We resumed a slow walking pace for what seemed like hours. But soon he let go of my hand and told me to open my eyes. I gaped at the landscape before me, completely in awe. We stood on a cliff overlooking a sparkling ocean lit by the full moon that rested overhead. It appeared so big that I could distinguish the many sizes of the craters that scattered it. A million stars were out and I couldn’t peel my eyes away from it.
“This is- wow, it’s beautiful out here, Joseph.”
“I’m really happy you think so,” he replied.
“Do you have ‘coolest and most romantic places within a ten mile radius’ tapped into your phone?”
He shook his head. “Nah... beautiful things are everywhere. Solo tienes que buscar los. (you just have to look for them.)”
“You know, that’s true.”
“Let’s go a bit closer,” he said, beckoning me to follow.
Joseph and I sat on the edge of the cliff, letting our feet dangle below us. It was just the two of us, the stars, and the open air. I was content.
“I could live outdoors, right here,” he said, breaking the comfortable silence. “As a kid I loved camping and stargazing was pretty much all I did.”
“I’ve never been camping.”
He tore his eyes from the sky and looked at me in disbelief. “What?!”
“I’ve never been... camping?”
“That means you’ve never enjoyed life. It also means you’ve never had s’mores, or-or talked for hours with the stars being your only source of time.”
“...I’ve had a s’more.”
He scoffed. “I bet it wasn’t a real one! You probably toasted marshmallows in your house over the stove.”
I burst into a fit of giggles. “Hey! It’s a great life hack. Especially for the nights that are too cold to be outside.”
“Too cold,” he mocked, adding an animated roll of his eyes that made me laugh harder. “Sienna. There is no excuse not to be out in nature, completely basking in all of its glory. You have to go camping at least once in your life.”
“Maybe I will. But that’s clearly not happening tonight.”
He looked away from me and back at the open ocean as he ran a hand through his hair. “We may not be able to go camping tonight. But we can jump.”
I stared at him incredulously. “You mean... jump... as in leap from this cliff and into the deep, dark abyss below?”
“I-I don’t know. I mean, we didn’t even bring swimming suits.”
“Do we really need them, though?” he asked, finally looking at me.
“Joseph! I’m not skinny dipping."
He laughed at my outburst. “I wasn’t suggesting that. We both wear underwear, right?”
I deeply considered this for a second. Do I jump or do I find every excuse not to? Being so caught up in my decision making, I didn’t realize that Joseph had gotten up and began undressing. His t-shirt fell to the ground on top of his socks and sneakers. Next, followed his jeans. I looked up to see him standing in nothing but a pair of fitted black Polo boxer briefs. My breath got caught in my throat. He flashed me a wink before back-flipping into the ocean and landing with an inaudible splash.
It was all on me now.
“Oh gosh, am I really gonna do this?”
I took several deep breaths as I could barely contain my nerves. Slowly, I slipped off my shirt and then tossed my chucks aside.
“You coming in or what!?!” I faintly heard Joseph shout from below.
Ignoring him, I took another deep breath and stepped out of my jeans. Clad in my panties, bra, and my tank top, I closed my eyes, following his footsteps to the very edge and plunged into the frigid water with a shriek. When I resurfaced, Joseph was cheering.
“How’s it feel?” he asked, observing my attempt to float.
“F-f-feels fine. I c-can’t believe I just did that. Holy —”
“Haha, are you cold?” he chuckled, but I heard the concern lining his voice.
“Swim a bit closer to me.”
I waded through the water until I was just a few inches in front of him. He secured his arms around me and I wrapped my legs around his waist without even thinking. I wasn’t the best swimmer and Joseph was like a human buoy.
Me clinging to him was probably the last thing he was expecting because his normally confident smirk was traded for a shy, boyish simper that made my heart skip a beat. However, it was gone quickly.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
“Y-yes... for some reason,” I replied, still shaking in his arms.
Before I could register, he submerged me along with himself under the water. My scream was muffled by the waves. When he brought us back up, I smacked him across the chest as hard as I could and as a result, there was a loud splat. He stared back at me completely unfazed. Delighted even.
“What the heck, Joseph??!”
I was mad at him, but my grip on his body only grew tighter.
“Are you warmer now?”
“I guess! but why did you —”
“Your body needed to get used to the temperature of the water and I simply sped up the process.”
“You don’t have to be such a —”
“Such a what, Sienna?”
“No, please give me your worst.”
“Seems to me like you wanna get smacked again.”
It must have been a funny picture that I painted in his mind. My arms and legs were tightly wrapped around his neck and torso like a koala wrapped around a bamboo tree. On my face was an evil glare. Or at least I hope I looked intimidating.
