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A Tender Touch
The world seemed perfect, if only for a minute. Hope Fletcher sat there on the pier, body covered with a terrible sunburn and splinters lodging themselves in his heels, but still it did not bother him. The girl was in front of him a few feet with her back to him, her feet dangling into the water and the sunset bathing her in an array of colors. The red sky contrasted against her bright blond hair elegantly. Hope smiled uncontrollably, as if there was indeed hope to be found.
“Beautiful,” the girl muttered, tenderness in her sweet voice.
“Yeah, it is,” Hope replied, although he knew it wasn’t the sunset making his view beautiful.
“Remember that creek you told me about?” she began, turning around so Hope could see her diamond-like eyes. He could never say no to those eyes. “You know, the one in the woods. Will you take me there?”
Hope looked out at the lake. Flat as a board, as if they could walk out on it to the other side. The setting sun reflected off the water, casting reds and oranges like springtime flowers. There was not a soul in sight. The two were alone in this world; this perfect little world.
“Why don’t we just stay here?” Hope told the girl, doing his best to snap her out of this thought. “It’s almost dark, plus it’s so pretty here.”
“Please. It’ll be perfect.”
The girl’s skin had been tanned from the days in the sun. She had no flaw; her body in perfect symmetry with curves at the right places and bulges in others. When she moved freely the ground beneath Hope fell out and he was free falling.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s go.”
The girl’s smile pierced her face like snow on the ground, and her eyes lit up with happiness. Those eyes; they were the world to Hope. The girl got to her feet and scampered down the pier, their shoulders touching for a second. It felt almost like a shock; her skin perfectly smooth against his and warm like a blanket he huddled under on cold nights. Hope turned without thinking and saw her sprinting across the lawn. The girl was barely clothed besides the small bathing suit, her body absolutely breathtaking. Drops of water still rolling down her skin, colored a light red in the setting sun’s rays. Look away, stupid, Hope commanded himself.
Hope put the small heart necklace on, a gift from the girl three years back. The chain had been replaced twice, once after losing it and the other after it broke. Still the pendant stayed the same; small, silver, chipped at the bottom right side and almost to the point of looking cheap. Even so, it gave him the hope that one day the girl would actually give him her own heart so he could hold her in his arms, caress her with great gentleness, and kiss her sweetly on her soft cheek and thick plump lips.
After throwing on a plain white shirt that stuck to his sun burnt skin the two walked down the street, almost hand in hand, following only the setting sun and a selfish desire. Houses were lit as families sat down to relax by their TV’s and talk about their day. The two walked silently, their feet kicking stones that hopped down the gravel road with a soft click.
Hope stole quick glances at the girl, seeing sweet tenderness in the way she carried herself. Over her bathing suit she wore short jean shorts that showed miles of her long legs and a black tank top that clung to her body tightly. Hope, being just a stupid teenage boy, grappled with his feelings of wholehearted affection and primitive lust. There the girl stood, her movements so carefree and elegant. There was almost an aura around her; she was untouchable, like a goddess among the mortals.
The road ended and soon Hope found himself carefully walking across a fallen tree and into the woods that housed the hidden creek. The setting sun’s rays were blocked by the trees and the two were soon encased in darkness. Hope led the way with his knowledge of the land and the sense of touch, as he held the girl’s hand so they would not get separated. He was sure not to grip too tightly or softly, as he prayed that his hand wasn’t sweating or shaking. The wind blew through the leaves, creating a gentle melody of nature. Owls hooted in the branches above them and frogs croaked beneath their feet, adding to the song like a three part harmony.
Finally the sun peaked through the trees as they reached the opening in the woods. The creek flowed to their right and the girl ran beside it, dropping her hand into it’s cold waters and giggling like a child. Hope saw the bliss in the girl’s eyes and he suddenly felt a wave of ecstasy flow through him. He felt happy pleasing the girl, as if his meaning in life was the make that pearly white smile appear on that lovely face. And Hope knew that he was ok with that.
