“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.”
Judah and Katie lay in the grass in front of Judah’s house. Both had been best friends for as long as either could remember, and grew closer each year they spent together.
“Yeah, it’s just always interested me. The mechanics, the different types of planes, helping people, everything. My grandfather was a pilot at some point too, y’know. I think that’s also where I get that from.”
“And so the models in your room, they’re not just from some bygone phase like horse girls?” Katie teased, rolling on her side to face Judah better. She was secretly thrilled that Judah was telling her this information. She loved that he felt he could confide in her, and how much of an open book he was. She wouldn’t trade it for anything.
He looked up at her, a smile playing on his lips as his blue eyes met Katie’s brown ones. He loved the way she was able to lighten any mood, even if it was already lighthearted. She was like the sun; ever present, ever warm.
“Yeah no, I think they’re genuinely cool. They remind me what I’m working towards.”
“So, being a pilot? Flying?”
“Yeah, all of the above. The goal is the sky.”
“Well that’s pretty cool.” Katie said, resting on her elbows. They both listened to the sound of jets as another plane flew over them, both lost in their own thoughts. Katie thought about Judah being a pilot, and with dismay realized that would mean he wouldn’t have time for her. But then again, would they have time for each other as adults anyway.
Judah thought about Katie sitting next to him, and how he was tired of thinking about the future. Even though piloting was his dream, it made him uncomfortable to imagine an adult life without Katie. He needed to get up and do something.
Without warning, Judah stood up and said,
“Hey, you want to go to the skate park later today? I can come back around at eight.”
“Sure, sounds good! You can help me practice my kickflip.” Katie replied, getting up as well and wiping her hands on her jeans. Suddenly, she felt awkward for some reason. She was just looking at Judah, and smiling, and looking forward to their time at the skatepark, and why did this have to be awkward?
“Cool, I’ll see you about seven-thirty then, so we can ride over. I have to go and check in at home for a bit before we can go though.” Judah was having a hard time meeting Katie’s eyes all the sudden. What was wrong with him? It was just the skate park, and Katie, and now his palms and face were warm as he stared too long.
“Yeah, totally fine. See you at seven-thirty then!” Katie said brightly, twisting her hands behind her back as if to wring away her perplexing feelings, before turning to leave. As she walked down the cul-de-sac back to her house, Judah waved and called,
“Alright, see you then!” Before turning towards his own house and heading inside. As they both walked away from each other, they couldn’t help but think,
Man, that could have gone better.
Katie watched from her house across the cul-de-sac as Judah’s garage opened and he stepped out, skateboard in hand. His dark hair was unintentionally styled, as always, and she loved how he didn’t dress to impress. His authenticity was magnetizing to her.
She felt weird for watching him like this. Katie was always glancing across the street when she was bored, just to see if Judah was home, but this felt different in some way. Trying to shake the feeling off, she rushed to put her sneakers on and meet him in her driveway.
“Hey!” Katie called breathily, her cheeks flushed from rushing around her house. She had her skateboard clutched in her hands.
“You ready to go?”
“Yeah, ready when you are.” Judah smiled, trying to ignore the blood rushing in his ears. Katie had put her long auburn hair into a ponytail that streamed behind her, and in the setting sun everything about her seemed to glow. Judah’s heart skipped a beat, and his breath caught in his throat for a minute. In less than a minute though, he recovered, and the two were on their way to the skate park.
Judah had been skating for much longer than Katie, but after watching him skate around their neighborhood, Katie had asked Judah to help teach her once she got a board. She had been practicing for weeks now, with and without him, and had been improving greatly. Judah kept glancing over to see if he needed to slow down, but right now she had no problem keeping up with him.
He couldn’t stop looking at her, her hair streaming in the wind, the way she furrowed her brow and clenched her jaw in concentration. Her arms lurched up every now and then to counter her balance, like a bird in flight. Judah felt entranced for a moment, feeling pride in her progress mixed with something else that he couldn’t quite pinpoint. Lost in his thoughts, his board hit a bump, and his arms wheeled about as he tried to stay on his board.
“Holy crap are you okay?” Katie cried, her arms frozen mid-balance as she looked worriedly over at him. Judah gulped and gave a quick embarrassed smile.
“Yeah, totally fine. Didn’t expect that bump!” He said, trying to laugh it off. Katie considered her own flailing arms for a moment, self conscious of her own lack of skill. Making a split second decision, she sped up until she was level with Judah again, and, as casually as she could make it, reached for his hand.
Judah’s face immediately flushed as Katie’s fingers laced with his. He had held her hand before, but this felt different for some reason. Why was everything so different all of the sudden?
He decided that it may be different, but it was nice. He squeezed her hand, and felt some of the tightness leave his chest as she pressed his hand back.
