, causing my heartbeat to skyrocket. I slip my hands around his waist, pressing our bodies closer to one another. My fingers move up, running along his back, as one of his hands slides down the length of my neck to my shoulder, loosening the strap of my camisole. His lips press on mine gently before he pulls back, looking into my eyes.
With labored breathing, he clears his throat. “Good night, Ruby.”
“Night,” I barely whisper.
He kisses my forehead and then releases my body from his hold as he steps away.
“I’ll call you this week,” he says before turning away into the night.
Without his arms around me, I feel naked as I stand in the doorway in a somewhat shocked state. I jump back into bed, hoping the weight of my blanket will alleviate the empty feeling. It doesn’t.
Well, holy crap! How am I supposed to sleep now?
When Brent came to see me on Sunday evening, I was completely taken off-guard. Since Lexi was in on the whole thing, she, of course, insisted on more information about what was going on between Brent and me, but I didn’t know what else to tell her. Before last Friday, he didn’t even know me.
While it feels like we’ve known each other longer, I can’t help but remind myself that this could be more along the lines of summer fun. Lexi tries to keep my negative thoughts away by reminding me that Brent literally went out of his way to come and see me last Sunday.
Since then, he’s called me every day.
Who does that?
Lexi’s right. I’m psyching myself out by obsessing a little too much. However, our phone conversation on Thursday night makes me feel a little anxious.
“So, you’re still up for tomorrow, right? No plans?” he asks.
“No. I already told you that I’m pretty boring on the weekends.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to change that.”
“Oh, really?” I joke.
“What did you have in mind, Mr. Cruise Director?”
“Nuh-uh, I’m not telling you.”
“Where’s the fun in that? You’ll just have to sweat it out,” he teases.
I can almost picture him shaking his head.
He adds, “Surprising you is fun. We can talk about it when you get back.”
Although I’m a bit nervous, I think I like his surprises, so I’m game.
Thank goodness camp has been a good distraction. These kids have been as ornery as ever, making the last few days linger at a snail’s pace. I guess that’s what happens when all I’ve been doing is waiting for the week to end.
When Friday afternoon finally rolls around, Lexi and I say our good-byes to the kids and the staff. After I gather my things from my cabin, Lexi meets me at my door, so we can walk to the parking lot together.
I’m starting to get butterflies in my stomach. I’m nervous about seeing Brent again for the first time in days. Even though I just talked to him last night, I still can’t convince myself that last weekend wasn’t just a dream. I even consider that my imagination made up my feelings. Thinking of the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” I wonder if I’m the only one experiencing this.
“So, what are your plans for this evening? Do you know yet?” Lexi asks.
“Nope,” I tell her between biting my nails. “He won’t tell me anything. Apparently, he likes to surprise me.”
When we round the corner of the path, leading into the mouth of the parking lot, Lexi grabs my arm.
As I look at her, she mouths, “Holy buckets.”
Holy buckets? Who says that?
I turn to where she’s staring to see Brent and Owen walking in our direction. When they reach us, Brent scoops me up, causing me to drop all my belongings, as he twirls me around in his arms.
When he puts me down, he leans his head on mine, flashing those dimples. “Surprise.”
He knows he’s got me.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were going to call me when I got home.”
“Yeah, but isn’t this better?”
“Well, yeah, of course, it is.”
He quickly kisses me innocently in front of Lexi and Owen. Calming myself but still left wanting more, I take a moment and look into his eyes. In an instant, I know that absence has made his heart grow fonder, too. Seeing it there in his eyes, my inhibitions drop. I kiss him back—this time, not so short and innocent.
“So, can you give me a ride? I came here with Owen, and I don’t want to be a third wheel,” he pleads humorously, trying to cover his breathlessness. “We could go do something fun.”
“Sure, what did you have in mind?” I squeeze him, not ready to let go.
“Why don’t you surprise me?” he asks with an insistent look.
Brent grabs my things, and we wave good-bye to Lexi and Owen as we walk to my car.
“I need to stop and get some food first.”
“Sure,” Brent replies as he gets into the front seat.
He seems at home in my tiny Gremlin, which takes me off-guard. I love that he doesn’t appear to harbor any prejudices. I hope he looks beyond my crappy car and small house and sees me for me. Of course, he doesn’t have a clue about my family’s extracurricular activities, but I don’t think I’d share that information with anyone, seeing how some of it’s illegal.
We stop by a local sub shop where I order a giant sub with all the fixings. When I place my order, Brent looks at me incredulously, but then he quickly flashes those dimples as he puts his arm over my shoulder, pulling me into an embrace. Patiently, he sits with me, enjoying his drink while I eat. The whole time, he never takes his eyes away from mine. It’s weird that I don’t want to look away. It’s not a staring contest. It’s something else. We’re talking, but words aren’t necessary for this conversation.
How is that possible? We’re just starting to get to know each other.
When I’m done eating, I decide to take him to a place I have never been before. I don’t know why I choose it. It seems somewhat juvenile, but with him, I feel like doing things I don’t normally do. Are surprises contagious? Because I’m surprising myself, too.
We pull into the parking lot of a large playground at one of the town parks. The place has swings, slides, and a large climbing structure outfitted with tubes, ropes, and bridges. It’s relatively deserted, so it looks like we’ll have the place to ourselves.
I’ve always wanted to come here, but hanging out at the playground at my age makes no sense.
Brent will probably think this whole thing is ridiculous.
I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Without looking in Brent’s direction, I turn off the ignition, open the door, and step out of the car. This is no time to question what I’m doing.
Time to own it.
When he steps out and looks at me over the roof of the car, I give him a mischievous look.
“Race you to the swings,” I say quickly before bolting to the play area.
He slams his door shut, and I hear him mumble something behind me before he chases after me.
“Ruby!” He laughs. “Holy crap, slow down.”
Making it to the swings before him, I grab the chains and jump my feet over the seat before plopping my butt down. Brent joins me, sitting in the swing next to me. He tries to keep a straight face, but then we both end up laughing. I feel like a kid—or an idiot.
After we’ve both caught our breath, he says, “I haven’t been here in years.”
“I’ve never been here at all.”
“Well, most teenagers don’t frequent playgrounds,” I respond.
He stands up and holds out his hand in my direction. “C’mon, I’ll give you the tour then.”
Brent leads me around every part of the play area with the enthusiasm of a kindergartener. This place has some sort of regression effect. We go down the slide together, ride the merry-go-round, play on the teeter-totter, race on the monkey bars, and chase one another through the tunnels. It’s not a typical date, that’s for sure.
Wait. Is this a date? Who cares?
Something’s happening, and it’s beyond my control. I feel different around him. When I’m with Brent, I feel a sense of comfort, and when he isn’t around, I feel nerves and longing. I want to be with him. I want to see him. I’m slowly accepting this, even if it’s ludicrous.
After an hour of playing a flirtatious version of tag, I’m panting a little from the exertion of the chase, and we end up on the tire swing together. Facing each other as we sit inside the inner part of the tire, my legs intertwine with his. Neither one of us can seem to contain our laughter.
“So, school starts in a week. Are you ready?” he asks.
“I guess so. How about you?”
“Yeah, but there’s something I wanted to talk to you about first.” He raises his eyebrows, his face becoming serious.
I can feel my face fall, and for some reason, my hands begin to tremble.
Why am I so nervous?