I climb my oak tree with little effort and settle on my favorite branch that stretches and curves as it kisses the ground, making it the perfect spot to recline and observe. The bark pinches my back and feet in a familiar and pleasant way as I settle in to draw. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet, and fog hovers along the surface of the pond. It feels heavy and dank, blurring my subject, but helping me see things in a different light. This is what I want to draw. An old stomping ground with a new perspective.
I quickly lose myself in the lines of the trees, the branches sagging under the weight of the Spanish moss and the shading of the fog. I’m completely oblivious to the crackling leaves behind me. I never hear his approach, and I jump as he passes right by me without noticing. I draw my knees tightly into my chest and duck my head in a ridiculous attempt to make myself invisible.
I’ve never seen him before, but he acts as if he belongs here. How can that be? I know everyone who works at my daddy’s golf course, and I certainly would have remembered him.
He walks to the edge of the pond and drops a backpack at his feet. He toes off his tennis shoes and reaches around to grab his shirt and pull it over his head. He bends down and grabs a net that I failed to notice sticking out of his backpack and slowly wades in the water. Suddenly, I feel like the trespasser, the Peeping Tom, but I can’t look away. Instead, I silently turn the page of my sketchbook and start a new project.
I can’t get a good look at his face, but his profile and back grab my attention all on their own. His hair is inky black and unruly, like he just rolled out of bed. Considering the time, that’s probably the case. His shoulders are broad, but his muscles haven’t quite caught up with his frame; like a boy on his way to becoming a man, he isn’t quite there yet. He’s deep golden tan, presumably from heritage rather than the sun, because he has no tan lines that I can see … and make no mistake, I’m looking.
I go unnoticed for a while as I draw, watching him collect golf balls from the bottom of the pond, tossing them on land. He’s amassed quite a pile when I feel a pesky tickle in my nose. Oh, please, no!
“Achoo!” I sneeze loud enough to wake the dead, and I hold up my sketchpad to hide myself from view. To my utter dismay, a small notebook does not have the ability to shield an entire human being from sight.
His body tenses at the sound of my sneeze. He whips his head around and his blaming eyes land firmly on me.
“Hey, what are you doing up there? Are you spying on me?” he shouts with an irritated scowl as he exits the pond and storms toward my tree.
“I was here before you, so how could I be spying? Maybe you were spying on me!” I holler back with an equal amount of irritation.
“I didn’t even know you were there. You could’ve let me know I wasn’t alone. What if I had taken off my pants?”
Well, that would have been interesting … and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I can’t help my smirk as I chuckle softly to myself.
“You think that’s funny, huh?” He glares indignantly.
“I don’t know, maybe. You tell me. Would I laugh if I saw you naked?”
My natural tendency toward smartass seems to break the dickhead dam this guy is attempting to build, and he lets out a sharp laugh. He looks down and shakes his head, continuing to laugh.
“A sassy Peeping Tom. I think I like it.” He smiles, and my heart drops at the sight. Seriously, this guy could stop traffic. His eyes are as dark as his hair, a complete contradiction to my crystal blue.
Staring into his eyes for much longer than appropriate causes an awkward silence to settle between us. It also gives him a moment to size me up and notice my sketchpad. He raises his eyebrows suspiciously.
“Well, what do we have here?” He shoots me a devious grin to distract me right before jumping up and swiping my notebook off my lap.
“Hey, give that back! That’s private.” I climb out of the tree as quickly as I can and race toward him, fists clenched. He’s running away, holding the notebook high above his head, well out of my reach. He stops and turns toward me. His laughter quickly dies in his throat as his eyes rake over my body.
“Fuck me.” He runs his hand down his face and gives his head a sobering jostle.
I glare at him and place my hands on my hips. “Hey, watch your damn mouth! I’m a lady.”
Laughter finds him again, and he throws his head back, completely overtaken. He finally catches his breath to find me still seething.
“Sweetheart, I have no doubt you’re a lady. In fact, all of your lady parts are on full display. I’m just enjoying the show.”
What the hell is he talking about? Realization washes over me like ice-cold water in the face. I look down, and my breath hitches in complete mortification. The sunlight filtering through the tree branches has turned my nightgown into full-on peepshow attire. I quickly raise my hands to cover my panties and my braless chest. Yes, braless.
“Polka dots become you.”
“Shut up! And stop looking!”
“I can’t help it. It’s kind of like a wreck on the highway. I just can’t look away. Well, not exactly like a wreck. This is good, where a wreck is bad … very bad … what were we talking about?”
“Oh my God! Just give me my sketchpad so I can go. This is embarrassing enough without you ogling me.” I stamp my foot for emphasis, but since he’s laughing again, I’m fairly certain I’ve missed the mark.
“Just hold your horses, Polky. I’ll give you my shirt to cover up, okay?” He grabs his shirt off the ground and tosses it my way. “See, I’m a good guy. Totally makes up for the ogling, right?”
“Not even close!” I shout.
“Hey, I could have kept my mouth shut and let you parade around like my own personal burlesque show, unbeknownst to you.”
“Well, there is that.” I shrug my shoulders, giving him that small concession.
Once I throw on his shirt and cover all my unmentionables, I peer up at him flipping through my drawings while calling out random compliments. He gets to what I assume is my last drawing and looks up at me questioningly.
“I’m right in front of you, shirtless … in all my glory … and this is what you choose to draw?”
“I didn’t realize you had glory,” I mutter sarcastically.
“Oh, I have glory, Polky. Or at least I thought I did before this crushing blow to my ego. I may never recover. Do you want that type of guilt on your hands?”
“I have no doubt you’ll recover just fine. Anyway, I wanted to draw the pond this morning, and when you walked into the water, you changed it.”
“The pond. The ripples started where you walked in, but they kept going, reaching out all the way to the edges.” I look over at the drawing, showing his hand reaching down, with only the tip of his finger touching the surface of the water. From that small touch, the pond is transformed. The waves, the mirrored light, the reflections—all exquisitely altered.
“So my presence changed things, huh?” His lips turn up into a conceited grin.
“Disturbed things is more like it,” I grumble under my breath.
“Whatever. I rocked that pond’s world.”
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