The week passed pretty fast. I still spent a lot of time in the garden, although I did try to protect myself from the sun and not to overexert myself quite as much. The cramps in my legs weren’t as bad and on the weekend Celeste and I met up for our agreed-on day at the festival.
“Wow, I can already smell the popcorn and the hot dog smells” Celeste enthused as we got out of the car. As I learned, Celeste preferred to either bike or to use her own legs to get around, since, as she said it was more environmentally friendly, but with the three of us, she agreed that a cab was more reasonable.
“They had festivals like this in my old city” I remembered “but most people were busy with their jobs and didn’t spend much time there, to be honest. And to be fair, it’s not much of a summer festival, surrounded by all the cement.”
“Well, then you will truly experience things the way they were meant to be experienced” she excitedly informed me. “What should we do first?”
I could hear my stomach rumbling as the host called over participants for a hot dog eating contest “Hey, let’s join! I’ve never done that but I’m sure the hot dogs are better than whatever I can make at home.”
She laughed “Fair enough!”
Surprisingly for Celeste and not so surprisingly for the very hungry me, I actually won the contest, earning the cheers from onlookers! As the winner, I was taking a full plate of well-cooked food home (a very welcome turn of events).
“Well, looks like city boy has some skills” Celeste nudged me.
“Yep, I can eat like the best of them!” I chuckled.
“Hey, Ursa seems to really like the flowers” pointed out Celeste.
“No kidding” I noticed my fluffy friend frolicking among the wildflowers, looking like the perfect illustration of country life. “Looks like she’ll be remembering this outing for a while. Speaking of that, let’s take a picture together!”
“Totally, then you can hang it at home or something. Your place is cute, but it still doesn’t have anything that shows it’s been lived in, you know, like photographs or family stuff” she noted. “But maybe that’s just me, I always over decorate.”
“Over decorating is cool though” I smiled. “I love going to someone’s place and seeing all the mementos that a family might have in their homes. Like baby pictures, or wedding photos. You’re right, my place is somewhat empty at the moment.”
After we got our pictures, Celeste frowned at hers.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, not understanding why the photo made her gloomy.
“Ugh, I hate how I always come out so pasty-looking” she admitted.
I was baffled “What are you talking about? You look great!”
“Well, as my friend, aren’t you pretty much required to say that to make me feel better” she chuckled.
“What?! No! I mean, why would I be lying about that? I mean, you’re pretty gorgeous. Your boyfriend must be a lucky guy” I slipped up, before I realized what I was saying. I could feel my cheeks heating up.
“I don’t have a boyfriend” she blushed even more. “To be honest, this is the first time a guy as cute as you called me gorgeous.”
“You think I’m cute?” this was the first time a girl not related to me called me cute.
“Well, yeah…” She was blushing furiously now, looking absolutely embarrassed. I probably looked the same, but I could feel a huge grin take over my face. She liked me back! Without thinking, I leaned in and kissed Celeste.
I thought she’d be mad at first, but her face began to honestly glow.
“Wow” she gave a quiet laugh “I totally did not see that coming”. I couldn’t help but pull her closer.
“Celeste, will you be my girlfriend?” I asked.
She looked at me with her shining blue-green eyes and nodded, first hesitatingly, then more definitely “Yes” she finally got out “Of course!”
And just like that, I was the happiest guy alive. The girl I’ve been crushing on since my arrival agreed to be my girlfriend!
“I promise I’ll be the best boyfriend I can be” I told her.
She smiled and embraced me. I could spend an eternity like this. Was this love? I didn’t know, but whatever it was, I doubt there was a better feeling in the world.
After Celeste and I became an item, I felt more energized than ever. We spend all our free time either together or on the phone, talking. Neither of us were really the flirty types, so we talked about other things, like gardening, fishing, life in general, or how our days were going.
The time I wasn’t with Celeste, I would spend in my garden or with Ursa. To my consternation and general itching, I’ve discovered that dogs easily get fleas when you let them go outside without a flea collar. Coaxing a terrified and flea-bitten dog into a special flea bath was… challenging.
Still running short on funds, I utilized all of Celeste’s fishing tips, I spent hours fishing at the nearby beach. It was all about using the right bait, finding a populated water site, and generally staying patient enough for the fish to bite. It was pretty serene, I thought, looking at the sparkling waters in front of me. Hidden Springs didn’t exactly have an ocean—the waterbody was a huge lake created from the nearby flowing river’s end. Therefore, the air here wasn’t that of the sandy ocean, but that of a mountain lake. It was very refreshing.
Even though, I was tired upon coming back from my fishing outing, I knew I had to check on the plants. There were still those pesky weeds and the heat was still taking toll on the weaker plants. I worried that the summer weather won’t let my garden succeed, so I had to make sure I did my best to prevent it from dying.
Waking up the next morning, I knew something didn’t feel right. My skin was practically burning. A look in the mirror confirmed my worst suspicions—I had a killer sunburn.
“Argh” I was sure I used enough sunscreen, but maybe I forgot to reapply it while fishing?
My phone rang and I saw Celeste’s number.
“Yes” I answered trying to not show my discomfort through the phone.
She must have sensed something anyways “Simon, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, just a bit tired, that’s all” I lied.
“Ok then, take care” she didn’t sound convinced “Get some sleep, maybe you’ll feel better.”
“Will do. I’ll probably go back to bed now” I answered honestly.
The bed felt uncomfortable and moving too much was a challenge. Curling up, I finally fell into some semblance of a nap.
I woke up to see Celeste sitting at my bed “I’ve let myself in. Wow, you’ve got a really bad sunburn.”
I felt embarrassed—she specifically told me to be careful about this “I’m sorry.”
She gave a comforting smile “Don’t be, it’s ok. I brought some cooling bath salts and oils. Go take a lukewarm bath and put on the lotion I brought you.”
“You’re my guardian angel” I told her and hauled myself toward the bathroom.
She smiled and shook her head “Just doing what I can. I’ll make something to eat—you must be starving.”
After I followed Celeste’s instructions, I felt much better. Meanwhile she made a fast but delicious salad.
“I should have been more careful” I admitted.
“It’s easy to forget that though. Trust me, I did when I first got here” she laughed. “Have you seen your garden today?”
“No. I was too achy to even look out the wondow” I realized.
“Well, come on over. You’ll like what you’ll see.”
Outside the sun was at its worst. “Don’t worry, we won’t be out here long” she calmed me down.
We approached my plants and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“So what do you think? I’d say your hard efforts paid off!” enthused Celeste.
“They’ve blossomed!” I whispered, looking at the healthy-looking tomato fruits. “It’s working!”
“It sure is” agreed Celeste. “Now let’s get yourself nice and healthy, so you can continue tending your garden, but this time around, remember that your garden, Ursa, and I would be very sad if something bad happens to you.”
Without thinking of my aches, I pulled her into a tight kiss.
“What would I do without you?” I asked, still holding her tight. I knew right there and then that she was the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. As soon as my garden brought in some profit, I’ll propose to her.