This is the second story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Kleg.(DeviantArt)
The RV – and me, laying on top of it – came into sight on the laptop’s screen as I piloted the drone up the hillside. My fingers danced over the keyboard, angling the camera to keep the RV in view. I eased the drone into the corridor that the road carved through the forest, and had it shed altitude as it closed in for a landing. As it settled to the roof beside me, I saw myself through the drone’s camera, shadowed but illuminated by the laptop’s screen. I smiled to see myself, and I watched my lips twitch into a smile. I’d never quite get used to that. I turned onto my side to dismounting the camera from the drone, connecting it to my laptop. I heard the ping that indicated the footage was downloading.
It was a digital camera, of course. I typically shunned digital cameras as being the tool of the unskilled, but I needed lightweight video, and lightweight video meant digital. I looked up from my perch atop the RV’s roof and looked at Brian’s back. He was perched on the hood, playing his guitar. The drone’s noise hadn’t disturbed him – I wasn’t even sure he’d noticed it. He looked entranced, and suddenly I didn’t want to interrupt him. I watched him and listened as he played.
He’d seemed so shallow when we met. A boy is looking to get friendly with a girl. But his interest in my photography had been genuine, and he respected my boundaries; boundaries that shrank, as my trust in him grew. Though we had different talents, we were each interested in each other’s work, and we both wanted to be good at what we did. You could tell how much he put into his music just from moments of listening, the notes sweet and smooth as honey, each one carrying you into the next. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew his eyes were closed, his brow furrowed with focus. The last notes trailed off, and I knew it’d only be a few moments before he started something new; this was my chance to interrupt. “I got the video.”
“Oh, cool!” He hopped off the hood, setting the guitar carefully in its case. “Let me see. Where did you go?” He climbed up the ladder to join me on the roof, laying on his stomach beside me as I cued up the footage.
“I took it down the hill to the river, and kept her low,–”
“–Yes, her.” My tone challenged him to laugh – to his credit, he did not. “I kept her low all the way up over the river, and came back when the signal got weak. Look. I caught a bear.” He smiled, and I felt his arm around my waist, felt his warmth close as he watched with me. With anybody else I’d dated, I would get uncomfortable, but with him, I trusted his intent. I couldn’t let him get too confident, though. He’d get cocky. “Watch it there, mister.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He knew I wasn’t too serious. But he also knew that I wasn’t a ‘no means maybe’ kind of girl. He lifted his arm, settling it between us, and his fingers laced through mine as we watched the video run. “You weren’t afraid it’d go down in the water?”
“I was terrified. It was worth it.” I felt my cheeks heating up as he squeezed my hand. Sometimes I hated the way I couldn’t keep myself from smiling or blushing around him. Nothing else made me feel less in control of myself. But nothing else made me feel like he did, either. It was terrifying. It was worth it.
The video was ending, and I saw the scene where I came into view. I watched the girl on the screen see herself on the screen. She smiled to see herself from an unusual perspective, and then the image froze, the video over.
“I don’t know how you do it. You always just seem to know how to look at things.”
“It’s not about me knowing how to look. Well, it’s that, too.” I squeezed his hand, then pulled his arm over my back, leaning into his warmth. The same grip I’d warned him about before, but this time it was my choice. For some reason, it was better that way. “You also like looking at things the same way I like to.”
“If I recall, the very first time I met you, I said that your choice of subject matter was ugly, and stank. But that photo was amazing.”
“If I recall, I also told you I didn’t need you.”
I was quiet for a minute. His question was . . . complicated. “I don’t . . . I’m not a girl who needs people. But I want to be with you anyway. Is that okay?”
He smiled, and I felt his lips brush my temple, and my cheeks burned. “That sounds exactly like you, so honest it hurts sometimes. But don’t ever stop being you. I wouldn’t like you so much if you weren’t you.”
I pulled my laptop closed, and burrowed into his side, wishing I could hide my face. “Will you play some more, tonight?”
I felt his fingers scratching at my back. I tried not to give away how nice it felt, but I’d already let out a contented sigh. Where did that come from? His voice was close enough to feel his breath on my ear when he replied. “Sure. For you.” I shivered from the spill of his breath over my skin. How does he do that to me?
He got up, then, and climbed back down to the ground. It was getting darker, and we’d have to go in soon. For now, he perched on an old fallen tree and lifted the guitar from the case. He strummed the strings, and I climbed down to sit on the steps by the vehicle’s door, watching him. I could see his thoughts on his face as he sought a song. He was listening to the lingering notes, and I could see him looking for a song in them. I saw it in the furrow of his brow when he found it, the moment his seeking became determination, and his fingers began to dance on the strings. He opened his eyes to look at me, and I knew he wasn’t just playing for me, but to me.
I once found myself surprised that this boy might have a chance with me. Tonight, I felt the same thing all over again when I realized that I might love him.