Summer was deeply stuck in our hair as the blazing sun was glittering on the lake's surface. Noah unpacked the strawberries. “It's a little late in the season, but these should still be good!”, he said and grinned at us, the birthday party. A lot of old friends, maybe ten, had come from further away and were planning to stay the night. The air was thick with relaxation and a light breeze left no doubt that our daily worries had no place at the lake. Everybody was wearing their favourite beach outfit and had brought their presents to the shore. They piled up in the middle of our little carpet of towels, circled by plastic cups filled with cheap champagne. It was the summer I had decided I didn't care any longer that I was pretty much the only single woman in our group of friends. The blueberry muffin I was nibbling on tasted great, it was all I had eaten that day. I was enjoying the mild dizziness the champagne and sun were giving me.
Noah was starting to unwrap his gifts, when another party guest came running down the hill towards us. “Sorry for being late!”, Leo shouted out of breath. The whole scene changed with his arrival: all of a sudden the focus was on him, while he explained in long sentences and wild gestures what had kept him from arriving on time. I had only seen Leo once before - we belonged to different life phases of Noah's. Something radiant was around him while he was talking, and I couldn't tell whether it was his bright, curly hair which covered his bearded face like waves, or simply the heated afternoon air. When he was done with his story, he sat down and dug into the strawberries, which no one had touched so far. The flood of words coming from his mouth stopped abruptly. Noah shook his head smilingly and continued to unwrap his gifts.
When the sun was about to set, we had already emptied a couple of wine bottles. Some of us were splashing around and laughing in the water. I had wrapped my arms around my knees and was staring at the horizon, soaking up the rest of daylight. Something in my neck was tingling. I turned around and noticed Leo's eyes, fixating on me. “Wanna go for a walk?”, he asked. His smile left my ankles with a weakness that made it hard to get up.
As was his manner, Leo struck up a random conversation about the futility of birthday gifts. It made me chuckle. We turned a corner and he extended his hand to help me navigate drunkenly over a couple of big rocks. The chattering voices from our group had faded into the distance. We were the only ones left and right. He stopped talking and just looked at me, again smiling. His hair was shimmering bloodred as the sun was hiding behind the horizon. My knees gave in a little, but I managed to keep upright.
“You have strawberry hair.”, I said. “And you have blueberry lips.”, he replied. Something in his voice made my inner child laugh.
We never made it back to the group.
© wasmitworten 2022-08-24