I looked in the mirror at my reflection for the third time. Ehhh. I poufed my hair a bit more with my brush and then sprayed my bangs with a bit more hairspray. That was it! I had to look perfect for tonight. It was my big 16th birthday and Hal was taking me out for dinner at a fancy restaurant, Ichaban, a popular sushi joint. I’d been looking forward to this big night for months; I’d even bought a new dress for the special occasion. Our first official date. Hal and I had seen each other a lot since we first met at the youth conference last summer – but it had always been in groups and mostly at church events. My parents had a strict rule about no dating until age 16. Not one on one dates anyway.
I had some time to spare so I grabbed my art book and pencil and picked up where I’d left off on a project I’d started a few weeks earlier – a montage of different women’s faces all blending into one another on the page. I really liked this drawing; in my humble opinion it was my best work so far. I felt inspired with all of the faces. I thumbed through all my previous drawings, starting with the stuff I had done as a child all the way to the newest montage. It was obvious how much I had improved over the years. I couldn’t wait to go to college to study art more intensely and even get into painting and sculpting too.
Mom knocked on my half open bedroom door. “Where’s Hal? Didn’t he say he would pick you up at 6?”
I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see that it was 6:10. I always lost track of time whenever I drew. “I’m sure he’ll be here any second.” I said putting away my artwork.
I went out to the front room. Pacing back and forth in front of the window, looking anxiously outside for approaching cars, I waited. “Where is he?” I mumbled to myself impatiently.
I looked at my watch again. It was 6:20 now. I really hated waiting. I was starting to get mad and I didn’t want to be mad on my birthday. This was supposed to be a good day! Hal was screwing it all up by being late!
Mom came into the room. “Still not here, honey?” she asked.
“No.” I replied with an unhappy sigh.
“I’m sure he’s just running late because he wants to look extra good for you tonight.” mom said, trying to cheer me up. “Maybe he stopped to get you flowers!”
I nodded. I stood at the front window with mom for a few more minutes, holding my breath each time I heard another car approaching.
Finally, I’d had it! “That’s it! I’m calling over to his house.” I stormed off in the direction of the kitchen.
I grabbed the phone from its cradle on the kitchen wall and punched in Hal’s phone number. My grip on the phone tightened as I waited, listening to the ringing on the other line, twirling the phone cord anxiously around my finger, willing someone on the other end to pick up.
Just then mom shouted from the living room. “Liz! He’s here! He just pulled up!”
I slammed the phone back in the cradle and ran to the living room. Sure enough, Hal was meandering up to the front door and he had a huge bouquet of flowers. Tulips, my favorite! All of my anger instantly melted away at the sight of him.
I opened the door before he had a chance to ring the bell and wrapped my arms around him, smashing the bouquet of tulips in the process.
“You’re so sweet!” I whispered in his ear.
“Happy Birthday!” Hal whispered back and then kissed my cheek.
I reached for the flowers. “Thank you.” I inhaled their scent deeply. “They smell so good!”
Then I noticed that Hal was holding something else - a box wrapped in pretty pink paper with a big white bow on the top.
“What’s in the box?” I asked excitedly.
“It’s a surprise!” Hal teased. “You can’t open it until later tonight, after dinner!”
“Ahhh!” I pretended to pout. “Do I really have to wait?”
“Yes!” Hal insisted.
“Hi Hal.” Mom was standing at the door and dad had joined her there too. “Let me put the flowers in a vase with some water for you, sweetie,” mom offered.
I handed the flowers over to mom and Hal handed the box to dad. “Could you hold this here for later, Mr. Johnson?”
“Sure Hal.” Dad took the box.
“Let’s get a photo of you two!” mom said already producing the camera.
“Ahhh, mom!” I complained. I really hated getting my picture taken.
“Indulge your mother,” dad said.
I looked at Hal and rolled my eyes in mom’s direction. But Hal just put his arm around me for the pose and smiled big at the camera. I couldn’t help but smile at him.
Mom took several pictures before she let us leave. “You kids have a nice time!” she told us finally.