“It’s gorgeous,” the girl declared, wading slowly into the creek.
You’re gorgeous, Hope thought. For a moment he believed that he had actually said the words out loud, making his heart skip a beat until he decided that it was just in his mind.
Hope and the girl sat at the edge of the woods where the creek took a deep fall into the lake a few feet below. Their feet dangled off the edge, watching the few remaining moments of the once in a lifetime sunset. Hope, caught up in the emotion of the situation, put his arm around the girl. She looked at him, saying not a word but showing agreement with a glimmer in her eyes. His hand accidentally rubbed against her breast, and for a second it stayed their. The girl neither pulled away nor spoke a word of protest. So they sat their peacefully, a primitive teenage desire achieved while a sweet tenderness was found.
“Here,” Hope said, taking off his necklace and holding it in his hands as if it were a piece of gold. “You should have this, not me.”
Hope put it around her neck, the clasp making a soft click as it locked. The heart, his heart, had been given to the girl. They sat for a few more seconds, the girl watching Hope and Hope watching the girl. Blond hair flowing, eyes twinkling, pearly white smile sparkling, all bathed in the last light of the sunset. Gorgeous, was all that came to Hope’s mind.
“Let’s take a swim, Hope,” the girl said, taking him by the hand and getting to her feet.
Suddenly the girl was pulling off her clothes until she was back in her bathing suit and heart shaped necklace. Hope pulled off his shirt, once again feeling the burns from the sun but strangely not feeling pain from it. As if nothing could hurt him now.
The sun finally dipped below the trees on the opposite side of the lake. The two stood hand in hand, toes curled against the edge, hearts pounding wildly. Hope jumped with the girl. His last thoughts as he made contact with the lake was how cold the water was compared the girl’s warm hand.
A rock. One fatal rock. Was it God’s doing or was it just bad luck? Hope wondered as he swam back to shore, lungs gasping for air and arms limp from overuse. The girl had hit her head on the rock when the two dove in. Hope could almost feel her hand’s grip go loose as it slowly slipped away from him, down to the murky depths of the lake. Hope had grasped for her in the dark waters, hoping for the touch of the smooth warm skin so he could pull her to safety. After three dives he found the girl, but her skin was no longer warm, but a cold clammy feel.
Hope sat on the beach, his heart pumping and his breathing shallow as he stared out in front of him. The lake was perfectly still, its waters smooth and shiny against the moonlight; like the lid of a coffin.
Hope made his way to the train station where he walked slowly down the tracks. Half of him wished a train would come and take away the pain he was feeling. He could suddenly feel his sunburn, mostly over his left pectoral. His nostrils stung from the smell of roses, the girl’s favorite flower. In his right hand he could still feel what had been her breast when he caressed it and satisfied his primitive urges, while in his left he could feel tenderness from when he held her hand. And when he closed his eyes the image of her burned his insides, churning up the feelings he had towards her and mixing them with grief and guilt.
A hard rain started to fall down on Hope’s head when he remembered the trains did not run this late at night. He walked down the road, water dripping off his hair, down his soaked body, and onto the ground below. Hope remembered that he was going to tell the girl he loved her after they got back to shore. He wondered if she already knew, as he had given her his most prized possession. But did she? He longed to know but knew he never would.
Hope looked up at the swirling black clouds and wondered how it could have gone from a lovely red sunset to a torrential downpour in a matter of hours. Then again, it had only taken minutes to go from love to loss.
What to do now? Hope had no idea. All he wanted to do was walk down the seemingly never ending country road until he reached another city, another day, another life. Hope had lost his hope.
Hope looked down at a large puddle that glowed in the light of the moon. For a second he thought he could see the girl in the water. All the memories began to come back to him, all those wonderful hours he had spent with her. God how I loved her, Hope thought, his heart feeling like it was bleeding, How I still love her. It was at that moment when Victor E. Love, a factory worker on his way home to his wife and kids, with an obstructed view because of the rain, struck and killed Hope Fletcher.