The first flash fiction of the year kind of reminds me of a park I used to go to with my best friend when we lived in San Antonio. Back then, we were kind of jaded with the area since we were based there for five years and once you’ve gone to the Riverwalk a few dozen times, it loses it’s charm. So, we started taking off to Austin on weekends, occasionally going to this beautiful place called Landa Park (which is actually in New Braunfels, on the way to Austin, but I digress). This is part of a story I thought up a long time ago, but haven’t worked on in ages. I thought Landa Park would be the perfect place for their first date.
Ethan knocked on Hope’s door early Saturday morning. She opened it with a smile on her face, but her mouth went dry at the sight of him in a tight black tank top that showed off all the tattoos covering lean muscle she wanted to run her tongue over, low-slung jeans, and his ever-present sunglasses.
She wondered if she should’ve taken care of business before he was due to arrive. She’d be worked up all day, and no possible way to relieve the pressure. God, if he looked that good just standing there, she could only imagine how hot he’d be once she got his shirt off.
Hope shook her head, trying not to allow her thoughts to go down the naughty path, but around Ethan, she couldn’t seem to help herself.
“Morning, beautiful,” he smiled at her and she swore her heart skipped a beat, “you ready to go?”
She nodded, “I brought extra sunscreen and made sure to grab my camera. So… will you tell me now where we’re going?”
“Nope.” He shook his head, dimples showing on his cheeks as he grinned down at her. “It’s a surprise.”
They talked on the drive, but every time she’d ask where they were heading, Ethan would just smile and tell her she had to wait. He had her close her eyes when they got close and finally let her look when they’d come to a stop. They’d parked in front of a beautiful lake, where ducks were swimming, dogs barking, and children were playing.
“Oh wow. This is… gorgeous.”
“Have you ever been here before?” Ethan asked as he turned the car off.
“I don’t think so. I don’t even know where here is!” she laughed.
“It’s called Landa Park. The concierge at the hotel suggested it when I asked where I could take a beautiful girl for the day.”
She blushed. “Really?”
He nodded, enjoying the fact that he’d caused the bright pink flare in her cheeks, “Are you ready to go have fun?”
He took her to feed the ducks first, hauling out a load of bread from the back seat of the car. One of the ducks stood and stared at them, waiting to eat and absolutely refusing to chase after anything they tossed his way.
Hope snapped at least a dozen shots of Ethan, first him grinning at her, then of him yelling at the ducks to quit chasing after him when they ran out of bread. When a family approached, two full loaves of bread in hand, the ducks finally lost interest.
“Man, I thought they’d never leave me alone!”
“I didn’t either. Though I think that one might have a crush on you,” she gestured to the one still staring at them.
“Nuh-uh. It’s totally you,” he stepped away, “See? He’s still looking at you.”
“No way. He looked at you!”
“Sorry ducky. I’m a ladies-only type of guy.”
The duck made a disinterested noise that was more akin to a grunt than a quack, and waddled away.
“That was close. I thought you were gonna leave here with a new pet,” Hope laughed as she snapped some more pictures of the scenery.
“I’m glad I didn’t. I doubt the hotel would allow him.”
He linked his fingers with hers as they began walking through the park in companionable silence, stopping at a bridge that overlooked the clearest water they’d ever seen. Hope took several dozen pictures on and around the bridge, then Ethan took the camera from her and took some of her. He stopped a passing couple and asked if they’d take a few of them on the bridge. He slipped an arm around Hope’s waist and she smiled to herself at the way she fit against him.
“It’s almost noon,” Ethan said, glancing at his watch. “We’d better hurry or we’re gonna miss it.”
“Another surprise!” he grinned and thanked the couple as they made their way across the park to the mini-train station.
“This train takes you all over the park. There’s a lot of it to cover and I thought it’d be nice to be able to sit and enjoy a relaxing ride while we decide what to do next.”
“This is too perfect!” Hope exclaimed as they sat in the little train car, “This is so much better than the Saturday I had planned. Thank you, Ethan.”
