The heat of the summer sun was already filtering through the van’s windows, and Cassie had to squint in her sunglasses to make sense of the scenery passing by. The noise inside the van had gone down from the boisterous noise earlier as they left the city to the quiet chatter as her not-so-new friends settled down into their own conversations with their respective seatmates.
The trip they were on was a long-awaited one, and Cassie had to smile whenever she remembered the tedious planning that the group went through just to make sure it pushed through. She could still remember the disappointment she felt at the first time it was postponed for various reasons, and felt the spark of hope after when David brought it up again, this time, with a more concrete plan. Lorraine, ever the OC person, teamed up with him to make sure the trip would push through, no matter what. After another close cancellation call, Lorraine finally declared:
“As long as there are five people who are sure to come to this, we will push through!”
Cassie was relieved to hear that because there was already five people coming for sure, and that included her. So the trip was a go.
But what delighted Cassie more was the presence of her seatmate, who almost backed out, but cleared his schedule at the last minute.
“Are you asleep?” The deep yet cheerful voice interrupted her thoughts. Cassie blinked and turned to her seatmate.
“No,” Cassie said, putting her sunglasses up her hair. “I thought you were.” She added.
Jonah — she never got used to calling him Jon, like the rest of them — yawned. “I woke up. Looks like everyone else but us and the driver is asleep.” He grinned at her.
Cassie didn’t know what that grin meant, but all the same, her heart fluttered at the sight. She knew everyone else in the van planned their seating arrangement, and as always, she just laughed at it. That’s not saying she didn’t like it — she did. She’s been thinking of how to make it happen before they boarded the van, but she shouldn’t have worried. They have been teasing Cassie and Jonah together ever since she became a part of their group and they have been relentless with it. Cassie knew she liked Jonah, but she never knew if he felt the same. After all, he was friendly to everyone. The issue just made it harder for her to glean if there was anything outside of friendliness.
But sometimes, when he smiles at her, she wondered if maybe he felt the same.
“Are you planning to do something to them while they slept?” Cassie asked in a low voice.
Jonah’s grin remained and he rubbed his hands mischievously. “No.”
Cassie raised an eyebrow. “Seriously.” Jonah was hardly mischievous except maybe when dealing with their other close friend in the group, Martin. All the other time, Jonah is just plain cheerful, which was one of the many things that Cassie liked about him.
Jonah nodded, his eyes twinkling. “I don’t like disturbing sleeping people,” he said in a conspiratorial tone. “But I’ve been wanting to do this since this morning.”
Cassie felt a sudden, sharp jab on her side, making her jump. A shriek escaped her lips but not before a hand clamped over her mouth — at least, it tried to, because the owner of the hand was shaking in so much laughter that he could hardly hold still. She pulled the hand away, turned to Jonah and glared.
“The look…on your…face!” Jonah said in between laughs. “That was priceless!”
She slapped his shoulder. “Jonah!”
He grinned and put a finger to his lips. “Shh, you don’t want to disturb the sleeping people, don’t you?”
“So you do that to me instead?” Cassie whispered furiously. “You!” She slapped him on the arm, this time.
“Aw come on, Cassie,” Jonah said, his shoulders still shaking from leftover laughter. “Amuse me?” He batted his eyes at her, and even if she felt herself melt a little, she tried to strengthen her resolve. Cassie was too busy glaring at him to see that he had reached over and tickled her again. She couldn’t help herself — she laughed and tried to tickle him back, suppressing her shrieks and giggles so she won’t wake the others. Jonah was trying to do the same, turning red in the process, but it was the most animated she’d seen him, ever.
The tickle fight felt like it lasted for hours to Cassie, but it was only less than ten minutes. “Time out!” Jonah said, holding a hand out as he tried to catch his breath. Cassie felt breathless, too, and something else — something that she was trying to not feel ever since they rode the van and she sat beside him. She took a swig of water from her bottle and pulled her sunglasses down.
“You exhaust me, Jonah. I’m going to sleep.”
Cassie leaned her head on the window and smiled to herself, her heartbeat refusing to go back to normal even if she had already caught her breath. She needed time to think, to catch her heart before it leaped after this guy. Sleep seemed the only safe thing to do. “Later, Jonah.”
She slipped her earphones inside her ears and reached inside her bag to start her music. In the corner of her eye, she saw Jonah do the same thing, leaning his head on the opposite window, pulling his own sunglasses down, too. She smiled again, and shifted in her seat to get comfortable, putting her hand down on the space between her and Jonah.
Just as she was about to drift off, she felt a hand land on hers. She flinched, knowing immediately who owns that hand. She opened an eye and looked at Jonah, whose head still leaned on the window like he was already asleep, but his hand…his hand was definitely on top of hers. She forced herself to relax, thinking it was all just a mistake. Cassie expected him to pull his hand back, to hear a hasty apology from that accidental thing. Instead, she felt a little bit of hesitation. Then he relaxed, and to her utter surprise, she felt his fingers tighten around hers.
Cassie had no idea how she was going to sleep now.