Radiance

The sound of the wind crackled every branch of every tree. The breeze was comforting. The earth felt tranquil and that was soothing. Sitting on the hill was my idea. Of course, it was my idea. It seemed though, that the night could possibily last forever. The sun was setting, sending the sky into various shades of colors. The sun itself was a brilliant white-yellow while the rim surrounding it was a deep golden orange. Blending with the orange was a darker shade of pink. A brilliant pink, bright and glorious. Following the pink was a darker shade of colors; the cooler colors. A light purple shaded the sky. It was magnificent. The beauty this scene radiated was impossible to ignore. The purple turned to indigo and then ending with a deep navy blue. The gleam of the sun was everywhere. The trees were starting to turn black and the sky was starting to darken. It was getting to be late, but I didn't care. I was here. So was he. This day couldn't be over, not yet. No, that was selfish; why make everything perfect my way? My feeling didn't matter at this point. I was content, happy. I tightened my grip on his hand. We were both laying on our backs on the hill, facing the sky, watching the first stars appear on this abnormally clear night. One shooted across the sky like a flash of brilliant fire lighting up the sky. It was a full moon now, the sun officially retreated, letting the chill of the night consume us. I pulled my hand away from his and rolled over to my side, facing him, proping my head up with my left arm and letting my right hand take my left's place in his warm right hand.

"I'm so glad we could hang out alone today," I murmmured, "It's hard being best friends when we never get to hang out."

"Mmm..." he murmured back, "Too bad is can't be this way everyday. But then she'd get suspicious. Not that there's anything to get suspicious of, but still."

I'd deluded myself into believing that he truely cared more for me than his clueless girlfriend. Deluded. I scoffed in my head. What a perfect description! I couldn't fool myself any more than a Hispanic person trying to prove someone he's Asian.

Personally, I didn't get why he liked her so much. She wasn't even that most attractive peron I'd ever met, but that didn't mean she was ugly. And I didn't know her well enough to say her personality was twisted. She was nice enough, but did he notice how she was always distant, like her thoughts were elsewhere?

I wondered if it was just the jealousy that made me feel this way towards her. I'm sure I would've been really great friends with her... if she wasn't with him. I sighed. He slid his hand out of mine, so he could copy my movement and then took it again oce his left hand was free. He looked at me and returned the sigh. I didn't want to leave. I was comfortable.

I just barely heard his phone vibrate in his jean's pocket. Instead of taking his hand from mine to check his phone like I thought he would, he leaned up in sitting position and pulled out his phone with his right hand, his other still entwined with mine and sighed again.

"I hate the ending of a perfect day. I have to go." he said quietly.
I sat up with him, "This was a perfect day for you?" I asked.

"Of course. Why wouldn't it be?" it was supposed to be a rhetorical question but I couldn't help but answer.

"Because. Wouldn't it be more perfect for you if Jessica were here with you? That way you'd have your best friend and your girlfriend here?" I scowled at the second to last word but he didn't seem to notice. I thanked my lucky stars for that.

He was in thought. "I suppose. That would make things a little more perfect. Maybe too perfect. I like things exactly how they are."

I grimaced. I did not like things exactly as they were. Friendship was one thing, being a best friend was another. Too bad anything more than that was like me hitting a baseball into a homerun in a mjor league baseball game. Impossible.

My internal sense of humor was not helping my external facade. If I had to fake pain like getting te skin on my arm charred, I would... for him. Okay, maybe that's going a little far but still. It was easier said rather than done.

Exactly like telling him how I feel. Easier said than done.

"Can we hang out again tomorrow? I'd rather not spend my summer Tuesday doing laundry or washing dishes." I asked, optimism thick in my voice.

He caught that. "Sure. I'd love that. What would we do?"

I was going to answer but a leaf that was blowing past us in the wind distracted me. It was a reminder of peace to me. I smiled slightly.

"From the fairest of the lion spring, graceful and swift, to the delicate butterfly, all life is sacred." I said softly.

A wave of tranquility spread through me. This place was so beautiful, even at night, it made me want to cry.

"You're fairly intuitive, aren't you?" he asked, staring at my expression.

