Part 24: Fade Into You
If going tubing was spontaneous and out of character for Summer, then it was full blown unheard of for me. As a kid, I had friends who had been river tubing while on trips to their grandparents, or over summer vacation, but I had never done anything like this. It’s funny, for it’s such a simple thing, and as I discovered, a lazy pleasure. While some go fishing, and others play golf, tubing is the easy life, and if you’re with a woman both beautiful to look at and wonderful to know, it makes tubing one of life’s most poignant pleasures.We drifted down river, the rest of the group slightly ahead of us, as we had a larger tube that made it slower going. We didn’t mind though. It gave us time to enjoy ourselves and spend our last day together. I was very aware and saddened by this fact. At some time tomorrow, Summer would be gone and I would be left on my own again. Ever since I had arrived at Orchard House, she was there. It was going to be so empty without her. Drifting along on the water, I had to push this to the back of my mind, but I was already missing her.
She seemed to know where my thoughts were. “So, what you going to do after this?” she asked.
“I haven’t the slightest clue.”
“I think you should write again.”
“I don’t think I have anything left in me to say.”
“Sure you do. You got that music nerd thing going. Chase that dream.”
“I already tried it once,“ I said. I kicked at the water with my feet, and it caused our tube to turn and go into a lazy spin.
“Chase it from a different angle. Get on the net and do a blog, or start your own music mag and work for yourself. “
“I don’t know, Summer.”
Her face lit up as she had another idea. “You could always write a book.”
“I did that once and failed. I mean, what would I write about now to make it any different?”
“Write what you feel.”
I laughed. “If I did that no one would read it.”
She smiled and gave me this knowing look. “I would,” she said.
“I guess I am.”
She stretched out on the tube. Lying on her back with her legs dangling in the water, she looked like Venus lounging at Vesuvius, or a mermaid waiting on a rock ready to sink a ship or two. No wonder every guy looked at her. I don’t think she saw it, but she had a beauty that was natural and poured forth from her like rays of sunshine. While most women her age were fully entrenched in the world of makeup and designer fashions, she didn’t need any of that. Though she was gorgeous relaxing in her tight formed shorts and revealing bikini top, she could have been clothed head to foot in burlap and still been as beautiful.
Once again, she seemed to know what I was thinking. Of course, this time it was easy to tell because I was staring at her so much.
“Did you mean what you said to Earl today?”
I noticed she didn’t call him dad. “Yeah, about the world not wanting him anymore. You know what I meant by that right. I meant that you…”
“No, about me being beautiful.”
I looked over at her, which as always, was very difficult for me to do. Even more so because she was asking me something like that. Her dark brown eyes held me captive in that moment, and it was like being made to drink truth serum. I knew if I looked in her eyes long enough, I would spill every secret, every hidden emotion within me.
“Yes,” I replied. “I meant it.”
She smiled. “Thanks. That means the world to me.” She broke eye contact and looked away, staring off into the trees that lined the river bank. “You’re the first guy…man.. to ever say that without pretension…without wanting something more than to let me know.” She shook her head. “Sometimes a girl wants to be admired and thought of as pretty without a guy’s paws all over her.”
“I would never paw you,” I confessed.
“I know you wouldn’t. That’s what’s so amazing about you. You look like the kind of guy to ask permission first.”
I swallowed hard, wondering what she was trying to do to me. Did she want me to ask her something or was she just testing me? “I would,” I agreed, and left it at that.
She turned again to look at me. She was lying on her side on the tube, one hand resting lightly on her hip, the other propping her head up and helping to balance herself. “You held my hand in the orchard. That was nice. But you haven’t since. Why?”
“I..I don’t know. I guess I don’t want you to think something or…”
She smiled, and it made her eyes almost glow in afternoon sun. “Make me think something, Matthew,” she breathed softly.
“Oh…okay.” But what was I supposed to make her think? I couldn’t tell her what was going on inside my head, because I wasn’t sure myself. I couldn’t tell her that the nervousness I felt around her was because she was so beautiful, and no one like her ever paid me no mind before, much less lavished their attention on me. I couldn’t tell her about the butterflies in my stomach, or even how Ashley never once made me feel so important as she does. All Ashley did was… stop it, I told myself; this is Summer here before you, a girl you are finding yourself…
Summer sighed and slid across to my side of the inner tube until she was right next to me. “Can I lay my head on your shoulder?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
She laid her head over until I felt her cheek against my shoulder. She put her hand flat against my chest. I knew she would be able to feel my racing heartbeat. There was no way to hide it. To calm myself, I put my arm around her and held her close. She snuggled tighter against me and the lazy river carried us on.
“Tell me a poem,” she said.
“I don’t know any.”
“You’re a writer, make one up.”
“It’s not that easy,“ I protested. There was a silence between us for a moment, and I knew this was something important to her. “But I will try.”
