Chapter 5

Doyle wasn't sure if he knew what she meant when Holly said 'boat ride'.

"Climate change, Doyle," Holly let him know. "You'll be going to college next year."

"I'm still just sixteen," he said.

"Exactly my point," Holly replied. "Changing your climate means being more confident and sure about yourself as a guy, not just as a brain."

"Do you see me as a guy or as a brain?" Doyle wondered.

"Both," Holly answered. "I know it was hard for you to skip two grades," she said. "It made you a nomad. And when you told me about your father I realized just how much I really admire you for all that you've been through. You have a lot of guts and determination and you've proven to be mature and strong."

"My mother is strong too," Doyle said.

"Has she told you much about girls?" Holly asked.

"Enough."

"Come take a ride in the Big Boat with me." Holly stood and made a gesture for him to follow her.

"You mean without our clothes?" Doyle naively asked.

She giggled as she took him by the hand and led him into the bathroom.

"Mr. Galvis said maybe you'd change my climate if I went to the seminar with you," Doyle revealed.

Holly smiled. "Great minds think alike."

"But I don't think he meant a bathtub boat ride together when he said that," Doyle remarked as he stared at the big white tub.

Holly laughed with great delight. "I'm sure he didn't," she agreed. "I think what he was saying was it's time for you to get beyond your comfort zone and not just focus on your studies and education. You should be enjoying your high school experience, not being traumatized by it."

"Today has been great," he admitted. "Best day ever."

"It's not over yet," Holly told him as they stood together in front of the tub as if it was the Holy Grail. "I always take a long hot bubble bath when I'm here housesitting alone," she said. "It's not every day you get to use a tub like this."

Holly turned on the water and dumped some bubble bath into it, watching as the water began to bubble.

"Why are you doing this?" Doyle asked.

"To change your climate," she said, closing the bathroom door.

Doyle really didn't think she was being serious until she started undressing in front of him. She was down to her panties and bra when she turned off the bath water and gave him a look.

"Do you believe in change, Doyle?" She wanted to know.

"I want to," he answered.

"Do you trust me?"

"Do you trust me?" Doyle asked.

"Yes," she answered truthfully. "Let me help you change your climate."

Holly unsnapped her bra and let it fall to the floor before pulling down her panties and kicking them off her feet. She smiled when she saw the look of amazed astonishment on his face.

"You're not a nerd geek to me, Doyle," she said with sincerity before turning to face the tub and Doyle watched with wide eyes as she climbed in and sank into the suds.

"You don't have to be embarrassed," she said. "This is just between you and me. No one else will ever know we shared the Big Boat together."

Doyle swallowed hard and he knew it was his moment of truth – was he ready to break out of his shell of social insecurity and take a bath with a high school senior or was he going to continue to hide in his shame and fear and remain a nomad?

"Please," Holly said softly. "Join me."

The smile on her face gave him his answer and he didn't even think about it as he undressed in front of her and climbed into the tub opposite her, both of them looking at each other, Holly with a huge grin, Doyle with an expression of total satisfaction and appreciation.

"I did it," he said with amazement.

"You did it," Holly proudly confirmed.

They sat in the suds for a few quiet moments.

"We could have made it home without stopping here," Holly let him know.

He studied her for a long moment. "But you wanted to do this?" He finally figured out.

"For you," she confirmed. "To change your climate. We can go home tonight. I looked out the window before. It's not even snowing anymore."

"But you decided to take a bath first?" He asked with fascination.

"Did I change your climate?" She asked hopefully.

"Will you be my friend for the rest of the school year?" He asked.

"I might even be housesitting here again before it's over," Holly said with a smirk.

"I wouldn't mind taking another Big Boat ride – as long as it's with you."

"You want to know something, Doyle?" Holly asked.

"What?" He asked nervously.

"I think you changed my climate too," Holly said happily.

"I guess you're not such an open book after all," Doyle said with a grin.

"Believe in yourself," Holly advised. "Believe in us. We're friends."

"I'm glad," Doyle said with relieved happiness.

"You're going to be okay," Holly let him know.

"We're going to change the world," Doyle predicted.

Holly stared into his eyes. "I believe you," she said.