Hal grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Now come on! We’re going to be late for our dinner reservations!”
I grinned. I had completely forgotten about the fact that Hal had been late.
The restaurant was full of people. The lighting was low and romantic, little candles flickered at each table. The maître de led us to our table and then Hal pulled my chair out for me. He sat next to me instead of across from me. As we waited for our waiter to arrive Hal took my hands in his and looked deeply into my eyes.
“Liz,” he started, “You look amazing tonight!”
"Thanks." I couldn't help but blush at his compliment.
"I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world." Hal squeezed my hands.
“I’m the lucky one!” I told him.
“I love you!” he blurted out.
My eyes widened at his sudden announcement. And then I smiled. He’d hinted at saying he loved me before but this was the first time he was actually saying the words out loud to me! “I love you too!” I whispered. I had imagined telling him so a thousand times.
“Oh good!” Hal said, relaxing a bit. “I was afraid you might not say it back!”
I laughed and then kissed him. “That’s silly!” You know I’m crazy about you!”
“I know. I’ve just never told anyone I loved them before.” Hal admitted, “Besides my mom and dad that is!”
I laughed again. “Well I’m glad I’m your first!”
“And there’s my grandma and grandpa too.” He continued listing family members who he’d told he loved.
I playfully punched him in the arm.
“Let’s order! I’m starving!” I picked up my menu. It was hard to concentrate on the words though. I couldn’t believe we had just finally said that we loved each other! Tonight was turning out to be a dream come true.
Dinner consisted of my favorites: spicy tuny and salmon rolls and for dessert chocolate cake with ice cream and hot fudge sauce. The restaurant staff put a candle in it and sang Happy Birthday to me as I sat red faced and embarrassed. At the end of the meal, I was absolutely stuffed and as happy as could be.
“That could very well have been the best meal of my life!” I told Hal as we exited the restaurant. It was dark outside now.
“Good!” Hal laughed. “That was my goal!” He opened the car door for me.
“Such a gentleman!” I teased him as I slid into the seat.
Hal grinned as he shut the door. In a second he was sliding into his seat.
“Ok, Birthday Girl!” he said as he started the car, “It’s time to go home and open your surprise!”
“I can’t wait!” I waited a beat and then asked, “What is it?”
“It’s a surprise, silly!” Hal chided me.
“I know!” I grinned over at him, “I just have to keep trying!”
Hal ginned back at me. “I’m not that easily broken!” he laughed. He started up the car and pulled out of the restaurant parking lot.
Hal turned the radio on and started to sing along to the music, trying to get me to join in with him. I just laughed and rolled my eyes.
“I have an idea! Let’s go park up at the summit.” Hal suggested seemingly out of the blue.
“Ok…” I was surprised. The summit was where guys and girls went to make out. Hal and I had certainly kissed before, but we’d never had a make out session! The butterflies in my stomach went crazy at the thought.
Hal made a turn at the next light and started heading in the direction of the summit instead of my house. He went back to singing along to the new song playing on the radio. I looked at him and smiled. I really was the lucky one!
Suddenly, Hal was illuminated by the headlights of another car. The car seemed to be coming at us fast, way too fast. It wasn’t slowing down! My stomach clenched as the realization hit me – we were about to be in a car crash. I tried to reach out and warn Hal but there was no time. The impact of the other car jerked my body viciously away from Hal. A strange sound escaped from my throat. In horror, I couldn’t seem to catch a breath. I watched helplessly as our car spun around and around in the middle of the intersection. Was this really happening?
As our car finally came to a stop, I tried moving, but couldn’t. I struggled to at least look in Hal’s direction, but I couldn’t even seem to move my head. My eyes widened with fear and confusion as a frightening thought came to my mind - I'm paralyzed! “Hal!” I tried to call out, but the sound that came out was more of a croak than a word. I cleared my throat and tried again. “Hal!”
Nothing. No answer from Hal.
