Truth of the Matter
Im so scared, I thought, watching the trees zip past my window while I chewed my lip nervously. Bamma seemed completely at ease in the drivers seat of his truck, one hand on the wheel, the other covering mine on my bare thigh.
Warm wind from his open window ruffled his slightly long, dark locks and made my lighter hair whip around my face. Rock thumped through the speakers, vibrating my leg where it rested against the door.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldnt calm my racing heart. Even after a month of dating--a new relationship record for me--his presence was as nerve-wracking as it was comforting.
My skin was hot, not only from the sun, but his presence, his hand on mine. My stomach was also knotted, making me almost nauseous, an annoying symptom of my seemingly chronic anxiety. Im such a chicken.
I looked down as the sun burst from behind the trees and caught my eyes and focused on Bammas hand. His fingers were long and pale, though not as pale as mine. It was still hard to believe that he liked me, that he was my boyfriend, a boy who didnt even go to the same school as me, who was a cool senior while I was a dorky, unsure freshman. I was still shocked that, considering all my previous tentative attempts at boys, Id managed to land a date with Bamma and wed been together for a whole month.
You okay? Bamma asked, briefly glancing from the road to me. Id never been able to read emotions in peoples eyes before, but I could swear I could see genuine affection and caring in his eyes.
An uncontrollable smile turned my lips up. Yeah. Im
He squeezed my fingers as his lips curved up in that familiar, beloved smile that never failed to make my stomach and heart flutter.
The sound of the waves lapping against the shore soothed and roiled my nerves at the same time. Bamma had already jumped out before I could swallow the anxious lump in my throat and open the door to swing my jelly-legs out of the truck.
I pulled the towels out with me as he came around to my side and smiled, offering his hand. I took it and let him lead me to the gravelly shore.
Id been to this same lake a hundred times before, but never without my dad or one of my sisters. Never with a boy. In fact, Id never been anywhere with a boy until Bamma.
He stopped and smiled at me again, taking a deep breath. I was trying not to give into my chronic awkwardness, and low self-esteem, and self-consciousness. I didnt want to suffer a relapse and sink back into myself when Id just started to come out of my shell.
Bamma let go of my hand, telling me he was just going to plunge in. I put down the two towels and became fascinated with Bammas nice, lean body.
I didnt want to take off my shirt and reveal my own bikini top--oh, God, wheres my shell?--especially since there were other people around. To attempt to be comfortable enough with my body to do that? It was a huge, bold step for me to take.
You coming? he asked, drawing my attention away from his chest.
Yeah, I replied, smiling, unable to help myself. Leaning close, he brushed his lips against a spot not quite my lips, and not quite my cheek, making my breath catch.
He grinned and tested the water with comedic daintiness before yelping and then dashing into the shallows. He dove in and I giggled as he came up spluttering, teeth clacking.
C-C-Come on! The w-w-waters g-g-great!
I laughed again and then bit my lip. I almost didnt take my t-shirt off, but after gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes closed for a pained second, I threw all my thoughts out and pulled my shirt off before I could rethink.
I stepped into the water and jumped at how cold it seemed, especially in comparison to the warm sun and air.
Bamma smoothed his hair back, making him look like a early 1900s gangster in a way. His eyes went over me as I waded, shivering, toward him. He rose up as I reached him and wrapped his arms around me.
Oh, jeezsh! His body was freezing cold, but his hug, the feel of his body against me, made me warm quickly.
And then, just as I was giggling and enjoying the feel of him so close, he threw himself backwards, taking me with him as he plunged back into the water.
I had barely gone under before I was above the surface again, gasping at the cold and out of shock, and wiping my eyes clear to see Bamma grinning at me from in the water just out of reach.
I gaped at him, shivering and hugging myself, no-doubt looking like a kitten just after being caught in a pounding rainstorm. The thought made a giggle rush up my throat that turned into a laugh as I accept the full hilarity of the whole situation.
Bamma laughed with me, and then grinned deviously as he began to move closer in the water, submerged almost to his shoulders. I couldnt help but think he looked very predatorily, couldnt help but think shark as Jaws flashed through my mind.
As if reading my thoughts, he began to rumble, Dun-dun. Dun-dun.
My eyes widened as his grin turned devilish and he rose out of the water a little, continuing on the with the Jaws theme.
I took a step back, a rock digging into my foot as he came closer, circling playfully.
