Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
Tact has never been Cody’s specialty. I know he’s trying to somehow, in his own way, do the right thing.
Really though? C’mon.
Message heard, but a little delicacy would be appreciated next time.
I grab my things, take down the tent, and then head inside to get ready for the day. I briefly check in on my dad who’s passed out on his bed, thanks to Cody. Cody might be a prick by nature, but I know he’s more than that. His presentation of the condoms he gave me wasn’t the best, but it was his way of being helpful. It still doesn’t make him Mother Theresa.
I wait outside on the front stoop at 9:50 for Brent to arrive. He pulls into the driveway at exactly ten o’clock. I’m so excited to get out of here that I don’t even wait for the car to stop as I walk up to the passenger door.
“Hey,” Brent says as he gets out of the car.
“Hi,” I say cheerfully.
I open the car door and get in before he has a chance to come around. I hope he’s not too bothered that I didn’t wait for him to open it for me. I think my excitement is getting in the way of my manners. He returns to the driver’s seat and puts the car into reverse.
“You look really nice. Are you ready to go?” he asks in a tone matching my enthusiasm.
“Thanks. Yeah, I’m ready,” I respond, smoothing out my skirt with the palms of my hands. I wasn’t sure where we would be going today, so I decided to go casual with a knee-length white skirt and a plain purple tank top.
We don’t drive far before I realize we’re going to the boat club. Brent parks his car at the farthest point from the dock. He grabs a bag from the backseat before we get out and head toward the water. At the edge of the lot, I begin to turn right, walking toward the slips, but Brent grabs my hand and pulls me to the left.
“Aren’t we going sailing? Isn’t that the surprise?” I ask, slowing my steps.
“Oh, we’ll go sailing sometime if you want, just not today. I have something else in mind. Plus, it’s not a surprise if you already know what it is.”
Yeah, he’s enjoying this.
When we arrive at the end of the trail, I see a huge rack of canoes lined up with paddles leaning up against a shed.
“Lexi said you like to canoe. What do you think?” he asks, gesturing to the row of canoes.
“Is this the surprise? Are we going canoeing?”
“Well, it’s part of it. Are you disappointed?”
“No, not at all!”
“All right then. Let’s get going.”
We take down one of the canoes and place it at the edge of the lake. He hands me a paddle and puts his paddle along with his bag inside the boat. I get in, sitting near the bow, so Brent can take the stern before he pushes it into the water.
As we begin to drift farther across the lake, I feel that familiar sense of calm take over my body and mind. There is a conscious feeling of peace that emanates from these waters. I can’t contain the joy that spreads across my face as nature relaxes my every nerve, opening my mind to the possibilities of this moment and every moment from this point on. Hope, freedom, peace—I sense all of them right now. I’m lulled into a place of contentment while sharing one of my favorite things on earth with someone new, different, and unexpected.
“Just keep heading out,” Brent says from behind me. “It won’t take us too long to get there.”
I don’t care how long it takes or where we’re going. This moment, right here and now, is my definition of heaven. I know he says there’s more to come, but this is good enough for me.
Brent doesn’t say much more as we make our way out. I don’t know if he’s nervous or if he’s just enjoying the surroundings as well. After paddling for about fifteen minutes, I turn to look at him, and wordlessly, he points to a patch of trees at the edge of the lake. As we get closer, I see it’s not at the edge of the lake, but rather it’s an island.
That’s our destination?
We bring the canoe to shore and then drag it out of the water, ensuring that it doesn’t drift away. I allow my eyes to wander around the island. This place is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, not that I would have ever even imagined its existence. Although it’s no larger than half of a football field, there’s plenty to see.
“C’mon.” Brent grabs my hand and leads me down a path into the colorful brush ahead.
The path leads us to the other side of the island. It looks completely different from where we docked. Here, a bit of light brown sand creates a little beach that abuts a field of wildflowers. With a canopy of trees behind us, the view before our eyes is nothing but the lake framed by a forest on each side of the shore. It’s a flipping postcard, and I have a hard time believing that it’s real.