Finally they reached the skatepark, and they let go of each other's hands as they tried to decide what to do first.
“Do you want to do ramps, or practice your kickflip?” Judah asked, tapping his own board with his foot nervously.
“I think we should start with my kickflip, and then if I get frustrated we can just skate.”
“Sounds good. So, to start, get on your board, and position your feet like this.” Judah said, modeling the steps with his feet. Katie tried her best to mimic him, and after a couple of tries managed to get the balance correct.
“Okay good, and now remember, you’re in control of the board, so keep that in mind as you try this next part. Your toes especially are a key part of the balance. So, you’re going to move your front foot as you press on the back end, and then kind of kick the board at an angle to flip it.” Judah then followed through with the rest of the kickflip, slowly at first, and then completely a second time.
Katie did her best to follow what Judah was doing, but it seemed more difficult than Judah had explained it.
“I feel like I’m not kicking the board right.” She huffed, regarding her board with her hands on her hips.
“Maybe kicking was the wrong word to describe it, because I feel like there’s too much force going on. Try a nudge, like maybe you’re pushing a door open with your toe.”
“Alright one more try.” Katie muttered with determination. Confidently, she placed her feet like Judah had shown her, popped her board up, slid her front foot forward…
All at once, the board flipped out of Katie’s control, and Judah lurched forward to catch her as she fell. He caught her, but the momentum of their actions sent them tumbling down, limbs entangled in each other. Judah found himself holding Katie tightly, grunting as he took most of the impact as they fell onto the concrete.
After groaning from the fall, Katie realized she was still on top of Judah, and scrambled to get off.
“Oh jeez I’m sorry Judah, you didn’t have to catch me! Here.” She held out her hands and helped him off the ground, stumbling backwards a little as they did. Both of their faces were flushed, thankfully hidden by the hues of dusk settling from deep blue to a rich purple. They just stood for a moment, catching their breath, arms useless at their sides as they tried to avoid each other's eyes.
Yet their eyes still locked, and they were left with nothing but each other to confront.
“I’m sorry things have been weird.” Katie blurted, crossing her arms in front of her in her discomfort.
“You’re sorry things have been weird? I’m super sorry!” Judah laughed, also uncomfortable but starting to feel relieved. He was worried it was just him. Katie exhaled loudly, smiling as she did.
“It’s just - this used to be easy! Just being friends and stuff! But then we’re starting to think about the future, and like, we’re friends now, but what happens later? When you’re traveling as a pilot and stuff?”
“Well, I mean, a lot of that stuff is still very far off, and we don’t have to stop being friends. But I’ve actually been feeling like -” Judah stumbled in his sentence, incredulous that he was even saying this. He didn’t even know if what he was feeling was correct. And what if Katie didn’t feel the same way? But he saw the look of concern in her eyes, and he knew that he just wanted to put it all out there. He knew either way they would be able to work things out.
“I’ve been feeling like maybe, our friendship has grown into something more? Like, maybe we’re trying too hard to keep the friends label, when really we maybe need to be looking at something… more significant than that.”
Katie felt her stomach drop, but in the way that one realizes what was missing all along. Judah had pinpointed what she had also been feeling lately, and she could only hope that what he said meant she would be worthy of his ever honest, sky-blue eyes, always.
“I have been feeling the exact same way. But I also don’t want anything we have right now to change because we put a different label on it. I’m totally down to start exploring more - romantic routes, if you will - with you, but I also want to feel like I can hang out just like we’ve been doing without any extra… I dunno, stress, or whatever.” She said, stepping closer to him. She felt good though letting her arms unfold as her discomfort dissipated. The more they spoke, the more they both felt a certain weight lifting off of their shoulders. Judah smiled, relief clearing out any anxiety in his chest.
“Expectation I think is the word you’re looking for. And absolutely. I don’t want anything to change either, because I value hanging out with you. But I also think getting all our feelings out here is going to help with some of the awkwardness, and maybe we can work our way up to exploring those romantic routes.” Katie smiled back, and gently took his hand again, this time not on impulse, but just because it felt right.
“I would absolutely like that.” They looked into each other’s eyes again, just breathing in the ability to enjoy each other’s company once again, this time on a different level. They skated their way back home, this time hand in hand, and as Judah walked Katie up her driveway, he said,
“I’m really glad we got to talk about this. I’ll see you tomorrow?” Katie smiled, and adventurously stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
“Sounds good! See you tomorrow.” She replied, before flipping her ponytail over her shoulder and marching towards her door. Warmth filled Judah’s chest as he watched her go, and Katie gave him one last smile before she turned and shut the door.
And as Judah hopped back on his skateboard and headed on home, he couldn’t help but feel delighted at the new course his relationship with Katie was taking, and that they would both be exploring their new horizons together, no matter what.