The lightning flashed, showing me the perfect color of his eyes when I glanced back to see if he was swimming after me. I wasn’t supposed to be here, not with him, not at all, but I knew when I saw him on the tractor in his daddy’s field that tonight was unavoidable.
I had known Chess since we were five, but that was twelve years ago, and games in the high corn were not the kind of games he inspired me to play now when the moon came out and crickets serenaded me in the damp endless night. “Come back here, Shelly!” he called to me across the cool pond as I slipped away. His voice was deeper now, and it made me want to stop and swim back to him. It was scary and exhilarating all at once.
“Why?” I called back, kicking harder when I saw him closing in on me. He chuckled and kept coming. I wanted him to catch me, but not enough to just let him. I was climbing up on the bank when I felt his hand, twice the size it had been just a year ago, wrap around my ankle pulling me back to him. I squealed and pulled hard against his grip, disappointed when his calloused hand let me slip away.
I ran to the bush where my clothes and towel were waiting, but only reached for the towel, as if daring him to look at me in the flashes of light. He rumbled with the thunder, but closer to me than the far away echoes. “We need to get away from the water,” he told me, making me shiver from his closeness, more than the cool night air against my wet skin.
“I know,” I told him, frustrated that he needed to talk to me like I was three. We were the same age, when was he going to see that?
“I know you know,” he said in that same new deep voice, and I could feel him come closer to me. “I just like telling you because it pisses you off.”
“What? Chess, that makes no sense at all!” I huffed forgetting these new feelings that had distracted me a minute ago, and falling back into a full blown pouting rage. “Why on God’s green earth would you want to piss me off? I thought you liked me!” I couldn’t see him in the dark, and I wanted to so I could read his face, and try and understand what fool thing he was on about now in that complicated mind of his.
Chess was smart. When he wasn’t working on his family’s farm he was a walking stack of books. All our teachers had him pegged for valedictorian and a move away to college when we graduated. I was happy for him, he was my friend, but I was also confused because we had been together every day for as long as I could remember. Every memory in my mind had Chess’ fingerprint on the edge, or right up in the middle, smudging my ideas of what life would without him.
It was the same feeling I got when I thought of how Lisa Jackson looked at him these days. It made me hot in the middle of my gut, and I had to walk away to stop from punching her pretty face. My one small consolation was that I had never caught Chess looking at her, at all, let alone like she looked at him. If that ever happened, I was sure I would explode, and hit someone for sure.
“I do like you, Shelly. I like you a lot. I always have.” I felt my mouth come open as the next lightning split the night around us, giving me that view of his face I had wanted. My eyes swept down his glistening body taking in his work muscles, and his broadening chest that seemed to be an accessory to his deeper voice.
Before I could speak he grabbed our clothes, and started pulling me toward the old abandoned barn on the back of his property. We ran through the weeds, practically naked, holding hands as the storm drew closer. The first drops of rain started just as we closed in, and turned into a full blow downpour a second after we burst through the door that opened with a loud rusty squeak.
In the near constant lightening I watched him flex his arms, and shoulders as he pushed the big doors shut and leaned against them panting from our dash to safety. I was trying to catch my breath, too, but I wasn’t done with our conversation. “Why,” I struggled, “Why do you want to piss me off if you like me?” He shrugged, and offered me a Coca Cola Cowboy smile.
“I like to see what dang fool thing you will do when I get you all riled up.” Oh, no he didn’t! I marched right up to him, and put my finger in his chest to tell him what I thought of that!
“That’s just”- but my words were cut off when his arm came up, and pulled me to his chest in one powerful unexpected move. My mouth was still open, and filled with indignant words, but his tongue pushed them aside, and started to dance with mine. That hot feeling came back to the middle of me, burning harder and brighter as the lightning continued to flash. The sound of the rain on the tin roof of the old barn was soothing. It made me feel like we were the only two people in the world. I slipped my arms around his neck, tangling my fingers in his still wet hair as I pressed my body to his, returning his kiss.
Both of his arms wrapped around me, holding me closer to him, as if he was afraid I was going to run away. He should have known me better.
©J.A. Brown-November 3, 2016