I laughed, "I guess so. Thank God. I was wondering when that was ever going to happen." I paused to chuckle, "No, this place brings out the essential love of life I have in me."

The tips of his fingers brushed my right cheek. Normally, this act would mean something more... if you weren't us. He was just my friend for now. And I was capable of enduring that fact for as long as nessessary. I inhaled his scent, savoring this small gesture.

"If I'm being honest, sometimes I wish Jessica was more like you. You're so tranquil, so peaceful and down to earth. She could learn a thing or two from you." he murmured.

I felt myself blush. Of course! What a perfect way to hide myself. Blushing! Sometimes that bothered me more than tapping fingers on a desk.

"I have to go." he said again, dropping his hand from my face and looked away.

He stood up and looked at me, still sitting. His hands reached out to grab mine and pull me up. We started down the hill. I stumbled a few times on invisible branches or twigs on the earth's surface. Again, I was thankful he was there; he helped me, catching me before I fell to the ground. I was surprised. I usually wasn't this clumsy. It must have been the nerves. Was I nervous? My heart beated erratically, and that put an end to my questioning. Yes, I was nervous. Every touch from his skin to mine was sending a million electric shocks through my body. When we reached the end of the small trail, I took his hand.

"Jared." I said his name. He turned to look at me, waiting.

"This day was perfect for me as well." I told him honestly.

He grinned and it sent my heart spiraling into different directions.

We walked in silence along the road to my house. His hand was still in mine. I wondered if it was already obvious to him how I felt or if he really didn't mind our friendship looking like there was something more. I didn't care. He was here and I got to be with him. How manny times had that happened before his girlfirned stole him away from me again?

When we reached my house, he pulled me into a vice tight hug. I almost couldn't breathe. Or was that because I forgot to breathe? This was too intimate, but I didn't mind it. His hugs always sent heat waves through me.

"Good night, Brylie." he stroked my hair, "I hope you sleep well."
I pressed my forehead to his chest, tears almost welling in my eyes. "And the same for you."

He released me and walked into the opposite direction, back to his house. I walked up my driveway, through the porch and opened the front door. I expected as much. My mom was probably still at her friend, Becky's house and my dad was asleep on the couch, snoring like he hadn't slept in weeks. I walked over to him and picked up the blanket sitting by his feet, unfolded it and threw it on him, tucking it around his side. Then I went over to the sliding glass back door and shut it, stopping the ice cold air from entering the house. I went upstairs to get some sleep, anxious already, wanting tomorrow to come soon.

The sound of birds chirping awoke me from morning slumber. Did I dream last night? A dreamless dream. I spend the day with Jared yesterday and was planning the same for today. What would we do? I was suddenly worried that he might get bored of me and not want to hang out anymore. I sat up in my bed and shied away the thought. He wouldn't get bored of me. Impossible. I slid myself out of bed and put the covers back in their place. I got dressed and walked over to open the window. The morning breeze was relaxing, calm. The birds chirped and the sun grazed over the hill and through the trees. The scene was magical almost. I couldn't believe that this was real. The grass on the hills and the leaves on the tree was a brilliant evergreen. But when the sun hit them both, the color shifted to a beautiful yellow-green. The sky was a deep baby blue and the sun was a warm gold. The air around was warmer, no doubt brewing a hot day. Maybe we could go for a swim to cool off when the heat became overwhelming. Inspiration hit me. There was a creek nearby; well, Big Sur was near Monterey, right? It was probably closer to a river though. Some areas were deep enough to jump in and swim. That's what we could do today.

I went to the bathroom to grab my hairbrush. I yanked it through my hair, letting the bristles take away the knots. I did this until the yanking became more close to a stroking feeling. I set the brush down and picked up my toothpaste and toothbrush. I squeezed the remains of the toothpaste onto my toothbrush and threw the tube away. I brushed my teeth ferociously but thoroughly. When I was through with that, I grabbed the concealer out of the medicine cabinet and spread it on my face. I put on some waterproff mascara and some cherry lipgloss and I was ready. I went downstairs and picked up the phone. Mom and Dad were already at work, so I didn't expect to be in company with someone else in the house. I dialed Jared's number and the phone rang four times exactly before he picked up, his voice soothing.

"Hello?" he said, his voice like sweet pure honey.

