Somewhere Above the Clouds

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Chapter 11 - Worst secret keeper ever

River

"Happy Birthday!!!"

Maria screamed through the phone. It was only 8 am and I was convinced she had lost her mind.

"Thanks."

I wasn't sure how felt about birthdays. They were never the same after my mom died even though Jackson always tried to make them special.

"What do you have planned today?"

"Nothing special."

Just going to sit in the dark in close proximity to Beau Holmes. I wanted to tell her about him but I always stopped myself. It didn't matter how close we sat during the movie, he was still well out of my reach. A fact that I was sure would drive me insane.

In exactly one year I would be eighteen.

In exactly one year I could reach up and run my fingers through his nearly golden hair.

In exactly one year I could brush my lips against his.

If he even wanted that.

Right. I was ignoring that little detail altogether. Even if I had the slightest inkling that Beau felt I was also out of reach, he would never confirm it.

He would never in a million years cross that line.

It made me worry about my own self-control.

He was already taking up most of the thoughts in my mind.

Was I so weak that I couldn't control my own feelings for 365 days?

After hanging up with Maria I decided to be somewhat productive today. Just because it was my birthday didn't make all of my AP homework disappear.

I wrapped a blanket around myself before I grabbed my chemistry book, filled my oversized coffee mug, and headed to the backyard. After an hour of studying quadratic equations, I looked up to the sky.

It was a beautiful day, with only a hand full of clouds distributing the blue. I couldn't resist walking out to the middle of the backyard and lying flat on my back. I didn't mind the blades of grass poking me through my PJs or the fact that it would make me itchy.

This type of sky reminded me of my mom, it made me feel like I was close to her somehow and I wanted to believe that it wasn't a coincidence. That this sky was the one covering my birthday for a reason.

I heard the leaves crunching underneath boots and I didn't have to look up to know who they belonged to.

"Good mornin' birthday girl."

Beau said as he sat down beside me. Sometimes his Carolina accent was undetectable and other times like right now, it came through loud and clear.

I smiled up at him, covering my eyes so I could see his face through the sun.

"Seventeen, huh? How does it feel?"

I sat up, propping my arms behind me, and shrugged.

"A lot like sixteen I suppose. But also a lot different too."

"How so?"

Hmm, let's see, mainly because it puts me one year closer to you.

"Not sure. That's just how it feels."

He nodded.

"Well, I was summoned here bright and early but I was still at work so I guess your brother already left."

"You worked all night?"

"I did."

He stood and brushed his hands over his jeans.

"And you're here instead of sleeping?"

I eyed him.

He nodded again and sighed. He always wanted to say more but he stopped himself every time.

Just say what you want to say.

"Movie starts at 7 tonight. And whatever happens in between now and then remember, act surprised."

He pulled his phone out of his pocket, probably calling my brother as he walked back through the house.

I gathered my book and mug and followed him inside.

I left him in the kitchen and went to my room to get dressed. I had no idea what my brother had planned for me so I guess I should at least put real clothes on.

I heard the front door shut and Jackson stomping around, trying to whisper but failing miserably.

I counted to thirty before leaving my room. I didn't want to walk into anything that I wasn't supposed to be yet. I made my way to the kitchen to find Jackson with his head in the fridge, shoving things around.

"Happy Birthday!"

He said as he shut the refrigerator door.

"Thank you."

He walked around the counter and pulled me into his arms. When he let go he eyed Beau like he was silently asking for help and I took that as my cue to get out of their way.

"Well, I'm going to do some homework."

"Okay, you do that. Sounds good. See you later."

I shook my head and laughed. He was without a doubt the worst secret keeper ever.

Beau slapped him on his back and they both walked out to the backyard.

I went to my room and pulled out all my textbooks but they didn't interest me. I heard Beau's deep laugh and resisted the urge to peek out of my window to see what was going on outside, I'd find out soon enough anyway.

I forced my brain to concentrate on the calculus book until a knock at my door pulled me from the pages.

"River?"

"You can open it."

Beau pushed the door open but didn't step inside.

"I'm supposed to come in here and ask you if you want to go to the store with me to get ice. You know, for just our regular get together. And you're supposed to say yes."

The corners of his mouth turned up. He was enjoying this.

It was hard not to join in but I tried anyway.

"Ice, huh?"

He nodded.

I closed my book and got up from my bed.

"Grab a jacket."

"But I'm not cold."

I was already walking to my closet because I knew there was no use arguing with him, I just couldn't stop my mouth from doing it.

Beau waited in my doorway as I pulled my sweater over my arms.

"Wanna drive?"

He tossed me the keys.

"Really? Oh my gosh. . . Yes!"

Jackson never let me drive. He was so paranoid about it for some reason and I never expected Beau to act any differently.

"It's your birthday, why not?"

He shrugged.

I wanted to grab him by his face and kiss him. I mean I really wanted to.

I didn't.

I did the next best thing instead.

I threw my arms around his neck so that he had no other option but to catch me. Beau towered over me, so with my arms tight around his neck my feet were far from on the ground. He instantly wrapped one long arm around my back and I tried my best to memorize how his fingers felt spanned across my rib cage.

Beau leaned down so that my feet her flat on the floor again and I let go of him.

"Come on before I change my mind."

He was back to being grumpy but I didn't care I smiled all the way to his Bronco.

"Start it up."

Beau said as he climbed into the passenger seat.

I put the key into the ignition and turned it.

"You already failed."

"What how? All I did is start it up, just like you told me."

"You should always buckle up first."

"Right."

I grabbed the seat belt and clicked it into place.

"Move the seat up, shorty. Then check the mirrors."

I did everything he told me with a smile on my face. I never thought anyone would teach me how to drive.

"Okay now, press your foot on the brake and put it in drive."

We were already parked on the street, and it was a straight shot to the gas station where we always got ice from.

In no time I pulled the bronco into a parking spot and put it in park.

"You're a natural, River."

Beau hopped out and walked into the building.

When he came back he had four huge bags of ice.

How many people were coming to this party?

I drove us back home but Beau stopped me before I was able to walk back into the house.

"Think you could stay out here for a little bit?"

"Yeah, that's fine."

I sighed. I wasn't about to rain on my brother's non-surprise/surprise birthday party.

I sat down on the front stairs and picked at the grass before deciding to watch the clouds again. I'd just laid down when Beau came back out through the front door.

"I've been sent to make sure you don't get too curious. He's really going all out."

"He's really sweet about my birthday."

Beau laid down too.

"What is it you like about this?"

"The sky reminds me of my mom."

It shocked me how easily the words came out. I'd never said that to anyone, not even Jackson.

"Clouds have always fascinated me. The different types, you know?"

Beau was still talking and I closed my eyes, letting his voice wash over me. And for the second time in my life, I felt like I was watching my life play out from a different perspective, from someplace that I couldn't put my fingers on.

And I couldn't help but wonder. . . Why this moment?

"My mom used to tell me to keep my head in the clouds. I never understood what she meant. Actually, that's not true, I think she believed I would turn into an airhead."

Beau laughed.

"I don't think that's what she meant at all. A wandering mind can venture into brilliant things. So if that's the case, keep your head somewhere above the clouds River.

I laid there in stunned silence as my feelings from so long ago were put into words.

Beau had no idea, but he'd just given me the best birthday present I could've asked for.

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