• I sat on the cold bench, my gaze on the warm blaze of fire. Around me, everyone spoke in low undertones as the crack echoed when a piece of log split in two and fell farther into the smoldering coals. I absentmindedly traced intricate patterns on the faded denim of my shorts and listened half-heartedly to the rumbling chatter. My heart thumped wildly as a voice addressed me.
    “May I sit here with you Rach?” I nodded silently as Darren sat his dark hair ablaze with the reflection of the fire. My breath caught as he looked sideways at me. “I don’t usually see you around these kinds of events.” The statement sounded like a question.
    “I don’t usually attend. I like sitting at home but Marrissa decided I needed to come tonight. Apparently there’s some big surprise at midnight.”
    He shrugged off his jacket as he snickered slightly. “You actually listened to her?”
    I chuckled as I shook my head. “She’s very forceful and half dragged me from my bed.” I frowned as I glanced over to see her entwined in the arms of her boyfriend. She gave me a cat eyed stare and I shuddered. “I’m honestly fearful of this surprise. I have a feeling I’m going to be the butt of some joke.”
    His frown was electric as he stared into the fire for a moment. “She would do something like that wouldn’t she?” He uttered something under his breath and I heard something that sounded like witch. I struggled to keep a smile from gracing my face. Just as I opened my mouth to respond, the music abruptly shut off.
    “Hey everyone! Thanks for coming to the bonfire tonight!” Marrissa stood her lithe body close to the flickering flames. “Alright.” Everyone straightened slightly. “We’ve got a special surprise tonight.” Her boyfriend eased a small bag from his pocket and tossed it onto the fire then added some wood for good measure. I wrinkled my nose as the smell of burning plastic filled the air along with a slightly bitter smoke. My head started to ache in just a moment and I stood unobtrusively moving into the clearer air. Darren followed a second later.
    “Sorry. I didn’t mean to seem like I was being rude. I didn’t like the smell of the smoke.” I shrugged and shivered slightly as a cold breeze bit through my thin tank top. A second later, a warm jacket was draped over my shoulders. I smiled ruefully up at Darren and he grinned brightly.
    “You don’t get high?” I frowned then realization dawned on me.
    “Of course she’d get ahold of pot.” We were wandering aimlessly and I shook my head before glancing back at the fire. “Is it bad that I don’t feel like I’m really leaving anything behind?”
    “Of course not. Potheads never have anything good to say anyways. I’ve never actually gotten high before.” He chuckled.
    I gave him an amused look. “Looks like we’re the only two that haven’t.” He grinned ruefully and I leaned against a tree. The conversation continued without me being aware of almost anything other than the way the dim glow of the moon lit him in a soft silver aura. His eyes were on me and I felt a flush rise to my cheeks as I stared into his handsome face. Slowly, he moved closer and I soon felt the heat of his skin warming me even with the jacket on. Very cautiously, I moved my hand onto his arm and was relieved when he responded by putting his hand on my shoulder. Our conversation drifted off slightly as we were busy flirting. My heart pounded and as the party noises grew louder, I pushed up on my tiptoes and planted a soft kiss on his lips. His arms looped around my waist and he deepened the kiss. My head started to spin as the smell of salty water and leather combined with the resinous scent of sap. The kiss ended and I rested my head on his chest as we stood there in the eaves of the forest. Slowly the crowd dispersed and I joined them, my heart aching slightly as I turned my cycle back towards my house.
    Sunday passed without any excitement and I filled the time with meaningless busy work, eager for tomorrow to roll around. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened last night but I knew I wanted more of whatever it was. I’d been crushing on Darren for years and it seemed he’d liked me in return. The anticipation was unbearable until I finally collapsed in bed, asleep before my eyes even closed.

    The day dawned muggy and bright. My outfit consisted of a pair of rather baggy shorts and a soft cotton top. My hair was pulled back in a loose bun and I wore the protective leather jacket for my motorcycle. The ride was short but my stomach tightened as I parked.
    “Where were you when we were enjoying the ‘special surprise’?” Marrissa demanded as she grabbed at my hand. I glanced away from her and caught sight of the tall form clad in denim and a black tee. My heart began to race as he started towards us.
    “Morning Rachel.” His eyes glimmered with amusement as he fell in step with us.
    “Morning Darren,” I blushed. Marrissa’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the two of us. My hand brushed his and I was shocked when his elegant fingers locked with mine. I glanced up at him and saw him grinning brilliantly. “Um how was the rest of your weekend?”
    “It was worse than Saturday night,” he winked.
    “Ya’ll kissed! Oh I knew it was going to happen!” She yipped gleefully and danced in a circle around us.
    “And if we did Marrissa? You had nothing to do with it.” Darren’s voice was light but I could feel his tension. I unconsciously leaned in closer and his arm ensorcelled my waist.
    “Oh hush you big meanie.” She darted away and I shook my head at her antics.
    “Now what?” I murmured as we slowly traversed the bright campus. We edged to a stop with my back leaning against one of the metal supports. His eyes darkened and he leaned in.
    “How about we start with a kiss and go from there?” I gave a small nod and the kiss burned through me much as it had last time. In his arms, I felt like I could face the world. We broke apart, and as I stared deep into his emerald eyes, I knew I was looking into forever.
    “I know it’s pretty early but I think I love you,” I burst out. My cheeks burned as I realized what I’d said. “Oh my god I am so sorry!” I whispered. My head drooped. A warm hand lifted my chin and I found myself looking into his eyes once more. He thumbed away my silent tears and smiled.
    “I love you too Rachel.” He followed the words with another kiss and all my doubts left as I kissed the one man I would ever love. His touch felt like eternity and when we returned to just staring at each other, the world melted away leaving us in our own piece of heaven. And thus began the greatest adventure of all.