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first published on Romance Flash website
“I don’t see anything.” She tossed her hair, long, luscious blonde, and frowned at him. The expression set his knees trembling. “Are you sure?”
“It’s tonight,” he said. “I’m certain I read the tables correctly.”
“Well.” She flopped back onto the grass and shrugged. “We’ll see, won’t we?”
Tam nodded, but his hands shook. He bent over the eyepiece and checked the view again. A circle of night sky, a spattering of stars, and no sign of the comet. He sighed. The dials all read correctly. He checked the book on the TV tray they’d lugged outside. Tonight. They should be able to see it by now. He looked through the telescope one more time.
“Joe Milligan said you could only see it in the southern hemisphere.” Lily’s voice tittered from his lawn. Its music was tainted by the whiff of suspicion and by the name of his nemesis.
“Joe Milligan got a B minus in astronomy last term.”
“I know.” Lily leaned back onto her elbows and eyed the sky. “He said he just partied too much.”
Maybe he had. Tam could see them attending the same campus events, Lily had the popularity to fit in with that crowd. She had the looks as well. Tam clenched his fists and shook off the image of her dancing with Joe Milligan. She had too much brains for it, should be able to see through idiots like Joe.
He eyed the tables and re-calculated the viewing angle. Then he tweaked the dials and took another look. Behind him, Lily sighed again. He heard the rustle of her changing position and knew her patience had just about run out. He was going to lose the moment, his moment, and his once chance to impress the girl he’d been in love with since the fourth grade.
“I don’t know, Tam. It’s getting late.” She stood up. He’d blown it.
“Wait, Lily.” He spun around, bumping the TV tray and sending the tables spilling to the grass. He dove to catch them, and his elbow smacked the eyepiece. The scope swung to the left. “It’s tonight. I’m not wrong.”
His papers littered the hillside. His heart cracked as a breeze lifted one and scuttled it farther out of reach. He crawled after it on hands and knees, like a dog, a kicked dog who’d never have another moment alone with the girl of his dreams, who’d hear about her years later. He’d share her future through the town gossip. Did you hear about lily and Joe Milligan? Honeymoon in Tahiti, another baby on the way.
Tam’s throat closed at the thought. His lungs pressed in. He’d left his inhaler by the bed, hadn’t wanted to use it in front of her, to remind her he was the geeky kid next door--still.
Of course crawling down the hillside after his astronomy tables looked so much cooler. God, why did he invite her? Just because she’d always liked the stars, because they’d been able to share that much over the years.
“What?” He sat up and turned back toward the apex. Lily Anderson leaned over his telescope. Her golden hair blocked her face, but she looked through the eyepiece and her voice drifted down the slope to catch him.
“Come back, Tam. I think I see something.”
“Really?” He’d hit the thing pretty hard. It had to be half a sky away from the comet. He stood and brushed his pants free of dry grass, then did his best to climb the hill with a little decorum. “It might be a galaxy,” he said. “What are the readings?”
“It’s the comet, Tam. Look.” Lily shifted to the side a few inches, but she didn’t move away. When he bent for his turn at the eyepiece, their shoulders brushed. Her hair tickled his forearm.
Tam swallowed hard and closed his left eye. His comet blazed against the circle of sky. Front and center. “How?” He leaned away for a second and caught sight of her grin. He double checked the view. “But, I must have knocked it off a good--”
“Well, you’re not the only one who knows how to work that thing.” Lily whispered right at his side. “It’s not like I haven’t paid attention in class. I got an A.”
Tam turned to find her staring at him. Her eyes had stretched wide, and her lips twisted into an amused little pout. “You didn’t party too much?” He held his breath.
“Not my scene, Tam.”
His heart danced. Their arms still touched, and her eyes narrowed just enough to make him wonder if she hadn’t known all along, if she hadn’t asked about the comet for a different reason. He blinked and imagined kissing her.
“Tam,” she whispered again, his angel.
“You’re hogging the view.”
“Right. Oh! Sorry.” He leaned away, and Lily Anderson squeezed in beside him. She looked at the comet he’d found--they’d found--and only giggled when he put an arm across her shoulders.
“It’s beautiful, Tam, isn’t it?”
The breeze danced across the hill, and sent his tables wandering again. It was late. They had a few more weeks of school. He should pack it in, put the scope away and see Lily home. The lights were still on at Mr. Murray’s house across the street. A few cars slow as they passed two kids on a hillside in the middle of the night.
A honeymoon in Tahiti, another baby on the way.
Tam could imagine the rumors already.