3. Is This What Happiness Feels Like?


“Hey.”

“Hey.” I’m finally on a date with him. It’s a dream come true. He’s amazing…and a little awkward.

We are alone for the first time. No parents. No nosy neighbors. No books. Just us, and a few of his other friends, on an empty beach with a beautiful deep blue ocean.

“Would you like to walk for a little bit?” he asks.

“Yeah. That’d be nice,” I answer.

He smiles a little and starts walking. I keep up with his pace, occasionally pausing to look at the water or the stars.

“It’s real pretty here,” I say.

“Not as pretty as you,” he says.

I blush at his comment and reply with a shaky and quiet, “Thank you.”

“I have a question,” he says, after a moment of silence.

“O-okay,” I respond, unsure of where this was going.

“What’s your mom like?”

“What?”

“My parents always talk about how careless, irresponsible, and thoughtless she is. I figured I’d ask you so I could know the truth.”

“Oh.” I’m glad that it’s dark and he can’t see the slight panic on my face. No one has ever asked me about my mother before, so I don’t know what to say to him.

“Nyla?”

“Oh, sorry. She’s nice and loving. She’s protective of me and cautious. The day before she brings me back to my father, we have a mother-daughter day. We just do something fun.”

“That sounds nice.” I can see him smiling again.

“Yeah.” I smile a little, too.

“You seem to like her more than your dad and step-mom.”

“I do,” I groan. “The two of them are really strict and talk about my mother when they think I can’t hear them. I don’t like it.”

“I don’t think anyone would. My uncle badmouths my aunt the same way. She was nicer to me than my own parents.”

I remember the day I found out about his aunt and uncle’s divorce. It was Christmas Eve. We could hear the yelling through the walls. My father tried to drown it out by turning up the holiday music, but they were loud. I was by the window, so I saw his aunt storm out their house. I saw him follow her out and begging her not to go. To see that pained, sad look on his face broke my heart. That was the first day he saw me: watching him standing there in the snow, scared and crying.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, with that memory fresh in my mind.

“It’s fine,” he mutters, I assume, thinking of the same thing. “I met you that way,” he says a little more lightheartedly.

“Yeah,” I sigh.

He stops walking and so do I. out of the corner of my eye I see him face me.

“Hey,” he says and I look at him. “You are really cool, smart, and pretty.”

I blush a lot. “T-thank you.”

“I love you, Nyla.”

I freeze and stare at him. “W-what?”

He blushes a little. “I love you. I have for a while.”

This is unbelievable. The boy of my dreams is standing in front of me and saying the words I’ve always wanted to hear…and I couldn’t say a word.

“I-I’m sorry,” he stutters, turning back towards his friends and the bonfire. “I shouldn’t have said that.” He starts walking away. Away from me. Frozen little me.

This realization jolts me back to life and I start to chase after him. “W-wait!”

He stops and looks at me.

“I-I’m sorry,” I stutter.

“It’s okay,” he sadly smiles, then keeps walking.

I chase after him again. “No! I’m saying sorry for not answering right away!”

He doesn’t stop this time. “You already answered.”

I stop. He doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, but I just can’t leave it like this. I take a deep breath and, with all the courage I can muster up, I yell, “I love you, too!”

He stops and looks at me. He looks shocked, embarrassed, and happy.

I walk to him and repeat my confession. “I love you, too.”

He pulls me close and kisses me. I can’t tell the difference between his rainwater body spray and the ocean behind me. Either way, it smells intoxicating. I desperately kiss him back, afraid to let him go. I’m hopelessly in love with the way he feels on my lips.

He lets me go and smiles. “Wow.”

I smile back at him. “Yeah.”

We hold hands and start walking back to the others.

This is going to be fun when my father finds out…

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