I Declare This Meeting Closed
The mildly chilled summer night air was still and silent. The clouds were thinly scattered in the pitch-black sky above; a dotting of stars and a sliver of moon cast their eerie glow upon the wooded area below. The conditions were perfect for the sharing of spooky stories…
Tucker uttered the familiar words in a grave tone, finishing his tale with a dramatic flourish. He allowed himself a grin at the circle of impressed expressions from the other teens gathered around the fire… well, all except one. His grin slipped a bit.
No one else seemed to notice the singular less-than-enthusiastic response, however. A few quick compliments and follow-up questions later, the group rose from their makeshift seats, stretching their stiff limbs and gathering up their belongings.
The members of the Midnight Society, a group aptly named, were no strangers to sneaking through windows or tiptoeing in back doors in the late hours of the night (or early hours of the morning) in order for their weekly rendezvous to go unobserved by their parents. Tucker's tale had gone on long past the group's usual quitting time, though, and the compliments quickly turned into complaints.
"Way to go, Runt! It's almost 2, I'm dead meat!" Kiki shouted, balking at her wristwatch before taking off in a sprint. Betty Ann added a "Me too!" and scooping up her jacket and backpack, followed quickly after Kiki.
"Hey, wait up!" Tucker called, hating to be the last to leave. He hastily crammed the worn leather satchel containing the "magic" fire dust back into the stump beside the stone seat. Sparing a fleeting glance at the unappreciative audience member, he rolled his eyes, caught his brother's confused look and shrugged.
"Tucker—what—" Gary started, but the little squirt had already high-tailed it down the wooden path after the two girls. He shook his head. Brothers.
"Ah-HEM." A loud and very obviously gratuitous throat clearing resounded in the area.
Gary jumped. He hadn't noticed Frank was still present. The bandana-headed boy seemed to be taking his sweet time leaving; he very deliberately rearranged the contents of his backpack. He put on his jacket and buttoned each button. Gary remained seated; as the leader, it was customary that he stayed after everyone else in order to douse the fire and "close" the meeting. Frank seemed to be sending him extraordinarily hostile looks at the moment, for some reason; it wasn't like they had ever really been pals, but this seemed out of the blue to Gary.
"I'm going to get the fire… you can go," Gary offered. He wasn't especially worried about the time; he was old enough that his parents didn't care much when he got in. It was only a problem when he was also responsible for Tucker's curfew; hopefully his brother had made it back home undetected tonight.
Frank, seeing he could stall no longer, finally let out a loud grumble before stomping down the path after the others. The Midnight Society leader watched him go with puzzlement.
Gary was about to get up from his log across from the stone storyteller's seat when he noticed a weight against his left leg. He looked down and, surprised he hadn't noticed earlier, saw that a certain blonde girl was currently fast asleep, her head resting against his knee. His heart leapt once and he compulsively gulped. He was mesmerized for a moment by the firelight's flickering light reflecting on her blond curls. The girl had been sitting on the dry needle-strewn ground in front of the log; she had forgotten her jacket and wanted to be closer to the fire. Gary, of course, offered his, but she said she preferred the heat from the flames. It had discouraged him a bit, but he tried not to read too much into it. Maybe it was the truth. He sat on the log behind her, anyway. He always sat by her when he could. It didn't seem to bother her. Or maybe she just didn't notice him. He snapped out of his reverie.
Presently, he needed to decide the best way out of this situation with minimal chances of making an ass of himself. As much as he didn't mind the girl taking a nap on his knee, Gary figured he should wake her up so they could both go home. He didn't want her to get into any trouble, either. He had an idea that her parents were stricter than his, just from the few times they had come up in conversation.
"Here goes," he muttered, then with some added volume, "Hey, Sam?"
No visible response… Hmm….
He reached forward…
"Uh, Sam?" his voice had dropped to a whisper all on its own.
His hand gently touched her shoulder…
The girl sprang to life, straightening up immediately.
"Huh?" she said sleepily.
