by Bill Fullerton
Naked and a bit self-conscious, Mark stood waist-deep in the lake’s cool water, watching through the last ray’s of twilight as Amy began unsnapping her jeans. “Okay you clowns,” she yelled, “I don’t care how long we’ve known each other, y’all turn around till I get in the water."
It was an unnecessary gesture towards modesty. With clouds hiding the full moon, the only light came from the campfire she stood in front of while hesitantly undressing. All anyone could see was her silhouette.
The request triggered an irreverent round of boo's, whistles, and cries of, "Take it off. Take it off." A voice cut through the din. "Come on, Sis. Don't play shy just because you're the scrawniest person here."
"Walt Marshall, you'll pay for that!" Amy turned her back to them, shucked off the jeans, and began tugging at her sweatshirt. In Mark's opinion, that silhouette in the firelight looked anything but scrawny. Maybe it had been back in junior high, but not now. Scrawny girls didn't become homecoming queens and fraternity sweethearts. Still, count on Walt to come up with the perfect line to get his kid sister moving.
Once she joined them, there was a lot of horseplay, even a short-lived football game featuring an old sneaker Willie found on the shore, but very little swimming. During a lull in the action, Amy suggested Mark "toss" her, an acrobatic stunt that would involve him heaving her straight up out of the water. If done right, she'd have time to arch forward and re-enter in a controlled dive. They'd done this many times in the past, but never in the dark—much less while skinny-dipping.
"Are you sure?" Mark was both surprised and a little dubious.
"Of course, I'm sure." She moved so close he could see her familiar, teasing smile, and notice the top of her pale breasts just breaking the surface of the dark water. "Come on. It'll be fun."
When everyone else began urging them to give it a try, he agreed. "All right. But you guys aren't fooling me. All y'all want is to get my head under water."
He took Amy's hand and helped her move into position standing in front of him, facing away. The dark water lapped at her bare shoulders. When he asked, "You ready?" she nodded.
After positioning his hands on Amy’s waist, Mark exhaled to offset his body's natural buoyancy and then began pushing his way down toward a squatting position at her feet. To reach that goal, he had to use her body to help propel and guide his descent. As his hands slid over her hips and his body brushed against her skin, Mark found himself struggling to ignore the feel of that warm, silky, and very naked flesh.
Once in position, he tapped on her feet, the signal for her to rise up on tiptoe so he could cup a heel in each hand. When everything was in place, he shifted forward slightly and she leaned back against his shoulder, letting him know she was ready.
That's when Mark lost his struggle. The touch of her thighs on his chest, the smooth contour of her hip nestling against the side of his face, and the incredible sensation of her bottom resting lightly on his shoulder; it was all more than he could ignore. An excited churning began in his stomach and a dizzy confusion filled his skull. His mind wouldn't work. His body couldn't move.
Amy twitched her legs as a reminder she was ready, but he couldn't respond. It took oxygen deprivation to break the spell. Almost out of air, he began propelling her upward. But the long pause had gotten them out of synch. A knee buckled, a hand, or was it a foot, slipped and while only halfway out of the water, Amy began falling awkwardly back into the lake.
Once the choking and gasping ended, neither of them got any sympathy from the onlookers. "That has to be the most pathetic excuse for a toss I've ever seen," said Willie, his voice thick with feigned disgust.
"Yep, that was pretty sad, you two," agreed Frank.
"You two nothing, it was all his fault." Amy pointed an accusing finger at Mark. "He even looks guilty."
It'd become so dark she was the only one close enough to make out his expression. But Amy was wrong. The look on Mark's face had nothing to do with guilt. Its source was a storm of other emotions so strong and unsettling he could barely breath. It wasn't easy, but he managed to croak, "I'm innocent. And I must have swallowed at least half the lake."
Amy drifted closer and put a hand on his shoulder. "You poor thing." She leaned close, giving him a wink that belied her teasing tone. "Do you need help? What about some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? I think Frank got a merit badge in first aide. Would you like for him to come help?"
"Nothing personal," said Frank, "but if I've got to give him mouth-to mouth, I say let nature take it's course."
This strong show of compassion continued until Walt broke in. "I can't stand it. I promised myself I wouldn't do this. But seeing what a shambles you and Mark made of things, I'm wondering if you want to try that overhand toss we used to do?"
The overhand was tougher to pull off. The thrower had to squat with his hands held shoulder high like a weight lifter about to thrust a barbell over his head. This made it harder for the person being tossed to keep their balance. But since the thrower could extend their arms straight up during the toss, if everything worked just right, the results could be a high and spectacular ascent.
Everyone but Mark agreed he was unfit for duty. After a feeble protest, he moved out of the way so Willie and Frank could get into position on either side of Amy.
The clouds that had promised, but again failed, to deliver any rain were breaking up. Bright moonlight now bathed the lake. This made it easy for Mark to watch as, after a good deal of talk and shuffling about, Walt disappeared beneath the surface. A moment later, Amy went soaring into the warm, night sky.
It was a high, absolutely perfect toss. The spray covering Willie, Frank, and Walt partially blocked their view. Mark was the only one who saw all of Amy's moonlight flight, and he was transfixed.
Whenever he remembered the event, it was in slow motion. The sight of her wet, nude, nymph-like body soaring gracefully above the lake was beautiful, and erotic, and devastating.
The emotions still battering him instantly coalesced into a total and all-consuming love for Amy Marshall. Since that levee party last spring when, both a little drunk, they began to kiss, he'd fought against being in love with her. Before tonight, he thought he might be winning. Now he knew better. He'd lost--big time.
But a guy like him didn't stand a chance with a beautiful girl like Amy. Making a move on her was doomed, and their life-long friendship would never be the same.
Mesmerized, he watched the graceful, moonlit form arch slowly and then begin heading back toward the lake. As it sliced through the smooth surface, Mark knew he was in trouble. He could have someone else, the girl he always thought he wanted. But now and forever he was in love with Amy Marshall, the girl who’d always been his friend, the girl he could never have.
Or could he?