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The moment was perfect. The girl and the boy sat near the water's edge, silhouetted against the last of the blazing sun. They were both exactly where they wanted to be, wrapped in each other's arms.
But the perfect moment was interrupted when I opened my eyes to face reality: there was only one girl, which was me, alone and staring at my ancient flip phone willing for it to vibrate. For someone to want to talk to me. But the phone just sat in my hands, dead and staring its blank gaze up into my face. A sound penetrated through my daydream. The radio, for once, was playing a song that I actually liked. I hummed along for a few lines, the singer's voice reflecting my thoughts of loneliness and heartache.
Well. Today, I was getting nowhere. That seemed to be happening a lot lately, dreaming about my crush, getting nowhere. I usually based a "good day" on getting something done, like learning a new song on the piano or earning money or training my horse, Sammie.
But Seth, the guy I'd been crushing on for the past year, constantly filled my head. Images of his dimpled smile floated around in my mind. His happy laugh and joking nature overrode every thought I had.
His sister Morgan and I had been friends for a whole bunch of years. Morgan was a year above me and her "cute little brother," as I'd thought of Seth for so long, was fifteen like me.
I'd developed my crush on him last summer when his family came to visit some relatives here in this sleepy little town in Michigan. My brother Garrett, Morgan's age, invited Seth over for the day. I hung out with Morgan in town, so I hadn't seen a whole lot of Seth, but a couple looks did me in. I had never fallen for someone so hard, so fast.
A feeling of longing throbbed dully in my heart, wishing I had spent that day at home. I wished something could have, well, happened with us. Like boyfriend-girlfriend type of "happen." But now, with him living hundreds of miles away with no cell and probably no interest in me, I was pretty sure we weren't going to have a "thing" any time soon, if ever.
The sun peeked through the crack in my curtains, the beams tilting into my eyes as it crossed the sky. I leaned back in my chair and checked the time on my phone: 2:52 PM. The numbers shone mockingly, as if saying, "Almost three and you haven't gotten a single thing done all day!" But that wasn't true-- I'd gotten things done today. Except I'm not sure that listening to the radio, eating some cereal and trying to inspire some motivation to do something else would really count as "getting things done." I decided to go jam out on the piano. It might help, I thought.
I stepped out of my tiny attic room and ran down the two flights of stairs to the living room. For once, the house was quiet. My parents and all four brothers were out of town, gone to a sports or fishing show. Both my sisters were at some friends', probably sleeping. They'd still be sleeping at supper time, if I knew them.
Anyway, back in the present, I plopped myself down at the piano-- an old, somewhat beat-up Estey. An old, somewhat beat-up instrument to go with everything else old and somewhat beat-up in this house-- the secondhand couches and recliners, the mismatching dishes and cupboards and random colors of paint slapped on the walls. Our house wasn't in rough shape. It was just that our family didn't care enough to spend money on new, shiny, matching things. I thought our seven bedroom, three bathroom house was just fine. It was cluttered and admittedly messy, but still fine.
I placed my hands over the chipped piano keys. I closed my eyes and then stomped my fingers through a fast, choppy song. The deep bass notes vibrated through my body, making me feel somehow more alive, and I even forgot to dream about Seth for a moment. When I finished the piece, a van rolled around the corner. I wondered vaguely who it could be, on this tiny street on the edge of town. Then my thoughts focused back on the piano. This time, I started a sweet melody, gradually going faster until it sounded like-- someone was knocking on the door. Whoa! I was not expecting that, I thought, jumping up. I ran for the side door and yelled "Come in!" When the door swung open, it took every scrap of will I had in me not to scream or faint in total, complete, utter surprise.
Seth's smiling face met mine as I tried to keep the amazement to a minimum. I managed a weak "Hi, what's up?" His hair seemed a darker brown than I remembered, but his blue eyes were just as mesmerizing as before. He looked like himself in a windbreaker and jeans, gray running shoes with neon laces on his feet.
"Hey. Were you playing the piano? It sounded nice." His voice was sincere and smile genuine as the words left his mouth.
Holy crap, the guy I have a crush on just complimented me! My mind was going, OHMYGOSH thankyou you're the most awesome person in the world, why are you here, stay!!! Seth Seth Seth Seth Seth Seth Seth Seth ------
I nodded and a bit of color popped onto my cheeks. "Uhm.... Garrett isn't here, if that's who you came for..." My voice trailed off. Idiot! Don't push him away already! I screamed at myself silently.
Seth smiled and my world lit up again. "Oh..." But he wasn't leaving! He stood in the open doorway, hands in his jean pockets. "Morgan stayed home. Some babysitting job...." I realized I had to look up to see his face. He was that much taller than me.
