This story is by Katherine McLean and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In a New Light
Steph had always been a more aggressive driver, so it wasn’t surprising to Riley when she lost sight of her friend’s car. Steph had told them about the cabin her family used to visit, which was a short distance from their current location. Having recently graduated from high school, Riley and her friends wanted to seize every opportunity to have a memorable summer before following their own paths to different colleges. They decided to make a day trip to the mountains. With it being less than a two hour trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway, their plan was to simply drive and see where they ended up.
“Since it is just a one way mountain road, I can’t get lost,” she mumbled. Annoyance slowly crept into Riley. The mountains’ cell signal was spotty at best and she knew getting a call through had similar odds to winning the lottery.
“What’d you say?” Jake asked with confusion in his voice.
He was six three, and had a broad chest and arms that were fully defined. He was Riley’s closest friend and had been throughout high school. They were almost inseparable.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Riley yelled. She came around a curve to find herself in front of a flashing red stop sign.
Riley put her forehead on the steering wheel in frustration trying to calm herself. As they sat at the sign, Jake combed through his mind in search of any indication on which direction the cabin might be.
He saw movement in the rearview mirror. It was the approach of another car.
“Riley, there is a car behind us,” Jake told her. “Shit,” cursed Riley and turned the car.
She noticed that the sky was rapidly darkening. She didn’t want to get stuck driving on a windy mountain road during a storm. Within seconds it was like she was driving through a car wash. She had to slow her car to a crawl.
“Up on the right!” Jake exclaimed, pointing out the windshield. “It’s a pull off.”
Relief rushed off Riley like a tidal wave. She slowly eased off the road. The pull off seemed to be an historical landmark. Through the downpour Riley thought she saw a large plaque by a rustic one story cabin.
“Any idea what this place is?” she asked Jake.
“I haven’t the slightest idea, but we could make a run for the cabin. It would better than being stuck in a cramped car for God knows how long.” Riley looked out the window. The unmoving clouds were so thick that it looked like the sun had just set. Jake was right. They might be there for a while.
“What the hell? Why not?” she laughed. Why not make the most of a bad situation? Being stuck in an old cabin sounded much better than being stuck in a cramped car.
They counted to three, threw open the doors, and sprinted the thirty yards to the cabin. There was just a doorway, which luckily was on the side of the cabin facing the car. Because he didn’t have to run around the car, Jake led the way to the cabin. Riley was running so fast that she couldn’t slow down in time, and ran right in Jake’s solid body. He caught her in his arms, in attempt to lessen the impact.
Riley’s body relaxed into Jake’s embrace quite naturally as if it were a reflex. With her head on his solid chest, she heard the drumming of his heart’s tempo begin to quicken. It surprised her how much she enjoyed being held by Jake. He was one of her closest friends, and they had the type of friendship where no subject was off limits. While they were avid supporters in each other’s relationships often seeking one another out for advice, there was never anything romantic between them.
A roaring thunder pulled Riley and Jake from their reverie and they quickly let go of one another. Jake stepped aside from Riley taking a look at the cabin surrounding them. It was a small logged cabin that measured about ten feet by eight feet with a stone fireplace and chimney. The color of the wood was more gray than brown due to age, and nothing covered the ground leaving the floor just dirt. He looked up to find there was a loft spanning the entire cabin. With the dirt floor becoming more muddy by the minute, Jake thought climbing up to the loft would give them a place to sit and wait out the storm.
“Riley, why don’t we climb up to the loft? Then we’d actually be able to sit down and get out of this increasing mud. The stones on the chimney are big enough that we should be able to use them as foot and hand holds.” Jake suggested. “I’m always up for a challenge,” she mused.
They scaled the chimney without an incident. Riley sat leaning against the wall and closed her eyes to relax and listen to the rain. Jake crawled over to sit beside her. His arm brushed against hers, and for the first time the slight contact between them gave Riley butterflies.
“This is nice, sitting here and listening to the rain,” Jake said. Becoming more and more relaxed, Riley could only respond with, “Mmhmm.”
The rain had increased and it sounded like a stampede was steadily moving through the area. Their clothes were completely soaked through from their thirty yard dash, and like with all summer storms the temperature had dropped. It was getting windy and they starting to get cold.
“We should probably get the top layers of these wet clothes off. We can ring them out and let them dry. It won’t be any different from having bathing suits on,” suggested Riley.
“You want me to strip to my underwear with a hot girl? I think that can be arranged,” joked Jake.
Riley rolled her eyes. “Boys are so stupid,” she laughed.
Out of respect for Riley, he turned away from her. He didn’t want her to feel as though she were taking her clothes off for him. Their clothing clung to them like it was an additional skin, which made it that much more freeing to be out of them. They carried so much water that when Jake rung his clothes out, it sounded like he turned a faucet on. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Riley’s soaked brunette hair brushing the straps of her magenta sports bra. She wore boy shorts easily resembling a swimsuit. Jake’s heart skipped a beat when he saw her. It was as if he was seeing Riley in a new light.
Even though what she’d been wearing was drenched, the clothes were a little warmer and without them she was beginning to shiver. Riley rubbed her hands up and down her arms generating a little heat from friction, but not enough to make a difference.
“Riley, you are freezing. Come here. Let me warm you,” he told her. Jake sat down and held his hand out to her. Riley hesitated for merely a few seconds before telling herself, “This is Jake, not some random guy.”
Riley stepped toward Jake reaching for his hand. Taking it, she sat beside him on the floor of the loft. He lay on his side and Riley scooted back against his body. He wrapped his right arm around her waist, while cradling her head with his other arm. Jake pulled Riley close, enveloping her body with the heat of his. Letting the rain serenade them, they lay on the old boards of the loft. Something was happening between Riley and Jake within their embrace. It was like a change in the air when a storm is brewing, something unseen but felt.
Riley’s heart began to race as she gently set her arm on Jake’s and softly placed her hand over his entwining their fingers. He responded with a light squeeze. She felt possessed. She was moving without thinking of the repercussions of her actions. Before Riley knew it, she had rolled over to face Jake. She traced the side of his face with her delicate fingers, slowly moving her hand to the back of his neck. It felt like the world stopped and they were the only people on the mountain.
“Riley,” he whispered as he rested his forehead against hers. She looked into his eyes then glanced at his lips before brushing hers against them. It was a soft touch before their lips parted and their kiss intensified.
In the midst of the earlier chaos, neither Riley nor Jake could know how grateful they’d be to get lost in the mountains that afternoon.