Bamma? I asked uncertainly. Bamma, dont--
He shot up and caught me around the waist, spinning so that he hit the water first. He pretended to chew on my neck and shoulder as he dragged me into deeper depths as I squealed and laughed.
After a few moments he stopped and kissed the edge of my jaw, treading water idly as he held us afloat. A tremor went through me. Will he actually kiss me? I wondered, excited and yet extremely scared of the prospect.
My heart was pounding like a stampeding horse, threatening to beat its way out of my throat. The feel of his sinewy arms against my mostly bare torso was so unfamiliar, so exciting, terrifying.
I felt him inhale and exhale, pressing his cheek against mine.
Bamma! a voice called.
We both looked up and Bamma called out, Daron! as he spotted his brother whod just pulled up in a tan SUV, music blaring. He and another boy were getting out of the vehicle. Daron, who went to my school and was in my grade, had a strip of white cloth wrapped around his forehead. Id once been told that hed said it made him feel like Rambo.
Whoever had given that crack-head a hardship license must have been on drugs.
What are you doing here? Bamma asked with a hint of resentment; he never let go of me. I was suddenly too aware of the reality of my position, and self-conscious again, unnecessarily, inexplicably embarrassed; I stiffened in Bammas arms.
Maybe we wanna swim too! Daron shouted back, pulling his shirt off. A month ago, I mightve thought he was hot. Now
I couldnt help but compare him to his older brother.
I felt and heard Bamma sigh and I could imagine him rolling his eyes as Daron and the other boy jumped into the water.
AHHH! Its freezing!
Giggles bubbled up in me, multiplied by Bammas own laughter vibrating into my body at Darons very loud exclamation.
Ill be right back, Shanna, Bamma said softly to me, still chuckling.
Okay, I replied as his lips brushed my ear. Then his arms slid away, my support disappearing. I couldnt really swim, but I was fine--until I saw how far I was from shore, and realized how deep the water was. Oh crap.
I tried to tread water, but failed. The initial fear that had swept through me suddenly felt a bit more like panic. Id always loved the water, but had an almost-phobia of deep water and drowning. It didnt help that I didnt have enough fat, butt, or boobs to keep me afloat.
I was sinking, and I was scared.
Water closed over my head seconds after I had squeezed my eyes shut. I flailed my arms and legs, struggling to come back up, but--which way is up again?
Just as I had opened my mouth, desperate for oxygen, my limbs collided with something blessedly solid and the nest thing I knew, I was clinging to Bamma, coughing and gasping in air at the same time, eyes squeezed shut tight as he moved us over to the yellow plastic buoy/PVC pipe that enclosed the designated swimming area.
I stopped coughing and just breathed in deep, my arms locked tight around his neck, my head hanging over his shoulder.
I suddenly realized he was asking me if I was okay and I gurgled out a yes, feeling stupid--and safe.
Im so sorry, he said as I pulled back just enough to look at him.
The concern on his face and the look in his eyes melted my heart and on impulse, I boldly smashed my mouth against his.
He immediately responded, holding me a little tighter, tilting his head a little more.
My first kiss! And I was the one who initiated it! It was inconceivable that Id scraped up enough guts to do anything of the sort!
I eased up, fearful that I was doing it wrong, that it was bad, but his soft lips clung to mine.
When we parted, we were breathing faster, and, biting my lip, I dared to meet his eyes. His smile and eyes were warm, happy.
I felt a strange joy, and a hint of pride, swell up in my chest, my heart pounding like a war drum. It wasnt war I felt inside, but peace
Id never felt this way toward anyone, especially not any of my past so called boyfriends. I hadnt even really liked them.
But I liked Bamma, more than I knew how to express, even to myself.
Is this just infatuation? I wondered, memories of girls and women whod thought they were in love when they really werent.
But it certainly felt like more than infatuation, especially with the way Bamma seemed to be returning the feeling. But what do I know about infatuation and love? Still
I must be in love, I thought, even though I worried because it didnt exactly correspond with the burning, lusty soul mate-like love Id read about in so many sappy romance novels
love you. Bamma paused, unsure of my reaction to those words. Id heard them from so many people so many times, even him in a few instances before, but theyd never meant so much, or felt so tangible, so
real, so genuine and weighty. It was indescribable.
I smiled, but it split into a joyful grin. I love you, too. Id never said that phrase with more honesty and emotion than I did now.
As I let my lips fall to his again, I knew that Id stay with him as long as hed keep me, everything and everyone else be damned.
Because the truth of the matter was, I was in love.