"Hey," I said, breathlessly, for his voice had knocked the breath out of me.

"Brylie? Oh, hi. So what were you planning to do today?" he asked.

"Well, it seems as though Mother Nature is going to present us with a hot day today," I laughed softly, "so I was going to see if you wanted to join me for a swim by this little river I know. Well, you'll know it too... it's in Big Sur. The water will be cold, so it'll be the perfect antidote for the hot weather."

"That sounds great. Should I bring lunch?" he asked, approving.

"Sure. Picnic." I said and smiled. And as if it were an automatic response, I tucked my hair behind my right ear.

"Meet you at your house in an hour and a half. Jessica wants to go to breakfast and I promised I'd take her." he said.

Drat. Now I'd be here, wondering about him and his girlfriend and what they were doing.

"Sounds... fun." I had to clear my throat -thick with jealousy, which I hope he didn't notice- to say the last word.

"Cool. So I'll meet you at your house in an hour and a half or so?" he asked to make sure.

"Uh, no!" I said, startling myself with the impulse, "I'll meet you there. Where are you going to be?" I recovered to defend myself.

"Er... Denny's. Are you sure?" he asked.

No, but okay. "Yes." I tried to hide my insecurity, but I think he saw (figuratively) through it.

"Okay," he voice was wary but he continued, "It's about a quarter 'til ten right now, so I'll meet you, rather you'll meet me at around eleven fifteen, eleven thirty?"

"Y-Yes." I answered.

"Okay. I'll see you later. Bye, Brylie." he hung up the phone.

"Bye." I said into the dead silence.

Great, he left me alone for and hour and a half. That gave me time to think. I shouldn't be worried about today. I spent all day with him yesterday. Yesterday, we had walked down the beach, just talking, which was nice. He bought me lunch at Subway and then we had taken a bike ride through the beautiful countryside. We had brought our bikes back to his house and went back to the beach, but only to climb the hill that ended the day last night. It was one of the few hills that had some sort of grass and a tree to give off shade, rather than the other barren, sandy hills closer by. Our relationship looked on the outside like it was something more. That's when I deluded myself into believing that he cared more for me than his girlfriend. Normally, a guy would spend most of his time with his girlfriend; with him, he spent about equal time with me as he did Jessicca. It was probably a more romantic thing when he was with Jessica though, and that angered me. I'd probably always just be "buddy" to him.

I sighed, giving up on my thoughts. I wasn't helping myself. I went back up to my room, grabbed my cell phone, my bag (which I stuffed with my bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, a book, a couple of notebooks, my camera, a towel, and my wallet) and I even put my IPOD in my pocket. I threw on a jacket (even though I knew I wouldn't need one) and headed for downtown. Monterey wasn't insanely huge, but it was no Cambria. I walked the streets fluently, so I walked down the street with confidence. Confidence that was only an act. Inside, fear was pulling at me from all ends. The maddening part of that was the simple fact that I had no idea to why I was nervous. Usually, I had a clue, but now? I wasn't sure.

It was unusually crowded today. Weird. More people seemed to be downtown, taking walks today. It was pretty out today; no, pretty didn't begin to describe it. Today was almost perfect. It was slightly warm, a light breeze blew some air from the ocean, which made me want to take a small visit to the aquarium. Not a bad idea; I hadn't been there since I was in girl scouts so many years ago. I had some money with me, maybe I would go to the aquarium. I headed in that direction, pausing only when I saw the Denny's. Inside the window, I could almost see Jared and Jessica sitting down. They must have just gotten there then. They sat in a booth, so Jessica scooted over and laid her head on his shoulder. When the waiter was gone, she leaned her head up, to face him. I wasn't a lip reader so I wasn't sure what she said, but he laughed and pressed his lips to hers. I yanked my head forward, unable to watch anymore. My stomach turned, but it wasn't from nausea; it was jealousy. I was so jealous, I couldn't help it. I groaned and continued to walk toward the aquarium.

