The deep red sun had set in the dull orange and bright pink sky long ago, but Halyn had not even noticed. Her mind was far off in a place where, before today, she had never visited before. Her russet-colored eyes had stopped dripping, but she wiped them nonetheless. What had just happened? Her mind had ceased to work as soon as Nate had pulled away from the shocking kiss.
“What am I going to do now?” she said aloud, looking up at the heavens as if the outlined clouds could give her the answer. Instead, the wind began blowing harder than before and she watched as it whipped through the tree branches and teased her hair, blowing it around her face.
Almost without realizing it Halyn licked her lips, and then suddenly smiled. What were the odds of receiving your first kiss on a bridge with a group of friends and a fiery sunset flaming in the background? For a crazy moment she nearly wished someone had taken a picture, but then shook her head.
“Stupid, stupid,” she muttered, jamming her hand through her hair. If someone had taken pictures, what if her parents found them? She would have got grounded for life. But on the other hand… would she really care? Getting grounded until she turned twenty-one might not seem like such fun, but after all, would getting your first kiss not have been worth it? Not to mention I just kissed a really good-looking Australian best friend, she added silently.
Sighing, Halyn looked up. Where were the others? If she knew Shiara, which she did, she knew Shi would have more than likely walked off extremely upset with Adam trailing behind her to make sure she did not get into any trouble. But that still left Lizzie and Nate. And if Halyn’s guess was correct, then Liz had probably given Nate one of her speeches. A smile almost twisted her mouth at the thought of Nate standing there awkwardly as Liz gave him one of her little “philosophical talks.”
Squinting her eyes, Halyn stared off in the distance to her right. She could have sworn someone was sauntering towards her. Standing up, she started towards the figure, but two seconds later she realized who it was and briskly turned around and strode the other way.
After walking a minute she glanced behind her and was startled to see him nearly in stride with her. For a fleeting moment she thought of running, but just then she felt his hand on her arm.
“Halyn, I –”
“Nate!” She jumped at his voice and stopped dead in her tracks, looking down at the cracks in the sidewalk. She prayed he did not expect her to answer any of his questions, but knew that she would eventually have to respond.
They both stood there a moment, not talking, Nate’s hand resting on her arm until he dropped it, embarrassed. The sky grew darker and the clouds looked fiercer, seeming to threaten to burst open with their downpour.
Halyn felt Nate’s eyes on her as if they were burning a hole through the top of her head. Finally she risked peeking up at him, and regretted it instantly. Her small round face turned three shades of pink when her eyes met his ocean-blue ones; she lowered her head again.
“Halyn, I don’t know what I was thinking.” He broke the silence at last. When she did not meet his gaze, he gently yet firmly placed his fingers under her chin and forced her to look into his face. “It was just a stupid dare, and Adam’s right – dare’s are a child’s play, and I shouldn’t have done it.” He paused.
Stop! No, don’t stop, keep going. No! Cut it out now! Halyn’s emotions were in turmoil, and she could not decide whether to slap him across the face now and get it over with or let his beautiful accent make her forget about everything.
After taking a deep breath and exhaling, he continued. “I’m sorry for putting our friendship in an uncomfortable position; I never wanted to do that. I never meant to hurt yours or Shiara’s feelings; I had been thinking about the dare all week. Shi probably won’t ever want to speak to me again, and Adam more than likely feels the same way.” He sighed and let go of her chin, only to gently intertwine his fingers with hers.
Confused, afraid, filled with excitement and curiosity, Halyn looked up at him now. His feelings were plastered all over his face: his remorse, his guilt, his happiness… his love.
Nate leaned forward, touching her forehead with his. “I truly am sorry if I hurt you, Halyn,” he whispered. “I only want you to know, that even if you don’t forgive me, you’re still the first and only girl I’ve fallen in love with.”
Halyn’s head jerked upward, bumping Nate’s head. “Oh! Sorry,” she mumbled, momentarily looking at the sidewalk but then staring back up into his eyes. “But… but I’m only eighteen.” Her eyes were full of confusion, and seemed to ask him, Why me? Why now?
He smiled. “I realize that, but that doesn’t change my love for you. I know… we can’t do anything for awhile yet, seeing as how you haven’t finished up college and all that –” he broke off and laughed when she slapped him on the arm.
“Oh, and you have?” She demanded, not unkindly. They laughed together, but then took on serious expressions.
“Neither of us are out of college, nor do we both have really supporting jobs…” he trailed off as her face suddenly reddened, and smiled when he realized she was making the connection. “But maybe, someday, when we’re older…”
Halyn took a step back, holding her hands out in front of her. “Nate, I – I really don’t think I can talk about this right now. I mean, I… you – we… uh!” She threw her hands up in the air.
But Nate wouldn’t let her get off so easily, and reached for her hands again. “Alright, we won’t talk. Right now.” He laughed at her relieved expression, and the next moment he kissed her softly again on the mouth. “I promise, I’ll wait,” he whispered when they broke apart.
Wrapping herself in his embrace, Halyn let her tears fall down her face. Why stop them? She didn’t even know why she was crying in the first place. She felt so confused, loved, happy, lost, sad… in what other way could she let out all her emotions at once than crying?
Gusts of wind blew harder, the clouds became darker, and the warmer weather started drifting away, but Halyn found comfort and warmth in the embrace of the friend she had finally realized she loved.