Bonus Scene #3 – Stepbrother With Benefits: Summer Break Celebration
Um… I can change my mind…
It's an option, right?
I kind of want to change my mind right now!
Sorry. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should probably explain what exactly is going through my mind. There's two entirely different things I'd like to reconsider, one being very immediate and the other is more about first impressions.
“Are we going to jump or what?” Ethan asks me.
I look down. Oh my God, it really is far, isn't it? When we came here, I didn't think it'd be so bad. Ethan made it sound like jumping off a pool diving board. Caleb looked skeptical, but he wasn't running away in fear. Scarlet is the same as me, and neither of us have done this before, so she didn't know what to expect, either.
Even when we were walking here, it didn't look so bad, though. The closer we got, the higher it looked, and…
Well, we're here now, and we've climbed up to the top, so…
I distract myself with simpler thoughts while Ethan probably smirks at me, laughing inwardly. Oh yeah? You think you're tough, Ethan Colton? I don't have to have sex with you or cuddle or even give you a kiss if you're going to be a jerk like that! What do you think of that?
I don't say any of this, because I kind of still want to do all of those things and I don't think Ethan's intentionally trying to be a jerk. He's probably not even being a jerk, it's just, um…
Well, let's get back to that distraction thing, alright?
(A short while earlier)
“Hey, you want to go swimming?” Ethan asks me.
“At the lake?” I ask.
Ethan nods. “Yeah, the lake.”
I don't know if there's anywhere else to swim around here. My mom and I almost went for a swim at the lake the other day when we couldn't figure out how to fish, but Caleb came and helped us, so that didn't work. It's a nice place, though. The lake is quiet and pristine, with trees surrounding it on all sides. We were there the entire day last time, and I saw the sun sparkle on the water, then fade into dusky darkness, a bright, shimmering blue becoming a mysterious, inky black.
It's afternoon now, so the lake is probably beautiful.
“Sure,” I say.
Caleb and Scarlet come by. Ethan lifts one eyebrow, trying to look tough. Scarlet just walks up to him, stands directly in front of him, and looks up. She's shorter than him by a decent amount, but she looks up at him the same as a tall person might look down at someone much shorter, sizing them up. Not in a mean or rude way, but Scarlet has a certain overshadowing kind of presence, despite her shorter stature.
“Hey,” she says to Ethan. “What's up?”
“Why are you standing so close to me?” Ethan asks. “You getting desperate and looking for a kiss or something?”
Scarlet smirks, the devil sneaking into her otherwise cute and innocent face. She puckers up her lips and closes her eyes.
Oh my God, they kiss, don't they? They have kissed? Ethan said he's never done anything with Scarlet, and I believed him, but what if, um… is making out considered something? It's not exactly the same as… doing more than making out… so maybe Ethan doesn't count it as being important?
I think it's important, though! Pretty sure it is!
“Back up, crazy girl,” Ethan says, flicking her on the forehead with his middle finger. “My girlfriend over here is going to kill you if you keep that up.”
“Whoa, what, you've got a girlfriend?” Scarlet says, opening her eyes and looking around.
I'm the only girl here besides her, but she's looking for someone else. When she realizes he must mean me, she stares at me, forehead wrinkled, lips pursed, assessing me.
“This is her?” Scarlet asks. “Ashley, right?”
Ethan nods. Caleb nods, too. They're all staring at me now, all three of them.
“I didn't expect this,” Scarlet says. “I'm kind of surprised, actually.”
“Um, what?” I ask her. “Why? Do you think I'm not good enough for him? I definitely am!”
I need to, um… assert… things… I need to assert my female dominance! Yes, that's it. I'm not really very dominant, though. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm submissive, this isn't like some Fifty Shades thing here. Ethan definitely doesn't have a Red Room of Anything, and if he did I think it'd probably be filled with football stuff and not sex toys, but he did have that big vibrator and…
Yes, um… so I'm thinking about big vibrators and Ethan bringing me to orgasm on the pool table back home while Caleb, Scarlet, and Ethan stare at me, which isn't at all uncomfortable or awkward. Nope! Not in the least…
“You're too good,” she says after awhile. “What's wrong with you? Why are you dating Ethan?”
“There's nothing wrong with me!” I tell her.
“She's really nice, Scarlet,” Caleb says. “She's Ethan's stepsister.”
“Ohhhh,” Scarlet says.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Ethan says, first to Scarlet, then glaring at Caleb. “You have a problem with that, kid?”
“What! No? Uh…” Caleb backs away when Ethan stands tall, looking like he's ready to punch him.
“It's cool,” Scarlet says. “It's like you're two starcrossed lovers or something. Do your parents know? Is this a secret we have to keep?”
She's arrived a day late for that. I shake my head, no. Ethan does the same.
“Nah, my dad knows now,” Ethan says. “I told him yesterday, and we talked about it more this morning. Her mom has known for longer, too.”
“Fuck, I missed it,” Scarlet says, sounding genuinely upset. “That would've been a fun secret to keep.”