I tried harder to turn my head. Painfully, little by little, I was able to turn enough to see Hal from out of the corner of my eye. He was slumped over the steering wheel. His side of the car looked very odd, crumpled and dented in. I couldn't see his eyes but blood was running down Hal's head to the steering wheel.
Starting to really panic, I looked outside for help, but saw nothing other than the car that had just hit us. It was also in the middle of the intersection, its headlights a spotlight on us, blinding me, turning the night into day. I couldn’t see into the car, I couldn’t see the other driver. Was he hurt too? Pinned in his car like we were?
I tried again to move my head, my hands, anything. But everything felt so heavy. I just couldn’t make my body work like normal. And then, I started feeling a dull ache in my left leg. The ache grew quickly into a sharp pain. I whimpered and tears came to my eyes. My breathing started to become ragged and uneven. I was hyperventilating, just like when I had gotten thrown in the lake last summer. The shock of what had just happened was too much. Mercifully, like in a dream, everything started to fade away. The pain, the fear, the bright lights all faded away. The night turned black again, the way it should be.
I knew I was drifting in and out of a dream. A nightmare more like it. Everything was fuzzy. Bright lights, screeching metal, pain, and blood. And then a man. He was laughing. He seemed to be crazy. He scared me. I had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to get away. Far away. As fast as I could. But I couldn’t move. Soon the blackness took over again.
What seemed like days later, I heard a soothing voice, calling me from the blackness. “Lizzzz…”
I wanted to answer to the voice, but my throat didn’t seem to be working. I groaned. Oh! So much pain!
“She’s coming to!” the voice said.
I tried to open my eyes but they felt welded shut. It took all of my effort to just crack them open a tiny bit.
The first thing I saw was a man in a white coat peering down at me. Next to him, a woman in a nurse’s uniform was busying checking me over. And then I noticed mom and dad, standing off to the side, eyes dark, lips pinched .
“Wha…” I tried to speak, to ask what was going on, but it came out as a croak. The nurse immediately poured a glass of water for me and put it to my lips.
“Drink this.” The nurse instructed.
I did as I was told. The water felt cool and soothing going down my dry throat. It was hard to swallow and I coughed, sputtering a couple of times.
“What’s happening?” I managed to get out after clearing my throat a few times. My throat hurt and my voice sounded raw and gruff.
“You were in an accident, sweetie,” mom said. “But you’re going to be just fine,” she added quickly, trying her best to smile. “You have a few bumps and bruises...”
I tried to move, to sit up and take stock of myself but fresh pain shot through my body. I groaned and collapsed.
“She needs more pain killer!” mom insisted, looking frantically back and forth at both the doctor and the nurse.
The doctor nodded to the nurse and the nurse complied. I watched in a daze as she increased the dosage of the drip that I realized was attached to my arm. The pain dulled and I relaxed back into my pillow.
And then I thought of Hal. I had been with Hal. Driving. To the summit. “Where’s Hal?” I asked.
No one in the room replied. Instead they all exchanged nervous glances with each other. I felt alarm creeping in. Why were they looking at each other like that? Why wouldn’t they say anything?
“What?” I asked anxiously.
More silence and nervous looks.
“Just tell me!” I demanded, starting to get upset.
Mom sat herself down on the right side of my bed and took my hand gently in hers. She pursed her lips together, looked back at her father and then at me again. “I’m so sorry honey.” she started saying, and then she paused again. She pinched her eyes shut and grimaced and then opened her eyes, looking intently at me now. “Hal didn’t make it, sweetie. The other car hit his side of the car and with so much speed and force - he died instantly.”
“He didn’t suffer at all” the doctor said, as if that made it all ok.
I glared at the doctor. They had gotten it wrong somehow. I had just spent the best night of my life with Hal. How could he be gone if I was still here?
I looked at dad for help, but dad just nodded with tears welling up in his eyes. Dad never cried! He sat himself down in the chair next to my bed and stroked my hair, like he had done when I had been just a little girl. “I’m sorry Liz!” he whispered.
My anger and confusion built. And then I thought of the driver in the other car. This was all his fault! “WHO was in the other car?” I demanded.
