I knew that there was only one right choice here. Ariel had done so much to support and help me, I couldn’t just drop all of that because of Lisa. I really genuinely enjoyed Ariel’s companionship before the unfortunate way we split last time, and I think it could have grown into something special.
Moving passed Lisa, I sat down next to Ariel. As she wrapped her arms around me I noticed how well put together her outfit was. Her cute orange cardigan hung loosely around her well thought out black pumpkin shirt. The jeans she donned had a nice ghost stitched to the pockets. Always one to go above and beyond.
Lisa had turned her head and noticed how close Ariel was getting with me. I think she put two and two together, and turned around. I’ll have to talk with her later. I’m sure there’ll be no hard feelings.
“Are you ready to pick the biggest pumpkins, bro?” John asked, trying to stop the long hug that Ariel locked me in. The look in his eyes told me he already knew who I was going with and was going to support me. Yet there was a bit of sadness as he likely was accepting that his chances were all but gone.
“Of course,” I answered as Ariel released me, “Fall is the best time of year after all.”
Ariel giggled as if my answer was childish. She said, “You’re joking, right? Summer is clearly the best time to go out and enjoy the world.”
“But you can wear cute sweaters and hats in Fall without dying of heat or cold.”
“Speak for yourself, mister. I personally think Fall is freezing.”
John added, “I like Spring because it’s like a mixture of both seasons. It’s not too hot yet not too cold. Also, it only gets warmer as you go.”
“But spring cleaning,” I replied. I absolutely hated cleaning back in my youth and it certainly wouldn’t be any fun the second time around. Luckily I had the all knowing perspective of a college graduate, so I’d be able to handle it this time around.
As we arrived at the pumpkin patch, John took off ahead with some other friends. I could tell he didn’t want to be around me and Ariel for now, and respected that. Lisa was purposely trying to avoid me, and I could feel it. I decided to go to the bathroom and come out to confront her.
“Lisa. Is everything alright?”
She turned her head away from me, purposely giving me the cold shoulder in a way I could not misinterpret. I walked around to her face, but she only turned away.
“Why aren’t you talking to me?”
“I don’t talk to play boys.”
As soon as the words escaped her mouth, she took off towards another group so she could use the cover of others to escape me. I figured I deserved this. I should know better that this was not going to just work out. After a bit of air, I slump back to Ariel’s side. After all, no one knows how to cheer me up faster than her.
We found a huge pumpkin and she taught me how to carve a beautiful bird into it. I feel like she finds time to sneak away and take classes on how to generally do things in life. Lisa seems to be alone as she pretends to carve and John is hanging with another group. I feel a bit lonely for the first time in awhile, but Ariel sensed it and refused to let me feel bad.
After school, she took me out to my favorite restaurant. The way the leaves fall this time of year perfectly mixes with the colors on the side of the building. I say the should get a machine to produce them all year round. The air is still so the wind doesn’t bite at you and the aroma of the food is able to take it’s time as it passes your nose. I’m not a huge fan of eating outdoors, but this place can change minds.
“What’s going on, Erich? You seem more blue than usual.”
“It’s nothing. I just think John is upset with me.”
She raised an eyebrow. A part of me wants to believe she bought it, but another part of me knows Ariel too well to hope she did.
“Well, what did you do to John?”
“We were playing a game together and I got too into it. I feel like I probably just pushed it too far.”
“Talk to him, Erich. I’m sure right now all he’s thinking about is trying to make it right.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Somehow you always help level me out.”
Ariel turned towards me and smirked. It felt like she really could see right through me. I pulled her in close and looked into her eyes. We had never had our first kiss because I was always one to take things too slow. In my time, I bet she would have left me for someone else because I barely showed any affection to her. Holding hands was an ordeal for me.
This was my chance, though. I could move in for the kiss when we were both this young. I leaned in and was surprised when she adamantly placed her hand behind my head. She leaned in and gave me the longest kiss I’ve ever had. Granted, most of the girls I kissed in college were flings but this was a deep tender kiss. A bit wet, but pretty good. Beyond the shadow of a doubt I knew this was her first time ever kissing a boy. A part of me took a lot of happiness in that fact. Another part of me winced at the public display of affection that was taking place. At some point, I just let my anxiety melt away.
