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The Best Summer
I was bored. Sooo bored. I had nothing to do all summer; no job, no money, no friends (mostly because they were all busy making money at their various jobs). I was sitting on my bed pretending to read but actually counting ceiling tiles when, quite suddenly, something remotely less boring happened; my phone rang.
“Hey, Gabrielle? How’s your summer been?”
“Oh, hey Ian. My summer’s been...fine. You?”
“Aww, that’s boring. Mine’s been great, but it's about to get a whole lot better. Listen, I just got a truck off Old Bill White down the road. I thought maybe we could load ‘er up with the essentials an’ take a li’l trip - just you an’ me.”
“That’d be great! Where we goin’?”
“Don’t matter, as long as you're there.”
“Aww, you're sweet. Okay, I’ll be ready in half an hour. See you soon.”
“Yeah, see ya.”
I hung up.
Okay, let me explain something. Ian is my only guy friend and, to be honest, he makes me feel about a million times better about myself than any of my girl friends do (not to say that I don't love them, obviously). We’ve had this thing going on since grade nine where, every once in a while, at the most random of times, we’d go on a trip. The “essentials” Ian mentioned are a bit of food, a bit of money, sleeping bags and a change of clothes if we go overnight, and one alcoholic beverage.
The last one is an essential because I’m otherwise not allowed to drink (as in, “Gabrielle, I will not let you drink until you can go to the bar yourself” kind of not allowed to drink), and we never bring more than one bottle (can, whatever) so that if we do something stupid (like breaking into a store or kissing) we can't blame the drink. It's worked so far (we haven't done anything really stupid yet, like kissing).
Anyway, that is how my favourite adventure began during what I like to call The Best Summer Of My Life Ever (ever though most of it was actually really boring).
Half an hour after calling, Ian showed up and, like promised, I was ready (seriously, my stuff was already packed, just waiting for an excuse to leave my room). Ian valiantly got out of the truck (which, as far as I could tell, was a really, really old Ford) and threw my essentials into the bed. At the last second, I remembered to write Mom a note saying that I might not have service for a couple days but not to worry ‘cause I was with Ian, and then we were gone.
We drove for what felt like hours over dirt roads, talking about little things like how we hadn't seen each other in a month and how the new guy who worked at Freshmart was super hot but that neither of us we interested because Ian’s not gay and I wasn't looking for a boyfriend (actually I was, but I wasn't going to tell him that in case we ended up doing something stupid, like kissing. Seriously, that would be really stupid).
We had been driving on the highway for about ten minutes when Ian turned onto another side road that ran beside a field and then dipped down into a treed area. Little cottages ran along the area on our left, overlooking a lake, while on our right, tall pines grew.
We eventually came to the end of the cottages. The trail continued up a hill, but it was much narrower. Ian stopped the truck.
“Probably a four-wheeler trail,” he explained. “Maybe for snowmobiles in the winter.”
I nodded. “So, you wanna go for a walk?”
He grinned. “Thought you'd never ask.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Ian had one of those drawstring gym bags that we decided to put all our food in and take with us to have a picnic.
We set off for the top of the hill, where we would have a good view of the lake and the opposite shore. Every so often, Ian would point out some plant and explain what it was, or imitate the bird calls (he was pretty good at all this nature stuff). I mostly just listened and watched the lake become increasingly clearer as we trudged up the hill.
When we got to the top, we were greeted by a breathtaking view. The lake was pristine, the hills behind it dotted with cottages. A few boats sat in the middle of the lake, people of all ages jumping overboard.
“Shall we eat?”
“We shall, yes.”
Ian opened the gym bag and pulled out our food: chicken-tomato sandwiches, sweet pickles (Ian had this weird thing for sweet pickles that I don't understand to this day), and water.
“Cheers,” Ian said, lifting the bottle of water into the air. I smiled.
It didn't take us long to eat and then we just sat there admiring the view. Finally, Ian stood up, kind of breaking the enchantment of the stillness.
“You want to leave already?” I asked.
“If by ‘leave’ you mean ‘go swimming’, then yeah.” And, as he was pulling off his shirt, I suddenly realized that his shorts were actually swimming trunks.
When I didn't move or make any indication that I might be thinking of standing up, Ian grinned down at me.
“What's up? Don't tell me you forgot your bathing suit.”
I smiled apologetically. “Actually, I did.”
He studied me for a second. “Well then, just go in your underwear. That's what I would do.” And he headed off along a little trail I hadn't noticed before. When he was about five feet above the water, the trail stopped and he dove in, leaving me no choice but to agree to what he’d said (which, to be honest, I probably would have done anyway).
I undid the button on my shorts and let them fall to my ankles, stepping out of them and my Sketchers at the same time. Then I pulled off my tank top and was slightly disappointed to see that I was wearing one of my old bras, although it was probably for the best since it was probably going to get ruined.
“Hey, Gabrielle, you comin’?” Ian called up.