“It's not fun, it's our relationship here. This is our lives, Scarlet.” Even though he says this, Ethan kind of grins and I don't think he's all that serious.
“Fuck,” Scarlet says again, grinning. “How long you two been dating?”
“Um…” Admittedly I'm slightly embarrassed and I don't know if I want to tell her.
“About two weeks now?” Ethan answers.
“Whoa shit, no way?” Scarlet says, sounding impressed. “And you're actually like…” She doesn't say it, but the insinuation is there.
Are we actually dating, or is this like all of the other times for him?
“Dating,” Ethan says. “Real dating. This is Ashley, she's perfect as fuck, and she's my actual girlfriend that I plan on dating for a long time.”
“Forever!” I chime in, and I try to sound determined but I think I squeak a little.
“Yeah, that's right,” Ethan says, grinning at me.
We're standing close, but he comes even closer, and wraps his arms around me, squeezing me tight. He kisses me on the forehead and I melt in his embrace. It's just so… it's so nice. It's nice to be with him, but it's also nice that we can do this out in the open, and that Ethan can tell everyone without either of us having to hide it. I like that he can tell his friends–if Scarlet is his friend, I'm not really sure what's going on there, to be honest.
“You guys are cute,” Scarlet says. “Caleb, you should find some girl to be cute with.”
Caleb blushes and murmurs. I look over at him. Scarlet gets close to him, kind of like how Ethan got close to me. All Caleb would have to do is reach out and wrap his arms around her. Pull her close, and say that he wants to be cute with her, and then kiss her. I think he should do it, but then I understand why he doesn't.
Ethan looks like he thinks Caleb should do it, but he also looks like he doesn't understand why Caleb doesn't. I guess that's the difference between all of us.
There's a bristle of energy while Caleb and Scarlet look at each other. It's interesting, because they're actually looking at each other, staring into each other's eyes, and it seems intimate and close, yet obviously there's something stopping him.
Or what if there's something stopping her? That's an interesting thought, and one I should consider a little more. She seems tough, but…
Ethan seems tough, too, and I've seen a lot more of his sweeter, unguarded side lately. It's different, in a good way, but I can see why he doesn't open up to everyone like that. I like it, too. I like that he feels like he can open up to me.
The moment is gone once Ethan speaks.
“So, we're going to go swimming. You two want to join us?” he asks.
“Sure,” Caleb says, smiling, awkwardly looking away from Scarlet who is still staring at him.
“Yeah, that sounds cool,” Scarlet says. “Where at?”
“There's a lake close by,” Caleb says. “It's not that far of a walk. It's further in the woods.”
“I thought we were already in the woods?” Scarlet says.
“There's a lot of fucking woods,” Ethan says. “If you think this is all the woods, you're crazier than I thought.”
“Hey, fuck you,” she says, laughing.
Ethan rolls his eyes and ignores her. “Hey, Caleb, you think we should take them to that jumping cliff? I haven't been here in awhile. It's still fine to jump off, right?”
“Yeah, uh… it's still fine…” Caleb says, reluctant.
“You in, then?” Ethan asks him.
“I don't mind,” Caleb says. “But, uh…”
“Cool, let's do it. You ladies are in, too, right?”
It's safe, right? I mean, yes, of course it's safe. Caleb just said it's safe. The jumping cliff is probably just… well, a cliff is a cliff, but technically a cliff could just be a few feet high. Which is probably what this is, right? If it's safe…
I don't have my phone, so I can't look it up, but I wonder how high of a jump is safe for the average person if they're landing in water?
I really should have looked into this before agreeing to do it…
Ethan and I change into our bathing suits, which surprisingly doesn't take forever. I say “surprisingly” because Ethan doesn't try to pin me down and take advantage of the fact that we're both about to be naked. Yes, the point is to get naked, put on new clothes, and then not be naked anymore, but I doubt the technicalities bother my caveman college football bad boy all that much. It's not as if something like that ever bothered him before, right?
Still, we manage to change without too much delay, except for his random wandering hands. Also his hands are still wandering, even though we're now standing sort of out in the open while waiting for Caleb and Scarlet to show up.
To be completely honest, we're not standing so much as making out heavily. And we're almost naked. I mean, we have bathing suits on, but that's not much better than underwear, and, um…
At least no one's around? That's always good, right? I don't think anyone's around, at least, but to be honest with you again I'm not even paying attention. I'm making out with Ethan here! A girl has to prioritize…
Ethan's hand decides to roam somewhere it shouldn't, namely along my hips and to my back, then lower. His fingers creep past the top of my bikini bottoms and slide downwards even more. To be fair, we both kind of checked to make sure everything was private before we started kissing, and, um… we're not…
We're not having sex, but to be honest I feel like right now this isn't any better. Ethan presses his hips against mine while he pulls me close to him with his hand now on my butt. I can feel his erection grinding against me, and I grind against it for good measure, too. Ooohhh… yessss…
His hand snakes down even more, sliding along my butt, then between my legs. From behind, he slips a finger inside me, feeling my wetness.
