It was a game they played, down by the shoreline in southern Louisiana. Sentence trains, stretching off through lazy, humid afternoons. Thick, ancient oak trees blocking the sun, her red-and-white dress spread out around her, next to him, as she watched the clouds pass.
“Something was hidden in the darkness,” she said, resting a hand on her forehead, watching her fingers dance in the breeze.
“Darkness hides things that shouldn’t be seen by men,” he said, turning away, at the tree instead, trying not to watch the sweat slip down her neck. The grass was rough on his skin, prickling like the heat.
“Men are the least of my worries,” she said, and he looked back, and her face was there, smiling at him. He held his breath, trying to think.
“Worries,” he said softly.
“Worries,” she repeated.
He closed his eyes, tried to focus, but all he saw was her. He thought of her boyfriend, arms wrapped round her, saying good-bye before the two-week trip to Florida. Those two, glorious weeks. He’d promised to take care of her, to keep her company. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?
“Worries have a way of creepin’ up on you,” he said finally, and she laughed, looked back into the sky. He did, too, but to escape the hell he was in.
“You have no idea what worries are,” she said, sighing, arms out wide, brushing his head.
“Are you willing to teach me?” he asked.
She laughed, put her hands in a “T” and propped herself up on an elbow, leaning against him like she had no idea what it meant to him.
“That’s just cruel,” she said. “How do I start a sentence with ‘me’?”
“You could be a caveman,” he shrugged, and she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Add a word to yours,” she said. “Make it ‘are you willing to teach me how.’ That oughta do it.”
He laughed, shook his head.
“That’s cheatin’,” he said. “I can’t go fixing things to make it easier on you. Defeats the point of the game.”
“You can if you like,” she said, sly and shining as the breeze blew her hair across her face. He held his expression, held on to it for dear life, but the urge to kiss her drew the thoughts out of his head until he was left with just one.
“What’s in it for me if I do?” he asked, and felt the loud, sucking silence of the space between them as he realized he’d taken one step too far.
Her eyebrows twitched, and she laid back in the grass.
“My eternal gratitude,” she said to the air. She made the “T” again, and broke it apart with a flourish. The game was on.
“Are you willing to teach me how?” he asked, as promised.
“How will I know you’ll listen?” she replied.
“Listen to the wind, it’ll tell you the answer.”
“Answer,” she said, and he glanced over to see her arms over her head, her dress pulled tight, legs swaying in the breeze.
“Answer,” he nodded.
“Answer me one question, and I’ll teach you anything.”
“Anything for you,” he said softly.
“Can you keep a secret?” she asked.
He frowned, and she looked at him, a shy smile on her face, watching him closely.
“The word was ‘you’,” he said.
“I know,” she nodded. “Answer the question.”
“Can I keep a secret?” he asked, slowly. She nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Yes I can.”
“Good,” she smiled, and kissed him under the old oak tree, at the end of their last long sentence train.
This 1kStory was written for Anna ("Sentence trains").