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“IT’S. SO. HOT.” Screamed my best friend as she made a big show of jumping into the pool.
“Calm down, Monica, you literally do this every time!” Leila complained as she took off her glasses, wiping at them with her towel.
“Oops, sorry Lay,” Monica responded, popping out of the water like a fish. She smoothed her long dark hair back out of her face.
At that moment Liam ran out from the screen door yelling, “CANNONBALL.”
“Liam, don’t you dare!” when I noticed that he was running right at me because I knew exactly what he was going to do.
To my despair my assumption was affirmed as he hoisted me over his shoulder and ,before I could say ‘holy crap’, we were submerged into 8ft of pool water. That kid was lucky that I could swim.
“I hate you!” I yelled as we ascended, spitting the water out of my mouth. My chickeny legs and arms were no match for his 6ft frame.
“Pizza’s here!” I had to shield my eyes from the relentless noon sun on that midsummer day to see Marcus and Bruce saunter through the screen door Liam had practically catapulted from just moments before. Bruce with three pizza boxes piled on one hand and Marcus with two giant sodas on each arm. Marcus and Bruce may have been born on the same day but they were nothing alike from their looks to their personalities.
“-that's not even fair I look nothing like that now!” argued Monica as we all laughed. It was about seven in the evening and Liam had come up with the brilliant idea of bringing out all of our old yearbooks in commemoration of our upcoming senior year.
Let me give you a little background on this group of crazy people I’m proud to call my friends. We’ve all known each other since elementary school being that we all lived in Lititz, a small town located in Lancaster County. Monica and I are best friends. Our mothers were best friends and as luck would have it they ended up getting pregnant at just around the same time so our birthdays are a month and a couple days apart. Monica being older than me, of course. Mon met Marcus in the sixth grade and with Marcus came Bruce and with Bruce came-
Well, I think you get the gist by now. We’ve all been close friends for years and I don't like to think too much about the fact that this is my last year with these guys. My last full summer with them. I was an only child so they were my family. I couldn’t tell you a time when I had spent more than a day without seeing at least one of them. After this everything was going to change and there was nothing I could do about it.
“Wait let me see that again?” I grabbed the year book and took out my phone to snap a picture. I laughed mischievously, a 15 year old Monica in all her two eyed brace faced glory staring at me through the yearbook.
“What are you doing?” Monica looked up in time to see me take the picture. “You better not send that to Connor you jerk!”
Next thing I knew Monica was charging at me. It was fight or flight! I couldn’t hold in my laughter, “Marcus catch!” I yelled throwing the phone in his direction as I felt Monica tackle me to the ground.
“Got it!” responded Marcus from behind the couch.
“You guys are like children I can’t believe we’re gonna be seniors I feel like I’m surrounded by eighth graders,” Leila’s words sounded harsh but the smile on her face let us know that she was only kidding.
“At least I don’t look like an eighth grader!” Marcus retorted, tossing the phone in Leila’s direction. Monica was high on his heels. I had to hand it to her the girl was persistent.
Leila stuck her tongue out at Marcus catching the phone with ease in one hand. Monica whimpered, throwing her hands up in the air, defeated.
“Fine, you guys are all jerks!” She pointed at each one of us in exaggeration.
“Alright alright I digress,” I said still laughing as I grabbed my phone from Leila making a big show of deleting the photo right in front of Monica. She let out a sigh of relief.
“You’re still a jerk.”
“Hey guys check this out!” Bruce called to us from the kitchen where he was using my laptop to work on his summer assignment. We had all told him that deciding to take 5 AP classes had not been the wisest choice but he was determined to go to an Ivy League college and I knew that none of us would admit it but we all admired Bruce for his determination. He was the “go-to” of the group. The guy knew everything. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have passed trig last year without him. Leila swore I had a crush on him and maybe I did but the rest of the group had practically made it a hidden goal to get Leila and Bruce together so I simply had to swallow my feelings and bury them. It wasn’t hard, I wasn’t too big into dating like Leila and Monica were.
We all gathered around Bruce but I was instantly disinterested as I saw a bunch of tall trees on the screen.
“Whatcha got there Brucey?” asked Leila mockingly, we all laughed.
“It’s Kilgore Mountain!”
We stared at each other blankly.
“None of you guys remember? Mr. Blanchard literally talked about Kilgore every day last year in environmental. It has over ten thousand different plant species! We had to do a research project on it for the final…” The blank stares continued. I almost felt bad for the poor nerd.
Bruce shook his head smiling at himself.
“Well Mr. Blanchard was telling me that him and his friends would always hike over there when he was our age and when you get to the top of the trail there’s this amazing waterfall,” he clicked on a picture captioned ‘Kilgore Falls’. We all gasped, it was beautiful with the sun shining directly on the water, the green plants around the falls seemed to shine as well perfectly accenting the various colorful flowers scattered around the perimeter.
“It’s amazing,” I admitted.
“Thankyou,” Bruce looked up at me, directly into my eyes, and i had to look away.
“It’s been closed for a while but I just got an e-mail saying that it will be open for visitors next week. What if we all went?”
There were groans from Marcus and Liam. Leila shrugged while Monica winced. I had to say something.