I'm really glad I'm in a bathing suit, because these things are made to get wet. Um… that's how I rationalize this. I don't think it's very good rationalizing, but let's just go with it for now, alright?
“Fuck, I want to pull these aside and thrust inside you, Princess,” Ethan says to me, almost growling into my ear. There's a hint of a whine where the growl trail off.
“Do it,” I whisper back to him, nipping on his bottom lip. “I dare you.”
“Don't even fucking tempt me…”
He's trying to resist me, I can tell. His eyes are stormy, his brow narrowed, thoughts conflicted. Should he? Well, no, he really shouldn't, and we're just at the back of the campground on a path leading to the lake while we wait for Caleb and Scarlet, so…
But what will one thrust hurt? Just one? If we stand at the right angle, hide what we're doing, Ethan can feel my wetness with more than one of his fingers. It won't take long, and then he can…
We both know he can't stop. We both know he won't stop. If we start this, we're both going to do everything possible to finish it.
I don't know why I'm tempting him, then! This really isn't the place for this sort of thing!
I reach down and slide my fingers across his taut abdomen, feeling each crease of muscle as he flexes his abs. I go lower, pressing my way past the waistband of his bathing suit, feeling the flex of something else now. His cock twitches at the slightest touch of my fingertips.
I wrap my fingers around it and stroke him fast, then kiss him quick, teasing and tempting him even more.
“Fuck it,” he says. “You want to play games, Princess? Alright. I'll play with you…”
Or so he says, and he's about to make good on his promise, but then we hear Caleb and Scarlet coming towards us, talking with each other. We had a little more foresight this time and stood around a few bends and curves instead of on a straight part of the trail. Not that this is a lot better, but it gives us a few seconds to react before they see us.
I kind of want to react by pulling Ethan's bathing suit down, jumping up and straddling his waist with my legs wrapped around him, and starting what we both want to finish, but I don't do that.
Instead, we both try to present ourselves with um… appropriateness…
This is really difficult because Ethan's obviously erect and his bathing suit is more than tented, plus my nipples are stiff and showing through the fabric of my bikini top, so, um…
“Nice,” Ethan says, looking over and down at my breasts. “Good job, Princess. See what you've done?”
“Just, um…” I can fix this! I can… maybe… fix this? Er… “Kiss me again. Not a lot! We need to calm you down there. Calm you down… down there? It's like a play on words, get it?”
I giggle because I thought it was funny but Ethan just stares at me blankly.
“I thought it was funny,” I say, pouting.
He grins and rolls his eyes, but he does laugh a little bit. “Alright, kiss you, and then what?”
“Just kiss me softly, don't go crazy, and hope that Scarlet and Caleb don't notice our naughtiness. If we're facing each other they won't see anything at first, so it'll give us more time to… to lower things, um…”
“Oh, right. We need to uphold your reputation,” Ethan says, raising one eyebrow. “Pretty sure Scarlet will realize that if you're dating me, you're going to be up to some naughty things, Princess. You're not going to be Little Miss Perfect in everyone's eyes for much longer. Sorry to burst your bubble here.”
“Shh,” I say, and then I kiss him lightly. This is a soft, quick kiss, but Ethan kisses me back.
No tongue, just little pecks, and actually it's really nice. He puts his hands on my hips and holds me close to him, too, but there's no grinding this time. We're just kissing, which… I mean, kissing in public like this isn't exactly the most normal thing ever, but I'm sure both Caleb and Scarlet have seen worse from any other college kids.
Then they're here, they see us, and Ethan and I are there, and um…
I can tell his erection has gone down to reasonable levels. This is good. De-erectification is complete! I'm not sure that's something I should be proud of, to be honest, but right now it's a good thing.
I think I'm fine as far as nipples go, too, except before we can move to greet our friends, Ethan moves his hand up quick and pinches one of my nipples, sending it back to attention. I open my mouth and stare at him, almost gasping, then I peek down quick and…
Really, Ethan? Really now? You just had to do that, didn't you?
They're going to think I'm some kind of… some kind of something. I don't know what! That's not the point, though. Even if they don't, they'll…
Ethan moves and turns to say hi, and I'm about to say hi, too. Ethan does say hi, and Caleb and Scarlet say hello, too, with Scarlet making some remark about maybe we need to get a room or a tent or something.
I'm supposed to say something, right? I should say hello at least, but all my words seem to be missing. I really don't know where I put them. I could have sworn I had them a second ago.
Mostly it's because of Scarlet.
We're all in our bathing suits, which is what we should be in because we're going swimming. I don't usually wear a bikini in public, but I thought if it was just the four of us, it'd be fine. I like wearing a bikini with Ethan because of the way he looks at me when I'm in it, and I really doubt Caleb or Scarlet will have an issue with that. It's not like it's all that scandalous or anything.
Caleb's bathing suit is mostly like Ethan's, which is to say it's just board shorts. Regular, yes, and probably what most guys wear to the beach nowadays.