When I got there, I paid my way in and went to go look at some animals. I went to the Sea Otters first, just because the were so adorable. Their beautiful brown and white fur flowed in the water while they swam. One carried a little pink seashell while it floated on the water. I smiled at it and got my camera out and took a picture. The otter stared back at me in wonder. I did a little wave towards it and made my way over to the jellifish. Those were always so interesting to look at. They swan aimlessly in the water, their tentacles following tham into spirals. Their tops were different shades of orange and light pink. Where the light hit them, the orange turned more into a beautiful translucent yellow. I snapped a picture at those and then moved onto another exhibit. I walked deeper into the aquarium and found myself looking into a huge tank of emptiness. There were a few fish in it, but nothing else I could see. I heard a little girl ask her mom where all the fish were and her mother pointed forward and told her daughter to look closer. I followed that instruction myself and saw that there were others in the tank. There was a couple of sharks, a school of fish, and I think I even saw a Manta Ray. It was amazing to me how big some of these fish were; they were bigger than the little girl who had asked her mother about the fish. The ends of my mouth twitched up into a smile. I decided I wanted to move on to the arctic area next, to see the penguins.

I'd heard that once penguins chose a mate, they stayed with that one penguin for the rest of their lives. I thought it was sweet. Most animals don't stick to one other bired or whatever that animal may be. I respected the penguins for that, and that's why I liked them a lot more than any other bird. I stopped at the penguin exhibit and looked at the beautiful birds. The Emperor Penguin was my favorite, but obviously, there wasn't one in the area I was looking at so I wasn't sure if they even had them here. I just looked at other species.

Some were average, black and white, but others were more unique. I recognized the Macaroni, the one with the spiked yellow feathers on top of its head. I saw one that looked like it had a strap around its chin. Oh, the Chinstrap Penguin. Of course. Personally, I liked the Adelie, the one with a white ring around its eye. They were adorable. That one turned its head and looked straight at me. I smiled timidly and snapped a picture. This was the cutest picture so far, I thought. The penguin stared at me for one last secondm then dove into the ice cold murky water. I decided then, to walk through the gift shop.

It was crowded, that much was to be expected. I walked through the little shirt rack aisles, only looking at some of the shirts. Some were the tourist shirts, the ones that print MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM on them in a fancy font. There were a couple of animation shirts, funny ones. One had an animated penguin next to another realistic looking penguin. There was a gater than sign in between them, the open side pointed towards the animated penguin. Another one had three penguins (all animated) once facing whoever looked at it, while the other two were turned facing the penguin in the middle. Underneath that picture, there was a question, WILL YOU BE MY PENGUIN? I stopped right there.

This one solitary question on a T-shirt made me think. If it was that easy for penguins to choose their other half, why couldn't it be the same for me? Confidence blew through me, like an electric shock. The next thing I knew was that I was pushing past people trying to get for the exit. One little boy who was holding his mother's hand smiled when I ran by, pointing and asking his mother if she knew who I was. I pushed myself to run faster, which made more people complain as I ran into them. I ignored all the rude complaints and headed out of the exit and back to Denny's. A bench sat in front of the entrance and I sat there, waiting.

I checked my phone. It was eleven. I navigated to messages and sent him a text.

I'M HERE. I HOPE YOU BROUGHT YOUR CAR, THE PLACE IS IN BIG SUR. I pressed send.

While I waited, I played aimlessly with my fingers. I hated waiting for replys from texts; they took FOREVER. I stared at my phone, waiting. I knew the expression, 'Staring at the phone doesn't make it ring any faster,' okay well, forgetting about it and thinking of other things didn't make it ring any faster either. That was like saying, 'If you bring a watch on a plane, time will fly by. So, we'll land faster, right?' I scoffed. That was ridiculous.

My phone vibrated. Eagarly, I pressed view.

OK, WE'RE DONE 2. BE OUT IN 60.

I didn't reply to that. He would be out soon. I stood in my place, anxiety coated my being. I was about to do something that pretty much equalled throwing a vat into the inferno. At Big Sur. Anxiety was replaced by fear. But I was sure of my decision. Absolutely sure. I knew it. I was confident.

The entrance door openedand Jared and Jessica walked out. Jared looked one direction and then turned my way, resting his eyes on me.

"Hey Brylie." he said, relief in his tone.

"Hey Jared." I smiled at him then nodded at Jessica, "Jessica."

