George and I had been hanging out for almost three weeks. The waitresses were starting to wink at me every time we came into the diner for coffee. Neither of them ever asked what we wanted anymore. Coffee for both of us, whatever fruit pie was on special for me and whatever cream pie was on special for George. We’d spent a couple of afternoons listening to records at my house – with the bedroom door open, and the boys running past the door ever few minutes or so. Probably under orders from mom. We’d talked on the phone at least every other night. I could tell George was bored, but I think he was also enjoying my company too. There were other girls to be bored with, and he didn’t seem too interested in making a lot of friends in town.
I’d just gotten home from babysitting, and was flipping through a magazine, laying on the floor in front of a fan, trying to cool off from a few hours of playing outside. I heard a knock on the door and contemplated just ignoring it, figuring it was the mail man with a package or a salesman or Jehovah’s Witness. But, I got up anyway. Mama would be horrified if I was home and didn’t answer the door.
I was glad I did.
“George!” I said, a smile forming on my face. “What’s up? Why aren’t you at work?”
He leaned against the door jam and his smile showed off his dimple. “Uncle Jim kept talking about the great swimming hole around here today, and I told him it was cruel and unusual punishment to keep talking about it on such a hot day, and not letting a guy experience it for himself. It was a persuasive argument.”
I smiled back. “You are pretty persuasive.”
He reached out and lightly took my hand. “So, I’m betting you know some good places to swim,” he said. “You want to show a guy around, or do I need to use my persuasive powers on you too?”
Not likely, I thought. But I tried to play it a little cool.
“Nothing to do right now,” I said, only slightly distracted by his hand still holding mine. “And you’re right about it being crazy hot.”
“Well, then,” he said, still smiling. “I’ve got shorts in the car. How much time do you need?”
I grinned, squeezed his hand and started backing up. “You know where the downstairs bathroom is. I’ll be five minutes,” I said. “And I’ve got a cold coke in the fridge I was saving for later. First one to the car gets it.”
The words were barely out of my mouth and I was running up the stairs. I heard George laugh and his feet thunder down the porch steps. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. Running into my room, I threw open the top drawer of my dresser and unearthed my swim suit, a plain dark blue bikini that Betty talked me into getting on sale at the department store last time we went into Springfield. I ripped off my clothes and tugged on the suit, thankful that the top was a halter style and I didn’t have to mess with tying fussy strings. I pulled on the cut-off shorts I’d just taken off and ran across the hall into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. My sunglasses and sunscreen were in my bag, sitting down by the front door from babysitting. I raced down the stairs, trying to think if I needed anything else.
I got to the bottom of the stairs just as George was walking out of the kitchen with the coke in his hands.
“Confident, are we?” I asked.
He smirked and glanced between me and the front door. I lunged for my bag and my keys and George lunged for me, his arm wrapping around my waist and swinging me away from the door. I squealed.
“No fair!” I gasped. “I’ve got to lock the front door!”
We were both laughing hard as he set me down on the front porch, his arm still firmly around my waist.
“This truce only lasts long enough for you to lock the door.”
I was still laughing as I fumbled with the key, but eventually we heard the deadbolt click into place. The skin on my waist suddenly felt a rush of hot air, and I turned, leaping off the porch after George. I was seconds behind him, and threw myself into his side, and knocking him off balance just enough to make my lunge for his car count. My fingers brushed the hot metal and I turned, triumphant, to find George standing very close, his face still creased in a smile and his eyes crinkled from laughter. We were both sweaty and breathing hard.
“You, Rosalee, are one of a kind,” he said. He held up the bottle of coke between us, then rested the cold glass against my neck. I shivered.
“I have to say, I kind of figured this was mine. But you earned it,” he said.
“You’ve met my brothers, right?” I said. “They are their own full-contact sport.” I reached up and wrapped my hand around the bottle, my fingers overlapping slightly with his.
“If you’re nice, I’ll share,” I said.
“I’m always nice,” he replied. He let go of the bottle and reached around me, unlocking the passenger door of the car so I could get in. My body was trapped in the space between his and the car, his eyes never left my face as he turned the key. I found myself staring at his mouth. He winked, I blushed, and he was walking to the driver’s side. I stood frozen for a second, then shook my head and climbed in. I set the bottle in the cup holder, stuffed my towel in my bag, and set the bag on the floorboard, then picked up the coke and twisted off the cap as the engine roared to life.
“Which way?” George asked, looking at me with another smile, this one sweet and friendly.
“Left at the end of the driveway,” I replied, taking a long drink. The pop was cold and fizzy and sweet and pretty darn delicious. I pulled it away from my lips and offered the bottle to George.