Scarlet is wearing a bikini, like me, and it's not exactly scandalous. I mean, it's basically almost the same as mine, except, um…
Before, when I first met her, she had on a thin long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She looked small and cute and mostly regular.
Apparently she's letting her inner bad girl roam free? Or her outer bad girl is revealed? I'm not sure how this works.
Aside from the bikini, she's got a see-through sarong wrapped around her waist. It's actually really cute and I like it a lot. It's tied at one side, with the extra cloth of the knot falling alongside her leg and accentuating her thigh. Kind of sexy in a cute way, I guess, but that's not what bothers me.
No, it's the full length tattoo crawling up her body. It starts just above her knee and goes up to her hip, then curls beneath the string of the waistband of her bikini, continues upwards along her side, wraps around her back and some of her stomach, and then sweeps up and along her shoulder to her arm, curving all the way to her wrist, tapering as it does until there's just a small, thin loop ending on her index finger.
It's all one tattoo, but it's not, also? I don't exactly know how to explain that one. It's a conglomeration of tattoos all linked together into one fluid piece of body art, all of which is made up of various Disney characters and themes. Not regular ones, either! These are like… bad girl Disney Princesses? Which is actually kind of amazing but also scary.
Belle near a rose and vine, with a heart-shaped tattoo on the bared skin above her decolletage and the shoulderstraps of her dress falling down her arms, nearby Alice in Wonderland with a goth-style bow in her hair, a rabbit in her arms, staring straight ahead with a vaguely curious and discerning look in her eyes. Plus an ocean-tousle-haired Ariel with ship anchor tattoos on her thin arms and starfish gripping her breasts like a bra. And…
I mean, there's a lot. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to stare at someone and follow the curve of their legs up to their hips, to their shoulder, and down their arms, because that's probably very rude, except that's exactly what I'm doing right now. I'm not trying to check Scarlet out, I swear! She's just…
My mouth is hanging open and I don't even realize it. Ethan just sighs at me, then nudges me, trying to snap me out of my tattoo-induced stupor.
“I'm getting Elsa soon,” Scarlet says, smiling at me.
“Um… what?” I know these words make sense, but I'm kind of out of it right now. Sorry!
“That's what these snowflakes are for,” she says, turning so I can see her side, pointing to a simple row of snowflakes falling from the bottom of her shoulderblade to about halfway down her side.
“Oh!” I say, stunning myself back to um… reality? Yes, that's what this is. Wake up, Ashley, this is real. “From Frozen!”
I sound a little too excited, I'm sure. I don't mean to be this excited, and to be honest I'm not even that excited, but I'm trying not to stand there, gaping like an idiot, staring at Scarlet's body. It's not even that I'm staring at her body, but oh my God there's an entire mural on her and she's not even that big.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ethan says. “Great job there, Scarlet. You broke my girlfriend.”
“Fuck you, Mr. Moneybags,” Scarlet says, glaring at him. “She's got good taste in art, unlike some people here.”
“Yeah, what the fuck, Caleb?” Ethan says, smirking and glaring at him.
“Huh? What?” Caleb says. “N-no! I love Scarlet's tattoos. I could look at them all day. They're…”
“Oh yeah?” Ethan asks, interrupting him. “Should we leave you two alone then? Would be easier to check out her tats if you both had some privacy and Scarlet took all her clothes off, don't you think?.”
Caleb starts to… sort of maybe say something, except he doesn't even say anything and instead he just stammers out gibberish. Scarlet rolls her eyes at Ethan and takes Caleb's hand in hers, pulling him along. They look cute together, but not really a boyfriend and girlfriend kind of cute, if that makes sense. Despite the fact that they're holding hands, they almost remind me of a brother and sister.
Which is especially weird because that's what Ethan and I are, sort of, but we don't even do what Caleb and Scarlet are doing. I guess it's not really the same, since we're stepbrother and stepsister, but oh well.
Or, we didn't, but I take Ethan's hand in mine because I want us to be cute, too. We can do it, Ethan! I have faith in us. I know I can be cute, at least, but I don't know about Ethan.
Ethan's fingers curl with mine and he squeezes my hand in his. Scarlet bumps past us, intentionally pushing Ethan with her shoulder.
“Jokes on you, Ethan. Caleb's already seen all of my tattoos,” she says. “And I do mean all of them. Every single one. Right, Caleb?”
“Scarlet!” Caleb hisses.
“What?” she asks. “You have.”
“It's just… uh… they're going to get the wrong idea?”
“Nah,” Scarlet says.
Nah? I sort of have the wrong idea right now. Just how many tattoos does Scarlet have and where are they all? I crane my neck, trying to figure out just what Caleb's seen, and… there's definitely probably some tattoos hidden under her bikini bottoms, and… oh my God.
He's been corrupted, hasn't he? Corrupted by Scarlet.
