Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: A Night to Remember
My heart beat fast as I surreptitiously scanned the beach. Dusk was falling, creating deceptive dips and shadows that made it difficult to make out faces. Laughter and catcalls rang out in the briny air, along with the crunch of ice as many hands felt around in coolers for beer and soda.
I jammed shaky hands into the pockets of my hoodie and hunched my shoulders against the chill coming off the ocean. A tingle ran up my spine that had nothing to do with the temperature or wind. He was supposed to be here tonight. Cameron Sullivan: Captain of the football team and all-around popular guy.
“. . . and then we can ride a dragon. Whaddaya think?” An arm jostled mine.
“Mm-hm . . .” I mumbled.
“Trina!” Jessie stopped short, kicking up a mini sand cloud, hands on hips. “Really? You haven't heard a thing I've said.”
“Yeah, I did. You just said we could ride a . . . er, dragon.”
“Why so distracted?” Jessie's annoyance turned to intrigue, and she lowered her voice to a near-whisper as she grabbed hold of my arm. “Is something going on that I should know about?”
I stared back at her. Should I tell her Cam had been chatting me up in Study Hall recently or that he'd sent a pink carnation to my homeroom during the Message-with-a-flower-thon suggesting I meet him tonight at the bonfire? I was dying to tell, but Jessie had no brain-to-mouth filter—she'd spill it to everyone for sure.
“You suck at lying.” She laughed and started walking again.
A group of girls surrounded us then, ending the conversation. I tried to participate in the banter as much as possible, but my gaze kept sweeping the area, searching for Cam. I accepted the ice cold beer someone pressed into my hand and sat on a log.
The flames in the bonfire undulated in a slow snake dance, charming me and momentarily derailing my thoughts as I drew closer to its welcome warmth. The sounds of the night receded into the background, and I sipped at the bitter brew, hating it and wondering if my friends just pretended to like it, too.
Butterflies erupted in my belly when I heard several guys hooting and hollering nearby. Part of me prayed Cam wasn't among them. My nerves had gotten the best of me. I wasn't popular like him. What if he'd realized I wasn't on his level, wasn't good enough?
Four blue and white football jerseys came into view, along with the familiar broad shoulders of the fair-haired captain of the team. His jersey had “SULLIVAN” and the number “10” emblazoned in bold lettering on the back. My heart flipped in my chest and started pounding as I watched him horse around with his friends.
My dreamy moment was shattered when Sasha, the perky, platinum blonde captain of the cheer squad, sidled up to Cam and tilted her head to whisper in his ear. Sasha wore a sweatshirt over the barely-up-to-there skirt of her cheer uniform and managed to look like a beauty queen despite the wind. In that moment, I felt like an ugly duckling, and my confidence deserted me.
I made my way down to the water, skirting several couples making out on the beach. The moon was nearly full, its ghostly light shimmering against the waves as they rolled in and fizzed up the sand. My lids fluttered closed, and I lost myself to the sounds of the ocean, allowing it to cool my flaming cheeks and soothe my bruised ego.
“Hey.” A warm finger drew a gentle trail along the curve of my neck. “I've been looking for you.”
I opened my eyes to the collar of a football jersey and a bobbing Adam's apple. The same finger slid along the edge of my jaw and nudged my face up until I was looking into the cornflower blue eyes of Cameron Sullivan . . .
“And then what happened, Mom?” My thirteen-year-old daughter's eyes widened with wonder and poorly concealed impatience.
Before I could answer her, my husband strolled into the room and swept me into his arms, swinging me around. “I asked her what she was doing for the rest of her life—and behaved like a total gentleman, of course.”
Well, he told it half right.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook