The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
A Change in the Wind
I love Daniel.
I know that I love Daniel.
I love the way he knows the earth and how to make things grow and thrive.
I love that he can see past the tangles of brush and weeds to find names and histories of things.
I love that he takes care of things.
I love that he hasn’t given up on himself, even though his life has been hard.
I love that he has a sense of humor, and I love that he gets along with my mom.
I love his laugh, and the way he looks at me like I’m insane when I’m being kind of insane.
But there is so much I don’t know.
He’s keeping something from me, and part of me wonders if his secrets are dangerous.
Like, I don’t know if I’m in love with him.
And I don’t know if I should be kissing someone that I don’t know for sure I’m in love with.
But I do know that I wasn’t expecting this kiss.
I do know that he is important to me.
And I do know that everything could go terribly wrong if I tell him I’m not ready to be kissing him.
I’m not ready.
Is that okay? I’m sixteen. Shouldn’t I be ready?
Before I could get past the flood of thoughts that came with the kiss, it was over. He stayed close, still holding my hand. Neither of us spoke, and I think his eyes were closed, like mine.
I don’t know how much time passed with us like that.
And then he put his hand on my cheek, so lightly.
Could I be in love with him?
“We should get back up to the house,” he said quietly.
I looked up at him finally and nodded. “Yeah, we should.”
Back over the fallen tree, and through the forest. He kept hold of my hand, softly, but the work-hardened muscles in his hand made me feel secure. Just before we emerged from the trees, we let go of one another.
I don’t blame him.
My mom would totally give him a weird look, and then she’d probably want to talk to me later about it.
I wouldn’t blame her.
I want to talk to myself about it, too.
Daniel hung around for the afternoon, and we played the longest card game ever, Phase Ten. Which is much better played with a bunch of people, rather than just two. Mom knows this, so she obliged us and joined, sharing her cards with Rhys.
She’d tell him what card to play, and he’d put it down. It didn’t seem like much, because it was like playing with a five-year-old who knew their numbers but who could actually sit still. To me? It was a lot. Keeping Rhys in the game was cool, but it was even cooler when, an hour or so in, he began to anticipate which card Mom wanted him to play.
Too soon, the afternoon was over. Daniel offered to take Rhys back to his cabin, since the road would be hard for our sedan to handle, and Mom obliged. Mom packed up some things for Rhys, and I found myself alone in the kitchen with Daniel.
“So, before...” he began.
I flushed bright red, I’m sure. “Yeah, before...”
“I’m not sorry. It wasn’t an accident. I like you, Miya.”
“I like you, too,” I replied. That was the truth, and it came out easily. “I just—I think I’m not ready for—um...”
His smile faded, and worry took its place. “Oh.”
“No, Daniel, listen to me. There is so much I like about you. This is new to me, okay? I’ve never done any of this, and I don’t know if I’m ready for it to be more.”
He searched me, frowning, and then nodded. “Yeah, okay.” He stepped back, but then drew himself to his full height. “I’m still not sorry.”
Silence came between us, and for a moment or six, I was caught up in his gaze. His dark eyes held so much, and I wanted to know what he knew.
Even if it would hurt me.
“Good,” I said, and found myself smiling, if only a little.
Just like that, the tension that had flooded the room eased. The last thing in the world I wanted was to lose the friendship we’d forged, or for this to feel like rejection.
I just wanted him to understand what I needed.
And when his smile mirrored mine, I was pretty sure he did understand.
That night, Mom buried herself in notes and research. I slipped the recovered laptop into my bag and took it downstairs with me and did my best to get past the password protection, but failed. A lot. And miserably. Eventually, I went to bed and my mind wandered its way into sleep.
The next morning, the air conditioning repair guys showed up. Mom and I left them to their work, and told them to help themselves to the leftover cookies and the fresh jug of lemonade we made just for them.
She dropped me off on her way to her session with Rhys because I wanted to revisit the labyrinth and the pavilion. It took more than an hour to get through the maze of overgrown bushes, but by the time I did, the sun had risen and shone differently on the pavilion than it had the last time I saw it. I followed the light and snapped exterior pictures—and then I realized one of the glass doors stood ajar.
It was open!
I could get in!
I totally, totally went in.
Tables dotted the expanse of floor, each big enough for about six people to sit comfortably. Along one side of tall windows, chairs were neatly stacked. A raised part of the pavilion created a stage, and around it, a staircase snaked up high and let out into balconies.
The air inside hung hot and thick. There was a stellar chance my allergies would prohibit me from staying long, so I was determined to make the most of whatever time they granted.
The staircase promised the best possible angles, so I began the ascent. Daniel had said the pavilion was the first building on the island to be renovated, and the interior confirmed the story. While the mustiness proved the building had been unused for quite some time, the woodwork under my feet held strong and showed no sign of neglect aside from dust bunnies.
Each step gave way to another view, sometimes slight, sometimes grand. I loved the way the windows displayed the light, and the shadows cast. I made it to the second floor landing, and after a brief survey of the space, I found a door.
I’d bet anything that led up to the widow’s walk.
I really, really wanted to explore.
So, I did.
The door, warped from all the humidity, barely budged. It definitely wasn’t locked, and I definitely was stubborn, so I fought the door for almost two minutes, until it reluctantly swung open.
“Bingo,” I murmured, and looked up at the steep, narrow, and dark staircase.
And then I began to climb.
A testament to my stubbornness: even though I hadn’t received cell service for the entirety of my stay here at Dogwood Cross, I dutifully packed my phone with me before every excursion.
On the widow’s walk, the wind whipped against my face. I held onto the railing and scoped out the breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean to left. I had found the most amazing spot in all of the country. I was sure of it. I couldn’t wait to show Mom.
I wasn’t but two minutes topside, however, when my phone began to spaz. I pulled it from my bag and watched days of texts and email alerts flood in.
When finally the ringtones stopped, I began scrolling through the texts. No fewer than ten were from Nadia, all in a jumble. I dropped my bag and wedged myself against the corners of the railing and tried to determine which had meant to be first.
My name reached me, muffled from the wind and water.
It was a guy’s voice, and frantic.
I peered over the edge of the building.
Rhys stood, his overgrown hair dancing, but the expression on his face was not at all light.
“HURRY!” he hollered. Even though he was desperate, he wasn’t struggling to speak. I stared, trying to process the scene unfolding, when he yelled again, “GET DOWN HERE!”
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