Sally Ann followed behind Hasil, their hands linked, as he led the way through the trees. They'd been walking for over three hours and she wondered how she let him talk her into going up the mountain again. He looked back at her and smiled, and then she was reminded of exactly how he'd talked her into it. His smile. The way his cool blue eyes somehow emitted so much warmth. There was little she could deny him.
"We're almost there," he said.
Sally Ann looked around, perplexed. It'd been a while since her last trip up, but she was sure they weren't almost there at all. "I thought we were going to your house."
"We are, but we're gonna take a li'l break first. Somethin' I wanna show ya."
They walked for a few minutes until the trees broke and revealed a small pond.
"Wow." Sally Ann let go of Hasil's hand and walked toward a large boulder near the water's edge. "I guess you weren't lyin' after all," she said.
"'Bout what?" He nuzzled up behind her and ran his hands over her warm shoulders.
She giggled. "Help me up."
Hasil helped her up onto the boulder. She stood as tall as she could and raised her hands high above her head, grinning. "Sky close enough to touch. Rock cliffs from the first dawn. Green. Deep green." She laughed.
Hasil looked up at her, his hand on his hip, amused. "You remember all that, huh?"
"Don't forget about the wonders," he said, eyes still fixed on her.
She started laughing again. "I didn't, Hasil… The marshmallows are in my bag."
"You think you're funny, huh?"
"I do," she said, teasing.
"Oh, I'll show ya funny." Hasil scrambled up the boulder and started to tickle her. He was relentless as she screamed and giggled. He only stopped when her laughter prevented her from breathing.
Sally Ann lay down in the center of the giant rock and propped herself up on her elbows, taking in the scenery. She was the only scenery Hasil was interested in. He stood there looking down at her, thinking she was the loveliest thing ever in her soft cotton white dress. Her hair was in his favorite style, twisted up like a crown around her head. He smiled at her and removed his shirt, to which she responded with great applause and catcalls. He dropped his kilt next and gave her a few goofy poses in his long underwear before doing a front flip into the water.
Sally Ann scooted to the edge of the rock and let her legs dangle over. "Hasil?"
He startled her when he suddenly broke the surface. "Take them shoes off and get in here."
"No," she said.
"Get in here," he playfully demanded.
"Don't make me come get ya."
"No. Don't." She was laughing. "I'm not a great swimmer."
"I am," he said, showing off his back stroke. "Do you trust me?"
She sat up on her knees and leaned forward some so she could see him better. "Yes, I trust you."
"Then get in here."
Sally Ann stood up and took off each of her Keds. She thought for a moment before pulling her dress over her head.
Hasil covered his eyes with his hands and peered at her through his fingers. "You're gonna be the death of me woman."
"Is it cold?" she asked.
"One way to find out."
She stood on her toes and looked down at the water. "I'm scared."
"Don't be. Want me to count down?"
"No. No, I've got this."
Hasil watched as she disappeared to take a small running start. A couple of seconds later she was springing into the air with a scream. She hit the water with a big splash and Hasil immediately connected with her beneath the surface. She came up coughing and laughing. "That's my girl," he said with a chuckle.
"That was fun...and the water's really cold," she said as she caught her breath.
"I know." He maneuvered their bodies over to a shallower part of the pond where their feet could reach the bottom.
They played in the water, splashing each other and joking around, losing all track of time. Eventually they both began to run out of steam and their antics were replaced by cuddles and lazy conversations. Sally Ann was admiring the feel of the pebbles and mud under her feet when she felt Hasil's body behind her again.
"You still trust me?" he asked.
She nodded. "Of course."
"Good." He planted a gentle kiss on the soft skin behind her ear. "Just relax." Hasil bent down a little and placed one of his arms behind her legs. The other supported her back. "Lean back and straighten your body out like you're lyin' in bed."
Sally Ann stretched her legs out and let Hasil and the water support her weight.
"Perfect. Now spread ya arms out like you're gonna make a snow angel or somethin'. That's right," he said with a laugh. "There ya go."
Hasil looked down at Sally Ann, admiring the way the sun caused her brown skin to glow. He watched as she closed her eyes and relaxed completely. "There you go, Sally Ann," he said barely above a whisper. He was so in awe of her. He gently ran his thumb over her full lips. He let it travel down her chin and neck before allowing each of his fingertips to make light contact with the top of her chest. He smiled as light goose bumps sprang up across her torso. His fingertips continued to slowly explore her body, traveling between her breasts and zig zagging along her stomach. Sally Ann could bare it no longer when his fingers made contact with the skin below her navel. She giggled and squirmed, making Hasil have to grip her body to keep her from falling under the water. He set her on her feet. "You ready to go?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm gettin' kinda cold."
He glanced at her chest where her wet bra was translucent against her skin and grinned. "Yeah. I see that."
She gave his shoulder a playful shove and started to wade out of the water. He watched her, thinking they couldn't possibly get back to his place fast enough.
Sally Ann walked back to the boulder where she left her stuff. "Are you sure it's okay for me to go all the way up with you?" she asked as she tied her shoes.
