The billows of smoke stung my nostrils. So much for a summer to relax, I thought.
Instead, I’d spend it here among old artifacts and forgotten memories. Talking to ghosts. And wishing for so much more.
“Maggie,” Josh Winters sprinted to catch up.
I slowed my pace, hoping I wouldn’t blush at his nearness again. A cute boy to share the warm weather with wasn’t a bad trade. Still, I wished that all this history stuff would just go back into the dusty archives it rested in. Josh, my father, and Dean Wittimer’s father felt different though. To them, this was the life. They spent all their free time searching past volumes, shedding light on a time long past. What good did it serve to know about eighteenth-century mortars, howitzers, and guns or cannons? Not like they could help me pursue the one thing I wanted: someone to share my life.
It did give us something to talk about though.
“Did you see it?” he said as he pushed his glasses back on his face. “The four-pounder galloper? So much for being lightning fast on the military field?”
“Yes, but revolutionary for its time.”
He laughed. “You had to sneak that word in there, didn’t you?”
“Why not?” I smiled. “So many people study the Civil War, fewer truly know of the Revolutionary one.”
“But our dads are going to make that difference, aren’t they?”
“So,” he said as we walked along, “I saw you and Dean talking the other day—”
“Oh, yeah. We were discussing projectiles and the idea of the Americans dodging the British cannonballs like they were no more than soccer balls on the field.”
“Imagine kicking one of those things. You’d break your foot in many different places.”
“Good thing they were better at dancing a jig over them.”
Josh cleared his throat. “Speaking of dancing…were you going to Friday’s at Gayle’s house?”
Gayle Anderson? The girl rumored to be Josh’s girlfriend? Even Alexander had hinted he’d seen Josh and her out near the monuments. My heart sank. Love just wasn’t meant for me I guess. I shrugged. “Don’t know.”
“Well, I wanted to invite you. To you know, hang out with me and Gayle. If you want.”
Dean came over to us then. He was another hottie, but we were just good friends. He frowned at Josh. “She’s no second stringer.”
Josh gulped and backed a bit at Dean’s muscles.
“It’s not like that,” Josh said.
Dean hovered over him. “Isn’t it?”
Josh continued to stammer.
I opened my mouth but Dean said, “Say, Maggie, take a walk with me?”
I glanced from him to Josh and back again. “Sure.”
Josh didn’t protest as Dean led me away.
I pulled my arm from his several yards out. “What was that about?”
“You want to date the guy, right?”
“Then give him a little competition.”
“I suppose you want to volunteer to help me along?”
He grinned and my heart just about stopped. What was it about best guy friends? “Sure, why not?”
We began to walk again. Coming upon an old howitzer, we both stopped as a ghost stepped out before us.
“Morning to you.”
I crossed my arms. “Alexander, you’ve got to stop doing this.”
He gave me an innocent smile. “Doing what?”
Dean laughed. “She just doesn’t want you interfering with her catching Josh.”
Alexander eyed me. “The Winters chap?” He gestured to Dean. “Always thought you’d get along more famously with this one.”
Dean lifted his arms. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her. Our dads are both good friends, we share the same distaste of history, and then there’s you. Who knew we’d both be able to see and talk to you?”
“Careful there now, lad.” He jerked his thumb back behind us. “The fog of war is about to come out.”
Sure enough the billows of cannon fire swept around us, scrubbing us from each other’s sight. The acrid smell of the pineapple shot made my nose wrinkle. I held my breath, waiting for the smoke to clear. When it did, both grinned at me.
“Take the advice of an old ghost, Maggie. There are a thousand Josh Winters out there. Smart boy, handsome enough, but these,” he jabbed a finger at Dean, “only come once in a lifetime. Snap him up.” He winked. “Besides, didn’t I hear those friends of yours saying most girls prefer the bad boy to the good one.”
“Hey,” Dean scowled, “I’m not bad—”
“Shush, lad. Trying to help your case here.”
“Well, maybe,” Dean stepped real close to me, put his arms around me, and leaned down to kiss me, “This will prove it better.”
Cannon fire erupted around us once more, and the thick fog moved in, but we stood within each other’s arms, lost to everything but the kiss.
Alexander muttered something about his job being done here.
“Does that mean you won’t return?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ll be around, just a little less visible.”
“We’ll miss you,” Dean said, his hand covering mine.