I watched as he slicked his hair back with his free hand. The longer I looked, the harder it was to remember why I was even upset with him. The moon lit up his gorgeous tan skin and I could make out every line of his muscular, not overly defined frame.
My eyes followed the beads of water that dripped from his luxuriant hair and slid down his chest. I’d never been this close with a guy, but I fully appreciated Joseph and how he carried himself.
“You know, it is very impolite to stare, but it’s another issue to drool,” he commented, breaking me from my trance.
“What?! I am not drooling.”
“Maybe you weren’t drooling, but you didn’t deny the staring.”
“So what, I was staring. Is that what you want to hear?”
“Maybe. All I know is that your face is way too deep a shade of pink to be innocent.”
He took my face in one large hand and gave it a gentle squish. Joseph provoked more nerves than I’d like to admit. The heat from my face made my body temperature rise by a hundred degrees. I tried turning away, but his lingering hand on my chin stopped me short.
“Hey, what’s the matter?” he asked.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I just...”
Maybe it was my imagination or logically the growing dark of the night, but when I finally looked up at him, his normally hazel eyes appeared inky. That’s what made me lose my train of thought, and the intensity only grew as the moments passed.
A gasp escaped my lips upon feeling one of his arms snake around my shoulders, tugging me impossibly close. Our chests were connected, and mine quickly rose and fell.
His eyes flitted from my face and down to my lips before going back up. I was sure he was going to lean in and seal what little space was left between us, but I wasn’t ready for that. Taking in a quick deep breath and closing my eyes, I sunk into the water and freed myself from Joseph’s grasp, ending up behind him. He whirled around, confusion evident on his face. I had to suppress a laugh.
“What just happened? I felt a vibe. Did you not feel a vibe?” he asked.
A naughty idea came to mind.
“Oh, I felt a vibe. But it was more like this.”
Before he could ask any follow up questions, I splashed him with the cold water and swam away before he could retaliate.
His voice boomed in the open air. “You wanna play? Fine, we can play... but you’ll regret messing with a master splasher.”
As if the night could go on forever, Joseph and I frolicked about in the ocean. That was until I heard the distant hum of a ringtone that sounded exactly like mine.
Sienna- 1 Mom- 1
“Oh my gosh, is it 8 already?!” I shouted, panic building within me.
Joseph’s face fell before he remembered the time crunch. “C’mon, there are some steps around here that’ll lead us back to the top,” he said.
We swam to the shallow end and hurriedly made our way back to the cliff. I slipped out of my sodden tank top and threw on my dry clothes before running for the car. I didn’t even care that my untied shoelaces could’ve killed me. My heart was drumming at an alarming rate as Joseph grabbed his keys from the now soaked pocket of his jeans.
“Sienna, please relax. The point of me taking you here was so you could do exactly that.”
When he reached for his phone that rested on the dashboard I held my breath.
“It’s 7:48, but I’m confident that I can get you home within the next ten minutes.”
I let out a deep sigh. “I trust you, this was just too close.”
My heart eventually regained its natural rhythm and I was able to enjoy the car ride back. Joseph had turned on the radio and sung along to a few songs. The sound of his voice quickly lulled me to sleep.
“Hey, sleepy head,” Joseph said, gently nudging me awake.
“...are we home?” I asked, stretching my arms above my head.
“Yup, it’s crazy how fast you can fall asleep. But I made sure to park a few houses down like before,” he said, holding the steering wheel. “I also called Alex and told her that we were together. Your mom called and I figured you needed a stronger alibi.”
“Thank you, Joseph, I-I don’t know what to say. Tonight’s been amazing, I’ll never forget it.”
“You’re welcome and I’m glad. I really wanna-
A loud banging on the passenger side window cut him off. I turned to meet the familiar fawn-haired menace.
“Alex, what the frick?!”
“Your mom is coming over to check on you! Get your happy ass out of the car!!” she screamed through the glass.
“I should get going, but thank you again. Goodnight, Joseph.”
“Buenas noches, Mariposa.” (Goodnight, Butterfly.)
I reluctantly got out of the car and scurried across the street. Joseph beeped at me and I waved him off from where I stood.
“Did you have fuuuun?” Alex asked as we walked to her front door shoulder to shoulder.
I took a section of my damp hair and rang it out for emphasis. “I think so.”
Later that night at home, I was in bed - much dryer - reading when my phone pinged with a notification. Joseph. I opened his message to find a GIF. It was of a dog lying with its paws wrapped around a tiny cat. The words “sleep tight” were displayed in big bold blue letters with tons of crescent moon and red heart emojis.
A wide smile took over my face as I typed a reply back to him. Truthfully, he had me smiling and feeling light for the majority of the night. I wanted to feel like this all the time.