She smiled timidly at me, no emotion in her voice when she said, "Brylie." I could tell she had the same agitation with me as I did for her. Well at least I wouldn't feel bad if I did end up with Jared. That was probably what she was afraid of.

"R-Ready to go?" I asked Jared.

"Yeah, I am." he turned to Jessica and gave her a hung. He whispered something in her ear and gave her a kiss on the cheek. As soon as his lips touched her skin, she shut her eyes tight. When she opened them, fresh tears were formed. I wondered what that was all about. When he released her she just turned and walked the other way.
Jared turned to me. "Big Sur?" he asked.

"Y-Yes." I said, nerves eating me live.

He took my hand and we walked to his car. His beautiful silver Mustang was sitting in the direct sunlight. Tiny facets shimmered along the surface, almost blindingly. I had to squint my eyes. Jared stood by the drivers side, looking at me while he put his sunglasses on. The sun hit him in the most perfect way it was almost unbearable. The dark spot of where the sun couldn't reach his hair was a very dark brown, it almost looked black. But where the sun did hit, his hair was a light brown and turned into a sandy color. I thought I saw a hint of red in it. His complexion, never marred by sun nor moon, was as perfect as ever, and I couldn't believe I deserved to know him. To love him, even. The only thing that would make this perfect, is if I could see his beautiful sea blue eyes. He noticed my stare and smiled a full smile. My heart beated erratically.

"What?" he asked, laughing at my expression.

"You look like a movie star." I commented, flashing a picture, "For the first of todays pictures." I smiled.

"Oh, please." he joked and climbed in his car. I got in the passenger side.

I tuned the radio to my favorite station. One of my favorite songs came on and I started singing to it while he drove onto Cabrillo Highway. After the first minute of the song, he turned the volume down which left me still singing along. I'd been exposed.

"Hey!" I complained.

"Lets hear you sing, Bry." he laughed.

I blushed scarlet, "Lets not..." I muttered, "So, how was your breakfast with the girlfriend?" I asked, striking up a conversation.

"Okay," his expression hardened, "I just had to talk to her about something."

"What?" it was hard to ignore the nervousness in my voice, but I didn't care.

"I broke up with Jessica." he said, his voice firm.

Oh, so that's what was with Jessica's apathetic attitude. "Oh, I'm... sorry." was all I could say.

"It's not your fault. We were headed in that direction anyway." he sighed, "She took it really hard." I didn't have anything to say to that.

"Oh," he said, taking one hand off the wheel to reach into his jean shorts pocket. He took out a folded piece of lavender paper. In fancy handwriting on the folded top, it clearly said: TO BRYLIE---PRIVATE. "Jessica told me to give this to you. I didn't read it, though I'm extremely curious."

I was too. I looked at it, afraid of what it might say. Probably a hate letter, sent to me to kill my self esteem. Jessica did not like me. Why? I wasn't sure, though she didn't exactly warm herself to my heart either. I took it from him, my hands shaking from fear. Carefully, I opened the lavender stiff paper. Pretty and flowery stationery, of course. In her perfect cursive, she wrote:
BYRLIE:
I KNOW I'VE BEEN UNFAIR TO YOU. YOU DESERVE MORE CREDIT THATN WHAT I'VE GIVEN YOU. YOU DON'T HIDE YOUR FEELINGS FOR JARED VERY WELL. I KNOW YOU LOVE HIM. I LOVE HIM TOO, THOUGH. BUT I DON'T HATE YOU. YOU NEVER PUSHED YOURSELF ON HIM, YOU RESPECTED THAT HE WAS TAKEN. I'M SORRY IF I'VE HURT YOU. I'LL BE ON MY BEST BEHAVIOR FROM NOW ON. -JESSICA

I felt extremely guilty now. Her apology note. Not a hate letter. I felt awful now. Jessica was much better than I gave her. I sighed.

"What?" Jared asked, his voice full of wonder.

"I really should give her more credit, shouldn't I? I guess I can understand why you fell for her." I whispered.

"Brylie? What is it?" he asked.

"An apology." when he was about to ask, I continued, "An apology for why she didn't like me. I understand now." I decided honesty was the best policy. Well, most of it was.

"What does it say?"