Brent squeezes my hand, making me snap my mouth shut. He comes around to stand in front of me to hold both of my hands.
“So,” he says with more light in his eyes than I’ve ever seen, “what do you think? Is this a good surprise?”
“It’s amazing. I didn’t even know this was here. Do you come here a lot?”
“Just with my family. No one else has been up for the trip. Lexi mentioned that you like the lake a lot, so I thought you might enjoy this.”
Man, the boy has done his homework, and he’s scored big time.
I never expected something like this. Now knowing he only comes here with family, I guess he’s never brought girls, or I should say Frankie, to this place. As a few things start to fall into place in my mind, I find myself liking the obvious and undeniable attention.
He leads me onto a flat spot in the wildflower field and takes off his bag. Pulling out a blanket, he lays it out before he sits and pats the spot next to him. After I sit down, we both look over the flowers at the view of the lake.
“So, I have to ask,” Brent says, his gaze on the lake. “What’s up with Michael Jackson? On the way here, I was afraid to turn on the radio in case one of his songs came on. That’s why I pulled out my dad’s Beatles CD. You don’t have anything against The Beatles, do you?”
When I turn to look at him, I can see how serious he is about this conversation.
Oh man, this is embarrassing. He’s going to think I’m a total loon.
“Well…” I pause, clearing my throat. “It’s just Michael Jackson. The Beatles are cool.”
He raises his brows expectantly, encouraging me to go on.
I let out a sigh. As quickly as possible, I say, “His songs make people do stupid things, like grab themselves, woot, sing off key, and moonwalk. I can’t do any of those things, except for sing off key, so I always become the big party pooper of the group. I don’t get why people are obsessed with him. I guess I’m just not a fan.”
“You’re really different.”
I lean back away from him, feeling a bit offended and exposed. “What does that mean?”
“Oh, I mean, it’s a good thing. Most girls would never hop in a canoe without knowing exactly where we’re going, and I get the Michael Jackson thing. I just never saw it that way before,” he defends.
“Oh.” Internally, I kick myself a little for being so self-conscious.
Brent grabs my hand and holds it between his two solid ones in his lap.
“So, I don’t know too much about you,” he says, rubbing his fingertips in my palm. “How is that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never been to a soccer game, which you’ve probably figured out, and I don’t attend dances or anything like that.”
“Why is that? Do your parents have strict rules or something?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. I just haven’t been asked. After we moved here…well, I guess I just…I don’t know. I haven’t dated much.”
Shit, this is embarrassing. Am I really admitting my novice dating status?
“I find that hard to believe.”
When I glance at him, he’s still staring at my hand while he continues rubbing it between his.
“Well, um…I guess you could say that I’m more one of those people who enjoys hanging out in libraries.”
It’s kind of true.
My grades are important to me since they’re my ticket out.
Looking at me, he responds, “I know what you’re saying. I don’t judge, just so you know, but I can’t believe that I’ve never seen you in a school as small as ours.”
“My locker is next to Liam’s. I’ve seen you, but you’ve always seemed occupied with other things.” Granted, I only saw him there maybe three times, but still, he never noticed me.
Was I that invisible? Was he that blind to everything else?
When he hangs his head a little, looking at his lap, I can tell something is flitting through his mind. His eyes dart up to the lake, and then he stares back down into his lap. He seems to be working out whatever he needs to.
His head snaps up and turns to me. “Yeah. I know what you’re getting at. I’m not an idiot.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“No, but I know what you’re talking about. Frankie, right?”
This time, it’s my turn to stare at the water while I chew over whether or not I should call him out and say how wrapped up he was with Frankie.
Maybe he still is.
Everyone knows how serious they were.
“Yeah,” I say softly, keeping my eyes focused on the light reflecting off of the lake.
“Yeah, we were together, but we aren’t anymore.” His voice is calm and sure.
I look over to find him staring at me.
“I guess,” he continues, “I never noticed you before because of her, or maybe it’s because I didn’t want to see anything else. I don’t think I saw a lot of things.”
“Oh?” I ask, raising my brows.
“But I’m seeing things now.”
