The dance ended. Lissa trudged back toward her Family camp. Her friends had disappeared off to their own families. They were all supposed to have prayer together and go to sleep, but everyone knew that on this, the last night of Trek, they would stay up, play Capture the Flag or Uno or Murder in the Dark, gossip with people they hadn’t seen in a while, and eat illicit goodies. Earlier Lissa’s mom had slipped her a roll of Starbursts and some A&W root beer.
Justin hadn’t asked her to dance. She hadn’t ground up the nerve to ask him. She’d danced with Alex and Trevor, with a guy from Cocoa who was about a foot shorter than her, and she and Becky and Lizzie had danced together until the bishop from Palm Bay had sternly told them to stop. She was angry at herself for her lack of courage. What year was it, after all? She could certainly ask a guy to dance. She was angry at Alex for telling her nonsense about how Justin liked her. And she was angry at Justin for coming to find to her, then ignoring her—yanking her out of that stupid canal like he was worried, then not asking her to dance.
A few yards away was the fire of her Family’s camp. Lissa stopped in only to grab her Starbursts and soda and to tell Pa Shannon she was planning on playing Capture the Flag, though she was planning no such thing. She headed for the low-hanging oak tree she’d found earlier. This time she climbed higher, into a broad branch that stretched out over the fenced pasture. She cracked open the root beer and began unwrapping her Starbursts.
As she munched on chemical deliciousness, a rustle sounded below her. Someone was walking around. She glanced down, squinting in the dark. It looked like Justin—he’d pinned a giant sunflower to his hat earlier in the day, which made him easy to recognize from above. He stopped and looked up. Too late Lissa wondered if he could see up her skirt, then decided that bloomers left quite a lot to the imagination.
He waved. “Hey!”
Lissa swallowed hurriedly and coughed, “Hey.” He set his hands on the bark of the oak and climbed up, perching awkwardly on the branch by her feet. “What are you doing up here?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.” She drew up her feet to give him more room. “I didn’t feel like playing Capture the Flag. Seems like kind of not exactly the smart thing to do…it’s so dark out here and, hello, there’s a barbed wire fence.”
“Bet you the rest of my M&Ms that someone runs into it.” He laughed. Instinctively Lissa grinned. His laugh was so nice, almost as musical as his cello playing. He was the best musician of any age in their stake. Her horrible traitorous brain wondered for a moment if that was why his hands were so nice, then took it a step further to the memory of last Christmas at stake conference, when he’d played “Carol of the Bells” on his cello, accompanied by violin and piano, and she’d had to remind herself not to stare at his legs and the instrument between them and the picture they presented.
For a moment they were quiet. Justin looked up through the oak leaves at the sky. “It really is dark out here. There are so many more stars than you can see at home.”
“Pretty scary,” Lissa said. “I like Star Trek and all, but I don’t really want to go into space.”
“You like Star Trek?” Justin asked. Then he laughed again. “Of course you do, you like everything cool.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” Lissa joked. “My tastes are about the opposite of cool. What lies has Alex been pouring in your ear?”
“It all seems accurate so far.” Justin glanced at her, then away to the stars again. “Alex said you guys and Lizzie went to see Florence and the Machine in Orlando. That’s pretty cool. I love them, but my parents hate concerts.”
Lissa breathed in and out very slowly. He liked Florence too! The wretched humidity of the night seemed even worse. She swore she could feel his body heat next to her. She swung her legs over the side of the branch.
“You’re not leaving, are you? We haven’t even talked about Florence yet.” He said it like he was trying to joke, but Lissa thought his voice sounded strange. She slid her eyes sideways. His profile stood out against the moonlit field. “They’re really great. My parents never let me go to concerts.”
“Mine don’t really either,” Lissa said. “I actually got in trouble for going to that one, but I paid for the ticket with my own money, so…whatever. It was worth it.”
“Are they awesome live?” he asked. She nodded. “Man. I can’t wait to go to college in a real city where I can go to whatever concerts I want.”
“Me too,” Lissa said. “I’ll see Corinne Bailey Rae and Damien Rice and—I don’t know, everyone I’ve always wanted to see. I…” Her voice trailed away. She was afraid to say what she wanted to say. She swallowed, mouth dry. “It’s weird but I feel like—like I can feel the Spirit at concerts. Like how it’s supposed to feel.”
She had never said anything like that before, not out loud, hardly even to herself at night when she listened to “The Curse” on her headphones and felt like her chest was going to burst. And now Justin would know that she wasn’t the best choice of girl to hang out with. And he definitely wouldn’t like her.
The night was heavy and still, no hint of breeze. A ways off the sounds of the camp were audible. In the pasture kids darted around, yelling and laughing.
Justin touched her hand gingerly. After a moment, after she hadn’t moved her hand away, he said, “I know what you mean, Lissa.”
“But…” she whispered. “Your testimony, during the meeting before we left…”
She felt him shrug. “Sometimes I don’t feel anything. A lot of times. And a lot of times I feel things I’m not supposed to or I feel the right thing at the wrong time. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not what’s supposed to happen. You know?”
Lissa nodded. She was afraid to look at him, afraid it would break the spell. She had never heard anyone say things like this—things that she felt but knew were wrong—not even Becky, who skipped Sunday school and had kissed a boy in every ward in the stake and occasionally smoked cigarettes.
She turned her head and looked at Justin. He looked back and by some mutually-felt and unspoken agreement they leaned toward each other.