I could feel her smile against my shoulder. “I don’t want a dark poem. Nothing depressing or sad. Make it pretty.”
“I’ll try. But bear with me; I’m not very good at instant poetry.”
I looked down at her. Face against my shoulder, her neck lay exposed, giving way to the shape of her shoulders, down the curve of her body as it was nestled against me. One leg dangled down in the river, the other stretched out on the tube, which was soaking up the warmth of the sun and passing it on to our skin. Admiring her like this, I took a deep breath, for it had come to me now, the poem that only she could bring forth from my soul.
“If I could just fade into you
See the world as you do,
I’d float away into thy soul,
Leaving behind a world so cold;
To go down in the depths of thee
Hoping you’d just cradle me
To lift me up and touch the sun
Until we two become just one,
For then I’d see the world as you do
If I could just fade into you…”
For a moment there was silence. I could feel her breathing against me, and for a moment I thought I felt something wet on my shoulder. Probably just the light spray of the river as we rolled down its surface. Then she lifted her head and looked at me with eyes that I could see were brimmed with tears. “Wow,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Neither was I,” I admitted.
“When I was a little girl, I always wanted a boy to write me a poem. It took quite a few years, but I think I just got my wish.”
I smiled. “So did I.”
She smiled. “And what was your wish?”
“To write a poem for a pretty girl I was crazy about.”
I looked ahead of us on the river. There was a commotion up ahead, though the other tubes had disappeared around an approaching bend. “Very,” I nervously replied, now seeing what was going on ahead of us. Danny had lied to me. There were some rapids on this river and it was right in front of us. “Hang on,” I said, and Summer must have heard the fear in my voice, for she finally looked up to see and she let out a squeal of delight.
The tender moment was forgotten, and her youth and exuberance took over, as she grabbed both me and the tube. I tried my best to hang on, as the river started into a slight descent of tumbling water and rolling foam.
Summer let out an excited yell, right in my ear, and we rolled over rocks on the rough ride down the rapids. I could feel the stones of the river rubbing against the underside of the tube and I thought to myself it’s going to puncture our float. The ride got rougher, and I wrapped one arm around her and clutched the tube under me with the other. She rolled over on top of me, wrapping her arms around both me and the tube. She was pressed against me so tight, her cheek lying against mine, her ear right at my lips. They lightly touched her lobe, and in the terror of knowing we could very well drown in this river or go over a massive waterfall to our doom, I kissed her ear. She let out a gasp as the tube capsized, sending us both into the river.
One fear I’d always had as a kid was drowning. I know it’s quite common, but it doesn’t feel that way when you are under the water and sucking it all into your throat. I came up gagging, thrashing my arms around. I felt myself go over a rock, and its rough surface scraped my leg. I caught sight of Summer, but she was ahead of me and too far to reach. I tried to call out and went under again. When I came up for air, she was closer, trying to fight the flow to come back to me. She must have seen I was in trouble. The tube was getting too far away from us, and now it was a choice for her on whether to grab me or go for the tube. She seemed to hesitate, and then went for the tube. The water ran over my head and when I returned to the surface, she had managed to grab the tube and was now holding her arm out in my path. As the river threatened to carry me right by her, her hand grabbed mine, and with a burst of surprising strength, slung me around to the tube, which I grabbed, wrapping both my arms around it and clinging on for life. We rode the rest of the rapids this way until the river leveled off and grew calm and lazy again.
We hoisted ourselves back up on the tire, positioning ourselves on opposite sides to keep it balanced and afloat. “You okay?” Summer asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “What about you?”
She took a breath. “Yeah I’m fine. I don’t think the tube got punctured on the rocks, so we should be good.”
“The rocks caught my legs a little,” I said, and I saw her survey the damage from her vantage point.
“Yeah they did,” she noted. “We’ll get them cleaned up at the pick-up spot.”
I nodded. “It’s not too bad, just stings a little. Thanks for saving me.”
She giggled. “I didn’t save you. Just helped you get back to the tube.”
“Well, whatever you want to call it, thank you.”
“You would do the same for me,” she replied.
“Yeah I would.” I laid my head back on the inner tube and closed my eyes. I had to admit this was nice, despite our bout in the rapids without a tube. Looking over at Summer, still dripping wet from the river, I smiled. “This has been so nice with you,” I said.
She was lying back on the tube in the same fashion and she turned her head to look at me. “Yes, it has been such an exciting day. I don’t think I will forget this for a very long time.”
“Neither will I.” I reached my hand across the space between us. She took it and held it in her own. This was the way we arrived at the pick-up spot a few minutes after everyone else, lying on the tube, drying in the sun, holding hands and smiling at each other like two kids feeling something they had never felt before, those first pangs of affection that given time, blossom to love.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.