Such Great Heights

“Come on” He said with his arm outstretched, hand open and palm up. His eyes were locked on hers and there was a ring of compassion to his voice that delighted her.
“Why” It was half a question, half a statement she posed to him as she leaned against the schools outer wall. There were tears in her eyes and pain in her heart. She was watching him carefully.
“Because it’s lame here, let’s go” He still had his open hand reaching out to her and he smiled. She could see that he meant what he said.
“Where” Another half statement as she slowly stood up, eyeing his hand ever long.
“Anywhere, I guess” He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged as she had begun to delicately approach him. He was still smiling brightly at her.
“Okay” She wiped her eyes dry and looked around her. She shifted uncomfortably.
“I’ll lead” He said as he pointed across the school field and started towards it. Looking back over his shoulder he motioned for her to follow him as he began leading the way.
“Okay” She said again as she slowly took her first few steps and fell in behind him. She watched him. She was unsure of him but was curious. He didn’t look back again for a while. Not checking up on her or making sure she was still there. He trusted her, had faith that she was still following. At least it seemed like that to her. She liked that. For some reason. It was different than what she was used to. She’d grown accustomed to being checked in on and constantly monitored. He kept walking, and she watched the way he walked. It was careless, with missteps here, and stumbles there, but there was a determination too it that she respected.
“Where are we going?” She said after a while. Finally breaking the silence. They had left the school property by this point and had walked almost an hour in no real discernible direction. Not to anywhere she was aware of at least.
“What do you mean?” He asked turning to her with a smile on his face. His hands were still in his pockets and his eyes fixed back to the road.
“Like… Where are we headed right now” She stated flatly, trying to sound tough or at least annoyed at the lack of information. She didn’t feel confident shed conveyed herself but she looked back at him and waited for the response.
“Oh. Nowhere” The words rolled casually of his tongue as he turned towards her and laughed.
“I hope that’s alright with you” He quickly followed up and smiled again. Pressing forward, they were now on a gravel trail, in a great wide open space. Nothing but trees, hills and the world ahead of them.
“Nowhere” She said the word just to see how it would taste. She let it sit there on her tongue for a minute as she tried to understand.
“Why nowhere?” She asked without attempting to shield the genuine curiosity in her voice. He laughed at the question and took a moment before he responded.
“You know, you ask a lot of questions, like a lot” This time it was her turn to laugh, which made him laugh again too. She nodded at him and smiled.
“I guess I do” He shrugged at her response, still smiling, as they kept walking. She started to feel a warm sensation somewhere in her torso. It was as if a ball of energy was growing inside her. It grew outwards and warmed her from head to toe. She found that she too was still smiling. They still seemed to have no real direction or destination, but she felt like she was okay with that. So they walked, talked, smiled and laughed. He began to tell her about himself with seemingly no expectation of her to reciprocate. He didn’t pressure her to spill her guts or confess her story. He didn’t beg her to open up, yet she chose to on her own. She felt as if she was closer to him than anyone else. It scared her, but she did feel safe. After what must have been almost another hour of walking they found themselves on the top of a mountain. It wasn’t very high, but it was the tallest non man made structure in their town. They had taken the walking trail versus the hiking one without even realizing. They were on a grassy peak where old military battlements had once been. They had long since been removed but some basic concrete foundation still remained. He walked over and sat on one of the aforementioned concrete foundations that ran along the edge of the peak. It faced out over their home town, the place both of them had grown up in. Apprehensively she joined him on the ledge, she didn’t sit directly next to him, but not too far away either. He smiled as she sat down. It was a bright, sunny and hot day. She briefly thought to herself that she was glad she wore summer clothes. He was wearing a black shirt and jeans, she figured he must be burning up out here. She found herself staring at him a moment longer than shed planned when his voice startled her back to reality.
“It’s beautiful up here, isn’t it” It sounded like a statement, but she thought it could also have been a question. Instead of responding she simply looked out at the world below them and nodded in agreement. He half turned towards her when she nodded, just to see it happen, then he closed his eyes smiled and took a deep breath in. After a moment he exhaled and opened his eyes again.
“The air out here is so fresh!”
“Mhm” She agreed, it really was. Their town wasn’t so industrial that the air was toxic, but something about the air up here was so much more pure. Free from all pollutants. It was like a whole other world she’d never seen before. She could almost literally see her house from where they sat. On some strange mountain with some boy she only sort of knew from school. The nicest boy who every paid her any attention at all. She could feel her chest tightening and her eyes welling up. She inched closer to him slowly, and before he noticed what was happening out of nowhere she embraced him. Hugging him tightly and then letting go again. It lasted only a mere moment, but it happened. He was surprised, as was she. He sat staring at her, with a grin she had yet to see. She inched away from him, pulling back a little, but not because of him. She didn’t think at least.