No one said anything again; they all continued to nervously glance at one another, unsure of how to proceed with me.
I started remembering bits and pieces of the accident, the lights and the blood, and hearing the cars colliding and the glass breaking. I balled my fists up tightly and clenched my teeth. The fury I was feeling was overwhelming. I looked for something to let my anger out on. I grabbed the half empty glass of water on the bedside table and threw it across the room. It crashed against the wall, the glass breaking into a million little pieces. Just the way my heart felt. I screamed and screamed and screamed. At no one and at everyone.
The doctor pulled out a needle then and stuck me with it.
“What the fuck?” I cried out.
“Liz!” My mother chastised me. “Watch your language!”
I wanted to tell her to fuck off but I felt overwhelmingly sleepy all of the sudden and I just couldn’t muster the energy to bother.
“Honey, you need to sleep.” The nurse told me, giving me an empathetic smile.
I wanted to tell her to fuck off too. But everything was fading fast.
Mom stroked my hair. “It will all be ok.” she said with a tear running down her cheek. “You’ll see. Just give it some time.”
Then the tears started flowing, blurring my already fuzzy vision. “No!” I whimpered. And then I was out like a light.
I woke sometime the next day, groggy and confused, not immediately remembering where I was or what had happened. But unfortunately it all came rushing back. And then came the tears. Lots and lots of tears.
I could barely manage to talk to anyone who came into the room. I barely ate anything. I retreated deeper and deeper inside my shell. I had encountered death only once before. When I was nine years old, I’d barely had my first and only puppy for a month when one day, as we played in the front yard, Scruffy took off chasing after a car driving down the street. I would never forget the way the poor puppy yelped and limped around afterwards. I had run inside yelling for my father who had quickly come outside, picked Scruffy up, placed him in a blanket in the car and then rushed the puppy off to the vet. I had just assumed that the vet would mend Scruffy’s broken bones. But then my father had come home without Scruffy and explained that Scruffy had been injured too severely and had died. I'd been absolutely heartbroken.
This was much, much worse.
I felt raw and broken and empty. I felt hopeless and lost. Nothing made sense anymore. I kept seeing images of Hal, laughing or smiling. I kept replaying how we met, all of our conversations, and our last time together. I just couldn’t believe he was gone! I kept thinking that he would walk into my hospital room at any minute and reassure me that it had all been a bad dream. But he didn’t come.
Somehow, I knew that this was all my fault. I turned to wondering how I could have kept this tragedy from happening. If he hadn’t taken me out for my birthday, he would still be here. If I had said no to going up to the summit, he would still be here.
The tears refused to stop no matter how hard I tried. I would just start to feel like I was getting myself under control and then the littlest thing would set me off again. With no warning I would just burst into tears. The nurse would come into my room whistling and I would fall apart. I pretty much cried all day every day for the 3 days that I was in the hospital.
When I finally got released from the hospital, I got home only to feel fresh new pain when I saw the surprise birthday gift from Hal, the box sat there on the kitchen counter, completely forgotten. It took a couple of days before I finally got up the nerve to open it. Inside the box sat a little homemade chocolate frosted birthday cake. It was a sad looking little cake, kind of sloppily made, but it said “Happy Birthday Liz! Love Hal” on the top. I knew that Hal had made it for me and it was priceless. I could never eat it.
The following days passed in a blur for me. The day of Hal’s funeral I decided that I wasn’t going to cry anymore. I’d cried enough tears for a lifetime in the past few days and I was sick of it. I was going to be a rock from now on. So I stood there at the grave site like a robot with my parents and watched as Hal’s casket was lowered into the ground.
I was still on heavy duty pain medication and using crutches to get around and I’d barely even been able to make it to the funeral. I had more than a few bumps and bruises from the crash. I’d gotten a concussion and my left leg was broken in two spots. I had to wear a giant cast. Oh, I’d had plenty of bumps and bruises all over my body too. Everyone told me how lucky I was. But all I could think about was how unlucky Hal had been. It just wasn’t right.
