Chapter Twenty-nine

We had just finished unpacking everything, and Chris went to return the rented camper. Kyle and Jackie were away looking at houses, so it was just me and Dan that had nothing to do. I decided to text him.

Want to go the the clearing?

I instantly got a text back.

Sure. See you there!

Quickly, I redid my braid to the side, then slipped my flip flops on. When I got to the clearing with the Japanese cherry blossom tree, I saw that Dan was already there.

He smiled. “Beat you.”

“Well, I had to redo my hair, so…”

“I’m sure you looked fine.” I just rolled my eyes and gestured for him to follow me. As I began to climb, I realized that I was out of practice, for I nearly forgot where our secret branch was.

“Okay.” I said once I had made myself comfortable among the branches, kicking off my flip flops and watching them fall to the ground.

“Okay.” Dan repeated, dangling his feet off the edge of the bough. The sun was high in the sky, but it wasn’t too hot. There was a fresh summer breeze blowing, carrying the scents of the forest.

I took a deep breath in. “It’s nice to be back home. They didn’t have breezes like this in Arizona.”

“Yeah. I think the air feels cooler up here than stifling breeze that we would get when we were touring.”

I nodded. “I think that was the best vacation I’ve ever taken.” I said, smiling at Dan.

“Same here. We probably looked like idiots the whole time, but that’s all part of the fun.”

“Yep, and remember when-” I stopped myself. It wasn’t the best idea to talk about how we snuggled with each other that one night in the camper.

“When…?” He asked, his gaze becoming curious.

“Umm, nevermind.” I said, searching my mind for something else to mention.

“Well, you started it, so you have to finish it.”

I wasn’t going to get myself out of this one. I sighed. “Remember when we woke up cuddling with each other? And Chris caught us?”

He laughed. “Of course I remember! That was probably the best part of the trip.” Once he realized what he had said, he tried to backtrack. “Er, I mean, I enjoyed… You… Umm…” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, not meeting my gaze.

I just looked at him expectantly, letting a small smile creep onto my face. “It’s hard to say. Either that or when we were holding hands and looking at the stars. I liked that part of the trip, too.” I continued. “Or your birthday. You hadn’t taken my out on a date yet, so like Daisy said, I had to force you into something.” I finished, my smile growing bigger. We just looked at each other for a moment, Dan’s expression confused.

He decided to go along with it. “Or when we kissed in the pool.”

“Or the moment we had after I burnt my shoulder.”

“Or our near-kiss that one night.”

“Or when you knocked my sun hat off my head.”

“Or…” He thought for a moment. “I got nothing.” He continued. “But you enjoyed those memories? I thought you only liked me as a friend.”

I let my smile grow wider. Dan continued. “Wait. Did you want to be more than that this whole time?”

I shrugged. “I definitely kept you guessing.” I said, hopping from branch to branch down the tree.

“Wait a minute, Haylee.” He said, following more carefully. I hopped down to the ground, slipping my flip flops on, with Dan not far behind.

“Haylee.” I looked up as he came closer. “Are we friends, or are we more than that?”

I sighed. Time to let everything out. “Before we left on the road trip, I didn’t trust you, and we were just friends.” I hesitated. “But everything’s different now. Which might not be such a bad thing.” I grinned at him, seeing his eyes turn a bright blue, and rimmed with navy. Go ahead. I’ll let you this time.

He put a hand on my cheek, bringing me closer. I leaned towards him, my heart skipping a beat. The moment I felt our lips touch, my mind was flooded with memories. I had forgotten how much I loved kissing him, but more so how much I had loved him, once upon a time. We kissed, Dan pulling me closer so that we touched. I wanted to stay like this forever; I felt that nothing could separate us. We kissed for a long time, until I broke away, but just barely.

“I love you.” I said, meeting his gaze.

“I love you, too.” He returned, kissing me again. We stopped, just holding each other for a while. I leaned against his chest, and he rested his chin on my head. Just then, I heard a rustling in the woods, and turned around to see what it was, breaking away from Dan in the process. I looked, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

“Well, I think I better go.” I said, the moment gone.

“Oh.” Dan responded, obviously disappointed.

“We’ll talk later, okay?”

“Okay. What am I going to say to… Chris?”

I smiled slyly. “Let him figure it out. Same with Jackie and Kyle.”

He returned the smile. “Alrighty.” He followed me out of the woods, where we parted and walked to our own houses. As soon as I got home, I wrote down what had happened, making sure to include every single one of my thoughts. I couldn’t shake the feeling of his lips on mine, or how it felt being so close to him.

Being in love isn’t too bad after all.

The End

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