Author’s Note: So when I started expanding the ideas brought back to me by Sunday’s late post, I wanted to do the flashback for the first moment when Dillon and Larina found their relationship changing from friends to something else, back in the time when they were close as kids rather than the strangers they are when the main story starts (and here I go ruining everything by posting bits out of order, but this is a piece I have ready and fits a theme, so it goes up.)
Plus I had the quote, “Love is friendship set on fire” given to me as a prompt, and that worked well with this.
Sixteen was a bundle of nerves, and she would never have admitted that the one making her nervous was right across the barn. She didn’t understand—while she had always loved watching Dillon work with the horses—with any animal because he just had that gift where they all loved him and seemed to be able to communicate with him—she had never felt like this while watching him.
The last time he’d smiled at her, she’d thought she’d either be sick or pass out, and she didn’t like it. He didn’t mean anything by it—he was her friend and friends smiled at each other. It wasn’t supposed to feel like this.
“Hand me the brush.”
Dillon’s hair could use a brush. She smiled at the thought, tempted to go over to him and comb the stray pieces of straw out of the strands that blended in with the dirt floor. He was just born to be in a barn, at home with nature and animals, and she didn’t blame him for spending most of his time out here now that Morely was sick.
“The brush?” he prompted, frowning a bit. “I need to finish grooming Cassidy, and when I’m done, I have three other horses to turn out and you have school, so if you could hand that to me, that would help.”
“Oh, right,” Larina said, blushing as she grabbed it, holding it out to him. She stopped, looking up at him. “We’re friends, right? And friends tell each other everything and when they trust each other it’s okay and it’s not going to mess things up and get weird and you won’t hate me for telling you the truth because I really don’t know what I’d do if you hated me and—”
“Breathe,” he said, and she did, unaware that she’d stopped, even though she had been babbling like crazy. He must think she was a real idiot. She sounded like one. He came around Cassidy, giving the mare a gentle pat before standing right in front of her. “You can tell me anything you need to, and I hope you know that.”
She forced herself to nod. She didn’t know that she was brave enough to do it, but she was going to try anyway. “It’s just that lately I’ve been finding myself… watching you. I mean, I always have because you are good with animals in a way that even Mom—Sorina—was jealous of—and I think I’ll always enjoy watching that, but it’s not just that. It’s that I see you and my stomach twists a little and I feel kind of sick—not that you look bad or make me ill or anything—but then when you smile at me you kind of do because I can’t breathe and—I am such an idiot, aren’t I? I don’t know why I’m like this.”
Dillon put his hands on her arms, and she thought she was getting feverish now. He leaned his head down and kissed her. His lips barely grazed over hers, but she wanted to fall forward into him anyway, weak and completely his.
He pulled back with a smile. “Maybe someday we’ll get married.”
She heard herself laugh. “Oh, yeah? You think so?”
“I said maybe,” he teased, tugging on her bangs. “For now, we’re still friends, but you’re going to be late for school if you miss that bus.”
Still friends, she told herself as he pushed her toward the barn door. Still friends… and maybe something a lot more.