Flicker blue 1 plain jan.., p.12
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       Flicker Blue 1: Plain Jane, p.12

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  A shadow scurried across the forest floor, and Sophie opened her eyes. Sitting up against one elbow, she scanned the surrounding trees for movement. Nothing moved save for the rising and falling of Adam’s chest as he breathed next to her; there was no sound except for the morning birds in the branches high above. An animal, maybe…. Whatever it had been, the sight of two teenagers lounging in the middle of its forest seemed to have frightened it away.

  “What’s wrong?” Adam asked, his voice groggy as he sat up next to her, a crown of dried leaves tangled in his short red curls.

  “Nothing. I thought I saw something, but…hey, were you falling asleep?”

  “I guess so. Sorry,” he answered with a swallowed yawn.

  She shrugged, then settled back down next to him. The ground was soft, and she overcame the urge to yawn herself. It had been a long night. She held up one arm and winked as she manipulated the slanting shafts of light that filtered through the tree canopies between her outstretched fingers.

  “So. Are you coming with me tonight?”

  “Hmmm….” Sophie’s dreamy response trailed off as she winked the other eye shut, turned her hand at the wrist, and refocused. Tiny specks of pollen swirled around her turning hand, a visual echo of her movement that was almost imperceptible in the growing light. She turned her hand back the other way, and the specks followed suit. Sophie was so closely focused on their tiny orbit that she only just caught sight of the shadow when it moved again. She turned her head in time to catch the dark form of a boot stepping away into the trees.

  Sophie shot back up to attention, but the shadow was gone. There’s no way anyone—anything could move that fast. She was seeing things again, she decided as she laid her head back down . Get a hold of yourself.

  “Uh, Sophie? Earth to Sophie….” Adam shook his head, and the pieces of his leafy crown rained down onto the side of her face.

  “What?” she laughed as she sat up to face him. There was no shadow.

  “Are you coming with me tonight?”

  “Yeah. I’m coming.”

  He stood and held out a hand, which she took without hesitation. “With me?”

  “No…but I’m coming. What difference does ‘with you’ make?”

  She could barely remember a time when her days had not begun with their early morning rendezvous beneath the goblin tree. As children, they had met there to play with three of the other commune kids, but only Sophie and Adam had continued the tradition. Of course, many years had passed since they went to pay homage to the goblins in the woods. Their silly games had ended with their childhoods, but Sophie found herself walking there every morning in the lavender pre-dawn twilight anyway. The sun rose when she saw Adam standing beneath the gnarled gray branches, and it had always been that way.

  They stood there now, with their arms lingering around one another, and she wished for the thousandth time that she loved him the way he had grown to love her. To Sophie, this intimacy with Adam was as natural as breathing, but she knew—way deep down—that their days like this were numbered. She would miss this—the deep and grounding familiarity with his body and his expressions—but already, she felt like she betrayed him by simply not returning his affections.

  Adam smiled and reached up to touch the side of her face. “I don’t guess it does. You wanna walk back to the farm with…shit.” He laughed and tried again. “You wanna walk back to the farm?” His kept his voice nonchalant, but his eyes were a cold smolder.

  Sophie felt another pang of guilt as she moved away from his touch. It was too easy to give in to his advances, but she knew that she would pay the price for every time she led him on. Eventually, she would have to let him down, and her debt was piling high. Not today, she sighed. “Uh, yeah. I should get back soon. I’m on coop duty this morning.”

  Adam made a face.

  “Tell me about it.” She wrinkled her nose and led the way back toward the commune.

  For a moment, Adam hung back and watched her begin the walk through the silvery columns of oak, her hair swinging in a pale sheet against the back of her elbows. She turned her head toward him just before she disappeared behind the wide and gnarled trunk of the goblin tree. “Well, come on,” she laughed. “I’m not going to wait for you.”

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