He raised an eyebrow. “Sure?”
“Yep. Take it. It hits the spot.”
We were quiet on the drive, passing the coke back and forth while I gave him directions. In ten minutes we were on the bumpy gravel road that led to the spring. The trees along the road made shadowy patches on my bare legs and arms as it filtered through the trees that occasionally brushed along the side of the car. It was only two miles, but you had to take them slow. I didn’t mind though. We’d left the radio off, and I just enjoyed the peace. The sounds of the birds and squirrels, the crunch and hum of the car, the warm breeze blowing my hair. By the time we’d gone the two miles and pulled into the clearing, it felt like we’d entered into the remotest pocket of the world. George parked the car and turned it off. We gazed for a moment at the spring-fed pool. The grass sloped slightly down to the water on our side. To the right, some huge rocks under a big oak tree made a perfect diving board and rope swing platform. Trees and undergrowth crowded around the water, except for the narrow stream that rushed off toward our left. I loved this place.
“Does it feel as great as it looks?” George asked, turning toward me.
We opened our doors and walked toward the water. I kicked off my sandals and set down my bag. George shoved off his own shoes and pulled his t-shirt off over his head, and I have to admit I took advantage of the few seconds in which his face was covered by the shirt to admire his lean muscles. I turned away, and reached down to slip off my shorts, although I hesitated, aware of George right next to me and suddenly feeling a little shy.
Don’t be silly, I scolded myself. You go swimming with boys all the time. I quickly dropped my shorts, pulled off my t-shirt and ran toward the big jumping rock. I could hear George laughing behind me, but I didn’t slow down or turn around. I jumped up on the rock and without slowing down ran off the edge, tucking my knees up to my chest and closing my eyes just before hitting the deliciously cool water. I let myself sink, enjoying the refreshing water, the peacefulness, the weightlessness – before kicking my legs and reaching my hands toward the surface. I broke through the water, tilting my face up slightly so the water would push my hair way from my face.
When I opened my eyes I glanced around for George, and found him standing on top of the rock, grinning at me.
“Well, what are you waiting for,” I said as I treaded water.
“Didn’t want to accidentally land on top of you,” he replied as he grabbed the rope. He walked backwards until there was no more slack in the rope, then bounded across the rock. As his feet left the ground he let out a whoop, sailing almost all the way across the creek. He hung on to the rope as it hit its peak, then just as he started to swing back toward the rock he let go. I laughed at his gigantic splash, and turned my head away from the spray instinctively. A moment later, George’s head popped up so close to my own that I jumped, startled at how quickly he’d swam through the water.
“Boo,” he said.
I laughed and smacked his shoulder. “Smart-aleck.”
He grinned. Surrounded by the blue sky and blue water, his eyes were brilliant, deep and mesmerizing. His shaggy hair was plastered to his forehead, dripping water down his cheeks. A few pieces of hair clung to his cheekbone. I wanted to reach out and push the hair off his face. The thought made my insides flutter. I wasn’t experienced with boys at all, but I knew that a gesture like that would be a statement of some kind, a silent acknowledgement that maybe I was open to something more than friendship. But I thought maybe I was okay with saying that.
My fingers softly – but with no hesitation – skimmed the top of George’s cheekbone, carrying the wet hair off his face. I let my fingers run through his hair, my hand coming to rest on his shoulder for a moment before slipping off into the water again.
Uncertainty hit me belatedly, and I opened my mouth to fill the silence with something funny. But before any words emerged George’s rough hand slid around my bare waist, the other hand cupping the back of my head, tangling in my own wet hair. And then he kissed me.
My insides melted and my skin sizzled. His lips were soft, but firm, asking questions that my own mouth answered enthusiastically. I stopped thinking and became a mass of sensations. The gentle pressure of George’s hands…the feel of hot skin and cold water and sunshine on my back…the cinnamon taste of his mouth. I wrapped my arms around his neck and his hand on my waist became an arm wrapped around me, our bodies pressing into each other.
When George eventually pulled back, I opened my eyes to see his blue ones still inches away from me, their corners crinkled slightly in a smile. I moved my arms and tried to pull away, the rational part of my brain slowly waking up and wondering what in the world had just happened, but George’s arm remained firmly wrapped around my waist.
“Well,” he said.
“Well,” I replied.
As I searched for something not stupid to say, George’s head suddenly dipped slightly, and the arm not wrapped around me snaked behind my knees. I yelped as he scooped me up, then squealed as I found myself launched out of the water. I landed in the water with a splash and emerged laughing.
“Oh, it’s on now.”