Full Moon and Fireflies
By Heloise West
“Who’s that, Kev?” Brandie asked. We stood knee deep in lake water. Rowboats and small sailboats, tied up at the little dock nearby, rocked in the gentle wake of swimmers cavorting in the sun-spangled water.
I glanced over my shoulder. A young man, about our age and wearing low-slung cut-offs, walked up the beach toward us. He’d wrapped a wet white T-shirt around his head. Water dripping onto his shoulders ran down his bare belly.
The cloudless midsummer day was hot. He was hotter.
I admired his long-limbed grace. “I don’t know him. Well, wait a minute, maybe I do?”
“Dibs,” Brandie breathed out in a soft yearning voice. “Oh, dibs, dibs, dibs.”
I knew exactly how she felt. “Only by default, kiddo.”
“No way. That man is a breeder’s joy,” Brandie said softly. “Come plumb my depths with your seed, darlin’.”
I snorted. “‘Come plumb?'”
“Plow? Plunder?” she whispered. “Throw me down in the sand and—”
The handsome stranger stopped and glanced back and forth between us. I wanted to put my tongue to the rivulets of water running down his skin. His sparkling brown-eyed gaze caught mine, and he grinned.
“Hey, Kevin, right?”
My heart cannonballed into my stomach. “Cricket?”
“Oh, my God, you’re Cricket?” Brandie nearly screamed.
“You’re all grown up,” I choked out, gripping the hand he had held out to me.
Cricket smiled and squeezed my hand. “So are you.”
Cricket turned his attention to Brandie and held out his hand to her. “Brandie, right?” Kevin’s best friend?” His glance took in her black bikini and expensive gold jewelry that graced her from ears to toes. She had grown from a goofy, leggy girl into a lovely woman with mocha skin and jet black hair from her East Indian father and a comfortable in her skin attitude from her mother. Brandie preened a little, playing with the solid gold bangles on her wrist.
Cricket unwrapped the shirt from his head and shook out damp dark chestnut curls, then combed his fingers through them. He rinsed out the shirt, wrung it out, and draped it across shoulders tanned to a rosy brown hue. He was a little taller than me and a little broader. Black Irish, my mother had said when I showed her the photos of the three of us from summer camp that first year.
Brandie and Cricket would have had pretty babies.
But he was here for me.
The first boy I’d fallen for and who fell for me. My first kiss. We’d been so easy. So—natural.
The three of us splashed toward a small cove that harbored the bonfire crew, the beer kegs, and the food prep. Someone’s seafood restaurant dad had supplied us this year with lobster, clams to steam, and corn on the cob. We all pitched in to shuck, man the boiling and steaming pots, and gather wood.
Above us loomed a large wooden cabin, now abandoned, part of our old summer camp. Years after the camp had closed, some of us who lived nearby began to come out to the lake island for a week or two around the Fourth of July. A few years later word got around and those grown up campers who lived farther away began to show for summer camp reunions.
I lived close by, and I’d attended every one. This was the first time I’d seen Cricket here. I had to work and didn’t make it out every day, so it was possible I had missed him. We had a lively Facebook group, Camp Arrowhead Alumni, but I couldn’t recall seeing Cricket there, either.
There would be no more reunions in the future, at least not here—someone had bought the island—rather, was in the process of buying it. I didn’t imagine any place else—a backyard, a stretch of beach on the mainland, could have the magical pull this beautiful place did.
Brandie left Cricket and I alone to have our private reunion sitting cross-legged in the sand, a pile of corn in bags before us. The sun was setting but had left its heat on my face, arms, chest, and shoulders. I picked up an ear of corn, stripped the cool green husk from it, and dropped it into one of many of the big boiling pots.
“You live nearby?” Cricket had to speak first, as I was still stupefied he was sitting next to me, agile fingers stripping corncobs of their layers.
Me, next, my thoughts begged him.
“In town. It’s my first year teaching junior high. You?”
“I counsel at-risk youth in the city.”
“I wrote to you,” I blurted out. “Faithfully, God damn it. Then you didn’t come back to camp, and I never heard from you again.”
“My parents read our emails and wouldn’t let me have your letters after that. They didn’t want a gay son, so they blamed you.” He bent his head over the corn. “I was too young to leave home, so I let them.”
“I’m so sorry! But you could have told me later, when you grew up?” I had wanted to ask him why for years and the hurt returned as the layers of time stripped away between us.
His eyes sparkled. “But, Kevin, here we are, all grown up.” Cricket reached for another ear of corn. “My parents divorced, and my mother and I moved across the country, where she later remarried. By then you and I seemed like a midsummer dream.”
A full moon and fireflies had surrounded us when we kissed that first time. “I remember how we were. We hardly knew what we were doing, but I remember.” I ran the soft corn silk tuft through my fingers a moment, thinking back. My heart had thundered like fireworks and my blood sparked beneath my skin. I’d yearned for him for three summers before finally getting up the guts to lean against him and put my lips to his, but he had been waiting for me.
“We made each other crowns and garlands of wild flowers,” Crickets said softly. “I remember their scent when we rolled naked in the grass.”
I brushed against him now, shoulders and knees. “It was real to me then, and it’s real to me now.” Behind his head, a trio of fireflies flew near, and I smiled as he leaned in to kiss me.
“Corn doesn’t shuck itself, lovebirds!” A dinner roll landed in my lap, and Brandie’s distinct giggle followed.
He said in my ear, “What do you do with your summers now?”
“I wait tables in a diner in town,” I answered. “Until my school loans are paid off, that is.”
“When my stepdad died, he left me—a lot of money. I want to start a camp, for kids, like Camp Arrowhead.”
“Wow, that’s— Jesus, that would be amazing, Cricket.” Our time at camp hadn’t all been sweet stolen kisses in the grass. There had been something undeniably good and character forming about our summers here. “It’s too bad someone’s already buying the island because—oh, shit, that—that was you?”
“Yes,” he kissed me again. “Do you still remember how to start a fire without matches and find the best sticks for marshmallow roasts?”
Here are the links to all the great authors and their hot summer flash: