He dreamed of summer.  A warm afternoon sun, shade under a big tree, and a hammock to lie in.  He was back at his uncle’s place on Lake Huron, the summer after high school, perhaps the happiest place he had ever been.  He had gone north to escape his hometown, spread his wings a little. He worked for his uncle’s landscaping company with a group of young people.

            He had felt shy around the others and took awhile to come out of his shell, because they all seemed to know each other and he was new that year.  His newfound charm had won through, however, and he began making friends after a few awkward days.   There was, however, one person on the team he was avoiding.

            A girl was walking towards him.  He used one hand as a visor over his eyes, blocking the glare from the sun so he could see her face.  Even now he was bashful around her, even though he was comfortable with everyone else.  It was just that she had to be the prettiest girl he had ever seen, and it made his throat close up whenever he saw her.  And now she was standing in front of him.

            “Hello, Ethan.”  She said, the smile she offered warmer and brighter than the sun in the azure summer sky.  “How are you?”

            “I’m fine.  How are you, Faith?”  Somehow he managed to speak to her, and his voice was actually calm.  It surprised him, because his heart was pounding in his chest like a jackhammer.  He stood up, realizing that it was rude for him to be sitting.

            “I’m great, thanks.”  She pushed an errant curl behind her ear.  Her hair was tightly curled and a golden red.  Her eyes were hazel, and she was just a little shorter than he was.  “I was just wondering why you’ve been avoiding me, is all.”

            “I haven’t…  I mean, I wasn’t…” He was suddenly very nervous, the calm in his voice dissolving.  She laughed and sat on the hammock as if it were a couch, gesturing for him to join her.  He sat down, blushing at being so tongue-tied.

            “Yes, you have.”  She said kindly, still smiling.  “You’ve made friends with everyone else.  I wondered if I had offended you.”

            “No, not at all!”  He said, alarmed that she had thought so.  “I’m sorry if that’s what you thought.  That’s not it at all.”

            “So what is it, then?”  She asked, her soft lips parting again in a smile.

            “I don’t know.  There’s this feeling around you, that’s all.”  He shrugged, trying to avoid her gaze.  She wouldn’t stop looking at him and smiling, and it was making him nervous.

            “Is it bad?”  She asked, and seemed genuinely hurt.  “If I’m making you uncomfortable, I can go, if you want.”

            “It’s not that!”  He said again, worried that he had hurt her feelings.  He hated to hurt people in any way.  “It’s not bad at all.  Really.”

            “So it’s a good feeling?”  She smiled coyly, “You avoid something that feels good?  Why is that, Ethan?”

            He blushed again.  He looked at the sparkling blue lake, the green leaves of the trees swaying in the wind, at anything but her.  “Because it scares me.”  He said quietly.

            “What?”  She said gently.  “What are you scared of?”

            “Maybe it sounds dumb, but I always know when I meet people if we’re going to be friends.”  He tried to explain.  “It’s weird, but it’s like I recognize people, somehow.  Like the way you can tell the difference between an actor and an extra in a movie scene.  You just know.”

            She nodded, thinking that she understood.  “Go on.”

            “Well, that feeling’s never wrong.  It may take awhile, but people who feel that way always become one of my closest friends.”

            “Do I feel like that?”  She asked, genuinely touched.

            “No.”  Ethan shook his head.  “No, Faith.  You feel like more than that, and that’s never happened before.  I never knew it was possible.  That’s what scares me.”

            For the first time he looked her in the eye, needing her to understand.  The steel within him had come out a bit, enough to make him dare to say it aloud.  He had never ever dared before, never had the courage.  Not with Hope or with anyone else.  But this girl, there was something about her, something wonderful and different and frightening.  He had to try.

            Something about his words must have had an effect, because she leaned into him suddenly, tilting her head to the side.  Her lips touched his and suddenly they were kissing.  It was soft and moist and sweet, and it was his first.  Ethan would remember it forever, as one of the best moments of his life.  She felt right, in a way that Hope and every other girl he had ever met had never felt.  His gut never failed him, it was always right about people, so he trusted it.

            It gained him the best summer of his life.

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