Hals parent’s stood on the other side of the grave. They never really looked at me. Maybe they blamed me too. I could certainly understand that.
After the funeral was over, Laura sat with me in her car.
“Do you know how he first told me that he loved me?” I asked Laura, smiling at the memory.
Laura had heard the story before but she shook her head. “How?”
“Well, he told me at the restaurant that night,” I paused to take a breath and hold the tears back, “but that wasn’t really the first time. The first time was in a letter. You know how we used to write letters to each other all the time because we lived so far away?” Laura nodded. “Well, in this one letter, he signed off “Love, Hal” and then below that he wrote “P.S. You better!”
Laura laughed. “That’s so cute!”
“I know…” I grinned, thinking back. I reminisced in silence, my smile slowly fading.
“Hal was one of a kind.” I admitted. “I’ll never find anyone else like him ever again.”
“Don’t say that!” Laura tried to encourage me. “You’ll meet someone someday who will be completely different than Hal but special in his own way!” She patted my leg reassuringly. “You’ll fall in love again. I know you will.”
“I don’t know, Laura…” I trailed off. I couldn’t imagine it. “I feel like I’ve been cursed in love.”
Hands were grabbing at me, pulling at my legs and arms and lifting me up off the ground. I tried to fight them off, my panic quickly rising. Despite my efforts, my body was swung backwards. I started to scream “Nooo!” but my scream died in my throat as I suddenly went airborne. I held my breath as I crashed into the frigid dark water. In shock, I sank deeper and deeper.
Finally fighting off the panic, I started thrashing around to stop my descent and then I began working my way back up. When I finally surfaced, I gulped desperately for air but ended up swallowing a mouthful of lake water instead. I started hyperventilating. I knew how to swim but I couldn’t seem to think straight.
“Someone help her!” I heard my friend Laura shouting angrily from the dock.
Laughter. From the boys who had just thrown me in the lake. Including my so-called boyfriend, Mike. We had just started hanging out a few weeks ago.
“Hey, grab onto me.” A really cute guy with brilliant blue eyes suddenly appeared in front of me. Treading water, he smiled and turned so that I could put my arms around him. He was confident in the water, unlike me.
I did as he instructed and held on tightly as he swam back to the shore with me.
Mike was waiting there. “Hey, no hard feelings. I was just trying to have some fun.” He put his arms out for a hug. I growled and pushed him away.
“I don’t think she had much fun, dude.” the cute guy who had just saved me spoke up.
Mike just shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. The cute guy shook his head and turned back to me. “Are you ok?” he asked with a concerned look.
“Yeah.” I reassured him, still shaking and shivering and trying to get my breathing under control again.
“Yeah?" He nodded and smiled. “Hey, my name’s Hal.” He held his hand out for me to shake. He was wearing blue swim trunks. He was tall and skinny and had white blond cropped hair.
I took his hand and shook it as I continued to stare into his eyes. “Thanks.” I looked down and kicked at the dirt self-consciously. “I tend to freak out a bit in deep water.” I admitted.
Mike piped in again. "I tried to tell you it’s all in your head! I was just trying to help you get over it.” His friends all snickered.
That did it. Furious, I turned to Mike. I felt like one of those cartoon characters that has steam coming out of their ears when they get mad. “Throwing me in the lake is not what I’d call helping!” I yelled. I punched his arm as hard as I could, which really wasn’t very hard at all, and my hand just hurt from the effort. “Ugghh!” I shook my hand out. “We’re officially over. Asshole!”
Everyone around us was staring. I hated being the center of attention. I turned and stormed off, my soaking wet Keds squishing loudly with each step. My friend Laura tried to follow but I pushed her away. I felt like fuming alone.
“Hey! Wait up!” Hal called out, chasing after me. “I didn’t get your name!”
“Oh!” I stopped, my anger melting a bit. I turned to Hal and managed a smile, “Sorry, I’m Liz.”
“Nice to meet you Liz.” Hal said cheerfully. “If it’s any consolation, I agree with you.”