"Er, it says, 'I know I've been unfair to you. You deserve more credit than what I've given you.'" I paused, not about to say what cam after that, "'You are such a good friend to him. I'm sorry I've been suspicious of you. I'm sorry if I've hurt you. I'll be on my best behavior from now on.'"

"Huh, that was... sweet of her." he said, mystified.

"It was," I agreed, a tear welling in my eye.

We were silent for the rest of the car ride.

When we got to the entrance to the campground of Big Sur, Jared rolled down the window and told the ranger, waiting, that we were only here for the afternoon. I handed Jared some cash and he handed it to the ranger waiting. The ranger let us through.
Jared found a parking place and got out of the car. I did the same.

"Bring your suit?" I asked.

"Yeah," he smiled, pointing to his jeaned shorts which cut off halfway down his calf.

I rolled my eyes. "Towel?"

"Eh, I'll use yours." he grinned.

I gasped, "Uh, no, you won't!" I laughed.

"Kidding. It's in the trunk. Along with an umbrella, and an ice chest. My mom made a couple of sandwiches. It's a real small ice chest." his smile showed his beautiful set of white teeth. My heart fluttered.

"Oh, c-cool. I'm going to find a restroom to, uh, change." I said, taking my bag out of his car.

"Okay. Should I, er, wait for you, or just go down there?" he asked.

"Just go down there. Find a good spot by the river." I smiled at him then turned to go find a restroom.

Luckily, I found one not too far away. I changed into my favorite purple and green bikini quickly and then sprayed myself with my clear spray sunscreen. I put my shorts and shirt back on over my suit and went to go down to the river.

Well, one little detail I forgot, was that, first, you had to cross the river before you could find a place to stay. A few rocks jutted out from the water, and I jumped one by one nice and slowly. I had to remember my IPOD in my right pocket. I would put that in my bag once I got across. Some water splashed my legs. It was cold! Fabulous. I stepped onto the ground at last and started left. Not many places were left with only sand; I hoped Jared found a good place. I passed a family, who looked like they were having a great time. Their two kids were building a sandcastle. Make that a rock castle for lack of sand. They were covered in mud and working diligently on their masterpiece. Their mother was sitting in a sand chair two feet away, reading a book and drinking an iced tea. The father was aslo sitting in a sand chair, but he was watching his and having a beer. Nice. I respected beer drinkers, it was their choice after all, but I wasn't planning to drink anytime in my life. I passed them quickly and walked around the river bend. Jared was standing in a sand patch looking out over the water. I walked over, put my bag down, put my IPOD in the zipper part of my bag, took off my shorts and my shoes, quietly and came up behind him, putting my hands over his eyes.

"Uhh, let me guess," he said, "It's Santa Clause!"

I removed my hands. "Psht, I'm insulted. Do I look fat and jolly to you?"

He turned to look at me. "Quite the opposite, actually." he smiled.

"Oh, so I'm anerexic and emo?" I laughed, enjoying this joke.

He opened his mouth to protest, but I pulled my tanktop over my head and ran into the water, diving only when I was sure it was deep enough. When I came up for air, I looked around. The sun hit the beautiful water and made it look like glass. The trees loomed over the river gave off shade, but the sun leaked through, sending crystal facets dancing across the glass. I scanned my eyes over to where Jared stood. I wish I had my camera. He was too gorgeous. I smiled at him.

"C-Coming i-in?" my teeth chattered. It was then I noticed the sharp freezing water surrounding me.

"Isn't it cold?" he asked.

"A l-little. C-Come on you chicken." I called. The icey coldness already starting to fade the more I waded in the deeper part of the water.

"Chicken?" he asked, skeptically. Then in a fast movement, he ripped his own shirt off and came in the water after me. He was too gorgeous. Chills ran down my spine, not from the water, but from what I was about to do.

"Ah!" I screamed and swam in another direction.

He dove in before I got far enough away. He splashed me with his dive. When he came back up, I splashed him back.

"Hey, hey, hey." he laughed.

"Don't look at me, you started it." I laughed back.

He lifted one arm up as if to splash me again. I stared at his muscular forearm in shock. Was he always this ripped? He just got more and more gorgeous everyday. He noticed my stare and dropped his arm. He smiled.

"What?" he asked.