I opened my eyes and leaned back to breathe as I wheezed, “Wow, how long can you hold your breathe?”
Ariel’s cutest laugh escaped as she said, “Breathe through your nose, you goof.” She took me by surprise before I could rationalize that I was too taken by surprise to think rationally. A bit of me felt weird that I was kissing a freshman girl. I mean, isn’t this frowned upon in society? I suppose no one would come at me with pitchforks if I was also a 14 year old.
She was too keen, and noticed my hesitation about this. Her head cocked curiously and she looked at me with curiosity sparking.
“What’s wrong?” There was something about her tone that seemed accusatory. I know she was aware of my recent friendship with Lisa. My supposed issue with John was also not a good cover up. I think the best way out of this bind is the truth.
“Listen, Ariel. There’s something I need to tell you. But I need you to trust me when I say it.”
I’ve never seen someone so ready to hear information. She was instantly out of cute flirty mode and into problem solving mode. I feel like she’s thinking I’m leading up to a very awkward admission about Lisa, but I let that go by.
“I’m mentally 25 years old.”
She raised an eyebrow. I expected her to laugh, or hell, even give me a million questions. Instead, Ariel nodded affirmatively and leaned back.
“So you’re saying that you’re intelligence is enough to qualify as a 25 year old?”
“Well, I would say that but I’d sound pretentious.” The look she gave me let me in on the secret that I already did. I sighed and continued, “No. I was a 25 year old guy who was just about to start a job when I woke up back in my freshman year.”
Suddenly it was as if Ariel had just solved a mystery. She leaned in and looked me dead in the eyes as she said, “Of course. That’s why you’ve been acting so differently.”
“Are you telling me you already had something like this pegged?”
“Well, of course I wouldn’t have guessed this. But I knew something was different. I fell for you because you were so cute and easy to hang out with. I started becoming more attracted to you recently, though, because of your maturity and willingness to try new things with me.”
“I mean, most kids will go through that kind of change.”
“It felt like you matured so fast, though. With no prompting, suddenly you were listening to me more. Suddenly you were attentive to my hints to hold hands or desires to go out to certain places. I wasn’t sure what happened but you matured a lot.”
“Well, I would like to think I grew a bit since high school.” We laughed a bit at the absurdity of it all. Then she stopped laughing and placed her hand on mine.
“Please be honest when I ask this. What happened to us in your time?”
I sighed and placed my drink down. A part of me knew that explaining this would happen if I brought up my situation but I knew I had to be truthful. She was like a living lie detector.
As I explained, she grew a bit somber. I tried to tell Ariel that we were just kids, but she was pretty upset that John would do something like that. She held my hand and told me that she was never going to cheat on me. It went deeper than just honor, for her. Her father had cheated on her mother when they were first married, leaving a messy divorce Ariel to wade through. She would sooner face any fate other than betraying someone in that way.
We finished our meal and started walking home. She promised me that she would try and have as much fun with me as possible since this was the revival of my childhood years. I warned her about how much harder college is and why job hunting is a nightmare.
After hearing that she’s always wanted to learn how to code because it’s the way of the future, I began to try and teach her. It was something I knew well enough and it kept me sharp too. Yet when it came to what to do for fun, we would end up out doing new things more often than not. Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending time with Ariel. We had a connection between us now that was so strong. Yet I felt like I was getting burned out. By the time I got home, I was so mentally and physically tired that I would collapse. My games went untouched for months and I felt a longing for them.
Eventually, John started hanging around more. I think he got used to the idea of Ariel being with me long term, and so he finally was able to get over her. The three of us talked a lot about the future seeing as they knew my fate.
Yet there was still something missing. I felt like while new things are fun, I needed something I could really dive into. Ariel told me that if I wanted, I could try out for the football team. I had always loved watching football and feel like with a more aware mind, I could easily love the sport.
As for John, he wanted me to start leading a dungeons and dragons campaign again. I knew for a fact that if I opened it up to the role playing club, I’d be the main attraction. Not even bragging, that’s a lot of pressure to make a campaign be awesome. That would also mean I’d see Lisa again, probably.
After awhile, I knew I had to commit to an activity so all my energy would be put towards a goal. Even if it was just something I could work on.
The next morning, I came in and went right to what I knew I wanted to do.