Once upon a time,
They touched hands with shyness and hesitation, not reaching for each other instinctively and confidently as they do nowadays. Such bold moves were executed slowly, cautiously. The path from good friends to “more” is a dangerous one. Neither wanted to move too quickly and scare the other away. Neither was sure how to move forward on this dangerous pathway.
Fingers entwined together not simply for the pleasure of it. Excuses had to be made for that sort of interaction. He would offer his hand to her when their path became slightly inclined, or when there was a stone in the trail. She clung to his fingers a bit longer than strictly necessary, because she liked the feeling of his hand around hers. He put out his hand to help when no help was really needed, just for the joy of holding her hand. Secret smiles spread across their faces when a creek appeared up ahead. They thrilled at the thought of helping each other across.
They walked through these woods together, sometimes hand in hand, always side by side. They talked of simple things, because neither of them could say the things that really needed to be said, could speak of all the confusing feelings.
Must not move too quickly. They must not scare them away.
They walked along a path that by them had never been taken. They ventured down hills, over creeks, and through valleys. They tromped through a field of tall grass, careless about the bugs dwelling within. They ventured in and quickly out of someone’s backyard.
As the day moved on, she began to believe in things that she had not before, such as the existence of fox squirrels and a boy who could love her unconditionally for who she really was.
He began to believe she might actually love him.
Soon, it began to rain upon them. The drops fell slowly at first, but soon the downpour was heavy. He pulled out his big yellow rain jacket from his backpack, putting it on her shoulders; he wore no rain jacket himself. The water felt cool and refreshing washing the dirt off their faces, running the mascara down her cheeks.
Meanwhile, at the country diner, Chaela and Autumn finished their lunch shift. Rain beat down on the tin roof. It streaked across the windows.
“Weren’t Ruth and Vilai supposed to go for a walk today?”
“Ooh, I bet they’re stuck in the woods in this rain!”
“They’ll have to seek shelter”
“Hold each other for warmth?”
“Hehe, romantic..” The girls chattered as they romanticized Ruth and Vilai’s situation.
But Ruth and Vilai did not seek shelter under the trees, or hold each other for warmth. They simply walked back through the valley, and up the steep hill. The rain waters rushed down their path, flooding the valley, making puddles and little streams. Hand in hand they walked, to help each other up the slippery changing path.
They arrived back at his old red truck, Big Mama. He helped her up through the passenger door, smiling as he looked at her. With his bandana, he wiped the drippy mascara off her cheeks. Looking into his yellow-green eyes, she could tell he thought she was beautiful, even with her tangled wet hair and makeup streaked face. She tried to convey through her eyes her love, her trust, and her sorrow for having ever caused hurt and pain. She tried to tell him how desperately she wanted to be with him. These truths were not yet ready to be communicated in spoken words.
Eventually, they looked away, and drove back to his house to put on dry clothes and drink cups of warm tea.