“No!” I laugh. “Come on, I’m serious; I just think it’s the perfect opportunity.” I motion my hands toward the windshield. “Look at all of the fields out there.”
“Yeah, but we can’t lay a blanket out in a cotton or corn field,” he says, “and most of the time those fields are saturated with ankle-deep water.”
“Not the ones covered with grass and cow bombs,” I say.
“You want to sleep in a field where cows shit?” he says casually, but equally humored.
I snicker. “No, just the grass. Come on…,” then I glare at him teasingly. “What, are you afraid of a little cow shit?”
“Haha!” He shakes his head. “Camryn, there’s nothing little about a pile of cow shit.”
I scoot back over next to him and lay my head right dead-center on his lap, looking up at him with a pouty face. “Please?” I bat my eyes.
And I try hopelessly to ignore what my head is actually lying on.
I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING MELT when she looks up at me like that. How would I ever say no to her? Whether it was about sleeping next to a pile of cow shit or under a bridge overpass next to a homeless drunk—I would sleep anywhere with her.
But that’s the problem.
I think this became a problem the second she decided to sit next to me in the car. Because that’s when she changed, when I think she started to believe she wants more from me than or*l s*x. I may have done that for her back in Birmingham, but I can’t let her want more than that. I can’t let her touch me and I can’t sleep with her.
I do want her, I want her in every way imaginable, but I can’t bear to break her heart—that little body of hers, that’s another story; I could bear to break that. But if she ever lets me have her, breaking her heart (and mine) is what will happen in the end.
It’s harder since she told me about her ex….
“Please,” she says one more time.
Despite just giving myself the third-degree, I reach down and brush my fingertip along the side of her face and say very gently, “Alright.”
I never was one to listen to reason when it came to something that I wanted, but with Camryn, I’m finding myself telling reason to f**k off a lot more than usual.
Another ten minutes of driving and I find a field that looks like a flat, endless sea of grass and I park the car on the side of the road. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. We get out and lock the doors, leaving everything inside the car. I pop the trunk and rummage that roadside box for the rolled-up blanket, which smells like old car and somewhat like gasoline.
“It stinks,” I say, taking a whiff.
Camryn leans in and sniffs, wrinkling her nose at it. “Oh, well, I don’t care.”
I don’t, either. I’m sure she’ll make it smell better.
Without even thinking about it, I grab her hand and we walk down a small slope through a ditch and up the other side to the low-lining fence separating the field from us. I start looking for the easiest way for her to get over it. Next thing I know, her fingers are falling away from mine and she’s climbing over the damn thing.
“Hurry!” she says as she lands on the other side in a crouched position.
I can’t wipe the grin off my face.
I leap over the fence and land beside her and we take off running into the wide open; her like a graceful gazelle, me like the lion chasing after her. I hear her flip-flops slapping against her feet as she runs and see the way wisps of stray blonde strands of hair appear illuminated around her head as the breeze stirs it. I’ve got the blanket in one hand as I run behind her, letting her stay a few steps ahead of me so if she happens to fall I’ll be there to laugh at her first and then help her up afterwards. It’s so dark with only the light from the moon bathing the landscape. But there’s enough light that we can see where we’re stepping and not fall into a chasm or trip over a tree on our way.
And I don’t see any cows, which means this might be a shit-free field and that’s a plus.
We get so far away from the car that the only part of it I can see anymore is the reflective glint from the silver rims.
“I think this is good enough,” Camryn says coming to a winded stop.
The nearest trees are thirty or forty yards out in every direction.
She raises her arms high above her head and tilts her chin back, letting the breeze rush over her. She’s smiling so hugely, her eyes closed, that I’m afraid to say anything and disturb her moment with nature.
I unroll the blanket and lay it on the ground.
“Tell me the truth,” she says, curling her fingers around my wrist and guiding me to sit down on the blanket with her, “you’ve never spent the night under the stars with a girl before?”
I shake my head. “It’s the truth.”
She seems to like that. I watch her smile in at me as a light wind moves between us and brushes loose hair across her face. She reaches up and moves a few pieces from in-between her lips, slipping her finger behind them carefully.
“I’m not really the rose petals-on-the-bed kind of guy.”
“No?” she asks, a bit surprised. “I think you’re probably a really romantic guy, actually.”
I shrug. Is she fishing? I think she’s fishing.
“I guess it depends on your definition of romantic,” I say. “If a girl expects a candlelit dinner and Michael Bolton playing in the background, she’s definitely got the wrong guy.”