I knew this was coming. I had to tell him today. The stupid penguin shirt made my decision for me. But I didn't know where to start.

"I-" I stopped. I was going to say something stupid, that was garenteed.

"What, Bry?" he asked again.

I shut my eyes, afraid now. What if all he ever wanted to be was just friends? That would be heartbreaking. I wouldn't know what I'd do. I loved him with every inch of my being. How would I cope with rejection? I opened my eyes, tears falling out. I hoped he'd think it was the river water. He was looking at me with concern. He moved close to me, putting his hand on my shoulder and the other on the nap of my neck. He was just trying to comfort me. He pulled us up to shallower waters where we could both stand.

"What is it, Brylie?" his voice was anxious.

"I-I'm s-sorry." I said in a broken whisper.

"Why?"

"I lied to you. I'm so, so sorry." I sobbed lightly.

He pulled me into his chest. He held me there for a few seconds before he asked, "What did you lie to me about?"

I pulled away from his embrace and walked out of the water. I dried my hand on a towel and then grabbed the letter Jessica gave me. I walked back into the water and handed him the note.

"Read it." I ordered, my voice breaking.

He took it from me, flipped it open and started reading it. I saw his eyes widen in surprise. I knew what part he was at. Then he shocked me with a smile. When he reading it, he glanced up at me. I just nodded, tears spilling out of my eyes.

He threw the note behind him and threw his arms around me. I was in shock. He enclosed what little space there was between us and pressed his lips to mine. Butterflies flew in my stomach as I kissed him back. Tears were still streaming out of my eyes. One of his hands moved to caress the right side of my face and the other went to the skin of the small of my back. I pressed myself to him, hoping he wasn't just kissing me out of guilt. I don't know how I would be able to repress that. His tongue traced my lower lip. Did he really, truely love me back? My insides were jumping for joy. I put both hands on each side of his face. I felt his hot breath in my mouth. I was getting dizzy. Was I hanging upside down? I thought maybe my heart skipped a beat. A gust of wind blew past us, chilling me into ice. I hugged myself closer to him for warmth. He pulled us back into deeper waters and continued to kiss me for a few more seconds. Then he released me. I was breathing hard. My head was spinning.

"Brylie?" he asked.

I blinked at him. My head was still spinning. I collected myself and gave him an answer. "I-I love you."

He smiled, "Would you believe me if I told you that I loved you too?"

I stared at him, waiting to wake up. This had to be a dream.

"That's why I broke up with Jessica, Brylie. I wanted to be with you." the tips of his fingers brushed my cheek, then went back to caressing it again.

"I knew it," I sighed, "I'm dreaming, aren't I?"

He pressed his lips at the hollow of my jaw. "No. This is real. I could pinch you, if you want."

"No thanks." I stared into his eyes. He wasn't joking. "You really love me?"

He kissed my throat, "I really do." he whispered. His breath was cool. It sent shivers down my spine, but it wasn't from the chill.

"I was planning to tell you today," I whispered to him, "So, Jessica's note helped. I didn't know where to start. All I knew was that that stupid penguin shirt motivated me."

His lips stopped at my throat. "What?"

"While you were with Jessica this morning, I went to the aquarium. I saw a shirt there with three penguins on it and it said, WILL YOU BE MY PENGUIN? And it motivated me to tell you, I guess." I explained.

He chuckled, "That's rather hilarious. In a good way, don't worry. I'm glad you told me. I was scared to death to tell you. I was going to tell you today too."

"Really?" I asked.

"Really."

"Well," I said, pressing my lips to the center of his collar bone, "I guess I just have one question for you."

"What?" he asked.

I looked up at him, grinning, "Will you be my penguin, Jared?"

He laughed and pressed his lips to me forehead, "Of, course I'll be your penguin, Brylie."

I laughed softly. "I love you."

"I love you." he said the I'd been forever longing to hear.

Everything in, by, or around the river disappeared then. It was just Jared and me. Jared and Brylie. I pressed my lips to his once again. Finally, everything was how it was supposed to be. All my love spilled out for him and acception filled my heart. Everything played out for me. My cup was half-full. I just hoped that out there, someone could find their love, just like I had found mine. They could find the radiance within its beauty.