A secret is a difficult thing to keep. It is a pact which you've promised not to share with others; that's my definition of it anyway. There are moments when you are so happy and you just want to yell this secret to the whole world so that they can celebrate it with you. You want to share it with your loved ones or boast to your rivals and watch their amazed faces as you become the centre of attention; but then, there are times when you are glad it is just that, a secret. There's no one spreading it around or talking about it when your back is turned and you aren't judged about it.
It had never occurred to me that it could be possible to find it both easy and difficult to keep a secret. Mine is quite a simple one, but it does have an impact on my life and if my secret got out, my life could change for the better. Or the worse. It would change how people saw me and I wasn't sure I would be able to handle that kind of judgement. Few probably would in my position. Thankfully nothing like that would happen. I'd kept my secret safe for almost seven years and nothing would stop me from keeping it that way for longer.
I was sitting on a wooden bench at the edge of a forest, overlooking a wide lake and casting a calm gaze over the wildlife which had the confidence to venture out from their burrows. The lake itself spread fairly wide across the landscape and there was barely any disturbance in the smooth surface; only the odd circle of ripples where fish would surface to eat unsuspecting insects. My mind was at ease and the memories that I strived to push to the back of my head, were carried out by the gentle breeze that flows by. The scenery is one that I wish would stay the same forever.
A bird sang out from the midst of the trees on the opposite side of the lake. I took a sideways glance to my left but there was no one there. Out of curiosity I looked to my right also, but no one can be seen for miles along the edge of the lake. Indeed it is an isolated part of the area as the only way to reach this peaceful place would be to walk right through the woods that surround the lake. I'd congratulate any bold soul who'd attempt to bring a boat through the woods on either side of the lake. If you wish to fish, then you do so from the edge of the lake; not that many people do either way.
I fidgeted. My left leg began to twitch again and I had to rearrange my position in order for it to stop. It had a tendency to do that. Today, the only feeling that ran through my body was excitement. I calmed myself as I waited for one thing; the one thing which kept me determined to continue living and put up with life; the one thing which brightened my day at the mere thought of- my little secret.
As I began to think, my ears caught onto the sound of someone walking towards me. Their feet crushed twigs and dirt as they approached me. I kept my eyes forwards as two arms wrap around my neck and rested on my chest. A head is pressed next to mine and a kiss is given to my cheek.
"You're late." I said as I raised my hand and stroked a face.
The warmth of a pair of lips brush against my skin was always a good enough response for me; in particular my neck The mouth then moved to my hand as it caressed its owners cheek before my guest sat down next to me.
"Sorry. Mother had me entertain her friend's daughter who came to visit us this morning. I think she realised that she didn't have all of my attention."
Jesse lay along the bench on his back, resting his head on my lap and settling his hands on his stomach. The relaxed expression on his face told me that he hadn't particularly tried to give his guest his full attention. Instinctively my fingers weaved themselves through his short chocolaty hair as I looked down at him.
"How did you get away in the end?" I asked.
He looked down his body and fiddled with part of his shirt where a hole was forming.
"They eventually left. I slipped out the back when mother was seeing them off."
His boyish smile showed me how impressed he was with himself. That was one of the features about him which made my heart melt for him. The thought of the scolding that his mother would give him later didn't seem to bother him. I combed his hair with my fingers as I returned his smile.
I turned my attention back to the lake. Now everything was perfect. The scenery melted my worries and fears of the past, present and future. To top this, Jesse was now with me. That's all I needed. Only the forest was no stranger to our regular meetings and that's how I'd like to keep it. My eyes closed for the next few minutes as I inhaled the cool September air. If the world was to end, then let it end now while I was in pure bliss. I would smile at the face of death if he dared appear in front of me during this time.
We settled down together, losing any extra energy or feelings that had built up at the beginning of the day. All the excitement seemed to seep out of Jesse as he began to gentle hum. It was a pretty tune which corresponded well with our scenery and I felt myself begin to drift off into a whole different world. I didn't notice when he stopped humming, my mind was too far off by then.
"Do you love me?" came the calm voice from my lap.
I was sharply brought back to reality at the feeling of something tugging at my heart and I opened my eyes. My gaze lowered to meet Jesse's. He had been watching me the whole time and now I saw fear in his eyes. I leaned down, stroking his face as I did and pressed my lips against his. Our eyes closed as I locked us together. Jesse raised his hand and ran it through my hair as we kissed, enjoying the experience. We remained in that position for a few moments before I pulled back and continued caressing him. He hand returned to his other which was still on his stomach.
"Why do you say that?" I questioned.
Worry now clouded Jesse's face as he broke our gaze and his eyes wandered away from my face. My left hand crept down his body and slipped itself between his hands, unclasping them.
"It's just, we've never done anything that I feel shows that you're willing to go the whole way with me." He replied quietly.
A small smile crept onto my face. This had been on his mind ever since our relationship had begun. I slipped my arms underneath him and cradled him in my arms.
"So how would you have me prove myself undivided love to you?" I said as I cuddled him.
