My brush stroked nervously over the canvas. It was a warm, bright Sunday afternoon and Danny had come over to work on our joined art project. We’d dragged the easels outside for ‘inspiration’ and fresh air, but I still had a difficult time concentrating on what I was doing. All I could think about was how close Danny was standing behind me, what his breathing sounded like and the whiff of cologne that I caught every once in a while.
Don’t be ridiculous, Sam, just focus on the damn project.
I took a step back and frowned, looking at my work so far. It was supposed to be a night/day view of landscape. I had been assigned ‘day’, and Danny was working on the ‘night’. I’d rather it had been the other day around. The bright colors weren’t cooperating with me and I felt frustrated. All of grandma’s paintings seemed so amazing and effortless – why hadn’t that talent been transferred to me?
After hearing my annoyed sighs, Danny put his brush down and walked over to me.
“It’s just not…. Good,” I said, pointing at the canvas. “Look at this blotch of yellow, it’s not even –”
“Sam, stop it,” Danny interrupted with a laugh. “Don’t do this to yourself. It looks great. Relax a little bit.”
He put his hand on my shoulder, softly and just for a second, but I felt like I was about to have a heart attack. Relax. Like I could relax with Danny just half a step behind me, feeling his warm breath on my neck.
Danny moved around the canvas and stood next to me. “Look, if you’re really getting this frustrated, let’s just take a break. Maybe that’ll clear your head.”
He smiled at me, a warm, friendly smile that made me nearly faint. I cleared my throat and managed a smile myself.
“Yeah, good idea.”
We sat on the porch bench for a while, talking about school, art and food. I loved looking at Danny while he was telling me a story, moving his arms around for added effect and laughing at his own jokes. He was so different than me – so much more outgoing, so much more popular, so much more athletic in addition to being artistic. It was silly to think he could ever be attracted to me. But still, here we were, having a great time together. Could that mean…
My thoughts were interrupted by Oliver, who came out on the porch.
“Hey, guys. Mom mentioned you two were out here.” He gave Danny a friendly nod, who smiled back. They got along pretty well, even though they had separate groups of friends in school.
“Yeah, just working on our art project,” Danny said.
Oliver glanced over at the canvases. “Looks great!”
“Sam doesn’t think so,” Danny teased and I felt my cheeks redden. Oliver shook his head. “He never does. Listen, I’m having a birthday party next week. Do you think you could make it, Danny? My parents are out of town and there’s a bunch of people from school coming.”
I tried hard to keep my smile from fading. Of course, it made sense for Oliver to invite Danny. They were friendly with each other. But I couldn’t help but worry… what if, at the party, it would be obvious to everyone that I had a crush on him? Or worse, what if I saw him making out with some hot girl?
“Awesome! I’ll be there,” Danny said excitedly.
“Great! See you then.”
Oliver was about to go inside, but I quickly got up. “Ollie, can I talk to you in the kitchen for a second?”
As soon as the door closed behind us, I looked at Oliver. “What are you inviting him for?”
My brother had a confused expression on his face. “Wait, you’re not happy that I invited him for you?”
“Yeah, I figured you’d never do it yourself, so I’d help you out a bit.”
“But… I don’t… We’re not…” I was stammering. I hadn’t talked to anyone about my crush, not even Oliver, who I usually told everything to. How could he know?
As if he read my mind, Oliver smiled. “Sam, it’s so obvious that you like him. I’ve known for a while.”
“Oh.” I could think of nothing more intelligent to say.
“I just wish you’d talked to me about it. I went to your room all the time to gush about Jen when we were first dating.”
He almost looked a little hurt, and I immediately felt guilty. “I’m sorry, Ollie. It’s just… it’s awkward for me, still.”
He nodded quickly. “I understand.” His smile came back full force. “Hey, who knows… Maybe that party is exactly what you need for a little push in the right direction.”
I scoffed and laughed. “Yeah, we’ll see about that.”
But as I turned around and walked back to the porch, I couldn’t help but hope that maybe Oliver was right, and that party would be exactly what I needed…