Through

I was never sure about unconditional love when you're a teenager, not for someone that isn't a family member or close friend, but I got proved wrong. Apparently you can have unconditional love for someone who you've only known for a month, the kind of love that won't fade through anything, even if you want it to.

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9. Nine

Millie calls me for the first time all summer and I feel bad but I'd completely forgotten about talking to her and Jake so far. She and Jake are brother and sister so hopefully it's both of them calling right now. It just didn't occur to me but I am glad to see her caller ID now. I feel like I have a lot to tell her. 

"Hey!" she says as soon as I pick up the phone. "It's been forever! Jake and I are both here. How are you?"

"Hey." I laugh at her excitement. "I'm good thanks, how are you doing?" 

"We're great thanks, we got back from St Bart's today."

I sigh wistfully. "Oh how I wish I was in St Bart's."

"Your little Tennessee ranch that bad?" Jake says, laughing.

"I don't know." I shrug. "It's only been just over a week, it's good so far. Ask me again in seven weeks."

"Brutal." Jake winces. 

"Any guys?" Millie asks and I don't know whether to tell her. I kind of just want to keep him to myself and not make it some big thing. 

"Uh, not really." I laugh a little. "I'll keep you updated."

We talk for a little while longer but then my mom and Nat shout for me so I have to hang up. We're going on a hike today and I'm actually looking forward to it just being the three of us. Even though I love seeing Jack, I need to remember to stick around with my family because I can't get into another argument like the last one. But when we get to the hike, there he is with his entire family. I can't say I'm not happy to see him because of course I am.

"Hey is that Jack?" Mom says. "Come on, let's go say hello!"

We get over to the family and Nat and Mom start introducing themselves to everyone else and Jack and I are sort of left to the side. Nothing actually happened but something nearly did and it's like we're both kind of aware of it but something about him is making me feel completely comfortable anyway. 

"Hey." he smiles at me. 

"Hey." I smile back. "Shouldn't you be riding horses or something?" 

He chuckles. "My day off. Shouldn't you be slamming doors and shouting at your Mom?" 

"My day off." I reply and he grins. 

"Hello Jasmine!" his aunt Jennifer comes over and pulls me into a hug. "It's lovely to see you again!" 

"Oh, its nice to see you too!" I say. I can't help but smile, she is the nicest woman in the world. 

"The famous Jasmine! So you're the one who's been distracting Jack from his work." his uncle Leo says but he's smiling and I can tell he's just as kind. This whole family is just lovely. "I'm just kidding, it is nice to see you see you again."

"You too." I smile. 

Our families decide to walk together and Jack lets out a low whistle as we start walking. "They are embarrassing."

"They're lovely." I say. 

It's a nice hike. I love his family, every one of them is so cheerful, maybe Cassie as an exception because she hasn't said one word to me so far. Even little Tommy is walking along with us. I love Hannah and Lilly, Hannah's only eleven so she's still kind of a kid and she's running around and it's sweet to watch. Lilly's sweet too though, the whole time she's talking to Jennifer about some guy she likes and it's weird how young fourteen seems compared to sixteen, my age. 

"Hey, there's this cool place to swim through there." Jack points out on our way back. "I could show you later if you want? After dinner?" 

"Yeah, I'd like that." I tell him.

*

I feel like I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm comfortable with my body but it's hard to remember that when he's getting into the water and I'm still too shy to take my dress of and just be in a bathing suit. I shouldn't have gone with the bikini. I'm even more nervous that he's just in his bathing suit. His body is impressive and mine just isn't.

The place is really pretty though. It's like a lagoon. There are trees are all around us but the sky is wide open and it's so pretty out here in Tennessee, the sky is so clear and the stars are so bright. The moon is bright too, so bright it lights up the whole place and it never seems to be that bright in the city.

"Come on." he smiles, kicking off the side of the lagoon and floating backwards. "It's warm. You've got nothing to be afraid of."

I suck it up and pull off my dress, getting into the water. It's pretty deep and it is actually really warm. I'm doubting more and more whether I really prefer the city over the countryside. Everything here is so beautiful and it's just nice to be around everything this naturally amazing. 

"Anything like this in the city?" he asks like he's tuned into my thoughts. 

"There's a local leisure center which is pretty amazing." I say and he chuckles, swimming back towards me. 

"I'm sure it's a sight to behold."

"Oh it is." I assure him. "None of that in your magical country childhood?" 

"Oh no. It was all lakes and muddy puddles for me." he says, floating right next to me. We're having a really casual conversation but I feel like there's bigger meaning behind it somehow. Last night I was okay with us not kissing but I don't know if I'd be so okay with that tonight. I really like him, it's been just over a week but I already know. And here we are in the most beautiful little place in the world and I thought he was completely out of my league but now it's occurring to me that there's no such thing as leagues because he chose to bring me here. I can't help but be flattered.

"So." I float backwards away from him. "Do you do this every summer?" 

His mouth quirks into a smile. "Do what?" 

"Make friends with a girl, show her all your secret little spots and then go back to Knoxville never to be heard from again?"

"Who said you're never going to hear from me again?" he says. "And no, I don't make friends every summer. I don't make friends any summer, it's usually old people or families with children under the age of twelve."

"Is that right?" I raise an eyebrow, a smile still on my face. 

"That's right." he swims over to me."It's really fun having you here."

I go bright red. "It's fun with you here too."

He smiles. "You're sweet."

He's quiet for a moment, looking at me the way he looked at me yesterday, like he's considering kissing me. The moment stays frozen like that for a moment and then it breaks and he goes over to the other side of the lagoon, leaning against the side. I think of the moment where I get back home and nothing's happened between us and I can't stand it.

I swim over to him and let myself float right against him and I can't believe I'm being this brave at all. He looks kind of surprised but kind of impressed too. I lean in a little, wondering for a moment if I'm too shy, but I just kiss him. I want this one moment to last forever. It's something straight out of a movie or a fairy tale.

"Well." he smiles, pulling away. "You do like me."

I frown but smile too. "Wasn't I a bit obvious?" 

"I mean you blush at everything I say but I wasn't totally sure."

I splash him and he chuckles, but pulls me closer and kisses me. We stay there for a little while longer but it gets a little late and we both have to get back. I can't sleep that night because I can't believe it actually happened. I can't believe I ever didn't want to come here. Now I'm not sure I ever want to leave.

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