“C’mon you guys it could be fun, think of the cute pictures we can all take around that waterfall…”
Marcus cracked a smile, “now you’re talking.” Marcus was an amazing aspiring photographer. He was very modest about it but we all knew he was going places. His talent was too big for this small town. And Monica, well Monica just liked looking at pictures of herself.
“I mean if you guys are up for it I am,” Leila added.
“Fiiiine, we’ll go to your freaking haunted forest. Marcus, don’t forget the cannon,” Monica turned and pointed a finger at Marcus. He smiled and winked at her.
Did i mention that Monica and Marcus were dating?
So there we were, a week later, all piled uncomfortably into Liam’s Range Rover.
“Bruce, I hate you,” was practically the mantra for the morning.
We had established a system so that everyone could get a chance to sleep and drive but Leila loved driving (she was weird like that) so the plan was ruined once she was in front of the wheel. It wasn't like anyone was complaining though.
At one point it was just Monica and I awake in the car. Monica was driving. We were about 15 minutes to Kilgore by now, according to the GPS.
“Everything is changing ya know,” she said solemnly. I examined the subtle lines on the face of my pretty friend. She looked as if she was in deep thought. Her bright blue eyes unusually cloudier and darker.
“Yea I know what you mean,” I shifted my attention to my own window on the passenger side. I hated talking about this, Monica knew.
“You were right convincing everyone to go on this trip, Hayden” she looked at me. “Even if it's cause you've got that massive crush on Bruce.” She snickered.
“Mon,” I looked at her wide eyed. I reached over and hit her arm once we got to a red light.
“What,” she was full on laughing now, “everyone knows, well except Bruce obviously.”She gave a nod in his direction and continued bobbing her head to the pop song playing on the radio. I shook my head at her as we turned into the parking lot.
“Wake up you lazy bums!”
Moans and Groans could be heard from the back seats as well as the occasional profanity, not necessarily in that order.
Bruce seemed to jump up almost instantly, looking out the window. I couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. He was just so passionate about the environment and learning, so sure of what he wanted to do with his life. I guess I admired that about him. Not to mention he was pretty cute too. (Don’t act like that’s not what you were wondering all along.) He had dirty blonde hair. He was built like an athlete but he didn’t play any sports. Sports were more Marcus and Liam’s thing anyway.
I hopped out of the car, strapping on the drawstring bookbag I had brought along with me and stretched a little.
We started on the trail. Bruce acting as our tour guide. He was a pretty good one too. I found it a little odd that there were no adults around but I supposed it was just an open trail.
After a while we all inadvertently split into little groups. Marcus and Monica found a tree that they were especially fond of and were taking pictures there. Liam and Leila were examining fish in a small pond. That left Bruce and I (of course it did).
“So, senior year huh,” I immediately regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. Bruce just looked back at me smiling.
“Watch out for those roots,” I carefully stepped over a knot of roots that had appeared in the middle of our path. “But about what you were saying, I'm kind of dreading it. I don't know is that weird?” My eyes widened in surprise.
“No, that's exactly how I'm feeling. It seems like everyone else is so excited and ready. I get that, I mean, I'm excited too but it's scary, ya know.”
“But you'll be alright, Hay.” I smiled at the sound of his nickname for me. Everytime he called me that I remembered the first time we met and he would keep saying ‘Hey’ to me and it was always kind of awkward because I didn't know whether it was a greeting or an odd nickname. I finally voiced my opinion a year later and although he had confirmed that it had been intended as a greeting, he began to actually call me Hay. To this day I'm still not sure whether he started doing that on purpose or subconsciously. Either way I'd grown to really like the nickname and took it as a term of endearment of some sort.
I could hear him murmuring something about why Kilgore had been restricted all these years but I was distracted by a particularly beautiful flower that had caught my eye.
“Hey Bruce, come look at this!”
“Woah, that's beautiful.” It was truly one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. The flower was a dusty pink, still a little dewy as if it had rained here the day before. It had four tear shaped petals and was about the size of my palm. I felt my back pocket in search for my phone to snap a picture. Panic shot through me as I realized it wasn't there.
“S***, have you seen my phone?”
“Not since the car, why?”
“I can't find it!”
“Alright calm down, Hay.”
“Can you call it or something?”
“I don't have any service up here. How about we ask Liam for his keys and go check the car, okay?” I hadn't even thought of that.
So we attempted to head in the direction we came but the problem was that there was no clearly defined trial. We walked for what seemed like hours. By this time Bruce’s phone had died and it had begun to get dark.
“God, where the heck are we!”
I had let out multiple of these exclamations already and I was pretty sure Bruce was done trying to comfort me at this point. Suddenly he whipped around.
“I’m tired of your constant complaining! That's all you've done since you lost your phone. And that was hours ago! Could you please just stop, we’re both scared okay!”
“You know what! I don't need your help!” I turned around with a huff. I was so heated that I didn't stop to look at the ground. All I felt was my body falling and the searing pain of an open wound. I must've yelled as I fell because Bruce was at my side in minutes.
“Bruce, what if we never make it out of here?” I looked up into his green eyes, they seemed to glow the way the moonlight reflected on them and in that moment, whether we survived or not, I knew that my heart didn’t stand a chance against Bruce Kingston’s emerald gaze.