I knew I would find her here. I always know where to find her.
Any time I hear shouting from the house next door, any night I hear the doors slam and the lights go off, I know I’ll find her here, on the edge of the river, dipping her feet in the water, as if trying to get the current to sweep all her troubles away.
Cassie turns her head. She says she can easily hear me coming from miles away, from the rustle in the bushes and the stomping of my feet. But I’ve spent seventeen years living on a farm, and learning to move quietly through the forest to hunt was one of the first things my father taught me. So I wonder if she can just sense me, the way I sense her. The way I’ll instantly know when she enters a room, just by the way the air gets lighter and the my day gets brighter. It’s not a sixth sense; it’s just a result of spending ten years being best friends.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for Ben’s party?” I ask, sitting down next to her on the rock. If I lean in, I can just brush the soft skin of her arms. Just the idea makes my spine tingle.
“I’m not really in the mood for a party,” Cassie admits, turning her gold-flecked amber eyes on me. She exhales loudly, kicking her feet in the water. “But I guess I have to go, don’t I?” She asks ruefully.
I nudge her. “Considering he’s your boyfriend and it’s his birthday, I’d say you have to, yeah.”
Cassie grimaces. “He’s not by boyfriend,” She tells me for the thousandth time. I love hearing her say it. “He’s just this guy I’ve been seeing.”
I doubt he sees it that way, but I don’t push it. Nights like this, outside in the crisp autumn air, after spending all day helping my father at the harvest until all my muscles hurt, it’s so easy to forget everything else. To forget about high school, and cliques, and college applications, and to just enjoy the moonlight on the water.
“Do you realize this year is our last year as neighbours?” Cassie leans her head on my shoulder, and I pull her in close. “I’ll miss being able to talk to you all the time.”
Next fall, in 365 days, I’ll be moving across the state to go to a college on the other coast. Cassie will stay here, because she’s only a junior and has two more years until graduation, and I already know I’ll miss her every second we’re away.
“We’ll stay in touch,” I say, knowing how cliche and lame it sounds. “With Skype, and all.”
“Yeah,” Cassie says, her voice catching the way it does when she’s sad. She dips her hand in the frozen lake water and splashes me. I gasp at the cold, and she laughs at me. “But on skype, I won’t be able to do this.”
“Thank God,” I groan. “I don’t know how you can even put your feet in the water. Mine would fall off.”
She shrugs as we both watch the crystal clear water dance around her delicate ankles. Her silver anklet bracelet — a gift I gave her for her sixteenth birthday — catches the moonlight.
“You know what we should do, Jake?” She grins. “We should go skinny dipping. It could be on your bucket list before you leave.”
“What, here?” My heart skips a beat at the thought of being so close to her, without any clothes getting in the way. “No way. And you have a boyfriend.”
Cassie sighs, not bothering to correct me this time. She twines her arms around my neck and rests her head on my shoulder. “Yeah, but you’ll always be the one I love most.”