“About what?” I asked, confused.
“About that guy being an asshole!” Hal swore a bit awkwardly, as if he wasn’t used to it.
I laughed. Swearing came much too easily for me. “Yeah, but he’ll get what’s coming to him.” I said confidently, nodding my head.
Hal tilted his head. “Are you going to get even with him? Get your friends to toss him in the lake when he least expects it?”
“No!” I laughed again, and then thought about Hal’s idea. “Although that does sound fun!” But I shook my head. “You know, karma? What goes around comes around?” I looked expectantly at Hal, hoping he would agree with me. Not many people in my social circles believed in Karma like I did.
“Well…” Hal looked thoughtful before he replied. “I think it’s just better to forgive and forget. Jesus will be the one to judge us all someday.”
“Right…” I agreed halfheartedly, I had been raised to believe the same as Hal. But I liked the idea of Karma. Natural consequences to choices. If you do good things, then good things will happen to you. If you do bad things, then bad things will happen to you. Sooner or later.
“You look cold!” Hal held a towel out for me. “Here.”
“Thanks.” I took the towel and started with my hair. I had been fully clothed in shorts, a t-shirt and of course my Keds when Mike had thrown me in the lake.
“Maybe we should sit in the sun for a while to warm up.” Hal suggested.
I shrugged. I could probably hang out with him for a bit longer. I sat down next to him and took my wet shoes off.
Hal stretched out and accidentally, on purpose, brushed his leg against mine. “Oops! Sorry!” he said with a big grin.
My heart raced at his flirtatious contact. This cute guy who had just saved my life was now totally hitting on me! He was getting cuter and cuter by the minute!
We sat and talked for a while. It turned out that Hal was a year older than me, 16 years old, and he lived in Canyon Country, not too far from where I lived in Valencia. Of course we went to totally different high schools. But thank goodness we were both Mormons! We never would have met if we hadn’t both been attending this year’s Mormon youth conference at the lake. We had to attend the required religious classes every day of course, but there was also plenty of fun to be had too. Like at the lake today. Last summer we had all gone to Los Angeles and stayed in the dorms at UCLA for a week. That had been a lot of fun.
The more I sat and talked with Hal, looking into his beautiful blue eyes, the more I thought that this year might just be the best youth conference ever. Despite just getting thrown in the lake. Actually, now that I thought about it, getting thrown in the lake was turning out to be a good thing, since it led to meeting Hal.
“Isn’t this the perfect summer day?” Hal asked, looking around. He closed his eyes and smiled.
It was sunny and warm with just a light breeze blowing. The sky was a deep sapphire blue and there were just a few puffy clouds on the horizon. The calm lake reflected the blue of the sky. And in the background the mountains were a dazzling mix of green hues all blended together.
“It’s so perfect," I said, "it almost looks like a painting.”
Hal opened his eyes and nodded. He turned to me, “So what happened earlier? When you got thrown in the lake?” he finally asked me, now that I had calmed down. “You were really freaking out.”
“I can’t explain it…” I admitted. “I’ve always been afraid of deep water. I tend to hyperventilate every time I try to get in.”
“Really?” Hal asked curiously. “Did you have a bad experience once? I mean before today!" he added.
“No, not that I can remember.” I looked out at the lake and thought about it. “My grandma used to try to force me into the water when I was just a baby but I remember being scared to death, kicking and screaming and crying whenever she tried to make me get in.” I paused, wondering if I should admit my fears to Hal. I looked over at him again. He seemed genuinely interested. “I think the fish are scary and gross and I don’t want them to touch me!” I blurted.
Hal chuckled. “You know,” he grinned at me, “the fish are more afraid of you than you are of them.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” I grinned back. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before from others trying to be helpful. “I love swimming in pools.” I told him. “I’ve taken swimming and diving lessons since I was just a little kid.” I geared up to deliver my crafty one liner, “I might not like the fish in the lake, but I’m like a fish in a swimming pool.”
Hal laughed. “We’ll have to find you a swimming pool then.” He grinned at me again.
