Oh, young love.
But some things never change.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” I said and splashed my feet in the water. Minnows scattered, darting around my feet. A crayfish crawled from beneath a rock, waved a claw in the sunlit water and receded back into his dark cave.
“Ye of little faith,” Nate grinned, and his whole face lifted.
I patted the flat rocks beside me, and he accepted the invitation.
“Well, I’m glad you did,” I said after a few minutes had passed.
“I figured it was tragic not to,” he smiled when he said it, and I felt a stir in my stomach. Somehow the word, such a fitting word for a high school fling, had become ours. Tragic.
I was suddenly very aware of my right hand resting on the warm, flat rocks of the creek bed and his own not an inch away. I fought the urge to move it, to stretch my fingers or pick at my nails. It felt stiff and awkward, but I left it there, hoping his fingers might brush mine, twine around a finger or two, or slip under my hand.
Too concerned with our proximity, we could find nothing to say and the awkward silence grew thicker and more unbearable until finally we could take it no longer. He pulled his hand away, and as though a spell had been broken, I found myself able to breathe—however low fell my hopes.
My eyes met his and darted away again. I laughed—more like an exhale—and he smiled with me.
“Do you remember,” I said abruptly, finally having something to say, “Emily’s fifth birthday party?”
I laughed. “And you—”
“It was my mom’s fault,” he claimed, but I could see the smile fighting its way out.
“Oh yes, and how so?” I raised an eyebrow.
“She told me I wasn’t allowed to get my clothes dirty,” he said, very matter of fact.
Already I was laughing, remembering the image of his naked bottom on the yellow slide, the brush burn and the crying.
“Stuff it,” he narrowed his eyes in feigned anger and nudged my shoulder with his.
I threw back my head and laughed.
The laughter faded into silence.
“So,” he said at last.
“When are you leaving?” I asked quietly, trying not to sound like I cared. The softness in my voice betrayed me.
“Soon,” he answered just as quietly.
I stared at the water and with my foot flipped over an algae-ridden rock.
One day. Two sunsets, and he’d be gone.
“So soon,” was all I could muster.
“I’ll call you, and email and stuff,” he said, though he knew he shouldn’t.
“I’ll hold you to that,” I said, but I knew I wouldn’t.
He smiled and slipped his hand under mine. We let ourselves believe the lies.