“Well, that’s a little too romantic,” she says, “but I bet you’ve had your share of romantic gestures though.”
“I guess,” I say, honestly not really coming up with any at the moment.
She looks at me with her head cocked to one side.
“You’re one of those,” she says.
“One of what?”
“Guys that don’t like to talk about their exes.”
“You want to know about my exes?”
She lies down on her back, leaving her bare knees drawn up and she pats the blanket beside her.
I lie next to her in the same position.
“Tell me about your first love,” she says and already I feel like this isn’t a conversation we should be having but if it’s what she wants to talk about, I’ll do my best to tell her what she wants to know.
I guess it’s only fair since she told me about hers.
“Well,” I say, looking up at the star-filled sky, “her name was Danielle.”
“And you loved her?” Camryn looks over at me, letting her head fall to the side.
I keep looking at the stars.
“Yeah, I loved her, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
“How long were you together?”
I’m wondering why she wants to know this; most girls I know snap into that jealousy-fueled mood-swing stuff that makes me want to cover my nuts when it comes to talking about exes.
“Two years,” I answer. “The break-up was mutual; we started checking out other people and I guess realized we didn’t love each other as much as we thought we did.”
“Or, you just fell out of love.”
“No, we were never in love to begin with.”
I look over at her this time.
“How did you know the difference?” she asks.
I think about it for a moment, searching her eyes just about a foot from mine. I can smell the cinnamon toothpaste she brushed with this morning when she breathes.
“I don’t think you ever really fall out of love with someone,” I say and see a flicker of thought move through her eyes. “I think when you fall in love, like true love, it’s love for life. All the rest is just experience and delusions.”
“I didn’t know you were so philosophical.” She grins. “I should tell you, that counts as romantic.”
Usually, it’s her doing the blushing, but she got me this time. I try not to look at her, but that’s not so easy to pull off.
“So, who were you ever in love with, then?” she asks.
I straighten my legs out in front of me, crossing my ankles and locking my fingers together over my stomach. I look up at the sky and from the corner of my eye see Camryn do the same.
“Well yeah,” she says, “I’m just curious.”
I stare at a bright cluster of stars and say, “Well, no one.”
A tiny burst of air escapes her lips. “Oh please, Andrew; thought you were going to be honest?”
“I am,” I say, glancing over, “a few times I thought I was in love, but—why are we talking about this anyway?”
Camryn lets her head fall sideways again and she isn’t smiling anymore. She looks sort of sad.
“I guess I was using you as my shrink again.”
My eyes draw inward. “What do you mean?”
She looks away; her pretty blonde braid falls away from her shoulder and onto the blanket. “Because I’m starting to think maybe I wasn’t…No, I shouldn’t say something like that.” She’s not the happy, smiling Camryn anymore that I ran out here with.
I raise my back from the blanket and prop myself up on my elbows. I look over at her curiously. “You should say whatever you feel whenever you need to. Maybe saying it is exactly what you need.”
She doesn’t look at me.
“But I feel guilty even thinking it.”
“Well, guilt is a bitch, but don’t you think if you’re thinking it in the first place that it just might be true?”
Her head falls to the side.
“Just say it. If after you say it and it doesn’t feel right, then deal with that, but if you hold that shit in, the uncertainty will be a bigger bitch than the guilt will be.”
She stares up at the stars again. I do, too, just to give her some time to think about it.
“Maybe I wasn’t ever in love with Ian,” she says. “I did love him, a lot, but if I was in love with him…I think maybe I’d still be.”
“That’s a good observation,” I say and smile slimly, hoping she might again, too. I really hate to see her frown.
Her face is blank, contemplative.
“Well, what makes you believe that you were never in love with him?”
She looks right at me, searching my face and then says, “Because when I’m with you, I don’t think about him much anymore.”
I immediately lie back down and fix my gaze on the black sky. I could probably count all of those stars if I tried, just as a distraction, but there’s a much bigger distraction lying next to me than all the stars in the Universe could be.
I have to stop this, and soon.
“Well, I’m very good company,” I say with a grin lacing my voice. “And I had your little ass crawling across that bed the other night, so yeah I can see how you might be more inclined to think of my head between your legs than anything else.” I’m just trying to shift her mood back to playful, even if it means she’ll smack me for it and accuse me of breaking my like-it-never-happened promise.
And she does smack me, right after lifting up and propping herself on her elbows like I had.