"Yeah...." I stalled. What should I say? "If you want, we could...go for a ride or something. Not much else to do..." I laughed a little.
"That would be awesome! I'll tell my mom... He stepped backwards as he turned towards the van in our driveway-- the van I was wondering about-- and waved. The van went in reverse and was gone. It was just me and Seth.
So we're friends?
I found a pair of cowboy boots for Seth and we went outside. Seth joked around as I groomed and saddled the horses. It took all my effort trying not to laugh too hard or smile too wide. Now that we were actually doing something together, I didn't want to spoil it by admitting my crush on him and possibly ruining everything.
"Okay, are we ready?" I stepped into Sammie's saddle, swung myself onto his back, and turned to face Seth. He was staring at Bud, my dad's horse, as if it were some complicated piece of machinery.
"I haven't ridden a horse since last year. When I was here. So... Could you, sorta... Help me?" Seth laughed at himself and faced me, half grimacing and half smiling.
I trotted Sammie over to Seth and Bud. I showed him how to mount-- "Left foot in the stirrup... No, left." Seth took his right foot out and corrected himself. "And grab his mane or the saddle... Don't kick him when you swing your leg over... Okay. Hold the reins like this... 'Kay. So, where should we go?"
We sat in the saddles as the horses grazed, and I listed a bunch of trails and fields we could ride to.
"Surprise me," said Seth, smiling his dimpled smile.
"Okay! Wanna run?" I clucked and Sammie started walking.
Bud followed and Seth replied, "In a little bit..."
It was peaceful out on the trails. The sun shone brightly and my flannel was just warm enough to keep out the fall chill. Birds jumped off the trail as we passed. Then Seth spotted a deer way ahead on the trail. "Can we chase it?" he asked me, his face lighting up in anticipation.
"Sure! We better go fast, though..." We took off, the horses' hooves striking the leafy forest floor, sending color flying behind us. When we got closer to the deer,
I realized it was a buck. It's antlers were large and sprawling, and it's eyes watched us thoughtfully. We had gotten to a part of the woods where maples stood several feet apart, with no low branches or brush to get in the way. The buck jumped off the trail, weaving away through the trees.
Seth's face showed disappointment as we slowed to a walk. "Would they go off the trail? The horses?"
"Yeah! Wanna follow the..."
Seth had already urged Bud forward and the horses trotted in the direction that the buck had gone. To my surprise, we were actually able to follow it for awhile. When we lost track of the buck, we emerged into some fields I didn't recognize. The grass was turning brown but it still had an autumn beauty that I couldn't resist.
We're friends. Certainly, we're friends.
"Race ya!" I yelled and Sammie burst into a gallop, stretching out and running across the field. Seth and Bud caught up seconds later. There was delight in Seth's eyes as we galloped side by side, the sun glinting off his shiny brown hair. Wow, he's actually pretty good at riding, I thought. Probably pretty good at anything...
As we neared the edge of the field, I turned Sammie to the right. We followed the edge of the woods until we were back where we started.
"Totally awesome," Seth exclaimed, breathing heavily.
Is he saying that because he likes riding? Or because he liked riding with me?
"Yeah. It was fun!" I said. "Kinda tiring, too..."
"Would, uh, Bud stay here if I jumped off?" he asked, looking me in the eyes.
I nodded, smiling. Smiling because this moment was just so, so perfect.
Seth dismounted and I did the same, stretching out the tensed muscles in my legs.
The horses started munching on the grass, still green near the woods.
"We should just hang out here for a little bit. It's so cool..." Seth's suggestion caught me by surprise. I started dissecting his words, wondering if he said it because the field and the huge blue sky was so amazing or because he was with me...
As he stood rubbing Bud's face, I loosened the cinch on both saddles so the horses could cool off a little.
I pointed at a tree maybe fifty yards to the left, on the edge of the field. "Apples." Together, me and Seth, we walked to the tree and picked the biggest ones. We were a little more uphill now and had a breathtaking view of colored forest and browning hills for miles and miles. Seth looked at me, seeing my gaze and following it.
"So cool.." Then he sort of touched my arm and sat down on the cool grass. That one touch sent an electric shock through my body, and my smile, in that moment, could have lit an entire city.
I sat with my legs crossed, just inches from his body. I ate my apple and Seth ate two. We kept an eye on the horses, watched hawks circle hundreds of feet above us, and didn't say a word. I could have sat there forever, never tiring of the sound of Seth's breathing.
Then, stretching out, Seth lay down. I propped myself on one elbow, almost laying, and glanced at him. A slow smile spread across his lips. Oh, those eyes... He took my hand in his and pulled me down next to him. An intense feeling of pure happiness floated through my body as I smiled back.
More than friends? I thought. Definitely.
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