Hidden In Plain View

June 29, 2008
By Amber Hayungs, Denver, IA

I can feel the anticipation in my veins, as my blood pumps harder and harder with every step I take up the hill. James is beside me, and, for a while, the only sound audible is the hum of the hardcore music, reverberating through the tiny ear buds dangling from his neck. Making the first attempt at conversation, I ask, “So, where exactly are we going?” He gives me a warm smile, the kind that makes his eyes sparkle and gleam in the setting sun, and replies eagerly, “You’ll see.”

It is getting darker as the last few minutes of daytime pass through the trees. The lack of sunlight brings attention to the overpowering smell of flowers and pine trees. James’ iPod has died, and now, in the awkward silence, I can hear the small, tender sound of rabbits hopping around and feasting on some sort of a plant. The pavement of the bike trail is cold and rough on my bare feet, making me wish I hadn’t left my shoes in the car.

It’s getting late, and I am growing more fearful, and yet, even more excited by the minute. The streetlights in the distance shed little light on the path, and I can see various trees, flowers, and small creeks as I pass by them. I can see the peaches-and-cream tone of James’ face and the deep, chocolaty brown of his eyes. “Are we getting close?” I inquire curiously. He doesn’t look at me, but says “Yeah, it’s just around this last turn up here.” I let out a long, slow sigh. It felt as though we’d been walking for hours.

Before I knew it, James was leading me through a patch of peculiarly arranged bushes; obviously many people had walked through them before. He tried to hold the branches away from me, but it was a futile attempt. My hair got caught in just about every gnarly branch passing by. Leaves took up the majority of my head, and what bits of pine that didn’t make it to my hair, slapped me hastily in the face. I giggled at the thought of what a goofball I must have looked like at that point. I tried to stifle it, but even the subtle sound made James turn around to have a look at me. He let out a loud, obnoxious laugh when he saw the remnants of the bushes sticking every which way off the top of my head. Realizing my embarrassment, he tried to hide it, but his smile was still visible and radiant. As he took a step backward and started to gingerly pull the debris from my hair, I could see a glimmer in the near distance. I brushed his hands away and continued forward.

I went into a state of utter amazement at the sight of what I found. I could feel the cool, refreshing mist from the gentle flowing lake that seemed to produce a light from within itself. I took another step onto the soft, chilly sand that went on for what appeared to be miles. The moon reflected off the water in such a way that it made everything in sight glow. I hadn’t realized it up until this point, but I had a smile a mile wide across my face, as did James.

“So, uh, what d’ya think?” he asked, but before he could get an answer I was already making my way toward the water in a hurried, childlike fashion. By the time I’d made it down, James was only about half-way there. “Hurry up!” I urged. “Come on!” As he neared, I began skipping and kicking up the sandy-water mixture up with my feet. “Hey now, don’t get me all dirty.” he said. I laughed uncontrollably and started splashing water at him with my hands. He shook his head at me, and before I knew it, he tackled me down into the lake, fully clothed. The lake was shallow, only about 4 feet at its deepest. I could feel the mushy sand between my toes, cushioning my feet. We splashed around and swam back and forth, from one side of the bantam lake to the other. When my body finally gave in to exhaustion, I decided to curl up in a blanket that had been coincidentally sitting next to a pile of wood. I could tell that this had, for the most part, been planned out. James followed a few minutes later, taking up the other blanket and wrapping up beside me. He took from the backpack he’d brought a bottle and a match. First he threw the bottle at the pile of wood, then the match. The mound went up in enormous, mesmerizing flames. “Is that how they taught you to start a fire in boy scouts?” I teased. “Nah,” he said. “but it works a Hell of a lot better than a rock and a stick.” He smirked and I laughed.

Sleepy-eyed I rested my head on his shoulder. He put his arm around me, pulling me closer. The fire was very much alive and energetic. I wanted to stay in that tranquil, calming state forever. I felt my heart give a quick flutter as he kissed the top of my head. I smiled, satisfied. “This was a pretty great first date.” I said, caressing his fingers with mine, weaving my hand in and out of his. When he didn’t say anything back I looked at him, worried. “Oh. Well, this wasn’t a date….” I felt my stomach drop, disconcerted. I turned my face, not wanting him to see the anxiety in my eyes. He moved his arm away from my shoulder and carefully brought his hand to my chin, tilting it upward. He kissed me breezily on the lips, eyes ablaze more than ever. “Kidding.” he said angelically. I playfully punched him in his shoulder and grinned at him in relief. Nothing could ever replace this magical moment.

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