Oh boy, that grin was too much! I couldn’t help but grin right back at him. I silently congratulated myself for being clever. I really wanted to impress this cute guy.
Hal lay back, folded his arms up behind his head, closed his eyes and sighed. “The sun feels great!”
I copied him. “Yes it does.” I agreed.
A few minutes passed as we just simply lay there sun bathing in silence together.
“Hey!” Hal sat up and looked at me, “Let's take a walk!”
“Oh,” My heart raced at the idea. “Ok, sure.” I put my semi dry shoes back on.
Hal jumped up and held his hand out to me. I took his hand but instead of letting go of my hand once I was up, he locked his pinkie finger with my pinkie finger, and grinned, somewhat shyly this time. I grinned right back at him. We started walking, our arms swinging together in rhythm as we went, pinkie in pinkie.
We walked for a while, chatting about the youth conference, taking turns peaking shyly at one other. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was practically holding hands with Hal already! When we came upon a little grassy wooded area, Hal let go of my pinkie and plopped down in the grass under a tree. I sat next to him.
“So tell me everything I need to know about you!” he said.
“Ummm,” I thought about it and then started listing things off, “I’m a sophomore in high school, I like the color blue and my favorite foods are pizza and ice cream and I like to draw and I like to read.” I took a breath. “And I’m an only child!”
Hal laughed. “Well, I have two brothers and one sister and I’m a junior, I like the color green and Mexican food. And I like ice cream too!” he smiled. “And I love to play basketball and I’m on my way to becoming a computer genius.” he added proudly.
“Cool. What can you do on a computer?” Computers were a relatively new thing in my world. My parents were always the last to get the latest and greatest inventions like VCRs and Microwaves.
“Well, I can write programs and I can take a computer apart and then put it all back together again and I can upgrade a regular old computer to a super computer that will do almost anything you want it to do!” Hal said.
“Wow! That’s impressive. My parents just got a computer but I haven’t used it much yet.”
“So what do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked me.
“Well, I kind of want to be an artist.” I admitted. “All I’ve done so far is draw with pencil but I’m getting really good at it.”
“What do you like to draw?” he asked.
“People, mostly faces.”
“Interesting…” Hal nodded and then asked, “Why people?”
I thought about it. “Well, I guess it’s the eyes. I love drawing eyes.” I looked into Hals eyes again then. His eyes really were beautiful; I would have to draw him for sure. “It’s like you can see the soul through the eyes.” I thought maybe Hal had a beautiful soul. We studied each others eyes but the moment got to be a bit too intimate for me so I laughed nervously and changed the subject. “Anyway, my favorite artist is M.C. Escher. I love the detail that he brings to his drawings.”
“Oh yeah!” Hal nodded in agreement. “He’s that guy who drew the hands drawing themselves on the page of a drawing in the drawing.”
I laughed at his description. “Yeah, that’s him. My favorite drawing of his is the one of the lizards being drawn on the piece of paper that are coming to life and leaving the drawing to parade around the desktop.”
“Yeah, that's a good one.” Hal agreed.
“I want to be just like him, but with people as my subjects.”
“Sounds awesome. I can’t wait to see your drawings!” Hal nudged me playfully again.
I couldn’t wait to show him. “I’d love to be a famous artist someday!” I said daydreaming about it. “Have gallery shows and make enough money to have a house right on a beach somewhere.”
“You want to live near the ocean?" Hal asked. "I thought you were afraid of the ocean?"
“Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know. I don’t want to actually get in the ocean but I sure do love looking at it. My great grandmother is pure Hawaiian and my grandmother is half Hawaiian and so my mom is like a quarter Hawaiian or something like that. I think that's where I get it from.”
“So you’re part Hawaiian, huh?” Hal studied me. “But you have blond hair!”
“I know! I don’t look it, my great grandpa was from Switzerland and then my grandpa was from Ireland and my dad’s family was all English. But yeah, I have that little bit of Hawaiian in my blood thanks to my great grandma.”