When he leans in, nerves stir in my abdomen, rising quickly to my throat.
I move closer to him. “Like?”
He takes a deep breath and puts a hand behind my back, closing the small distance between us. As I look into those alluring eyes that are now smoldering, I start to feel a fire burning deep within me. I can’t deny my body’s reactions to Brent any longer. Questioning him is no longer necessary. This is something more and I can no longer deny it.
Releasing my hand, he places his fingers in my hair, his thumb caressing the sensitive area on my face between my cheek and ear. With his lips near mine, my breath quickens, and his audible gasp pulls air from my mouth. Closing my eyes, I hear him take in a deep breath before his amazing lips press gently against mine. My heartbeat races with excitement as I begin to feel sensations of joy run through my body straight down to my toes. The kiss is soft, somewhat tentative, and gentle. When he pulls back, releasing my lips, my mouth suddenly feels naked. I lick my lower lip and then bite down on it, trying to numb the vacant feeling.
I open my eyes slightly, looking at Brent through my lashes. His eyes burn into me for the briefest of moments before he closes the distance again. This time, his mouth is more urgent on mine as he sucks on my bottom lip. As he moves to my top lip, I feel his tongue gently stroke my lower lip, and I open my mouth, enjoying the sensation. He takes me to a whole new level of ecstasy when he grazes my tongue with his. Letting out a low moan, I put my hands on the nape of his neck, tangling my fingers in his dark hair.
Holy crap! Brent is an amazing kisser.
My movements become more forceful when he further deepens the kiss, bringing our bodies closer to one another. I lean into him as we lower ourselves onto the blanket. I’m careful not to lie directly on top of him because I don’t want things to move too quickly.
I softly touch his cheek when I feel the kisses begin to lighten. He presses a soft final peck on my mouth before he leans his head back to look up at me. Sunlight filters through my dark hair framing his face.
“So, um, is there anything else you don’t like besides Michael Jackson songs?” he asks with a touch of sarcasm.
His timing is so strange that I start to chuckle, even snorting a little, as I roll onto my back next to him.
I must look like a fool.
He grabs my hand, clenching it with a heartfelt grasp.
After I calm down, I turn to face him. “I don’t know how I could dislike anything after a kiss like that.”
Propping himself up on an elbow, he leans over me and pecks me once on the nose.
“Not exactly the same effect,” I say, turning on my side toward him. “I’m still having a hard time coming up with a dislike.”
“So, do you go back to Camp White Ash this week?”
“Yep, it’s my last week. Then, I have one week off before school starts.”
“Bummer. I was kind of hoping to see you this week. You’ll be home on Friday though, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the plan. I leave to go back to camp tonight.”
His face falls. “When do you have to leave?”
“I usually don’t leave until after six. They don’t let us arrive before then, but we need to be on site by ten.”
“Oh, so no rush.”
“Nope, no rush.”
“Good…” Rolling away from me, he rustles through his bag. “Because I brought us lunch.” He holds out two sandwiches in front of him. “I hope you like ham and cheese.”
“Yes, I do, thanks.”
“That’s good. I was hoping you weren’t one of those diet girls.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely not me.”
Sitting up, we both look over the lake again as we eat in comfortable silence. Occasionally, we glance at one another and exchange playful pokes to the ribs. After we finish our sandwiches, he produces a bag of chips for us to share and then two bottles of water to wash everything down.
We spend the next hour talking a bit about him, but most of our conversation is about me. He asks me about track, my plans after high school, and a little about my family. I gracefully avoid that subject by telling him about Dragon.
After that, we spend time roaming every inch of the island’s beauty and connecting further with each other. Brent makes sure to hold my hand whenever possible, and when he isn’t pursuing my hand, I find myself searching for his. Wading in the shallow waters along the island’s shore, we share scorching kisses that could make water boil. As we walk through the lush forest, our lips lock together fiercely against an innocent tree. Later, when picking wildflowers in a colorfully breezy field, our mouths connect again, sweetly, slowly, and tenderly. I feel a passion building between us with each kiss. Each. Amazing. Kiss.