Ace's eyes idly follow the tiny airplane as it sails hundreds of thousands of miles overhead in the bright blue sky. He vaguely wonders where it's headed, and what the people on it might be doing. Reading, watching a movie, eating small packages of peanuts, sleeping. A part of him wishes that he was on it, sailing through the sparse clouds on his way to some exciting foreign land.
Instead he is in his backyard, lying in the space between two trees on his nice new hammock. The other part of him doesn't feel like moving an inch. The weather is perfect- the sun is bright and warm, the sky is clear and blue, the grass is green beneath him and bugs are just beginning their late spring hum. It's a quiet afternoon, a nice lazy Sunday. Ace closes his eyes, feeling that all is surely right with the world.
He hears the backdoor slide open, then shut. He doesn't bother to open his eyes to see who it might be. Perhaps it's his mother, coming to bring him some cold lemonade and tell him how proud she is that he's worked so hard in school this year, so proud that she finally decided to get him the dog he's always wanted. And then his father will come behind her with the little pup on a leash and let him go and he will run and jump up onto Ace's lap, and they will spend the rest of the afternoon lying here, a boy and his brand new dog-
"Why are you smiling?"
Ace cracks an eye open. Kristen's face comes into view. She looks down at him with her hands on her hips. He smiles wider.
"Is happiness always a crime with you?" he says, opening the other eye.
"No," she says lightly. Her hands fall from her sides and she walks closer. She reaches out and grasps the edge of the net with her fingers, giving it a push. He slowly swings back and forth. "When did you get a hammock?" she asks.
"Yesterday," he says, closing his eyes again. The swinging feels nice.
"Why?" she says.
He shrugs. "Why not?"
"Stop answering my questions with questions," she says. He feels her grab the hammock and steadies it to a stop.
"Okay," he says, wishing she'd push it again. "I was at the store and I saw it on display. I had some money so I bought it."
"Of course you did," she says. He hears amusement in her voice.
There's silence for a moment. He hears the faint swooshing of passing cars beyond the front of his house. Then suddenly the hammock tilts violently.
His eyes fly open. "Kristen! What-"
"Move over, I'm getting on," she says.
"It's going to flip over-"
"Oh please, you'll be fine," she says. He attempts to scoot over as she lifts her leg onto the net. Then she pushes the other one off from the ground and tumbles right on top of him.
The hammock momentarily rocks them back and forth. Ace blinks and looks directly up into her face, which he quickly realizes is very, very close.
He also notices the way her elbows are on either side of him and her hands grip the net by his ears. Her bare legs are tangled around his left one and her chest is flattened against his. His heart beats wildly against it.
She looks right back at him. In the rare moments when he gets to see them this close, he is always taken aback by how very blue her eyes are. Her dark lashes frame them prettily, and very faint freckles dust the bridge of her nose. Her soft hair falls around her face, brushing the sides of his cheeks lightly, and suddenly the only thing he sees and thinks and feels is her.
It crosses his mind, as it always does, that this would be the perfect opportunity to just lean up and close those few tiny inches and finally kiss her. Just kiss her like he's always wanted to and like she, he's recently started letting himself believe, might want to as well.
Ace's eyes flicker to her pretty pink lips. She blinks. His heart is racing, and it's getting harder to breathe.
…Actually, it really is getting difficult to breathe.
"Um, Kristen," he says, his breath catching in his throat slightly.
"Yeah?" she says, her warm breath faintly ticking his lips.
"This is, um, very nice and all," he says, voice slightly strangled. "But you're kind of squishing me."
Her face floods with color and she rolls off of his chest. He takes a deep breath as she falls beside him, and he moves over so she has room. When they finally fall still, he becomes very aware of how his left arm is pressed against hers, the way their legs still touch, and how her head lies right beside his.
"Sorry about that," she says as the hammock swings them again.
"S'all right," he says.
They lay in silence for a few minutes as the hammock slows back to stillness, enjoying the peace, the quiet, and the feel of each other's skin against their own. The backs of their hands touch, and Ace almost considers moving his so that their palms meet instead. Her voice drags him out of his thoughts.
"You know, this is nice," Kristen says. She tilts her head to the side to face his. He looks over and meets her eyes. "You're good at compulsive shopping."
"Thanks," he says, giving her a grin. She smiles back.
They fall into silence again. She moves her head so that her cheek is just slightly resting against his shoulder, and he moves his fingers so that they're just slightly in the spaces between hers. Ace closes his eyes and smiles to himself again.
Not a single part of him would rather be anywhere else in the entire world.