I poked my little pudge that really you could only see if I took my clothes off and quickly walked down the trail to the water.
We took turns jumping in, trying to decide who could make the biggest splash (probably Ian) and who could make hardly any splash at all (definitely me). Ian awarded me The Grand Prize Of Nothing for having the best dive and I awarded him The Grand Prize Of A Rock for doing an almost-perfect backflip.
It must have been way over an hour when we finally decided we'd had enough and we climbed back up to the top of the hill to sundry.
“Nice panties,” Ian told me as we lay down near our stuff.
I looked down at my underwear. They were a turquoise colour with one thin coral strip along the top and little sequences in random places.
“Anytime.” He said it like a throwaway comment, but I couldn't help thinking maybe he meant it, just a little bit (but like, not enough to kiss me. Probably. He knows that wouldn't be a smart idea. I think. He'd better.).
It was dusk by the time we were fully dry (even my hair, although it didn't look super good). We'd eaten more sandwiches and Ian had had more pickles (although I hadn't), and there was really nothing more for us to do but head back to the truck, so that's what we did.
There was no place to turn around, so Ian (he wouldn't let me drive) backed up until we reached the field, where there was an open gate.
“Might as well sleep here,” he said and I agreed, so we backed up just past the gate and then drove through forward, straight to the middle of the field. It had had corn in it, but now there were just stubs where the stocks had been cut off.
It was too uneven to sleep on the ground, so I suggested the bed of the truck. Ian changed while I unzipped and lay down one sleeping bag, then the other over it. I could already tell it was going to be a cold night and I figured the more body heat, the better.
Then it was my turn to change.
“Don't look,” I told him as he grabbed the bottle of beer from beneath the seat.
“Okay,” he conceded, but I think I caught him glance at me once through the back window.
I pulled on a new pair of panties and my shirt for the next day, but left off my shorts and bra since that way I’d be more comfortable.
As I headed to the bed, I pulled my hair up into a messy bun so that it wouldn't be in my face, and watched as Ian opened the bottle of beer. I had just climbed into the back of the truck when I noticed that he was only wearing his boxers.
Okay, so I'd seen him in his boxers plenty of times before and these weren't even tight or anything, but it suddenly occurred to me that he really didn't have a lot of clothes on. Maybe it was the fact that, even though we had camped together plenty of times before, we had never actually slept in the same bed, or maybe it was simply that we would sleeping beneath the stars that night, but for some reason Ian being in nothing but his underwear unsettled me.
I sat down beside him as if nothing was wrong and he raised the bottle in the air the same way he had done earlier with the water.
“To a boring summer, maybe the last one we have together.” He handed me the drink so as to let me take the first sip.
“Don't say that,” I told him, but I took the beer.
We drank the whole thing slowly, barely saying a word, watching the stars come out. When we’d finished, Ian put his arm back and dropped the bottle through the open passenger window without even moving from where he was sitting.
We sat in silence for another minute before he cleared his throat.
“So, you're sure you're not lookin’ for a boyfriend?”
The question caught me off guard, mostly because we'd already talked about it on the way here. However, I pretended it didn't seem weird and even grinned.
“Why? You wanna go out with that guy from Freshmart after all?”
He gave a laugh that sounded slightly forced. “No.”
We fell silent again, but this time there was tension, something we hardly ever have between us. Finally, Ian spoke again.
“I was thinkin’ maybe - I mean, um - it’s- it’s - you I wanna go out with.”
“Oh,” I said again because it was all I could think to say. I was really surprised and definitely unprepared, but at the same time it felt natural, as if I knew it was going to happen - as if it was meant to happen all along.
Ian must have taken my lack of response as rejection because he started to say, “It's okay if you don't want to. It was just a thought.”
But I cut across him.
“Ian, don't say that. I think - I mean - I’d love to be your girlfriend.”
His countenance changed so quickly it was almost comical.
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I just don't want things to change too much between us.”
He slid his hands into either side of my face and, although I had seen and felt his hands so many times, it was thrilling.
“I promise,” he told me, “that if we change, it will be for the better. And if I'm wrong, you can decide where to go from there and I won't argue. I promise.”
His gaze was so intense that I couldn't hold it. I looked down at my hands, which were sitting on my lap, and said, “Okay.”
Ian dropped his hands. “Okay,” he repeated.
We looked at each other and I smiled again and then, as if we had planned it, we were both moving forward and his hands again found my face and his lips found mine and we were kissing and it was no longer stupid and I suddenly realized that I loved him and so I broke away to tell him and I did - just like (insert snapping fingers noise) that.
“I love you, Ian Malcolm.”
He looked surprised, but also really, really happy and, as he opened his mouth, I knew he was going to say it too, but I wasn't afraid because I also knew that Ian wouldn't lie to me and especially not about something so important and anyway I could see it in his face that he meant it. All this flashed through my mind in the second before he said it.
“And I love you, Gabrielle Annette.”