“Caleb's my best friend and we've known each other since we were two, so… don't make this weird, you two. I mean, you're stepbrother and stepsister, so I hope you won't make it weird, but whatever.”
I get it.
He's um… but I think she is, too, so…
“Friendzoned,” Ethan says, shaking his head as Caleb and Scarlet walk ahead of us down the dirt path leading to the lake. “This is going to be difficult.”
“For Caleb or for Scarlet?” I ask.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Aren't they both friendzoned? Didn't they do it to each other?”
“Uh, no? Princess, that makes no sense. Caleb's trying to hook up with her, why would he friendzone her?”
“I don't agree with you!” I tell him.
“Hey, slowpokes, you coming or what?” Scarlet asks, looking over her shoulder at us. “The lake's this way!” Then she pauses, brow furrowed, and turns to Caleb, who still has his hand gripped tightly with hers. “The lake is this way, right?”
Caleb laughs, really laughs. He looks kind of silly but sweet all at once. I want them to kiss, but kissing looks like it's the farthest thing from either of their minds at the moment.
“Yeah, it's this way,” he says, squeezing her hand. “Come on.”
“You heard the man!” Scarlet calls back to us. “Let's go!”
Ethan grunts. Then he bends down, sneaks his arm under the back of my knee, and in one swift movement he picks me up. I'm cradled in his arms and he carries me down the path, jogging to catch up with the other two.
“I really do think I'm right,” I tell him, smacking at his shoulder while he runs with me. “I don't care what you think!”
“Sorry to be the one to tell you this, because you usually know what you're talking about, but I know more about this than you, Princess. You're wrong and I'm right.”
“What do you even know about friendzones, Ethan?” I ask. “Has a girl ever friendzoned you?”
“Well, besides the fact that the friendzone doesn't even exist, uh… no. Why would they do that? Fucking weird, that's what that is.”
“You better friendzone every girl ever except for me from now on,” I tell him. “No exceptions!”
“Alright, whatever, so yeah, the friendzone exists like that, I guess. It's not some weird shit everyone makes it out to be, though. If a girl and a guy are single, they can't actually friendzone each other. Except Scarlet to Caleb, because it's pretty fucking obvious he doesn't have what it takes to be with a girl like her.”
“Oh, and who does?” I ask, curious and defensive all at once.
“Fuck if I know,” Ethan says. “Like I've told you a million times before, she's crazy and insane and she doesn't even fucking date anyone or screw around, so…”
“She doesn't date,” Ethan repeats. “She doesn't screw around. At least not that I know of. If she does it, she's real fucking discreet. Secret as fuck, I guess. I don't pry into that kind of thing, Princess.”
“That's weird, don't you think?”
“I don't know. I just think it's weird. Who is she waiting for?”
“She's not waiting for anyone. She's busy doing art or whatever the fuck.”
“I don't know…”
“Look, you'll get it soon enough. You'll understand. Scarlet's weird and crazy and dangerous.”
Yes, she's weird, and crazy, and dangerous.
And apparently Caleb's seen her completely naked?
This is like a mystery and I feel like a detective. A love detective! I'm going to solve this. I'm going to find all the romance clues.
I know nothing about love or relationships, though. I mean, besides the fact that I love Ethan and we're in a relationship. That's really the extent of my knowledge there and I plan on keeping it that way forever, so…
I just want Caleb and Scarlet to kiss! Is that too much to ask?
Really, is it?
So… I have reserved the right to change my mind about Scarlet. She seemed dainty and innocent when I first met her, but I feel like someone with full body tattoos of bad girl Disney Princesses can't exactly be the most dainty or innocent person ever. I don't know if they're considered full body, either, because technically while they go from her thigh to the length of her arm, they're only on one half of her body. The other half is clean and pristine, and is still dainty and innocent.
She's half dainty and innocent, and half bad girl princess? I mean, if someone's allowed to pick two half things they want to be, I would say those are two very good half things to be, don't you?
She's kind of scary and cute and I can see why Ethan thinks she's crazy because I sort of think she's a little crazy now, too. It's not that she acts crazy, though she likes to swear and she's a little rough around the edges, but, um…
Maybe you'd have to see her? She's contradictory. You might see her walking quietly and unassuming, but then she's cursing up a storm and telling someone to fuck off.
Like a little dog! Yes, that's it! Like, um… one of those tiny dogs that you can fit into a purse, except they always bark the most and they're very yappy. I don't think yappy is a word, but I hope you know what I mean.
Little dogs are dangerous and crazy. Like Chihuahuas. You might think a Chihuahua is cute, up until it tries to bite off your nose and probably succeeds because you thought it was cute so you tried to cuddle with it.
Uh huh. Yup! That's like Scarlet. And with bad girl Disney Princess tattoos covering half her body.
So, I'm changing my mind about her. I still like her, but I agree that maybe she's not as innocent and… no, she's still cute. Just less innocent? Yes.
“We're here,” Caleb says.
I don't know where here is at first, because we've been walking alongside the lake for awhile. We reached the mouth of a river or a stream or whatever you call a sort of wide, flowing body of water. There's lots of names depending on the width and I'm just not sure what this one is exactly.
