This story is by Sarah Schmeckenbecher and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Sweat is trailing down my back and I breathe in the clean forest air, following Kate and Ana up the mountain. This is my first time in Romania and I am here to visit my friend, Kate. Ana is Kate’s friend and I only met her here in Romania.
When we reach the hut where we booked a room, it is already evening. In front of the hut is a little water source were fresh mountain water is coming out. There are some benches around it. We sit on one of them and enjoy the view around us. A few minutes later, a guy comes and sits down on another bench. I watch him closely. “Oh my God! He is cute,” I think to myself.
“Hi, I am John. What are your names?” the guy asks.
We all tell him our names and then John continues to talk with Kate and Ana, but I barely listen. I am too busy watching him. John has dark short hair and he looks like twenty, which would make him two years younger than me. He wears jeans and a blue t-shirt. There is something about him that makes it impossible for me to look away.
“We come from Piatra Neamt. We came here to show Louise this place. She visits me right now and I show her the area. And you?” I hear Kate say.
“I live in a village close to here and come here very often,” John answers.
“Why?” Kate asks.
“Because it is so beautiful,” I answer for John and he looks at me and smiles. I can understand why he loves being up here so much. The view is incredible and the mountain gives me a calm feeling.
Soon John and I are caught in our own conversation. We speak a different language, but I understand him better than I understand most Germans. Sometimes, I have to ask him twice what he tried to tell me, because I didn’t understand him correctly, but soon we create our own language as if we somehow connected. John is the first guy who has ever chosen me over my friends and I adore him for that.
When it gets colder, John holds me in his arms. A warm comfortable feeling spreads through my body immediately. “You smell good,” John tells me. I am not sure if I can believe him. I am still sweaty from the hike. Also, my hair looks messy. However, the first time a guy looks at me is now?
When it gets late, we go back inside the hut. The warm air welcomes me and there is some traditional Romanian music playing. I like the music very much. I feel like dancing but I don’t know how to dance to this music. “You should show me how to dance to this music,” I tell Kate and Ana, but they don’t want to. I think they are ashamed to dance. Nevertheless, I am just happy and for the first time in my life, I do not care what people think about me. Nobody knows me here. However, this is different for my friends, for them this is home, but for me it’s an unknown country.
“John can show you,” Kate says, but John flees towards the bedrooms.
“Coward,” I say, but John doesn’t seem to hear it. I would have loved to dance with John and imagine it would feel wonderful.
The next morning Kate, Ana and I want to go to a waterfall close to the hut. To my surprise John comes with us. I am glad he does. I like is company.
“Do you have Facebook?” John asks me, while we are walking along the uneven forest road.
“Yes, I do.”
“Can I have your Facebook name?”
“Sure,” I say, even though I know that it will most likely end the way it does with all your Facebook friends. You add them all, but nobody talks to you.
“Can I also have your phone number?” John asks me.
“I don’t know. I have a German number and international calls or messages are expensive.”
“I know, but I don’t have internet at home. Only when I am back at school I have internet,” John explains. I look at him sceptically. How can you not have internet? For me this is unbelievable.
“If he lives in a village it could really be that he has no internet. Romanian villages don’t have access to internet,” Kate says reading my thoughts. This convinces me and I give John all the contact information he asked for.
The rest of the way John holds my hand while we walk to the waterfall. His grip is strong and sends a comfortable warmth through my body. John leading me gives me a feeling of safety. No German guy would ever think of walking hand in hand with me through a forest. There, the guys never look at me, but here John gives me his whole attention and I like it too much. At home, I am just the average girl, but here I am something exotic.
After a while, I can hear the whooshing sound of water and seconds later we are standing in front of a beautiful waterfall, the white water falling down the giant rocks.
“We should climb up the cliff next to the waterfall,” John suggests and we girls follow him.
We start climbing the rocks surrounding the waterfall. The stones are slippery from the water and I have to be careful. I only wear sneakers, which make it hard climbing up the wet rock. I have to use both my hands to secure myself on the stones. The whole time, John walks behind me, holding his hand on my back, making sure that I don’t fall.
When we reach a place where we can stand on the rock, I turn around and watch the area. The view is incredible. I can see the trees from the forest where we came from. The sky is light blue and birds fly above our heads. Rainbows shimmer in the water of the waterfall reflecting the sunlight. I feel like being in the middle of fairy-tale movie from Disney.
Suddenly, John pulls me around and hugs me tied, placing his forehead against mine. I breathe in his scent. He smells sweet and delicious. I look up and my gaze meets his lips. The desire to taste his lips is burning inside of me and I wish he would just kiss me.
My eyes meet his and I can see an uneasiness inside of him as if he is thinking about what to do next. He looks as uncertain as I feel. Does he think about the same as I do? Can I even hope this? My heart starts beating faster in my chest and the sound of it vibrates in my ears. Somehow, I have the feeling that John wants to kiss me too, but he doesn’t. Why does he not kiss me?
“Hey, you two, we should go back,” Kate’s voice startles me and brings me back to reality. For a moment, I have forgotten that Kate and Ana are still here with us. For a moment, it was only John and me. We both turn around at exactly the same time and the magical moment between us is gone, just like that, within a heartbeat.
Kate and Ana give me a knowing grin and I look down at the rocks, feeling uneasy. John takes my hand and guides me down the slippery rocks.
When we have to part John pulls me again into his arms. I breathe in his sweet scent for the last time. John kisses both my cheeks. “Take care and keep it as sweet memories,” he whispers in my ear. I cannot answer him. My mouth has gotten dry. Therefore, I only nod. John gives me one big squeeze before he lets me go.
I follow my friends down the hill, back where we came from yesterday. I turn around one last time and see John already leaving in the direction of the hut.
The way down my walk is uneasy and I slip on the ground. I hug myself because I am cold. Somehow, I feel as if a part of me is missing.
“Should we call John and tell him to come here to keep you warm?” Ana jokes. I don’t answer her, but deep inside I wish she would really call him. However, I also know that I probably won’t see John again. I can only keep the memory of him, store it in my heart and keep it as sweet memories.
Once I am back in Germany, everything seems like it used to be before my holiday. Nothing has changed here. However, I feel different. Something has changed inside of me. For the first time in my life, I feel loved and John’s daily messages prove it.