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chapter fifteen

     Trevor and Cindy moved through the mall corridors as fast as they could without breaking into a full run, weaving in and out through the other people. Finally, they emerged from the northeast entrance.
     Even before Trevor thrust open one of the outer doors, however, they both realized that something was wrong: the sun was no longer shining.
     "Look at that, Trevor!" Cindy exclaimed, stealing a glance at the sky above and to the west as she moved quickly to the bike rack. "I don't care what the forecast said, it's going to rain!"
     Trevor couldn't argue with her: above them the sky was dark with clouds, and to the west it was even darker.
     "All the more reason to ride like the wind," said Trevor as he fumbled with his combination lock. On the first try the lock wouldn't open: obviously he hadn't hit one of the numbers exactly right. On the second try he went too far trying to get the second number. "Geez!" he said angrily, as he began spinning the dial again. On the third try the lock finally opened.
     As he began to wrap the chain around the frame of his bike, Trevor noticed that Cindy was already mounting hers.
     "C'mon, let's go!" she said urgently. She began pedaling, heading for the street.
     "Sorry!" Trevor called after her. He snapped his lock closed, pulled the bike out of the rack and jumped on.
     In less than half a minute he had caught up to Cindy, and the two of them pedaled single file down the busy street as fast as Cindy could go. After a few minutes Trevor glanced at his watch. He calculated that at that point they had at least an even chance of getting to Cindy's house by 5 o'clock.
     Then, for the first time, it occurred to him to wonder about why Cindy was so afraid of her mother's possible reaction to her getting home a few minutes late.
     On the occasions when he had arrived home five minutes or so behind schedule, he had received only a minor scolding. Ten or even fifteen minutes had gotten him a stronger chewing out, and perhaps a small extra chore to do: a bit unpleasant, perhaps, but certainly nothing to panic over. So, why was Cindy so terrified of arriving home even a minute or two late? Was her mother THAT strict?
     Thinking back on his brief encounter with Mrs. Schlossman the previous evening, Trevor recalled that although she had been reasonably nice to himself and his Dad, she had also had an air of authority about her, as if she were accustomed to being in command. Did that mean she was a harsh disciplinarian who couldn't stand to have anyone fail to comply precisely with her orders, even in such a minor matter as being a few minutes late coming home? Given Cindy's obvious fear, it certainly seemed possible.
     Suddenly something else occurred to Trevor, and he immediately wondered why he hadn't thought of it before: what about Cindy's father? She had repeatedly referred to her mother and brother, but had never mentioned her Dad. How did he fit into all this? Was he around? Was he even alive? And how had each parent contributed to Cindy having ended up with such low self-esteem? Why hadn't-
     Trevor's train of thought was abruptly derailed as the wind suddenly picked up, and the air took on the unmistakable smell of impending rain.
     He looked ahead at Cindy. As hard as she was pedaling - and because of his longer legs, she was pedaling harder than he was to achieve the same speed - she was showing no sign of being physically overtaxed. Obviously she was in very good general physical condition. When she took a quick look backwards a moment later, however, Trevor could see that there was still anxiety in her face.
     He glanced again at his watch. Making some more quick calculations, he decided that at the rate they were going they would reach Cindy's house with a minute or two to spare.
     "I think we're gonna make it!" he shouted to her.
     But before she could respond, the rain started.
     At first it was just a few large drops. In a matter of seconds, however, it suddenly began to rain much harder.
     They were now half a dozen blocks past the end of the business district. The only convenient shelters available to them at that point were the trees that grew here and there along the street.
     "Let's get under a tree till this stops!" yelled Trevor. Cindy didn't slow up.
     "No! Keep going!" she yelled back over her shoulder. "We don't know how long it's going to rain, and it's not much more than a mile to my house now!"
     But then the intensity of the rain suddenly increased again, and they found themselves riding through a full-fledged downpour.
     "Come on, Cindy!" Trevor shouted pleadingly. "We can't ride in this! Go under that big tree coming up! Please!"
     Cindy hesitated for just a moment; then she slowed down, turned up a driveway onto the sidewalk, veered onto the grass as she slowed further, and then braked to a stop under the big tree. Trevor pulled up and stopped right behind her.
     The tree Trevor had directed them to was tall, with wide branches and dense leaves, and undoubtedly made an excellent natural umbrella during light to moderate rain; but this was no ordinary storm. The intensity of the downpour and the strength of the wind was a combination that neutralized much of even this tree's protective ability.
     After Trevor and Cindy had dismounted, they saw that the only place under the tree where they would be shielded from the storm to a meaningful degree was a small area right next to the downwind side of the trunk. They decided that the most efficient way to utilize this space was to stand together with their arms around each other.
     They both needed to catch their breath, so neither of them spoke for a minute or so after settling into position. Finally, Trevor offered a comment on the situation.
     "Gee," he said in mock sadness, "isn't it just a shame that we have to stand here holding each other like this?"