And… I look forward and a little to the side. It's not as strong right here, and there's a slower moving pool of water in front of us, with a bunch of flat rocks acting as a sort of natural dam further up the river, which we already walked past. It's still a river, I guess, just a pool in the middle of the river? And next to that, opposite us on the other side, is a very large cliff.
Caleb walks close to the river, then steps out and onto one of the flat rocks. The water flows past his leg, rippling as it passes on either side of his calf, then continues on its way. Slow and careful, Caleb walks across the river, heading to the other side.
Scarlet follows after him. Ethan put me down awhile ago, so we're both walking on our own now, and he follows Caleb and Scarlet, too. I walk to the edge of the river, but stop before stepping in.
I have a bad feeling about this, because…
We're jumping, right?
Except the only thing I can see to jump off of looks like it's…
“How high is that?” I ask, looking up at the ledge atop the cliffside on the opposite bank of the river.
Ethan turns around and looks at me, then shrugs.
“I don't know, maybe thirty or forty feet?” he says.
“And how deep is the water there?” I ask, looking at the pool in front of the cliff.
“Eight or nine feet? You can't stand in it, but if you sink down a little you can touch the bottom.”
Does he hear himself? Did he just hear all of the things he just said? It's only thirty or forty feet high and if you sink down a little you can touch the bottom?
I'm going to die, aren't I? I'm pretty sure I'm going to die.
I can change my mind, right?
It's an option…
For some reason I follow Ethan across the river. It's not hard to walk along the flat rock , and it's not very deep in this particular spot.
It's not very deep anywhere, though! If you sink down a little you can touch the bottom! Didn't you just hear Ethan say that? Ugh!
That can't be safe, right? Except Ethan said it was safe. Caleb said it was safe, too. Scarlet doesn't seem concerned, except I think maybe this is because she's crazy.
Maybe I am the only person who isn't crazy right now?
Maybe I am going to die, too. Oh my God.
We all meet up at the other side below the cliff. It's not like it's too terrible, at least as far as walking is concerned. It's more like a hill, and there's a spiral sort of dirt path cleared away and leading up to the ledge above the river pool.
“You can leave your sandals down here,” Caleb says. “That's what everyone usually does.”
As if this makes perfect sense, because everyone else always does it, Caleb kicks off his sandals. Scarlet kicks hers off, too. And then Ethan. I'm the only one left with any footwear on, and I am reminded of something my mother always used to say to me.
I don't care what everyone else is doing, Ashley. If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you jump, too?
Well, yes, apparently I would, Mom, because that's exactly what I'm about to do. Or the same sort of thing. This isn't a bridge, but I'm going to jump off and this is a really bad idea.
Wait, maybe I won't? I won't jump off. I'll change my mind. I'll…
I mean, the least I can do is go up and look down, I guess? It's probably a really good view. Yes, there's nothing wrong with that.
I don't tell anyone about my plan to change my mind. Nope! I'll just tell them after they jump. I'll walk back down. I mean, I guess I won't have to tell them because I'll be the only person left alive.
Wow, that's morbid. Also, Ethan and Caleb say they've done this before, so…
I'm dating a zombie. Caleb's a zombie, too. That's really the only way I can think to explain how they're still alive if they've jumped off of this ledge before.
It's easy to get to the top, and the dirt is soft and nice beneath my feet. You can tell it's a well-traveled area and that a lot of people come here. They can't all have jumped, though. I try to rationalize that, um… I'm not scared… this is just the way a regular person should feel when faced with impending doom.
It's worse from the top, though. I didn't think it'd be this bad. I look down, and the water looks very pretty and serene, save for the fact that we're supposed to jump into it. Really, how pretty and serene can something be when it's going to kill you? It's like some poisonous flower or something… nice to look at, and then you sniff the deadly spores of pollen and… yup…
“Who's going first?” Caleb asks.
“First person to ask has to go,” Ethan says. “Rules are rules.”
“What's that even mean? There's no rules saying that.”
“You scared?” Ethan asks.
And… probably because Scarlet's here, Caleb stands tall, puffs up his chest, and glares at Ethan. “No!”
“Then go ahead, kid. Show us.”
“I'm not some kid, Ethan!” Caleb says. “We're the same age!”
“Whatever,” Ethan says with his patented bad boy grin. “I'll jump with Ashley.”
“I'll jump with you, Caleb,” Scarlet says. “What do we do?”
“You just fucking jump, Scarlet,” Ethan says, rolling his eyes at her. “It's not rocket science.”
She glares at him and sticks out her tongue a little, then grabs Caleb's hand. “I'm ready when you are,” she says.
“Alright, but one thing quick,” Caleb says. “It's not that big a deal, but make sure you jump out. The cliff is kind of curved slightly outwards, so if you just jump straight up and down, you might hit the side.”
“Alright,” Scarlet says. “So we just leap out? On three?”