"Yeah. It's a new moon. Everbody'll be celebratin' and drinkin' all night."
"Well I don't want you to miss out on the party."
He locked eyes with her. "I ain't gonna be missin' out on anythin'." He threw her bag on his shoulder and held out his hand. "C'mon. Let's get goin'."
It was dark by the time they made it to the top of the mountain. The temperature had also dropped significantly, but there was a warm charge in the air. Sally Ann felt hyper aware of everything. She could hear music and joyful conversation in the distance. She could feel the contrast of the crisp twigs and soft earth beneath her feet. She could see the twinkling stars that were just like Hasil had described.
"There's my place right up the way." Hasil pointed to a tiny cabin. He led the way up his front steps and opened the door so she could go in first. He lit a couple of lanterns and spread his arms out wide. "Well, this is it. What d'ya think?"
Sally Ann could pick up on a little bashfulness in his expression. "It's perfect, Hasil," she said, looking around at the tiny space. There was a desk with several half-finished wooden figurines sprawled about and a pile of wood shavings underneath. His bed was small, probably smaller than a twin, but it had the most beautiful quilt strewn across it that she'd ever seen. Aside from a tall skinny dresser and a basket of assorted items there wasn't much else in his house.
"Well, hey, why don't ya make yourself at home. You can get some dry clothes outta the dresser over there. I'll go make an appearance at the party and get us somethin' to eat."
"Okay. Sounds good." She watched him disappear into the night before going to pick out some clothes. There wasn't very much to choose from. She stripped out of her wet clothes, draped them across his drying rack, and stepped into a pair of his holey sweats. She selected a white tank top from the top drawer and started to put it on. She paused to inhale the scent of the fabric before pulling it all the way over her head. The smell of Hasil's skin was embedded in it. Her mind searched for the words to describe the smell and she was instantly brought back to the pond. Cold, clean water… and something else. She brought the neckline of the shirt to her nose, trying to place the other scent. She did almost immediately. Pine cones. Cold, clean water, and pine cones.
Hasil made his way back to his cabin with a big plate of food and mason jar of Farrell wine. He climbed the steps of his porch, but didn't go inside. Instead he leaned against the door frame and watched Sally Ann with a smile on his face. She was wrapped up in his quilt like a caterpillar in a cocoon and was carefully inspecting one of his partially carved birds, humming to herself. She turned to look at a painting on the wall, but startled when she caught sight of him standing there out the corner of her eye.
"You scared me," she said.
"I'm sorry." He walked over and kissed her on the mouth. "I got you some food," he said, barely pulling away from her lips.
She returned his kiss. "It smells really good."
"Mhmm. And the faster we go on and eat it, the sooner we can get back to this," he said between kisses.
Sally Ann took the plate from his hand and scurried out onto the porch, still wrapped in the blanket. She sat on the top step and heard him walking up behind her. "Go put on some dry undies, Hasil!"
"I already took off the wet ones."
She turned to look at him. "So you don't have anything on under that kilt?"
He shrugged. "Do I need somethin' on?"
She laughed at the naughty expression on his face. "No. I guess not. Come sit."
They quietly ate from the same plate, devouring the chicken, cornbread, and greens until every bit was gone.
Sally Ann rubbed her belly and leaned back on her elbows. "That was so good."
Hasil kissed her temple. "Glad you liked it."
She spotted the mason jar full of clear liquid. "Is that water?"
He chuckled. "No. That ain't water. There is a pitcher full over by the hammock if you want some."
Sally Ann got up and poured herself a little water and watched Hasil sip from the jar. "What is it?"
"It's Farrell wine. You want a taste?" He held the jar out her way and she took it. "Just a li'l now," he warned.
She took a small sip and coughed, making Hasil laugh.
"That's strong," she said as she pinched her nose. "But it's good."
"Just like us Farrells." He got up and steadied the hammock so she could climb on and followed after her. They cuddled up, looked out at the sky, and passed the mason jar back and forth.
It didn't take long before Sally Ann was overwhelmed with giggles. "I've had the best day," she said.
"The day ain't over yet, Sally Ann. We can make it even better."
She kissed his neck. "Like this?"
"Mhmm," he grumbled. "But we should—"
Sally Ann, in her slightly drunken state made the mistake of attempting to straddle Hasil on the hammock, causing them both to be dumped onto the weathered wooden planks of the porch. They both laughed until tears came from their eyes, both dampened by the spilled Farrell wine. Hammock or no hammock, Sally Ann's goal was accomplished. She was on top of Hasil. She silenced his laughter with her mouth. He responded enthusiastically, rolling them over so that he was on top of her. He trailed kisses from her mouth, across her jawline, and down her neck. She shivered beneath him, both from the sensation that his lips against her skin brought and from the chill in the air.
Hasil sat up and looked at her. "Let's go inside."
She let him help pull her up, but paused outside his front door. She watched him undress in the dim light.
"What you doin' out there?" he asked.
Sally Ann gently bit at her thumb nail. "Say it."
"Say what?" he asked.
Hasil rubbed the back of his neck and gave her a small grin. He held out his arm. "C'mere."