3. At the lake
"It’s beautiful here," Gray said, looking out over the water.
The sky above them was that intense blue that you get between summer and autumn. Willows trailed their leaves along the edge of the lake and water birds floated past.
They were in a rowboat, drifting on the surface and enjoying the breezes over the water that eased the heat of the day. Gray had picked up some beers and they were having a relaxed time of it.
Marcy found it really easy to be with him. Even though she hardly knew him, she just felt comfortable with him.
Comfortable but also a bit on edge. Because she felt hugely attracted to him, and she couldn’t tell if this was a date-date or a friends-date.
After all, he had said he was new in town. Maybe he just wanted to be shown around?
She was looking for some kind of sign that he found her attractive. It was hard work stopping herself staring at him as he was so much better looking that anyone else she had been out with. He left Josh in the dust.
"You said you wanted to be a playwright. Do you do any theatre?" Gray asked her.
"God no. I’d be hopeless." A neighbour was always trying to encourage her to join a local musical theatre group, but Marcy had been too busy and too shy.
"I don’t mean acting necessarily. General production, directing, backstage stuff. The general scene," he said.
"Some things like that at school - at high school," she told him, implying it was long in the past. "Do you act?"
"Just some amateur productions in college. For fun, really. I thought I’d see if there were any theatre companies around here."
He was going to be busy, Marcy thought. He’d already told her about various sports he did: trekking, cycling and swimming.
"The only one I know of is all old ladies. Or at least people my parents’ age. They mainly do musicals."
Gray laughed. "Maybe they need younger blood."
"I can ask for you." Mrs Helberg would be all over him, Marcy thought. She’d probably put on West Side Story and cast Gray as Tony and herself as Maria. That might even be worth watching.
"So what else goes on around here. Bars, clubs? What’s good?"
He must really think she was twenty-one, or near there. She knew where the supposedly cool places were but neither she nor Addy had actually been in them. They had planned to get some fake ID this year and start exploring. With Addy deserting her for New York, that plan was on hold.
"There are a few places in town. Ben always goes to a place called Revolution." Then she remembered this was a gay bar and probably not somewhere Gray might want to go, though you never knew. He seemed straight though.
"You haven’t been there? Where do you go?"
Marcy tried to cover. "This past year I’ve been so busy with study that I haven’t got out much. And I had a part time evening job in a restaurant." This was true, but now she had probably made herself sound really boring.
He smiled, figuring out what she was trying to conceal. "I’m guessing if you’re still studying you couldn’t legally go last year anyway?"
Not last year. Nor this year. Nor the next two either, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. Was he fishing for her age?
He was grinning at her now, seeing that she was discomfited. "It’s okay, I’m not asking for your ID."
"I won’t ask for yours then." But she really wanted to. How old was he? Maybe Ben could guess. She thought he looked at least twenty-one. Eighteen and twenty-one wasn’t too much of a gap anyway.
Gray drained his beer. "I wonder if you can get arrested for drink rowing?"
Marcy had only sipped one beer as she wasn’t used to alcohol, but he’d had a couple. She wished they could have stayed longer on the lake but they had only hired the boat out for a couple of hours and their time was nearly up.
"We could go back and hire some more time," he said, reading her mind.
He must be enjoying spending time with her. She smiled. "I’d like that."
Unfortunately when they reached the jetty, there were already people lined up waiting for their rowboat. No wonder, on such a great day. Reluctantly Gray handed over the oars, and climbed out first. He reached out a hand to help Marcy out.
When their fingers touched she felt a jolt. After spending two hours so close to him, only talking, the physical contact was kind of a shock.
She caught his eye and thought she saw the same reaction there.
They went for a walk through the trees along the shore, and he slipped his arm around her. Until he did so Marcy hadn’t realised how tall Gray was. She herself was about average height for a girl, but he must be well over six foot.
She kind of liked being so much shorter than him, over a head below him, it made her feel sort of feminine and petite. Plus he was older than Josh or any other of the boys she had dated. He seemed stronger, more protective.
Not that she was expecting any wild bears to leap out at them, but it was good to know he could probably wrestle one with his bare hands if he tried.
Thinking about this she laughed and Gray asked her what was up.
"I was just imagining if a rogue bear came charging out of the woods."
"There are bears here?" He looked mildly alarmed.
"None, I’m not sure why I thought of it." She wasn’t going to confess her fantasies this soon.
They passed other walkers and a couple of people jogging, taking advantage of the shade in the hot day. Marcy always loved the pale golden-green light underneath the trees here. It was like being a leafy castle.
After a little while Gray stopped and turned her to face him. "Tell me if this is too soon," he said.
"If what is?"
"This." He tilted her head up to his and brought his lips down on hers. They were simultaneously soft and firm, and warm. Her stomach gave a flip.
Her lips parted in response and he deepened the kiss, tasting her. It felt so right, so perfect, like quenching a thirst.
I really like him, Marcy thought. Even though it probably was too soon she had no doubt about her feelings. She was just surprised it could happen this quickly.
Again reading her mind, he broke off. "I wasn’t expecting this."
"You. Meeting someone practically the first day I arrive in town."
The way he said "meeting someone" gave Marcy a shiver. It made it sound significant, somehow.
"I had to make it up to you for the crash somehow. To give you a better welcome," she joked.
He raised his eyebrows. "Is that the only reason you kissed me?"
He was joking as well, but she played along. "Of course. Just being hospitable."
Gray narrowed his eyes. Without a word he took her in his arms again, more forceful this time, his lips plundering hers. She melted against him as his hands gripped her sides, his thumbs brushing near her breasts.
She was out of breath when he finally let her go. Shell-shocked, while he was grinning. "How would you like to extend me some more of that hospitality tomorrow night?"
Marcy was momentarily startled but he broke in again. "I mean have dinner with me. Nothing more," he told her.
Nothing more? She found herself half-wishing he did mean something more. But still the kisses… both of them… this wasn’t "just friends".
"I’d love that."
Maybe this year wasn’t going to be such a disaster after all. Maybe it was for the best that Josh had dumped her.
Thinking about how Gray’s lips felt on hers, she was sure it must be.