Traveling Boy, Art Garfunkel, 1970
Nicole could feel the chilly fragments of snow dropping down inside her boots as she ran as fast as she could after Garrett. Her giddy squeals only made her more out of breath while he scooped up another mound of snow and sculpted it into a perfect ball. So unfair of boys, she thought. They could always outrun her. Even if she could make a snowball as perfect as Garrett could, he would be able to out-throw her, too, just like every other boy, and some of the girls, in the eleventh grade. The one thing she would never be was an athlete. Garrett drew back his arm and pitched the snowball through the air, right for the middle of Nicole’s forehead.
“Ahhh!” she roared. “No fair!”
“You’re giving up,” he said.
Nicole went silent. Garrett walked towards her with concern. This was her chance, she thought! To get a better aim, she needed him closer. To get him closer, she would fake being upset, as if something was wrong.
“Are you all right?” Garrett asked, trudging her way.
Nicole waited until there were only six feet between them, bent down and grabbed an enormous mound of snow, and charged towards him. Garrett took off running. Nicole caught up and hopped onto him piggy-back, mashing the cold white stuff into his face with one hand while she hung onto his neck with the other.
“Ouch—wait!” he cried.
Nicole slipped off his shoulders. Garrett’s palm covered his left eye.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” she asked.
“Ahhh—I don’t know. You got my eye.”
Nicole panicked. They were miles from any kind of place that could deal with an emergency. She reached for his face. “Let me look—”
“No, don’t touch it!” Garrett shouted, and crouched down on the ground in pain.
“Oh my God, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it.”
Nicole knelt beside him in the snow, nearly in tears. Garrett started to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a laugh. The laugh became uncontrollable. He had gotten her. Again. She punched him hard on the arm.
“You are so full of it!” she said. “Why do you always do that?”
“Why are you so gullible?” He stood up and helped her onto her feet. “C’mon, we gotta get back. I don’t want your mom pissed off at me.”
“She would never be pissed off at you. She adores you,” Nicole said.
“That’s because she doesn’t teach me. If she had me in class, I’d drive her nuts. Lucky for her I’ve got Mrs. Sherman for English instead.”
They started the short trek down the hill towards his car, the firm layer of a day’s worth of fallen snow crunching beneath their boots. Garrett grabbed the sleeve of Nicole’s parka, pulling her to a gentle halt. With his other hand he pointed to the frosty orange horizon that rested above the Finger Lakes this time of year.
“Look at the sunset… Cool, eh?”
The view made her heart skip a beat. But then, her heart rarely beat normally when Garrett was around.
“Yeah,” she whispered.
He was standing closer to her than she remembered him to be a moment ago. Still holding onto her sleeve, he trembled slightly as he leaned his face into hers, bringing them nose to nose. His nose was cold and it gave her a pleasant tingle, but when his lips parted slightly and touched hers, the heat of his breath was like intense sunshine. Her lips were soft, and the sensation shot through his veins like an injection of warm honey. A handful of snowflakes descended softly on their closed eyelids as the ground beneath them fell away, and for a few seconds they both forgot where they were. They had each dreamed about what it would be like to kiss the other, and now neither of them could believe it was happening. She would always remember the first time he kissed her, and it would join their hearts together in a way she would never be able to comprehend…
[The full version of this excerpt can be found on my “EXCERPTS” page under “FICTION”]