And that's it. They count. One, two, three, and…
They run together, hand in hand, and leap to their deaths.
I mean, to their credit, when they land with a splash, after a second of immersion under the water, I hear them come up and start laughing excitedly, so apparently they didn't die. They might be ghosts, though. You never know! I don't know for sure that they survived!
I tiptoe closer to the edge and look down, and they do look like they're alive, though. Um…
There's a tiny rock by my toes and I kick it a little. It tumbles off the side, and like Caleb says, the cliff slants slightly outwards. The rock hits the slant, bounces along the edge, and then tumbles. It's mostly just a pebble, nothing crazy or dangerous, and it falls into the water below with a plink sound. Caleb and Scarlet are swimming in the pool now, playing and splashing each other.
“Are we going to jump or what?” Ethan asks me. “I don't want Caleb showing me up.”
I keep staring down at the water for a second. Thirty or forty feet? It seems like an infinite amount more than that. I guess it's really not. Scientifically, I mean. Obviously it can't be, but… I'm not exactly thinking scientifically right now.
“I… Ethan, I don't know if I can…” I mumble and trail off.
He comes close to me, puts his hands on my hips, and kind of pulls and leads me away from the edge.
“It's really not that bad,” he says. “You just run a little and jump out, that's it.”
“What if I don't run far enough, though?” I ask him.
He grins a little, then sneaks in and kisses me. “You're overthinking things, Princess. Like I told Scarlet, it's not rocket science. It's like when you were younger and I used to see you wearing those huge fucking rain boots of yours and you'd leap over puddles trying to get to your mom's car after school. Remember?”
“What?” I ask, with a weird mix of fear and a giggle bubbling up in my throat. “You used to watch me jump over puddles?”
“Yeah, I mean, it was hard not to see you,” he says, smirking. “You looked like you were so scared of those puddles, like if you didn't leap over them you'd sink in up to your head. They weren't even that deep, and you had rain boots on. You could have run right through them.”
“Some of them were really deep!” I say in protest, laughing now, distracted from being scared.
“Well, it's like that,” Ethan says, smiling and kissing my forehead. “You don't have to if you don't want to, but this is like jumping over a puddle, except we're going to jump right the fuck in and make a huge splash and it's going to be satisfying as fuck, Princess.”
“Unless I change my mind and don't jump,” I remind him.
“You want to change your mind?” he asks me.
Yes. Yes, I do.
That's what I planned on saying, but instead I say, “Will you hold my hand and jump with me?”
“Damn fucking right I will,” he says. He reaches out and takes my hand in his, squeezing tight.
“Alright,” I say. “Just give me a second…”
“You count,” he says. “Count to three, and we'll go on three, but if you stop at two and change your mind, it's fine. If you say three, we're going to go, though. There's no stopping then. I'm not going to force you to do this Princess, but if we get to three we're at the point of no return and we have to go. We can't second guess ourselves.”
I nod, and I get the first over with. “One,” I say.
Ethan grins at me and squeezes my hand tight in his again. We both turn to face the ledge and our impending doom. If I'm going to be facing impending doom, I definitely want it to be with Ethan, though. Below us, Scarlet and Caleb laugh in the face of death and doom, having conquered it, I guess, but, um… I mean, really, we're probably not going to die but I feel like I am going to die. I'm not going to apologize for my thoughts!
“Two,” I say.
“Two,” Ethan says, repeating it.
I might be about to say three, or I'm about to chicken out, but I just thought of something and I have to tell Ethan first.
“I really liked that,” I tell him. “What you said before. Can that be a rule? Rule number twenty-three?”
“Uh, what?” Ethan asks, looking at me, confused.
“I want rule number twenty-three to be that we're at the point of no return in our relationship, and we're there because we both want to be, so there's no stopping and we can't second guess ourselves.”
“So the rule is that we can't second guess ourselves about us dating?” Ethan asks, furrowing his brow, thinking about it.
“Mhm, yup,” I say.
“Alright,” he says. “I like it. It's a good rule.”
“Alright. And… Ethan?”
I have something else to say. It's very important.
“What's up, Princess?” he asks, smiling and gazing into my eyes.
I love the way he looks at me, as if nothing else matters, as if we aren't about to jump off a thirty or forty foot cliff into water that's eight or nine feet deep that you can't stand in but you can sink down to the bottom pretty easily if you try…
“Three!” I say. “And I love you!”
He blinks at first, caught off guard, but then we're both going. We're running to the edge, holding hands. I jump, and he jumps. He doesn't jump as far as he can, he jumps just enough so that we're still together, still side by side.
I fall. Ethan falls with me. Everything fades away, and it's just us, the two of us, together, falling. I feel a rush of wind holding me up and a rush of love keeping me high in the sky. My heart races, thump thump thump, faster and faster, thumpthumpthump. I can almost feel my pulse in my hand and I think I can feel Ethan's in his palm, too.