“That’s cool. Have you ever met your great grandma?”
“No, she still lives in Hawaii and my mom doesn’t talk about her much. I guess she still believes in the old Hawaiian ways, their gods and stuff.”
"Oh." Hal frowned at that. “My great grandparents were from Austria but they moved to America when they first got married.”
“Oh, Austria, huh? That’s cool.”
We sat in a comfortable silence again then, just looking out at the lake.
Hal started playing nervously with a stick he found lying next to him. Finally he blurted out, “I’m really glad I got to meet you.”
“Me too.” I admitted, and feeling shy, I had to look away.
Hal playfully nudged my shoulder with his shoulder. “I hope you’re not just trying to make that other guy jealous by hanging out with me.” He teased, still with that big grin on his face.
“Nope!” I smiled and nudged him back.
“Good!” Hal said, grinning even wider. "So, what else do I need to know about you?” he rubbed his chin. “Are you ticklish?”
“No!” I shook my head. Actually, I was very ticklish but I couldn’t let him know that! Being tickled was torture!
“Are you sure?” Hal asked, narrowing his eyes and giving me a sideways stare. He had a very mischievous look.
“Absolutely! I swear it.” I insisted, staring him down, hoping that he would drop the subject and move on.
“Let’s see, then, what else, what else?” Hal seemed to give up, changing the subject.
I relaxed a little, thinking I was safe. but then he surprised me by quickly turning on me, grabbing me by my waist and tickling me ruthlessly in just the right spots, making me laugh hysterically. We rolled around on the grass.
“Stop! That!” I managed to get out in between laughs.
Hal was laughing too. “Not ticklish, huh?” he teased me.
“Ok, fine!” I panted, out of breath from laughing so hard. Hal still held me in his arms. “I am ticklish! Are you happy?” His face was so close to mine. I could see every speck of blue in his eyes. It was kind of hard to get my breathing back under control with him so close.
“Your hair is really beautiful,” Hal said softly as he ran his fingers through my hair.
“Oh, thanks.” I blushed deeply at both the compliment and at the feel of his hands running through my hair. I was blessed with beautiful, thick, straight, long hair. It was a nice dark blonde color that easily got streaks of lighter blond from the sun. My hair was my favorite thing about myself.
“What about you?” I asked Hal. I gave him the same mischievous look he had just given me moments ago. “Are you ticklish?”
“Nope. Not at all.” Hal replied with a little half smile.
I doubted that and decided to test him too. I grabbed him and tried to tickle him.
Hal laughed, but not because he was ticklish. “Told ya!” he grinned at me in triumph.
“Oh sure!” I pouted. “That’s not fair!”
“How’s this for fair then?” Hal leaned in and before I realized what was happening he kissed me on the lips.
My eyes popped wide open in surprise. That was my first kiss! I just had my first kiss! And it was really quite nice! I blushed fiercely again. “That’s pretty fair, I suppose…” I admitted. “I guess I might be able to forgive you…”
“Yeah?” Hal was grinning from ear to ear again. “Well maybe one more kiss will seal the deal…”
I nodded in agreement, desperately wanting to feel his lips on mine again.
He leaned in again, more slowly this time, watching my reaction as he kissed me. And this time he lingered, kissing me over and over again. “I definitely want to be completely forgiven.” he mumbled between kisses.
We rolled around in the grass kissing for what felt like hours.
By the time we decided to head back to the lake, I was so overcome with newfound passion for Hal that I could barely keep my balance. Luckily Hal held my hand and that helped steady me.
If you enjoyed this cut scene from Naupaka Blooming you should read the rest of the story!
I'll share another cut scene next week... The Car Crash
I'm a romantic at heart with an overactive creative mind and an artistic soul. I've always been an avid reader - I read as much as I can as often as I can! Writing has been a life long dream that I haven't allowed myself to pursue until just recently. In April I finally published my first novel - Naupaka Blooming, a Hawaiian Reincarnation Romance. And now I'm working on the first book in a new fantasy thriller series called Summer's Shadow.