Thunder

A storm was coming, and Hannah knew it was a bad idea to be hiking on the mountain, but Josh insisted, and in all the years of their friendship, he’d hardly ever insisted on anything. When the storm swept in, they scuttled for the shelter of a cave they’d hidden in before. He spread out his sleeping bag and built a small fire, boy scout style. By the dim light she could barely see the lurid bruise beneath his right eye and the swelling of his lower lip, leaving her the illusion of his face as its usual cute, undamaged whole. She didn’t say much; he said less. The patter of the rain and the crackle of the flames and the thunder, now a gentle roll in the distance, made her drowsy.

The next thing she knew, the storm had passed. They could have resumed their hike at any time, but it was nice in there, with the fire and the metallic smell of damp rocks and his regular breathing. Josh was still asleep, and she felt comfortable lying next to him, the rhythm of his chest rising and falling a kind of meditation. She ached to touch his lip, his black eye, to soothe away the pain. To erase the memory of his seeing her kiss Ben Thompson, the humiliation of losing the fight and getting punched not just once but twice. She didn’t mean for it to happen. The kiss, or having Josh see it, or Ben being such a jerk. Maybe she’d been nervous about what would happen to her and Josh at the end of the summer. They’d been friends since grade school, but aside from the occasional family trip, they’d never really been apart. Even when she had her appendix out, he’d come to visit her at the hospital, and they’d played card games and shared her Jell-O. Could they still be friends in colleges at opposite ends of the country? When the subject even brushed the edges of their conversation, they flinched, changing the topic. She was tired of flinching.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

His eyes flickered, and he turned his head to face her. “Why? You didn’t make it rain.”

But the silence filling the cave after his last word made it clear he knew what she was apologizing for.

“I’m sorry because it was supposed to be you. It was always supposed to be you.”

His mouth opened slightly, making the puffy lower lip look even more painful. “You could have told me that before I made a total ass of myself.”

The fire hissed and crackled, dancing shadows along the rock.

“It would have changed everything,” she said.

He appeared to think a moment, nodded, then, with what she hoped wasn’t too painful a smile, said, “Change isn’t always bad.”

“Try saying that again when we’re living three thousand miles apart.”

He rolled toward her, touching her cheek as if she were exotic and breakable and, possibly, imaginary. “We have now. We have the rest of the summer. We can figure the rest out later.”

He was right, and wrong, and the rain started up again. When thunder shook the ground, she flinched, and he pulled her tight against him.

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Author: laurieboris

Writer, editor, proofreader, stand-up comedian in another life.

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