Part Three

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He walked her home at midnight. Their second date ended. She had performed a few songs for a small audience at a kind of bistro. Now they stretched out their farewell, puttering about her father's garden.

When she danced through the oscillating sprinkler, he stood by, watching, uninvolved. His inhibitions kept him dry.

She laughed without care, utterly soaked, shaking the heavy globules from her strawberry tresses.

A suggestion of glee clogged in his throat.

"Hey!" she called. "Run!"

"But," he protested. "I'll get wet."

"That is the general idea."

He shut his eyes. "One and two and three."

The sprinkler's staccato shot tsch-tsch-tsch.

Unable to see, he sprinted lengthwise down the sprinkler instead of across, and so prolonged his agony.

"Aahh!" he cried.

With his hair slashed over his eyes, he stood before her, dripping. "What happened?" he asked.

She parted his hair with her finger. To the right. To the left. She robbed him of his isolation, and they stared at one another.

"Should we try it, I wonder?" she asked.

He thought she meant kissing. Smooching. Maybe necking? Honestly, he didn't know if there was a difference.

"Try what?" He swallowed his grin.

She pulled on his wrist and walked backwards towards the pumpkins saying, "I've never dated a boy more than three weeks." She dragged him along the rutted row. "And I think we should try it. You seem okay."

"Oh. But how will we know it's been three weeks?"

She lifted her head. "See her? Up there, watching over us?"

He looked where she looked. The moon rich and mustard over them.

"Luna?"

"Hmmm-mmm. They say she has different faces, and each lasts roughly seven days. New, first quarter, full, and third quarter."

"Which face is this one?" he asked.

"Right now, she's third quarter. Luna will eat some more and when she's full again, that'll be about three weeks. That's how we'll know."

"And then?" He swallowed.

"And then-- we'll be going steady," she answered.

He shook. "Okay."

She let go, leaving him shivering next to a commodious squash.

"But what happened to your last boyfriend? I heard--"

"Nothing," she interrupted. "Nothing happened. He disappeared. Went away. Nothing to do with me."

He blinked. "Okay." He held his shoulders. "Why haven't you dated more than three weeks? Is that long?"

"Oh," she trailed off.

He watched her glistening shoulders rise and fall, not in sync, off-kilter, like a curved creature of the loch.

She caught him watching and exaggerated the rhythm into a silly dance.

"Boop-doop-dee!"

He blushed.

She said, "I just get sooo borrrrrr-d."

He couldn't speak. He couldn't move. He felt boring every day of his life. Should he tell her? His teeth chattered.

"Are you that cold?" she asked. "C'mhere." She took his hips into her grasp. She drew him close. He stopped breathing.

"You do have to breath, y'know," she said.

He exhaled.

She said, "Now, put your hands where mine are."

"Okay." He put his fingers over hers.

She giggled. "No, put them on meeeee. In the same spot."

"Oh," he said. He put his hands around her waist, grazing the nubs at the small of her back.

"That tickles," she said.

"Yours are bigger than mine," he heard himself say.

She nodded, "Girls develop faster than boys. I wouldn't worry about it. Hey! We should go swimming. Not tomorrow, the next day."

"Sounds great," he answered.

"Unless-- you don't want to get wet?" she grinned.

"That's different," he frowned.

"How?"

"I don't know," he admitted.

She pursed her lips off to the side, lost in thought.

"Would there be kissing now?" he wondered.

"You have pretty eyes," she said.

"Oh," he answered, startled.

"They're shiny," she said.

"Uh, thank you."

"Yes," she ran a hand through his hair. "Pretty. Shiny. Eyes."

He tensed.

She squinted, looking past him. "Look over there."

"Hmmm?" he asked.

She led him down a row of corn. She knelt and retrieved a silver scarf, torn in two.

"What is it?" he asked.

"My sister's scarf."

"And look here, a boot!" He stepped past her and pulled it out of the dirt. "Is this her's too?"

She scowled. "No."

"Who would leave a boot in your garden? Maybe your sister knows. I'd like to meet her."

She turned away. "She's not here. She went to collect magnolias yesterday and didn't come home for dinner. I think-- Maybe she crossed the lake to stay with our cousins." She faced him. "It takes a week to cross, she's probably half-way there."

"You're not worried?" he asked.

She shrugged.

"I bet you had a fight. If I had a sister we wo--"

"It's getting late." She crossed her arms.

"Oh. Uh. Sure thing," he shivered, handing her the boot. He stretched his lips toward her cheek.

"Goodbye," she said, tilting her neck away.

"Goodbye," he answered, leaving her alone in the corn.

"That wasn't so bad," he told himself, waiting to die.

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