It's closer, coming faster and faster. That's how gravity works, sort of. The farther you fall, the faster you go, but everything falls at the same speed, with the same acceleration, as long as there's nothing to stop it. Eventually, no matter what it is, every object in existence will go the same speed until it comes to an abrupt stop at the bottom.
I mean, technically feathers probably won't reach that speed because they're spread flat out and they sort of glide or fall sideways and it messes up some of it, but if you dropped a feather at the right angle and it just went straight down, it'd still fall at the same speed and accelerate at the same speed as a bowling ball, which is kind of fascinating to me. It's science! We're doing science and…
Oh my God I'm going to die and the water is right there and I clench my eyes shut and close my mouth and prepare to sink or… well, I know how to swim, but what good is swimming if I die before I can swim?
I crash into the river pool and sink down. Down…
There's trees on all sides of the river, with the sun glinting through their leaves. I open my eyes when I gently reach the bottom of the river. My feet touch against soft mud, and it's not really bad at all. It's kind of nice, actually. It's a reminder that the rush of height and the fall isn't so bad, and there's a cushion of softness at the bottom that makes up for it.
It's like opposites attract, even in nature. It's like opposites are always meant to attract, even the good girl with perfect grades and the bad boy who gets into trouble all the time.
Ethan is still holding my hand. He never let go, not even for a second. I look up through the water, staring at the shimmering light cascading through the trees and drifting down into the water. It seems so far away, like a daydream, but it's right there in front of me.
Ethan kicks off the bottom of the river, but he doesn't go up. No, instead, he comes towards me. I see him down there with me. I don't know how long we've been underwater. Maybe not for long, but maybe for forever. I feel like I could stay down here with him for a long time.
He pulls me close, then wraps his arm around me, and presses his lips to mine. We kiss under the water, soft and sweet.
His lips wander away from mine, to my cheek, then to my ear. He opens his mouth and whispers into the water, directly into my ear.
“I love you,” he says, his voice echoing through the water, just for me.
Then he wraps his arms around my waist, holding tight, and kicks off the bottom of the river. With a rushing surge, we go up, up, up, and break the surface. When we're at the top, able to breathe again, we both start laughing. I tread water and he does too and we just sort of float there, close, looking at each other.
“You alright?” he asks. “Did you have fun?”
Did I have fun? Um… yes!
“Mhm,” I say, nodding, biting my bottom lip. “Just, um… can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what's up?” he says.
“Is… um… this is going to sound strange, so don't make fun of me, alright?”
“If I make fun of you, I still love you, I promise,” he says.
I peek around to see if Caleb and Scarlet are close. They're nearby, and they look over at us, but if I whisper I don't think they can hear us.
“Um…” I hesitate, not sure if I should say this to him right now… “The adrenaline, and… I mean, I think this is just natural, so… but…”
“Yeah, that was a rush,” he says. “Definitely some adrenaline shit going on there.”
“Yup, and… it's making me kind of horny,” I say, mumbling the last words really really quietly.
“Yeah?” Ethan asks, his eyes lighting up.
“I'm sure it's going to wear off!” I say. “Just um… the adrenaline in the moment and… I mean, you're probably used to those things. I don't think I am. It's a rush, like you said, and… I'm sure I'll get used to it, but… I think it's just a natural reaction or something. I've heard about that before…”
“Fuck, I don't want you to get used to it. I kind of want you to be horny.”
“Well, I think if we jump again I'll be really horny so we probably shouldn't do that right away…”
Ethan looks at me, considering this. “Yeah, what would we do if you got really horny? I don't know, Princess…”
“What about you?” I ask. “Are you horny, too?”
He doesn't answer, or not with words, at least. While we tread water, Ethan takes one of my hands and guides it down towards the front of his swimsuit. He's… while not fully erect… there's something going on there. Hmmmmm…
“Yeah, so, we should probably not jump again for awhile,” Ethan says, matter-of-fact. “Don't want both of us getting irresistible aroused or anything. Fuck, how awful would that be?” he asks, trying to hide a smirk.
“I know…” I say, feigning regret. “Really awful…”
“Hey, we're going to jump again,” Scarlet says to us. “You two coming?”
Ethan looks at me and grins.
“Oh, it's my decision, is it?” I ask him.
“You're the one that brought up the horniness, Princess!” Ethan says.
“Ethan, be quiet!”
“They can't hear us,” he says.
“Well, we should really just…”
“You coming?” Caleb asks. They're both heading up to the ledge again.
Ethan looks at me. Again. Ugh. Really, Ethan?
“Alright, let's go,” I tell him.
“Alright,” he says. “Rule number eleven.”
“What? Rule number eleven? Ethan, that doesn't even make any sense. Do you remember what rule number eleven is?”
I'm going to eat your sweet fucking pussy at least once a day. At least. Maybe twice. Three times. All fucking day.
That's not the rule he's talking about, right? Um… he's not very good at remembering what numbers go to what rules, so maybe I should correct him?
Oh, no. Ethan knows exactly what rule number eleven is. I kind of doubted it, but then we jumped, and…