Celestial Navigation (6 of 29)

Seth and Ella lay in the grass staring into the sky.

“I wish I’d ever paid attention when people tried to teach me constellations,” Seth said. “I’m not even sure which dipper that is, big or little.”

Ella laughed. “I’m no better. All those field trips to the planetarium and I’ve got nothing.”

Seth almost said something cringe-worthy like, “You’ve got me,” but managed to keep it inside. He wanted to touch her, to take her hand. But there was no not-awkward way to do that, and no guarantee she’d welcome the contact. Such a mistake would be horrific any time, but he didn’t want to imagine the blow-back of taking such a misstep at a leadership retreat, surrounded by upper management from every department.

“Do kids still go on planetarium field trips, I wonder,” Ella said. “Can’t imagine they learn anything more than we did. Good thing no one expects us to navigate by the stars.”

“Or tell time by the sun.”

“Oh no, that I can do.”

Seth looked over at her. “You can?”

She laughed again. “Just kidding. I might be able to give you noon. That’s it.”

Seth sat up and looked over to where others from their group were sitting around the bonfire. “I almost didn’t come on this retreat,” he said. “Usually these kinds of things drive me nuts, and especially when you’re trapped out of town in some retreat center, but this –” He looked at Ella and smiled.

“Oh, I’m with you,” she said. “Like when you get a motivational speaker and you have to act as if anything they’re saying has anything to do with your work. The worst!” She looked over at him. “But these three days have been great.”

He hoped she meant that the three days of getting to know him had been great. He still couldn’t believe they worked in partnering units and he’d never seen her before. But here she was, and he hated that the retreat was ending the next day. What if it hadn’t been enough time to make her want to keep knowing him?

He wanted to be the kind of man who had anything that could be described as “moves.” He wanted to be able to flirt with her, wanted to say something that would make her lean into him the way he’d seen women do with other men, lean in with anticipation and the flush of excitement.

“Which bus are you on to head back after lunch tomorrow,” she asked.

Her eyes were closed, and Seth took a deep breath. Here was an opportunity he hadn’t thought of. “Oh, I drove up,” he said, hoping it sounded off-hand, as casual as an answer to her question should have sounded. He took another breath. “I could drive you back if you like.” His voice cracked just a little over “like,” but maybe she wouldn’t notice.

She opened her eyes but focused on the sky, not him. “Thanks. I’d like that. Much better than the bus ride. Oh –” she pointed up quickly, and he squinted up to follow her direction. “It was a shooting star,” she said. “At least I think so. It went so fast.”

“Did you make a wish?” Why had he asked her that? Was he seven years old? He tried to think of a way to laugh it off, but suddenly had no words.

“I always make a wish,” she said. “I’ll let you know if it comes true.”

Seth smiled. Even if she didn’t mean anything by it, her words gave him hope. He stretched out beside her again and watched the sky.

Leap Flash 2016


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