For the better part of an hour, he more or less had the full attention of a very pretty girl from Idaho.
Staggeringly exotic to a boy from Cincinnati and now that she’s gone, here he sits with a swelling heartache and a kid sister to look after until Mom and Dad come to retrieve them.
Mom and Dad. So pedestrian now, so khaki shorts and white sneakers.
He won’t be able to look at them.
Her name was Belle and it started like all summer vacation romances must, with an errant volleyball.
“Hey, little help?” Belle said.
He scooped up the ball and lobbed it back.
She flashed smiling eyes as green as kelp.
“Sure,” he said, suddenly sheepish about kneeling in the sand holding a purple plastic shovel with flowers on the handle.
He gestured toward his sister.
“She, ahh,” he shrugged. “She likes to play in the sand.”
Belle’s smile widened, soft cheeks dusted with cinnamon freckles.
“It’s sweet of you to play with her.”
She held up the volleyball and nodded toward her brothers.
Ignoring his sister’s protests, he trotted into the water.
They worked through the formalities – both 14, both going into high school, both visiting Many Lost Ways with their parents. No, he’d never been here before. Yes, she had, almost every summer. Two older brothers for her. Him, just the little sister.
For a while they batted the volleyball, then sat in the sand with waves splashing their feet. She sat right next to him – touching him – her bronzed hips framed in black bikini bottoms, red sand clinging to her and highlighting adolescent curves that fascinated him.
He found it hard to speak, but remembered his uncle’s advice to always ask a girl about herself. (“Keep you out of it, they don’t care.”) So he asked flattering questions and made her laugh.
For an hour.
Once he had talked coherently, smoothly, to Kaylie Schupel for ten minutes at the spring dance but an hour? With a girl like this? From Idaho?
Belle leaned against him, rested her head on his shoulder, traced his arm with her fingertip. Tingling sensations rippled through him, something deep in his belly tightened.
Things like this did not happen in Cincinnati.
But then her dad arrived, by boat of course – no minivan, no car-top carrier – a sleek, modern boat gleaming with chrome, the bow marked with an Idaho registration number he’ll remember until he’s 30.
She stood, crouched gracefully in front of him, held his face in her hands, and kissed his lips.
“See you around.”
She didn’t look back as she waded to the boat and effortlessly boosted herself aboard.
His parents won’t understand his obsession with Idaho this winter. Why on Earth would he write a term paper about the Shoshone? And why does he want to go to Coeur D’Alene? Next summer is Disney – they’ve talked about it – it’s always been Disney.
(Preiser figure, EnviroTex Lite “water,” Woodland Scenics ground foam, natural sand.)