I surveyed my readers, and this is their favorite scene from my Christian Romance, A Summer in Sweet Grove. I thought it might be nice to share it here on my blog so others can enjoy it too! A Summer in Sweet Grove will be on sale for just 99¢ through Valentine's Day, and book 2 in the First Street Church Romances, A Supper in Sweet Grove, is also on sale for just 99¢ as a special pre-order offer. Be sure to grab both while the grabbing is good!
Summer made it to the bridge a few paces behind Ben. Although her breaths now came out in short puffs, Ben’s breathing remained easy, effortless. “You could have told me you were an Olympic level athlete!” she joked.
“Well, I do have the record at Sweet Grove High for fastest one-hundred-meter dash.” She couldn’t tell for sure in the darkening sky, but it seemed like he winked at her.
“I haven’t got any records like that, so I think I need to sit down now and take a rest.” She pushed her legs through the rails of the bridge, allowing her feet to dangle over the water beneath them.
Ben quickly joined her. The heat from his body warmed hers even though they weren’t yet touching.
“Are you good at everything you try?” she asked seriously.
“Everything except life itself,” he answered, then jumped back to his feet and wandered off the bridge and onto the small beach below. Had she made a mistake? She’d been trying to compliment him, to flirt, but now here she was sitting on her own in the middle of a night that had once seemed so perfect.
She hesitated before deciding that, yes, she should probably go look for him. But before she could clamber fully back to her feet, Ben had returned. He sat back down with her and handed her a small, white flower. “I saw this, and I wanted you to have it. Plus, I needed some time to think of a better answer to your question.”
Summer shot him a confused look.
He smiled and rolled his eyes. “You asked if I’m good at everything. It was like two minutes ago. Remember?”
She laughed. “Oh, that. You don’t have to—”
“The truth is I’m not. Look at my life, Summer. It was a hopeless mess before you turned up. But now, with you, somehow I feel like maybe I can do anything, maybe I’m not such a screw-up, after all.”
“Because of me?” she squeaked.
“Because of you. What about you? What are you best at?”
“That’s the thing. I’m not really best at anything. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I’m afraid if I choose one thing, I’ll be letting go of everything else, you know?”
He swung his feet back and forth as if running through the night air. “But in not choosing, you hang onto nothing.”
“Okay, Confucius. You told me you wanted to be a history teacher. How did you know? Like really know that’s the one thing you wanted?”
“Well, first off, my mom was a teacher, so it’s kind of in my blood. But also I just never wanted to stop learning. I feel like knowledge can take you anywhere even if you never leave your backyard.”
“Now you sound like a PBS special.” She laughed again. She laughed so much whenever she was with Ben. “I like it. I like you. Quite a lot, actually.”
“I like you too.” He bumped his shoulder into hers and slid a little closer so that now they were sitting hip to hip. “That’s why I gave you that flower.”
“That’s why, huh?” She twirled the stem in her hand and watched the white petals spin. “Not to remind me that I’m a crap florist?”
He laughed heartily. “Nope, because it looked so pure and beautiful down by the bank. It reminded me of you, that there daisy.”
“Daisy? How do you know it’s not an aster?”
“It is an aster,” he answered with a subtle smirk.
“But you said…?”
“It’s an aster and a daisy, because a daisy is a type of aster. It’s kind of like how a square is also a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.”
“Huh?” Her head hurt a little now, but she liked that Ben knew the answer even if she didn’t quite understand it herself.
He shook his head and let out a slow breath. “Sorry, I get a little…”
“Teachery?” she supplied.
“It really is in your blood. You have it all figured out.”
Ben scoffed. His previously playful tone turned serious. “Hardly. I know what I want but not how to get it. I’m so afraid that if I pursue my own dreams I’ll let everyone down. My mom, Maisie, and even Stephen’s memory. Pretty ridiculous, huh?”
“Not at all. I get where you’re coming from. I’ve always been afraid of taking that leap of faith too. I’ve worried that…”
“You wouldn’t like where you landed?”
She touched her nose to let him know his guess was exactly right. When she lowered her hand back to her lap, he took it in both of his.
His green eyes focused on her without blinking. “What are you so afraid of?” he asked.
“Making the wrong choice,” she admitted, giving his hand a squeeze. Could they maybe change the subject and talk about happier things now?
Ben, though, seemed determine to pursue the issue. “But in making no choice, you instead—”
“I know,” she said, and it was true. She understood all her limitations, but what she didn’t understand is what had gotten in the way for Ben all these years, why he hadn’t fought for himself. So she asked, “What are you so afraid of?”
He looked up at the sky as if to draw strength, and answered her while staring at the stars. “Never amounting to anything,” he confessed. “Killing myself when it all becomes too much.”
Well, she had not expected to hear that. Especially since Ben knew firsthand how much a decision like that could hurt those who had been left behind. She gasped. “You wouldn’t!”
He turned back toward her, his face looked pale, whether from the moonlight or from the weight of his words, she couldn’t be certain. “I very nearly did.”
What do I say to that? I’m glad you didn’t kill yourself? Thanks for sticking around?
Ben continued, relieving her of having to find a response. “The day we met, actually.”
She thought back to that day. Ben’s coldness slowly giving way to warmth, him saying he had somewhere he needed to be but then sticking by her side for hours. “The botched delivery.”
“Not botched. Destined.” Ben reached over her lap and grabbed her other hand. Now they were turned toward each other, face to face. Close enough to kiss if the moment ever felt quite right. “You were the answer to my prayer,” he said. “You were the hope I needed. And now I don’t feel afraid anymore. I bet that sounds pretty ridiculous.”
“No, I love it,” she whispered, wondering whether she were also starting to maybe love him as well. “Thank you for telling me. I wish I weren’t afraid anymore.”
“Then don’t be.” Ben popped to his feet and pulled Summer up with him. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted into the night, “I’m not afraid anymore!”
Turning back to her, he said, “This feels awesome. C’mon. You try it.”
“I’m not afraid to live my life!” she yelled toward the stars.
“I’m not afraid to chase my dreams!” he raised his voice louder with each word.
She giggled, having come up with an idea she rather liked, and shouted, “I’m not afraid to take a leap of faith!”
But then there was Ben, pulling her closer, saying, “I’m not afraid to show you how I feel.”
They both fell quiet, breathing in sync with one another, their hearts racing from the excitement of it all. And then he bent forward and brushed his lips against hers. Their first kiss, a beautiful kiss. It all felt so… empowering, which is not a word Summer would have thought she’d ever use to describe a romantic moment like this one.
“I can do anything!” She climbed onto the bridge railing and stood teetering above Ben. “I’m not afraid to take a leap of faith!”
She pushed off from the railing and dove into the lake below, letting the air carry her, feeling so alive, so unfettered. A moment later, Ben jumped too.
They were no longer afraid, for they’d found strength in each other.