The burnt orange sun started sinking below the sharp pink and red clouds, creating a dazzling sea of colors reflecting off the lake. On this evening five friends laughed and talked their way over the wide bridge connecting Asian Island to the rest of Michigan. They had traveled from Maryland together that morning, and wanted to enjoy the last moments of their short vacation before heading back home.
“You should’ve seen your face when Adam pushed you under the water!” exclaimed Halyn, wiping a stray chunk of light brown hair from her face and laughing as her mind flashed back to earlier that day when Shiara was dunked under the lake, the cold water stifling her high-pitched scream.
Shiara, though trying hard to look angry, could not succeed, end ended up grinning just as widely as her giggling friend. “Yeah, I guess I probably did look kinda funny,” she admitted, shrugging.
Gasping, Adam slapped a hand on Halyn’s arm in mocking shock. “Oh, wow! Did Shiara just actually admit that she looked funny? Hurry, Hal, write this down,” he ordered Halyn, the member of the group who wrote down all their various inside jokes and quotes. “It’s gonna make history!” The other three laughed while the eighteen-year-old boy earned a hard punch on the shoulder from Shiara.
Lizzie, the second eldest of the group, brushed her short brown hair out of her eyes and put a hand on the pouting girl’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Shi.” Her battleship-gray eyes looked tenderly at her friend. “We’ll always love you.”
“No matter how stupid you look,” added Nate in his beautiful Australian accent, his eyes twinkling mischievously like a reflected blue ocean. Shi glared at him and stuck her tongue out.
Halyn halted suddenly. “Let’s stop here.” She turned to face the golden ball dropping further in the sky. “The rays bouncing off the clouds are too gorgeous, and with the water all aflame with these colors –”
Adam finished for her, “You want us to take pictures.” Halyn looked back at him and grinned. Ever since she had met him ten years ago, they had been best friends and could always tell what the other was thinking. Great minds think alike, they were in the habit of quoting to each other whenever they voiced the same opinion at the same time.
While he fished his digital camera out from his cargo pant’s pocket the other four decided on what poses they should strike. Each of them took turns as camera-man, and the next half hour resulted in explosions of laughter and teasing. Then the excitement toned down some, and silence reigned as they stared out into the distance, each wrapped in their own thoughts.
Nate was the first to speak, and he did so with hesitancy. “Can you guys forgive me ahead of time for this?” He fidgeted with the mood ring he always wore on his index finger, which now seemed as if it could not decide which color his mood was.
The others were still shaking themselves from their reveries when Nate stepped towards Halyn. Cupping her chin in his hand and ignoring her puzzled expression he gently and slowly kissed her on the mouth.
It seemed like an eternity before anyone else dared move as Adam, Shiara and Lizzie stared at their two friends, a mixture of horror, disbelief, bewilderment and shock painted over their faces.
Finally Nate dropped his head and hand, silently taking a couple steps backward and looking more than a little awkward. The only sound that could be heard was the swishing of the calm water beneath them, until Shiara found her voice.
“Why?” the single word slowly escaped her throat, sounding croaky and hoarse.
Nate simply shrugged and stuffed his hands in his front jeans pockets. “It was a dare,” he explained hesitantly. “I was talking to a friend back in Sydney abut how you guys are the greatest friends anyone could ask for, and then he…” trailing off, the twenty-one-year-old glanced at Halyn. Her glassy eyes were unreadable and watched his every move.
“He dared me to kiss the first girl I had a crush on here in the States.” It all came tumbling out.
So that was it.
Halyn’s dark eyes widened, and her long hair could not conceal the shades of pink that crept up and bloomed on her face. The only move she made was to cover her open mouth with her hand; the others stood still.
Adam, the youngest of the group, was the first to recover. “Crushes are stupid and lame, invented by eleven-year-old girls who can’t find any other way to waste their time,” he stated matter-of-factly, with a hint of reproach in his voice. He paused, and continued quietly, “You didn’t have to take the dare.”
No matter how hard he tried to look anywhere other that Halyn’s face, Nate could not tear his eyes away.
“Maybe I wanted to.” A near whisper; had he not been the only person saying something it could have easily been missed.
Dropping her hand and feeling suddenly shy and embarrassed, Halyn started to walk away and, taking a few steps back, she stuttered, “I… they… I forgot… something.” Turning sharply she sprinted off the bridge towards the rest of the city, tears of confusion and mixed emotions streaming down her face.
Shiara, dazed, turned towards the island and began walking back the way they had just come, hurt and sadness written in her near-black eyes and pasted over top her face. Liz stood leaning against the wall of the bridge, looking surprised yet thoughtful as she stared out at the ever-sinking sun. After a minute Adam followed in pursuit of Shiara, his head down. Nate stood rooted to the spot, trailing after Halyn with his eyes, unsure if he had just messed up his relationship with his friend…