“The surprise was that you were going to make me a grilled cheese sandwich,” he explained.
I looked at him blandly. “What about the Chia Pet?”
Luc chuckled, and it was a nice sound, dancing off my skin. “I still can’t believe you managed to kill a Chia Pet in a week.”
“It was defective,” I muttered. “And it was a Mr. T Chia Pet! Like, how did you even find one of those?”
“I have Chia Pet connections.”
I stared at him. “That’s … special. Look, I’m just trying to point out you have a history of surprises that I either don’t like or have no idea the purpose behind.”
“All my surprises have purposes. You shall see.” Still holding my hand, he led me onto the raised platform of his bedroom. It was much darker in this part of the room; I could only make out the shape of his bed. “This is a special surprise that involves no cheese, bread, or James Bond.”
“Or Chia Pets?”
Another chuckle sent my stomach tumbling in the most pleasant way. “I don’t hate Chia Pets enough to bestow another one on you.”
“I hope you like this one.” His hands went to my shoulders, and in the darkness, he turned me around. His hands stayed there, the weight oddly comforting. “Ready?”
“Yeah?” I strained to see into the darkness.
A moment later, the ceiling lamp flicked on, momentarily stunning me. It took a second for my eyes to focus as I scanned the room.
Then I saw it.
It was lying on the bed, a framed photograph that was roughly sixteen by twenty. The moment I saw it, I knew what it was.
A photograph taken from the cemetery in Harpers Ferry, overlooking the lush green valleys and the greenish-blue rocky river of the Shenandoah. And I knew in my bones and in every cell of my being that I had taken that picture. I didn’t remember snapping it, but my fingers twitched nonetheless.
My lips parted as I shook my head, and a part of me thought that if Luc hadn’t had his hands on my shoulders, I might sink right through the floor.
“I … I took that.”
“You did.” His voice was by my ear, quiet.
“I don’t remember taking it, but I know I took that,” I said. “How does that make sense?”
“I wish I could answer that.”
The next breath I took got stuck as I leaned into him, letting the back of my head rest against his chest. “Did you have it all this time?”
Luc’s hands slid off my shoulders and down my arms, stopping just above my elbows. “You took it one of the last times we went there, and you loved the picture so much, you talked about getting it printed out and framed, but…”
I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. “Ran out of time?”
“Yeah,” came his gruff reply. “We ran out of time.”
“But here it is.”
Luc was quiet for a long moment. “After I got set up here, I started going through some of the stuff I’d brought with me. I found your old camera; I still have that, if you want to see it. Anyway, I started looking at the pictures and saw this one. I printed it out and got it framed about three years ago.”
He’d had this for three years? My eyes opened, and my lashes felt damp.
“I didn’t hang it up. I don’t know why. I kept it in one of the extra rooms here.” He lifted a shoulder. “I thought you should have it, since it’s yours. You can keep it here or you can take it home—”
Spinning around, I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing. I just did it. Probably much like I’d done that day by Jefferson Rock, when I’d been a different girl and he’d been the same boy.
I threw my arms around his neck and stretched up onto the tips of my toes. His hands moved to my hips, steadying me as I brought my lips to his.
And I kissed him.
It wasn’t much of a kiss. A quick peck on his lips that still somehow short-circuited my entire system. It was like touching a flame, and when I pulled away and stepped back, my hands trembling as they slid down his chest and then off him, I was surprised that my lips weren’t burned—though they did tingle.
Luc stared down at me, his lips parted and the centers of his cheeks slightly flushed. He looked like a feather could knock him over.
“Thank you,” I said, taking another step back as I clasped my hands together. “I love this surprise.”
For a moment, there was no reaction from him. His features and body were as impassive as a statue, and then a wide, beautiful smile broke out across his face. Being on the receiving end of it, I felt like I needed to sit down and take a moment to soak it in.