…Seth continued to grip my hand. “Please hear me out, Lauren. This will only take a minute.”
“Fine. But just for a minute. That’s it.” I plunked down on the rooftop and swung my legs over the edge, back hunched, arms crossed.
All around us slept campers in lean-tos. By the moon’s low position, I guessed it was well past midnight. An owl hooted from a nearby pine, then took flight in a blur of white and grey.
“Strix varia,” Seth breathed behind me. “Must be after a frog. Look at him dive.”
I tracked the bird to the river. The current made a soft shhhhh sound as it flowed over and around rocks and boulders. I’d forgotten how much I loved this time of night- the peaceful, natural feel of it.
Seth’s shoulder brushed mine as he lowered himself beside me. Goosebumps broke out on my skin, every molecule in my bloodstream screaming to life. I took a steadying breath.
He wrapped an arm around me. “Cold?”
I shook my head and edged away. “You said this would take a minute, so…?”
His finger pressed against my lips while the other hand pointed. My eyes widened at the sight of a portable field telescope set up to our left. Stargazing. As science geeks, it’d always been one of our favorite things to do together. I couldn’t believe he lugged the collapsible apparatus on the trip. Given the limited gear we were allowed to pack, he’d made some sacrifices to have this moment with me.
“C’mon.” Seth scrambled across the roof, peered into the eyepiece, and focused the lens. He looked up. “Last year we talked about seeing the Perseids together and tonight’s a good clear night for viewing. I didn’t want you to miss it. Have a look.”
He remembered this meteor shower that only an astronomer would love. My heart leaped. Say no, I told myself sternly in spite of its sudden jump.
“Okay,” came out instead.
My eyes flew to the sky. I hadn’t forgotten about the meteor shower and our promise to watch the skies together, but I’d put it out of my mind when I brought Matt to camp. But now… this was science, right? We could be nerds for a few minutes without acting on our hormones, couldn’t we? This was exactly what I needed. To rediscover my passion for astronomy, a part of me that I’d ignored all year, mostly because my dad had checked out of my life.
And didn’t that make me a lot like Matt—spiting myself to get back at my dad for ignoring me? I felt ashamed of myself and my pettiness.
Now, I knelt behind the telescope and looked down into the eyepiece. My breath caught at the otherworldly view. A streak of white light shown against an onyx sky dotted with twinkling stars. Behind it blazed another stream of periwinkle and azure blue.
Wonder filled me. I was transported, aware of the vastness of life and my tiny place in it. The familiar, otherworldly feel brought back my Aerospace Scholar ambition and memories of planetarium trips with Dad.
I grabbed Seth’s hand, wanting him to share this amazing moment. But then his arms wrapped around me and he stared into my eyes, the stars reflected in his gaze.
Our breaths synchronized. He exhaled against my temple, making my chest flutter. I turned to tell him I had to go. But before I could speak, his lips captured mine.
My feelings for Seth rushed back with a pull as unstoppable as gravity itself. We tumbled against the roof, every nerve-ending awakening at his familiar touch. He was fantasy come to life. A forgotten dream remembered.
Seth pulled back and looked down at me with his expressive eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, Lauren.”
“Me too,” I admitted.
He rolled us over so that I was on top. My hair hung down like a curtain, the dark strands blotting out the world….