Tori’s voice was heavy with sarcasm and her eyes so curious it made Etta sweat.
Etta hesitated. She didn’t want to tell them, especially not Tori. Her sister knew she had had a crush on Dante for ages and she had tried to talk her out of it before. She didn’t want to listen to that again. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a choice, since no one was buying her lies.
She heard Seth grumbling as she stood and practically ran to her room. Wonderful, just great, she thought, angry at herself. Tori showed up after a while and measured her from head to toe with curious eyes.
Etta was taken aback momentarily and sat down in her surprise.
Tori exhaled sharply and joined her on the bed.
Tori was in her element. The words just kept coming from her mouth and she was running around the room frantically, pulling out all sorts of clothes from her closet and coming up with million outfit ideas Etta had to try on. It was exhausting but also nice to spend time with her sister. Besides, Tori seemed to know what she was doing and Etta was grateful for any help.
A few hours later, she was not so sure about Tori’s choices.
Etta said it with a smile, trying her best not to sound annoyed. They have been roaming around a mysterious forest for quite some time. The trees were not awfully dense, but the forest path was steep and narrow and the sandals Tori chose for her were not the most appropriate footwear for hiking.
Dante didn’t stop to answer.
He chuckled and turned around.
Dante laughed again, the sound echoing in the forest around them.
They finally walked out of the forest and found themselves on high cliffs overlooking the ocean. The view was breathtaking.
Water, alive with constant motion, was stretching into the vastness of sky and the sunrays fell upon the waves, swirling light into a mosaic of reflected colours. She stood still and soaked in the gentle breeze until she felt the waves within, in her mind, in her lungs, in the earth beneath her feet and clouds above her head for the waves moved through all of us, through everything. For a brief second, the world was her and she was the world.
Dante’s soft voice broke the silence.
This summer evening, hushed and lone;
Yet the faint wind comes soothingly
With something of an olden tone.”
His words flowed into the waves and the breaths and the golden light until they were one.
It took time to come back, to face the world in its prosaic realism, absolute and ordinary.
He stroked her cheek and Etta blushed under his eyes, shy and unsure. She had fantasized about being with him many times before, but she had never allowed herself to go too far with her imagination, she had never dreamt this big.
Etta blinked with surprise. He was beating her at her own game. She thought she knew him quite well. She had crafted an image of him in her head and she genuinely thought she had him more or less figured out. And yet here he stood, with this side of him she didn’t know, so new, so unexpected.
He turned with an amused smile on his face, gesturing her to follow him.
She fell silent mid-sentence as they came across another stunning view.
Etta nodded slowly and smiled as he continued talking about poetry and she continued to be astonished by him. She had learned in the past months that he was more than a shallow high school jock everyone thought he was, but this exceeded all her expectations. He had such deep knowledge of not only poetry and music but of all the things he cared about; he spoke with joy and he listened with passion – a deed she never knew was possible; he joked and it was actually funny; he was charming and profound and tender, he was…
And then it dawned on her. He was perfect. Too perfect. Unlike all the other clumsy teenage brats in school, he knew what he was doing. She suddenly remembered the rumors, the girls, she remembered her sister’s words. This was his comfort zone.
Etta really wanted to enjoy it, but the better it got, the harder it was for her to ignore the nagging thoughts in the back of her head until finally, Dante noticed.
His tone was concerned and warm and his elbow brushed against hers as he shifted weight. Etta found it challenging to focus on anything else but his body just inches from her own. For a second, she played with the idea of saying nothing.
She tried to keep her tone as casual as possible, but he frowned nonetheless.
He seemed upset and flattered and shocked all at once.
Dante stayed silent. He slowly looked into the distance, brows furrowed in a puzzled expression and Etta felt that her words sounded harsher than she intended them to.
Etta couldn’t help but laugh. She knew she deserved the teasing – that party was definitely not her proudest moment.
Etta opened her mouth in shock and blushed as she thought about the exact things he wanted her to think about and she hated herself a little for being so easily swayed by him.
He smirked and came even closer.
Etta grinned and quickly kissed him.
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back.