Just Once - Page 10

The “projectile” who had tumbled on top of him gasped out some surprise on her part as well. “Oh!” she exhaled, then apparently feeling that was an insufficient response to the situation, she exclaimed, “Oh!” again for good measure before adding, “Please excuse me!”

Her words had a European lilt to them that Art couldn't precisely place, but considering her position currently on top of him, he didn't exactly give the matter of her accent too much attention.

“My fault for standing in the middle of an evacuation route leading away from a crazed squirrel,” Art answered with a smile he hoped came across as more charming and less “crazed hillbilly you just met in the middle of nowhere.”

Unfortunately for him, it was probably closer to the latter. He was simply too enraptured by the sudden appearance of this highly improbable girl for it to be anything else.

She was unlike anyone he had ever seen before - anyone real, at least - her body willowy beneath her pristine white summer dress, and her features so delicate as to appear almost chiseled with care. Her skin was the pale color of fresh milk with just a hint of strawberry tint from her obviously unaccustomed exposure to the Arkansas summer sun. Her hair was a golden blonde that would have made any self-respecting wheat harvest wither in envy, and the deep blue of her eyes were . . .

. . . staring at Art like he was a madman.

“Forgive me for asking,” she said with a dainty wrinkle of her nose. “But what is that terrible smell?”

Now, you ask that question of just about any seventeen-year-old in a similar situation, and if you listen carefully, you can actually hear the crumbling of their self-confidence, and Art at seventeen was no exception to that rule.

“I . . . um,” he stammered. “I mean, I know I didn't shower this morning, but I wasn't actually expecting to meet . . .”

“Nothing like that!” the girl assured him with kind laughter full of the sound of happy bells and distant brooks.

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