Summer Paradise, Part 1
An Unexpected Love at the Best and Worst of Times
It was nearing the end of my last semester of high school, and it felt like the end of that chapter of my life couldn't come sooner. After all of the emotional highs, lows, and everything in between that those four years provided, I was ready to pull the curtains and see what this new stage of life had to offer, accompanied by a few close friends and an uncertain path for the future. The last few months seemed to drone on as I had just gotten out of my longest relationship yet, had to refund my prom tickets to avoid a rather awkward night, and was otherwise just set on coasting through the summer enjoying life more casually after being committed for so long. I wasn't looking to fall in love anytime soon, and I while I've never truly been fond of the single life, I had come to accept the notion of building my own story for a while without the help of another. However, no matter how much you try to avoid it, love has a habit of starting a fire in your heart when you least expect it.
And all it takes is a little spark to change everything.
I had drifted around for a couple of weeks, rekindling friendships that had settled during my commitment and building new connections in many unexpected places. By the time that prom night came around, I had enjoyed fooling around on and off with a few people to have some fun and broaden my horizons, and I wasn't as bothered by missing out on the prom experience as I was at first. Although, I had managed to reconnect with an old friend group of mine through a law class we all shared together, so even still I managed to get invited to a small after party they were throwing that doubled as a birthday party for one of the girls in the group. I was very fond of their company in class and hadn't formally had a chance to spend time with all of them before, so I figured I may as well go for the hell of it. I picked up a blue butterfly shot glass from my collection as a sort of last minute gift, made myself look presentable, and waited for them to stop by after they left prom. When they picked me up, it felt sort of nostalgic to be around these people again after so long, and while there was one guy in the car we all weren't very fond of who was invited purely out of social obligation, we still chatted and enjoyed our time regardless.
These people happened to be a pretty wholesome bunch for the most part, so the first place we stopped was a local bowling alley so we could play terribly and have a nice time laughing at the sheer number of amazingly poor shots we could pull off. Nobody seemed to account for the actual hours of the place that night though, since we arrived to a sparse parking lot and a building with darkened windows reflecting back nothing but a few cars and some confused teens who were far too dressed up for bowling. After some back and forth about what to do now, we decided that our stop couldn't have been in vain, so we settled on going for some food before heading back and went to a nearby Boston Pizza that was on the way to our little after party. It wasn't anything spectacular, and the waiter seemed as confused by our attire as anyone else in the restaurant, but nonetheless we had our fun together. As we made jokes and bantered over our meals, I also realized how much I missed this crowd over the years. I may have fallen out of the group after my first breakup with one of the girls in it years ago, but I hadn't considered that there was still some fraction of the group I was still fond of until I happened to get in contact with just them. It was an unexpected discovery to make, but one that I'm glad I made since I keep up with the lot of them to this day.
Having finished up and successfully changed plans for the night, we managed to get things back on track as we drove off to the house of the friend who was hosting our after party. We let the one guy who nobody liked drive since he essentially begged the host to let him drive his car, which was about as fun as it sounds given that he revved the engine of an old Honda Civic and yet still insisted on driving like a grandma for most of the way back. After we arrived, we kept chatting and making jokes to draw out the time until that guy had to leave, and as soon as he did, I bolted back to my place to grab a bottle of rum I refused to share with him. Once I got back, we all pulled out a cake we had bought some weeks in advance, garnished lovingly with some plastic emoji rings and thoughtfully inscribed with "Happy Birthday Noob" on the top, all of which the birthday girl enjoyed perhaps a little too much. After we turned out the lights and went through all of the usual birthday fanfare, I watched her reaction as her eyes lit up with sparkles and tears of joy at all the effort we put into the occasion, a giddy and heartfelt smile making its way from cheek to rosy cheek, and I felt something come over me that I hadn't felt in a long time.
I felt a spark.
