Through a gap in the treetops, a high patch of orange sky arched over the sleepy world below it. The leaves, set alight by the weathered sun, shone like little green lanterns. Their serrated edges rustled together at the suggestion of the slow, heavy air. The quick voices of finches chittered carelessly back and forth from the boles of the trees. The smell of old rain still clung to the tall grass under the trees. It felt like the earth itself was taking a breath.
The calm was shattered by a single, desperate footfall. A girl stumbled into the glade, her wide eyes searching to and fro, her hair in disarray. She turned and looked back where she came, trying to listen over her quiet panting. Somewhere in the woods, underbrush crunched and snapped. The girl’s breath caught, and she started running again, making entirely too much noise. She glanced over her shoulder as she ran, and she thought she saw him. She made a quick turn and shot through a dense clump of vines, aiming for a clearing that could be seen through the trees. She was a step or two from the clearing, and for a moment she thought she would make it. Then something hit her. She gasped and fell out of the trees and into a carpet of grass. Her pursuer landed over her, pinning her arms to the ground. Their eyes locked, and she stared intensely at him. He stared back, then, abruptly, he leaned in and kissed her.
A wry smile twisted across her lips. Cal. she thought. She gave him a playful knee, and he rolled to the side. “Caught you, Daisy.” he said in a tired drawl.
Daisy chuckled, pulled a strand of hair out of her eyes, and tossed a stick at him. “I let you.”
He pulled her over to him, and she took his hand. The lazy sun touched the horizon, igniting a razor-thin line of ground like a white-hot wire. One by one, the lanterns of the leaves went out. The palette of the sky grew muted, and stars started to glimmer. A purple non-light began to fill the nooks of the world. The finches yielded their chorus to the crickets and cicadas. Swarms of fireflies twinkled into existence, lighting the path back as if the woods were eager for the couple to be gone. But still they sat, content with each other’s company. Eventually, Cal stood, pulling Daisy to her feet. “I ought to get you home.” he said.
“You gettin’ tired of me?” she asked mockingly.
He smiled and said, “Can’t happen. It’s just I remember how your daddy reacted the last time I brought you home late.”
“‘I’ve to get Daisy back before her daddy tans my hide.'” she teased in his voice.
“Now quit, you.” Cal responded, giving Daisy a mock push.
She feigned outrage, then pulled the boy’s hat over his eyes and hit him lightly in the shoulder. Then together they left the woods, found and untied their tethered horses, and started the long ride home.