The logs crackled, shifting slightly as they lost structural stability, slowly collapsing into coals. Sparks rose up in a long, slow spiral, up into the blackness of the sky.
I sat back, feeling the cold sand shift beneath the thin layer of the blanket. The blanket wasn’t enough to block that chill, but it kept the sand from clinging to my fingers, sticking to my skin.
The moment was soft, smooth, but filled with a curious sense of anticipation. I knew where that anticipation came from. It crackled between me and the girl beside me, like the wood crackled in the bonfire in front of us.
I could see her, out of the corner of my eye, without turning my head. Cassie’s eyes rested on the fire, watching the flicker of flames amid the logs, the light sparkling off of her dark pupils. She didn’t turn her head, but I knew that she was also watching me, feeling that same little zap of anticipation.
We’d flirted, a little shyly, over the last few months. We shared many of the same classes, and although we didn’t always sit together, I watched her across the room. I watched how she’d push her hair back behind her ears when she needed to think, how those soft lips wrapped gently around the tip of her pencil as she concentrated. I didn’t say anything to her about how I watched her. But I’d talk with her, sometimes, on those delightful moments when we ended up near each other after class, heading to the bus station or sitting side by side on a crowded bus bench.
And now, on the mid-semester break, she’d joined me when I suggested starting a little bonfire out on the beach. She helped me haul out the logs, laughed at me as I struggled with the box of matches and the newspaper, and then sat down beside me on the blanket as the fire sprang into delighted life.
I knew what was going to come. Somehow, in this moment, I could see the future, could tell that all our shy flirting would finally come to fruition. Tonight, a little later, I’d turn to her as she turned to face me, and we’d lock eyes. We’d come together, and I’d feel those soft lips brush against my own.
But right now, just sitting beside her, I enjoyed the anticipation. I’d been dreaming of kissing her all semester, since I first laid eyes on her – but now, in the moment before it happened, I felt no need to rush ahead.
I savored it, the warmth of her body against my own. So different from the harsh heat that radiated off of the flames. She was soft, a gentler heat. My arm slipped a little more tightly around her, pulling her up against me. She didn’t resist, leaning on me.
The fire crackled and shifted in front of us, the darkness closing in a blanket all around us to keep us in silence. For now, I could believe that no one else existed in the universe.
Just the two of us, and that moment of anticipation.