“What was that for?” He asked happily, with a ring in his voice and the grin still on his lips. She could feel herself blushing now as she turned her face to try and hide it. She even pushed her long brown hair more into her face to try and cover it up. She figured he’d noticed, so she just answered his question as best as she could.
“I don’t know…” He laughed at her uncertainty. She didn’t feel ashamed. Her heart pounded and her cheeks burned softly.
“I think you do… But that’s okay” He turned back to the sights before them and she relaxed a little. She felt strangely connected to him. As if without knowing anything about her at all, he understood. She liked it, she really did. Pushing her hair back she inched closer to him again and joined him in appreciating the beauty of the world before them. It was silent for a while longer until he took a breath and sighed. It surprised her a little but she wasn’t startled. She looked at him, he was looking at her, their eyes locked. He closed his eyes for only a moment as the tension built and then he spoke.
“You don’t have to tell me, but why were you crying?” His words sounded carefully selected, and rehearsed, but also genuine and compassionate. She appreciated that a lot. She didn’t know how to answer. It wasn’t fear of possible judgement from him that prevented her from finding the words. It was the fear of actually articulating the things that hurt her, speaking them aloud and maybe realizing they weren’t as painful as she thought, and that she overreacted. Causing herself more pain than she needed to.
“Just… Some jerk and a few crappy friends… That’s it really…” He nodded at her with a clear understanding in his eyes. He looked back out over the town. She suddenly felt odd, as if she said something wrong. Fidgeting she looked around her, maybe for an escape or maybe for an answer. Some more time passed as they both sat quietly. He broke the silence first.
“You don’t need them, you know” He didn’t turn to face her but she looked at him, trying to feel out his statement. She wasn’t sure what she expected him to say, but she knew that wasn’t it. He turned and met her gaze of confusion, which made him pause to think. He looked down at the ledge before he spoke again.
“I just mean to say… You’re pretty great, all on your own” He looked back up into her eyes, sort of half smiling but looking nervous. This time she smiled, but she wasn’t fully convinced.
“How do you know that, exactly?” He looked into her eyes.
“I can just… Tell, I guess”
“That’s stupid” She smiled and then looked away. He kept looking at her, and then smiled.
“Well, I guess I’m stupid then.” She turned back to him. He was still smiling, but there was something sweet about it, it made her blush again as she too smiled.
“Why are you stupid” This time he was the one to blush.
“Because… I don’t know, same reason we’re out here I guess” She looked around them. Inhaled the lovely fresh air and turned back to him.
“Why are we really out here then?” She asked carefully. She had learned over time to carefully manage her expectations. Disappointment was common to her, and all of this seemed far too spectacular to her already. He took a second to build up courage, and slowly and steadily he said to her.
“I want to spend time with you” The words were coated in honey, and she blushed a red so deep she didn’t even bother trying to hide it. This was the happiest she had felt in a while. She knew he felt the same although she still couldn’t fully grasp why. So they sat in silence again, both looking out at the wonders of nature before them. Then curiosity got the better of her and she spoke first.
“You wanted to spend time with me… May I ask why?” She let each word fall slowly, constantly checking to see if they landed where she intended.
“Do I need a reason?” He asked with a level of seriousness that had been absent previously. It took her aback slightly making her unsure how to respond. Fumbling for words she made due with whatever she had.
“Um… Well… I was just-”
“Wondering why?” He cut her off already knowing what she intended to say. She nodded. Her cheeks were still rosy and her heart rate was still rapid. Their eyes locked again and he smiled at her.
“You ask a lot of questions” He slowly and gently placed his hand on top of hers, she felt the warmth of his hand and smiled. She had never felt this way before. Closing her eyes for only a moment, she opened them again as he looked down and smiled. Then he confessed.
“I want to spend my time… With you. Thats it. That’s my reason.” She felt only warmth inside her chest and her eyes started to well up again. She squeezed his hand and moved a few more inches closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Okay” She said, feeling like it was the first thing she absolutely sure of all day. Maybe even all year. That it was and would be okay. He felt the weight of her word, and knew what she really meant. He squeezed her hand back and gently brushed his cheek across her hair. Speechless, they both just sat their together in the sun on top of a mountain peak. Looking down on everything they had known. Above it all, embracing something different then that which had kept them on the ground. Facing it together, from a very different perspective.


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