A/N: Okay, I know that I said that it was the last week of school in the first chapter, but I decided to change it as I went over the story again and decided it was too rushed. Sorry! :( So besides that, I'm happy to say that I finally have the next chapter of Hunter out!
When Melanie got home, she left her backpack in the car and went straight to the woods, knowing that her mom wouldn't be home for a while. She had thought about the strange boy the whole day, and she felt like she needed to talk to him, otherwise she would just about burst from curiosity. And curiosity killed the cat, didn't it?
She practically ran to the clearing, although she stumbled a bit and lost her way once, but finally she was looking into the eyes of the seemingly mystical cats that inhabited the clearing. They seemed so happy, with the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do the whole day. Among them was the cat she thought was so special, but she passed him by along with the others, searching instead for the boy. But as she came to the cave, she had an obvious thought: why would the boy be here? It wasn't like he lived here or anything. As a matter of fact, she had no idea where he lived, or if she could even find it from here.
She sank to the ground, defeated by her own cluelessness. Just because she saw him here didn't mean that he would always be here. Maybe it was just a one-time thing, and she wouldn't see him again. She was crazy to think that maybe he wanted to see her as much as she wanted to see him, to go out of his way enough to come here. As she stared at the ground, she heard a sound she had been secretly hoping for all day.
She slowly looked up, getting to his face last. "Oh, hi. Hunter right?" Obviously.
"Yup. Why are you here? You don't really seem like a nature-y type of person," he asked her with a grin, helping her to her feet.
"Oh, well, I just thought this place looked interesting," she said, her face turning red.
"Uh huh. And that's why you were staring at the ground?" he said doubtfully.
"Never mind. C'mere. I wanna show you something."
She followed him, not knowing what to expect. Thought what she pictured in her head couldn't compare to what he showed her.
After about a minute of walking, she started to hear a trickling of water. Hunter pushed aside some ferns with their leafy fronds covering the space ahead from view, and came upon a beautiful crystal-clear pond. The water shone and Melanie could see gray, pink and black rocks at the bottom. A couple of silver fish flitted around the bottom, dancing in the water with the sun shining on their backs. It was medium-sized, with a small waterfall leading into a miniature stream. Trees towered over the pond, letting only small glimpses of sunlight in. Melanie gasped and said in awe, "It's so beautiful."
"You like it?" he asked.
"Yes! It's wonderful! How did you find it?"
"Oh, well, I do a lot of exploring in these woods. There are a lot of neat things in here."
They both walked to the pond and Melanie sat down on one of the rocks that bordered the pool. As she touched the water, a ripple fanned across the surface, creating a disturbance in the golden light that shone across the pool. She didn't notice when he sat down next to her. When she finally turned around, she noticed him staring at her and blushed, turning around quickly again. He took that as a sign to start talking to her again.
"Tomorrow, bring your hiking boots."
Melanie stared at him curiously, then smiled in expectation for the day to come. The next day, she found herself spending more time on styling her hair, making sure it looked perfect. Her friends noticed, too, and had asked her if she finally had a boyfriend or something. She told them he was just a friend, because he was, and they let her go. But when she got home and changed into her hiking boots, she couldn't help but feel excited.
That day, they went climbing up a waterfall, which got her wet and angry, which Hunter thought was funny. She began going to the forest every day, because Hunter never ran out of places to show her.
"What's it like spending all of your time in these woods?" She asked him one day while they were just walking through the forest, admiring the broad trees around them that seemed to fill up the sky in their wondrous beauty. It had been a month since she had first met him, but it seemed like a lifetime.
"It's not that bad, actually," Hunter joked with her, kicking a stray rock that was stuck in the natural dirt path they were walking on. "You should try it some time." He grinned at her and she felt her face flush, causing her to look away towards the ground. She couldn't help grinning, however, when he stopped her and grabbed both of her shoulders and turned her to face one of the large oak trees near them, putting his head near hers on her left shoulder.
"Shh," he said quietly, pointing his finger towards one of the branches. On it flitted a bright yellow finch, simple but beautiful in its own way. It hopped from branch to branch, occasionally chirping or pecking at a stray piece of wood. It hadn't noticed them somehow, and was going on with its normal lives, unaware of the humans below it.
"It's so pretty…" She turned towards him, forgetting that his head was at her shoulder, and realized that his face was just centimeters away from hers. "I," she began, trying to say 'I'm sorry."
"Shh," he repeated, and she closed her eyes, her heart rate speeding up. She didn't know what was happening, but felt her body tense with anticipation. Was he going to kiss her after a whole month of her wanting him to?
The bird started to squawk, startling them by flapping its wings loudly and fluttering off. Melanie opened her eyes, surprised, and realized that Hunter was actually a few feet away from her. She blushed a bright crimson again, realizing how foolish she must have looked.
"I should…go," she stuttered out, turning around to walk home. Her heart seemed to hurt now, a dull throbbing in her chest, and she didn't know why. Did Hunter ever give any sign that he was interested in her for anything other than a friend? No. Now he would just know her as the girl who got too ahead of herself and thought that everyone wanted to kiss her.
"Melanie." She was turned around quickly by Hunter, who had seemed to have crossed the few feet in less than a second. His hands were on her shoulders, but it didn't seem like he was forcing her to move; she turned willingly with curiosity of what he would tell her. Even with the certainty that he didn't think of her the same way that she wanted him to, she couldn't extinguish the little bit of hope that she still had.
She couldn't believe it as she saw him lean his head down and kiss her, gently pressing his lips against hers in a way that made her heart stop, just for a moment. She felt bad as he pulled away and she realized that she hadn't kissed back, but nothing could beat the look that Hunter had in his eyes after she began to smile. She stretched up on her toes, leaning on him, and kissed him softly again before her lips broke out into another smile and she turned around quickly.
"What?" Hunter's surprised voice just made her begin to laugh as she started to dart through the trees, heading back to the meadow. She could hear him start to chase her, and sooner than she expected his arms were wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him.
"You don't think you'll get away that easily," he whispered breathily into her ear, making her sigh and laugh at the same time.
"I was counting on it, actually." She smiled again and relaxed in his arms, comfortable as she was finally beginning to see the true beauty of the woods.