I mentioned that the NYC Midnight forum is an awesome place to make friends and gather inspiration, right? Well, if I haven’t touted it enough, I’m touting some more. One of the women who is participating in the contest is now running her own, “just for fun”, weekly flash challenge. She posts a picture and provides a genre, and us writer types bang out a 1000-word-or-less piece.
Her first prompt was intriguing, so I just had to jump in and participate! You can pop over there and take a look at the picture. It’s a path with a couple of signs. The genre she suggested was “romantic adventure.” Here is what I came up with!
Turn of the Season
Maynard took off on his bike so fast that dust and pebbles sprayed up behind him. “Catch me if you can, Blue,” he called out over his shoulder. He was standing fully upright on the pedals, pumping his legs as hard has he could.
I took off after him, but his sleek, black BMX was made for racing. My faded-yellow ten-speed was more for rides through the park. I pedaled as fast as I could in tenth gear. My legs burned, and blonde wisps of hair stuck to my face and tickled my nose. The early autumn air was brisk and damp. The faster we went, the more my fingers stung in the cold. I rode hard, just barely keeping up, and never quite closing the gap between us. He was coasting on his pedals, head craned around to watch me and laughing at my persistent struggle.
At the end of the road, Maynard took a hard right up Bethany Trail. It was clearly marked with a sign: No Bikes Allowed. I skidded to a stop, sliding on the gravel trail head.
About thirty paces away, Maynard waited, straddling his bike. He twisted the front tire from side to side and taunted, “What’s a’matter, Blue? You chicken?” His deep brown eyes sparkled with ever-present mischief.
“You know we’re not supposed to ride up there.”
“Oh, come on! No one’s out here today. Look around!” He held his arms out, motioning to our obvious lack of company.
There was a light mist hanging off the canopy of trees that enveloped the path. Fall leaves dotted the trail. The only tracks were the one made by Maynard’s tires. No one had been up here in days.
“Besides,” he continued, “If you come up here, I’ll give you a surprise!”
“Like what?” I asked, folding my arms. Last time he said he’d give me a surprise, it involved slimy frogs and my lunch box. That was last year, though, and I’d forgiven him. We were just kids then. Now we were in Junior High.
“I’ll show you, and you’ll love it. I promise.” He cocked his head up the trail, and his hair flipped to one side.
His dimpled smile awoke something within me that had never stirred before. A quiver of excitement deep inside my belly, peppered with fear and uncertainty. I brushed the feeling aside. “If I get in trouble, you’re gonna owe me big!”
“We’re not gonna get caught, now come on. I’ll even let you keep up.”
I jumped on my bike, my face set in a scowl. “Let me? I’ll show you!” I raced past him up the steep and winding trail.
His bike was built for these off-road conditions, so I was surprised that he wasn’t pushing past me to beat me to the top. Even using my lowest gear wasn’t good enough, and I had to walk my slick, street tires through some of the thick patches of leaves, or else my bike tried to slide right out from under me.
We were almost to the top when one of the difficult spots got me. Somehow, before I knew what was happening, I was under my bike, and my whole left side was drenched in wet, muddy leaves. I was pushing myself up when I felt his hands gently take me by my elbow and hip to support me as I stood up. He started brushing the leaves off of my side.
Our eyes met, and I felt those butterflies again, tickling my stomach, pushing for escape. His face was perfect in a way I’d never realized. Brown eyes flecked with hints of something-almost-orange under a shock of dark hair. Smooth skin, darkened by all of those days we spent in the summer sun together. A nose that crinkled when he was thinking about something he didn’t like. Lips that brought about a flood of memories: His smile; so many laughs; stories made up while we walked to the bus stop. His hand on my waist lit a fire inside me, and I never wanted him to take it away.
He broke eye contact and I was flooded with another sensation: pure mortification. Was I really thinking this way about Maynard? We have been friends since we were kids. There was no way he was thinking anything of the sort about me!
“Thanks,” I said, looking down at the mud caked along my side. I focused intently on picking dirt off my jeans.
“Whatever. Let’s just walk the rest of the way. Your bike sucks.” He laughed and started up the hill.
I followed behind, trying to find words to fill the thick silence that had formed between us. Could he possibly have known what I was thinking?
The trail crested at an overlook with a full view of Henderson Bay. Low clouds hung in the air. The water below was choppy with the autumn wind that was brewing. I understood how the water felt – uncertain and uneasy during this changing season. Gulls chased after boats, and kingfishers dove for their dinner. Somewhere in the distance, a sea lion was barking on the afternoon tide.
“It’s really pretty up here,” Maynard said, twirling a toe in the dirt. “Aren’t you glad you followed me now?”
“Yeah, sure. I followed you up here. I still say we’re gonna get in trouble.” I forced myself to face him, hoping he couldn’t see those thoughts I’d had about him! “So what’s this surprise you were gonna give me?”
His whole face softened, and his smile took on an expression I’d never seen. It was something like a question, punctuated with a “please.” He took my hand gently, leaned forward, and brushed his lips to mine. My butterflies within burst forth in a fit of giggles. He started to pull away, but I entwined my fingers with his and tugged lightly. We leaned into each other, and together, we settled into our first kiss.