He'd been preparing his answer and now shared it with me as he gazed upwards.
"Sleep with me."
The three words stunned me, but my smile remained. His eyes met with mine as he waited for my response. I wasn't sure how I ought to reply. We'd talked about this and his feelings for me many a time, but this was the first mention of actually proceeding forwards. Quite a lot forwards, I thought to myself.
"Are you sure that's what you want?"
My question surprised him. He seemed to doubt himself then and there, but nodded either way. He was fighting with himself and it pained me to see that.
"I need to be sure about my feelings." He whispered, "If I shy away, I know this is just a phase I'm going through."
I watched him as he sat up, placing his feet back on the ground and leaned his elbows on his knees. His hands were clasped together and he gnawed at the edge of his thumb nail.
"You've been going through this phase since you were eleven." I commented, "Do you remember the first time we kissed?"
It wasn't a question I really needed to ask. Both of us remembered that day like it was yesterday. Jesse leaned against me, keeping his eyes fixed on the lake.
"I actually liked you before that. It wasn't a sudden thing, so I don't know what age I was." He confessed.
I wrapped my arm around him and kissed his forehead. He seemed to like it and raised his head so that I could kiss him properly.
"So when do you want to do it?" I asked. "I suggest that if we do something, it should be at my house."
Neither of us showed any sign of being bothered at how easily we'd both accepted his request and the quickness of my reply. He appeared to have been hoping this would happen.
"But what about your mother? She-"
I pressed my finger against his lips and hushed him. My face remained near his and I brushed his lips with the tips of my fingers. His eyes flicked from my fingers, to my eyes, to my lips and then back to my fingers as I spoke.
"My mother will be visiting a friend for a few days, leaving me alone in the house," I drew closer to him, "for Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday."
The boyish smile returned to his face as he kissed me. My hand slid down his body and stopped at his waist where I slowly rubbed his lower back. He leaned into me, pulling me closer to him and held us like that for the rest our kiss.
"Are you really willing to do this?" I asked eventually.
His smooth forehead creased as he went over several things in his head before nodding. That was the end of it. There was nothing else to discuss until the time came. The boy was eighteen years old now. It was time that he learnt how to make his own decisions and I shouldn't be the one to stand in his way.
I sighed gently and kissed him once more on the head. He gave me space to reach for my cane and watched as I slowly stood up.
"We'd better go our separate ways for now," I said, "I need to get back to the shop and you need to return to your mother."
Jesse also stood, linked his arm through mine and we gradually made our way back through the woods. The village was only ten minutes away, but the lake was completely hidden from sight and any stranger to the area would never know that it existed.
I walked quicker than I did a few years ago, never again would I be able to match the pace that I used to walk at. Jesse had learnt to pace himself when walking with me.
"Does it hurt still?" Jesse asked.
It had been a question that people had always wanted to ask me since the accident and only the brave ones dared to. He didn't need to go into further detail what he was talking about. In response I nodded.
"It has its good and bad days. At least I'm not using the crutches as much, that's a good thing."
Even though it'd taken seven years to get to this stage, I thought to myself. I still had a bit of a limp, even now and with the cane to aid me. At the time of the accident, the doctor hadn't been sure how much I'd be able to recover by, but now it was beyond certain of the condition of my leg. Jesse quietly agreed with me and we continued.
My mind was already planning ahead for the events which would be taking place in a mere few days' time. If things were to run smoothly, I would have to prepare beforehand. Many a story had been passed around about the requirements for sexual activities so I had a rough idea what would be expected of me in the upcoming events. We just had to careful no one became suspicious.
"So what will your reason be for telling your mother that you'll be away from home for a few days?" I asked out of curiosity.
Jesse always did manage to worm his way out of situations and only get a light scolding for it, but I couldn't see him finding a good enough excuse this time. He seemed to have already worked out an excuse good enough for his mother as he responded straight away.
"I'll just tell her that I'm going to get together with a few old school friends. That's all."
I just made a noise of approval. Lying hadn't ever been my strong point, especially with my father, and then I could never bring myself to lie to my sweet mother. Unless it was absolutely necessary. Jess seemed to be able to lie to his mother as if he were reciting the alphabet and it had never occurred to me if he'd lied to me. Somehow the thought made me smile.
We emerged onto the edge of the forest and approached the small bridge which then led onto the village. The lanes weren't particularly busy, as always.
Our arms fell and we put a bit of distance between each other as we re-entered civilisation. Jesse walked with me a bit of the way before deciding it was time to go our separate ways. We stopped just before the bridge where he slipped his arms around me. I rested my free hand on his hip as he brought his face near mine.
"I'll see you on Sunday." he said, "in the morning at church and then later in the evening."
I refrained from kissing him and just rubbed his side.
"See you then."
At that he turned and headed into the village at a jog.
"I look forward to it!" I called after him.
He turned and grinned at me, waving before spinning back around and increasing his pace. He'd probably missed lunch by coming to see me. An excuse would be needed to deal with that demanding mother of his.