Happy Fourth of July! I hope you get to see some fireworks this week. I love watching the amazing colors and patterns burst up in the sky. Maybe that's why I've written several romantic scenes that include them.
To celebrate a little more with you, I wanted to share this excerpt from my latest novel, Faith & Hope. It seemed ideal for the day. Enjoy!
The Fourth of July dawned beautiful and clear. Sam, Faith, and Hope joined Maysie and her husband, Gavin, and Kendra, Maria, and Joe and headed to a local park that evening. Hope ended up crammed in the back seat of Maysie’s Suburban between Maria and Joe. Every time his knee brushed hers, she had to refocus on the conversation going on around her. It was the one day of the summer that camp was
closed, but she didn’t mind getting to spend it with Joe anyway. Once again, this week she had been paired with him and the first-grade boys. Did he bribe Steve to make that happen over and over again?
Since so many people were at the park for the fireworks show that evening, they parked quite a way from the actual entrance and had to walk. Kendra latched on to Maria. Sam and Faith strolled ahead with the blankets and some lawn chairs. Maysie and Gavin pulled the cooler full of waters and sodas. Joe and Hope ended up at the end of their train with a couple more chairs.
Somehow despite the crowd, they managed to find a spot big enough for all of them close enough to the stage to hear the music, but also near enough to the water to have a good view of the fireworks
later that evening. Hope helped Faith spread out the blankets on the ground while the guys set up the chairs around the edge for those who didn’t think the grass was soft enough. Hope found a corner of the blanket and some water. Joe sat in a chair right behind her.
“It’s so hot.” Hope fanned herself with the flyer.
“But at least it’s dry heat instead of that humid heat back east.” Faith held a bottle so that Kendra could take a swig. “I swear you walk out of the house at Mama’s and it feels like you’re walking through a hot tub, it’s so humid.”
“It’s not that bad. I miss the humidity. Here, I feel like I can’t keep my skin from drying out.” Hope pointed to her arms, which didn’t look as dry as she claimed, considering the sheen of perspiration
“I sweat so much I don’t think my skin can dry out.” Maysie laughed. “I didn’t realize there was such a difference in climate between here and Mississippi.”
“Not that extreme. Just different.” Hope shrugged. “The temperatures don’t get quite as high back home.”
“But the 90 percent humidity makes up for the five- to ten-degree difference.” Faith scrunched up her face.
“So, you’re both happy where you normally live.” Joe broke in. “Sounds good. How about that baseball team?”
Hope refused to look over her shoulder at him. She knew exactly what he was trying to do. He had changed the subject to keep her and Faith from beginning one of their sister squabbles. She quit fanning and looked around.
Some band on the stage was playing their version of a patriotic medley. Hope turned her view in their direction to avoid having to continue the conversation. The sky darkened little by little and several kids in the area waved glow sticks. Occasionally there would be a “pop, pop, pop” of firecrackers going off from various boys’ hands around the park. Multiple ice cream vendors walked their carts through the throng of people, hawking fudge bars and rocket pops.
Joe followed one and came back with the red, white, and blue popsicles for everyone. Hope took hers gladly. A gentle breeze lifted her ponytail off her neck and cooled her for a minute before moving
on to the next person. The wind down here took some getting used to. Sometimes it was like that breeze, playful and calm. Other times it almost knocked a person over. Sort of like her relationship
“Here, Mama, you take this chair.” Joe stood and offered his hand to Maria where she had been shifting next to Hope. He pulled her up as if she weighed no more than one of their second-grade boys
and helped her settle in the canvas seat. His tall frame slid down next to Hope as the streaks of pink
turned a shade hotter in the sky. She pretended she didn’t notice, but every inch of her body was aware of just how close his was to her. She slapped at a mosquito and rubbed some more repellent on her legs and arms. The darkening evening brought not only the fireworks show, but also unwanted pests.
After a dramatic musical introduction, the first few rockets shot up in the sky. The crowd grew quieter as all listened to the songs and the explosions. Shivers ran down Hope’s arms as the theatrical lights
display lit up the night.
“Sort of reminds me of the way I felt when I kissed you the other night,” Joe whispered in her ear.
Bigger tremors traversed her spine. Had he really just said that? A quick glance showed him watching her instead of the pyrotechnics. She hurried to turn her attention back to the sky. Why did he have to
play with her heart like that?
He shifted so that his shoulder was slightly behind her and she could lean back against him for a better angle. Her stubbornness made her wait until the next song started before she gave in and took advantage of that. Why did he have to feel so strong and safe and secure? Why did something so good have to have such lousy timing?
Faith leaned against Sam in a similar fashion. Maysie and Gavin had Kendra between them, the toddler vacillating between jumping up and down and covering her eyes. The music crescendoed and moved into the “1812 Overture.” Fireworks larger than before started exploding one right after another, hardly giving their eyes time to adjust to the dark before lighting up the sky again. As the song ended, one final blast made it almost as bright as day, and then all was quiet and dark.
People all over the park cheered. Kids waved their glow sticks and sparklers around. Smoke hovered over the area like a blanket. Slowly, Hope sat up and away from Joe’s arms. She helped the others gather their belongings and then started the trek back to the car. Maria walked right beside Hope and gave her a hug from the side.
“I see the way he looks at you. He’s smitten.” Her voice was quiet, as if she were sharing a secret.
Hope looked at the petite woman. “It doesn’t matter. Our paths will part ways at the end of the summer.”
“Only if you let them,” Maria said.
Hope didn’t even try to pay attention to the conversation going on around her as they drove back to the church building, where everyone had met. She relished the feel of Joe being pressed against her side. And she thought about what Maria had said.
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