As we dove into the cake and alcohol that adorned most of the table, we continued speaking freely about whatever came to mind, laughing indiscriminately at anything and everything, enjoying our time as we all hoped to. And yet, I couldn't shake this feeling whenever I noticed anything about this girl: the soft and sweet tone of her voice when she spoke; the adorable sound of her high-pitched giggle when she laughed; the way a few curled strands of her beautiful blonde hair gracefully fell from her bun, framing her full, beaming smile; it was blissful to glance at her for even a moment. As I got more and more drunk throughout the night, the flame in my heart only grew more fierce as I fell head over heels for everything she said and did. It was like seeing her in a whole new light that I never once acknowledged in the years I knew her before, and it was breathtaking—SHE was breathtaking.
Despite these feelings though, I was hesitant to act since it was more complicated than simply pursuing a new romance. The reason why I met her all those years ago was because she was the first girlfriend of my best friend, and since I had also recently come to terms with putting a hold on my pursuit of true love, I had a couple of reasons to second guess the sense of embracing the heat of the moment. Besides, I had spent most of our friendship giving her relationship advice for her own romantic pursuits over the years, and I was also the ex of one of her good friends as well, "...so surely she couldn't be interested in me," I thought to myself. Nevertheless, my feelings couldn't be so easily swayed with self-doubt. With a smile on my face as I rejoiced in the company of my old friends, I struggled to decide if I should show my affection or suppress it for the night.
But in the end, I didn't need to choose.
At one point, I noticed a hint of sadness in her eyes as everyone conversed amongst themselves, almost like she was missing something in the midst of the celebration. By watching her so intently, I had noticed how she was feeling even before she even noticed that she was showing it, because when I asked her "What's wrong?" she seemed surprised at first. She was used to being honest with me from all of the times she opened up so I could give her advice though, so after looking back at the couple she was staring at longingly on the nearby couch, she replied "I'm just a bit jealous of them, I don't have anyone to snuggle like that." Heart racing, I saw a chance to make her happy, so I pounced on it: "Would you like me to come cuddle you then?" The words slipped out of my mouth faster than I could realize, and were met by an immediate realization that my heart made the choice for me. I anxiously awaited her response in the moments afterwards, and after considering it briefly, she replied with nothing but a sheepish nod.
I was very surprised since I hadn't assumed she could have been at all interested in me, but when given the chance, I pounced on it. In a matter of seconds, I slid over and was right beside her, snuggled up as we sat on the floor. We stayed like that for quite some time, nuzzled up to one another under a blanket and embracing each other's warmth, all while we continued talking with our friends. I was in a bit of an awkward position, but I ignored it for as long as I could because I was so filled with excitement that it simply didn't matter in comparison. I did ask to move to the couch eventually, which is when she noticed the odd angle I'd been at for the past while, and after realizing I stayed there so long only because I didn't want to move away from her, she just smiled and moved me onto the couch. I did nothing to hide my happiness with how things turned out. One of our friends even noticed how obvious I was, taking a photo of me with the giddiest smile ever, grinning from ear to ear as I leaned into her shoulder.
The rest of the night felt just as magical as when we began our embrace. All of the little features I adored felt magnified tenfold as I witnessed them in their full grandeur, leaving me as starstruck throughout the night as I was when I had first breached the distance between us. The sound of her voice and her laugh gracing my ears before anyone else's, the gentle caress of her golden hair brushing against my face, and the soft yet loving embrace of her arms as they wrapped around me, light enough to be comfortable, yet firm enough to show that she didn't want to let go. I had no idea where this was going, or if it would go any farther, but it didn't really matter to me. I was too preoccupied with being so close to such a flawless creature, no distance separating us at last. As the rest of the night passed us by, I didn't feel the need to push for anything more than what we had; being so close to her for so long felt right all by itself, and was more than enough to make my night and hers.
Time seemed to fly by in a series of fleeting moments, far too fast for either of our liking. While I wished it would've lasted forever, everyone's curfews crept around the corner, and with that we sadly had to part from our embrace. I gave a heartfelt goodbye to those who came that made the evening as pleasant as it was. As I went around though, I felt a little saddened by the prospect of what we felt ending at that night, letting our chemistry waste away until it became nothing more than a distant memory. So, when I got to her, I hugged her for a little longer than the rest to feel her embrace one last time. As I felt the warmth of that passionate flame fill my heart once more, I knew that I couldn't let this go, and as she walked away to take the girls she was with home, I thought to myself "I can't let this be the end of something good... so I'll make it the beginning of something great."