“You’re welcome… what did you have planned for today?”
“The usual,” she said as the train pulled away from the station. “Cleaning, laundry, maybe call my parents and read some. Boring Saturday, huh?”
“Sounds relaxing, actually. What’d you have planned for Sunday?”
“Church. Lunch. Then a whole lot of nothing. I know—my life is so exciting.” She turned to face him as she set the camera in her lap. “What do you have planned?”
“Not much. Sleep. Lunch. Hang out. I have to catch a plane tomorrow night. I was hoping maybe to see you again…if you weren’t too busy.”
“I think I can fit you into my schedule…oh look! Paddle boats!” Hope pointed excitedly at the yellow and blue boats dotting the lake, feeling a little childish, but when he nearly jumped off the train to get to them she stopped feeling so silly.
“Have you ever been on one?”
“Once when I was little. My mom used to take us camping.” She smiled at the memory, her heart warming at the thought of her mother and brother. “We stopped going after my brother nearly got us eaten by javelenas.”
“How’d he manage that?”
She shrugged, “He’s talented that way.”
He let out a laugh, “He must be a pretty special guy to almost get you eaten by wild pigs.”
“You have no idea. He’s gotten into some pretty interesting predicaments…and monumentally fucked up ones. Like the time he got arrested for stealing a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and a bottle of Advil. Or the time he got arrested for possession after getting into an accident…with a parked police car.”
He winced, “Ouch.”
“Yeah.” She looked away briefly, not wanting him to see her eyes cloud up. “He’ll grow up one day. And on that depressing note, this looks like the end of the line.”
“You wanna go on the paddleboats?” Ethan held out a hand to help her off the train.
She nodded, “Definitely!”
They made their way over and Ethan bribed the guy into letting them keep one for an hour—even though the limit was 30 minutes. “Sometimes this fame thing can really come in handy,” he mused with a grin.
He looked at her like she’d just grown another head, “I play first base for the Astros.”
Hope slanted a look his way, “Huh?”
“Guess you’re not much of a baseball fan?”
“No. I watched a little in high school, but other than that…”
He smiled, “Maybe I’ll get you watching. You can be president of my fan club.”
Hope let out a whoop of laughter as she reached out and splashed him, “I doubt I’ll be watching a bunch of sweaty men throwing balls at each other. But really, I appreciate the offer.”
“Can’t say I didn’t try…he look at the turtle!” He pointed to the water, but Hope didn’t see anything at first. When he leaned closer, she spotted the turtle popping its head out of the water.
“Oh! Lookit! It’s so cute!”
“Yeah, she is,” he said, not looking at the water anymore.
A blush crept into her cheeks when she realized he was talking about her. She didn’t take compliments very well.
Sensing her discomfort, he pointed to a passing duck and her very new babies, “Look and the momma and babies.”
“Aww, so precious! I totally want one of the little ones!”
“I’m not exactly sure where I can buy a baby turtle, or guarantee that it wouldn’t stink up your house or grow into a large scary one, so…” He picked up her camera and zoomed in on the smallest one, snapping several shots in a row.
When Hope looked through the images, her whole face glowed with delight, “These are awesome! Thank you, Ethan!”
He shrugged it off, “You wanted one of the baby ducks.”
Time froze as she looked up at him over the lenses of her sunglasses and felt the first lock she’d put on her heart click open. She held the camera up and positioned herself so she cuddled close in the crook of his arm, “Picture time!”
She made him take a few goofy pictures, scrunching up their noses, sticking their tongues out…whatever came to mind. A few came out blurry because they were both laughing so hard.
“May I?” Ethan asked as he held his hand out for the camera, “Thanks.” He took a few pictures of them together, then turned to face her.
“What…” She started to ask but stopped as he cupped her chin with his fingertips and drew her closer to him, grazing his lips gently over hers. Setting the camera down, he ran his hands over her cheeks, pushing his fingers into her hair as her lips parted, giving him the invitation to deepen the kiss.
Later, when she was looking through the photos, she noticed that he’d accidentally captured their first kiss on film.
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