     "Actually," replied Cindy, "even though we're soaked, I think this is extremely romantic. Or at least it would be, if it wasn't making us late. My mom's gonna be so mad at me!"
     "How can she be?" Trevor questioned. "We would have made it except for the rain. She can't possibly expect you to ride in this mess, can she?"
     Cindy didn't answer right away. "Maybe not," she finally said. "I hope not, anyway. Maybe it'll be all right."
     "Look," said Trevor. "I'll tell her it was my fault we didn't get home before the rain started. It's the truth, too: you wanted to leave without going back to the mall. I practically dragged you back. I'll tell her that any punishment she thinks you have coming, I'll take for you."
     Cindy moved back a bit so she could look into Trevor's face.
     "You'd really do that for me?" she asked.
     Trevor put his hands gently on her cheeks.
     "I'd do just about ANYTHING for you," he declared.
     "Me, too," Cindy replied softly. "Oh, Trevor..." She looked as if she wanted to say more, but was unable to find the words.
     Trevor nodded slowly and smiled. "I understand," he said in little above a whisper. "I feel exactly the same way."
     Cindy nodded and smiled back.
     They continued to gaze into each other's eyes for a long moment. Then, at the same time, their smiles began to fade, and their faces began to move closer together. Cindy slowly brought her arms up and encircled Trevor's neck. At the same time, Trevor took his hands from Cindy's face with equal slowness, and moved his arms around her body.
     When their faces were almost together, they both stopped, and just for a moment they smiled at each other once more, ever so slightly. Then the smiles faded again; they both tilted their heads slightly to the right; the small remaining distance between their faces shrank away; their eyes closed; and then their lips gently came together.
     Trevor had never kissed a girl before, so he wasn't sure exactly how it was supposed to feel, but there was no way he could ever have been prepared for what was happening now. The swirls of warm tingliness that he had experienced earlier from holding Cindy were being multiplied exponentially by the touch of her lips. Lightheadedness gave way to full-blown dizziness, and he felt as if he were being lifted off the ground and spun around in midair. He instinctively held Cindy tighter, which caused their lips to press together more firmly, increasing the effect even more.
     Thoughts began to flash through Trevor's mind, random brief memories of things that had happened between himself and Cindy, and the deep feelings he had already developed for her on all levels became more clarified and intense than ever. Large amounts of admiration, affection, awe and thankfulness all intertwined themselves with the nearly overwhelming physical sensations. The result was a state of pleasure beyond anything Trevor could ever have begun to imagine.
     As it had the evening before, when he and Cindy smiled at each other at the drinking fountain, the concept of time seemed to lose all meaning. Trevor was never sure afterward just how long the kiss had gone on before Cindy finally began to gently pull her head back, breaking the lip contact.
     Trevor opened his eyes and moved his own head back. He felt weak and out of breath, and his whole body tingled and trembled as he stared in openmouthed wonder into Cindy's face. She was smiling slightly, but otherwise looked exactly like he felt. She also seemed to have suddenly gotten even more radiant and attractive.
     And there's the bell for round two! thought Trevor. He began to move his face closer to hers again, to initiate a second kiss.
     But Cindy suddenly pulled back a bit more, and placed her hands on the front of Trevor's shoulders, holding him back.
     "Trevor, no!" she said, softly but firmly.
     Trevor was stunned and horribly disappointed: at that moment, a second kiss from Cindy was the only thing he wanted in the whole world.
     "Please don't misunderstand me," Cindy continued quickly, obviously noticing Trevor's disappointment. "I liked what we just did a lot! I want to do it again soon, and many more times after that. But I think we shouldn't overdo it the first time. Would it be all right if we just held each other until the rain stops? You wouldn't be too mad at me for wanting that, would you?"
      Trevor felt powerful emotions fighting within him. His desire to kiss Cindy again had been so strong that a considerable part of him desperately wanted to try to get her to change her mind; but the rest of him knew that it would be wrong to do so, and that it would make Cindy very uncomfortable, which was something he definitely did not want to do.
     The internal struggle was both brief and intense, but within a couple of seconds Trevor's overall feelings for Cindy won out. He beat down his raging hormones, and gave her a little smile.
     "I guess I can live with that," he said, in a slightly trembling voice.
     A smile of relief came to Cindy's face, and without another word she nestled her head into Trevor's shoulder and wrapped her arms tightly around him. Trevor rested his head against hers and hugged back even harder.
     As they stood there holding each other, Trevor began to sense that something inside of him had somehow changed, that he was feeling differently at that moment than he had ever felt before. It took a few long moments of concentrated thought for him to figure out what the difference was, and when he did he broke into a huge smile.
     What he realized was that, for the first time in his life, he was feeling more like a man than a boy.
     Thank you, Father in Heaven! Trevor thought. Thank you so much for bringing us together! Thank you for everything!

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