Gary watched silently as she looked around to see the vacant campsite. He could see the cogs working as it dawned on her that she had fallen asleep during the meeting, but she had yet to look back at what (or whom) she had been using for a pillow.
Said pillow finally spoke up. "Hey, Sam, I know it was Tucker's, but I didn't think the story was that boring," he joked lightly.
The girl gave a little jump and turned her head around, her gaze following the faded-jean clad knee she had been resting her head on, up to the brown-haired Midnight Society leader's face.
"G-Gary!" She exclaimed, as if surprised to find him there.
"The one and only," he replied with a nervous smile. She gave a small smile in return.
"Oh!" An awkward look came over her as the situation became clear. Was she blushing? Gary blinked. Must be a trick of the firelight. She scrambled up from the ground, brushing the pine needles and dirt from her jeans.
"I'm sorry, did I…did I keep you?" she glanced at her wristwatch and around at the empty clearing again, "It's so late, everyone's bailed already!"
"Don't sweat it, the meeting only just ended," Gary replied with what he hoped was a casual shrug.
At last, he rose from his seat to join her. Sam ran a hand through her blonde curls and turned around to fully face him, smiling slightly.
"I feel kinda bad. I'll apologize to your brother at the next meeting. That is—if I'm not kicked out—am I? I mean, there's no rule about not falling asleep during a story is there?" she said, only half-seriously.
"Well, I make the rules and I say there isn't," Gary laughed a little, "But don't let it happen when it's my turn or I might have to reconsider. Now, if you were to fall asleep during, say, Frank's story, think it would more than make up for this infraction…"
She grinned up guiltily at him as she bent down to sort out her pack, "Ha, ha. I really am sorry; I've just been so busy lately… Not enough sleep…"
That sentence struck an awkward chord between them and they both went still. Gary's mind jumped back to when he had asked Sam out and she had told him she "liked him and everything" but was "too busy." At least now he had more proof to substantiate the excuse. Still, it didn't help the feeling of rejection that lingered when he though about it.
Sam could tell that Gary was thinking of that particular moment; when she mentioned being busy, a certain look had passed over his face. Her gut tightened with guilt; she wished she could take that sentence back out of the air where it was hanging currently. Gary was a really nice guy, and she liked him, but she truly did have a lot going on at the moment… She could at least make an effort, right? She zipped her pack and straightened.
They stood in awkward silence punctuated by the crackling campfire and the chirping of some far-away crickets. The Midnight Society leader looked awkwardly and aimlessly around the clearing, shoving his hands in his pockets. The girl stared down at her scuffed white sneakers for a moment, before looking back up at him with resolve. He was looking elsewhere. She took a deep breath, running a hand through her blonde curls again.
Gary was about to retrieve the red bucket of water to kill the fire. The prospect that she likely wouldn't get a chance like this alone with him again spurred Sam to speak.
He returned his gaze to her, opening his mouth to reply. Quickly and silently, she took a step forward, closing the distance between them. The small action was heavily noticed. Any words Gary had about to form quickly flew from his mind, mouth drying up. He shut his mouth again, watching her with trepidation. He randomly realized that hadn't noticed how close in height they were before. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she leaned up, tilted her head slightly, and pressed her soft lips to his for a good moment.
Sam parted from him slowly, her hands sliding from his shoulders. She glanced up at him through her lashes. He hadn't moved at all, his hands still in his jean pockets, the expression on his face was somewhat blank. She almost laughed. Emboldened by her apparent "effect" on him, she stepped back in and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek, too. Moving back, she studied him. Still nothing. She gave him a small, soft smile, shaking her head lightly, and then turned swiftly, gathering her backpack and setting off down the dark, wooded path leading away from the campsite. After the sounds of her footsteps crunching through the leaves had faded, Gary snapped out of his trance.
He scooped up the red bucket and turned the fire into a cloud of smoke and a stack of cold logs.
"I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society… closed," he said quietly to the empty clearing, a small smile uncontrollably appearing.
A/N: Well, if anyone ever reads this, I'd like to know what you think, so leave a review if you feel like it. :) Thanks for reading!