Brandon looked at Kate the way a boy does when he doesn’t want the girl to know he likes her.

The rain was falling, but it wasn’t pouring. It was a comfortable drizzle. The sun was behind an enormous black cloud and its rays lit the edges of the other clouds on fire.

They were following Jeff who was always in the lead. “Wait ‘til you guys see what I found yesterday,” Jeff said. He led them off the school parking lot and down a forest path. “I got clean-up duty yesterday for forgetting my gym clothes. I got bored and found this trail. It leads to an enormous field in the middle of the woods.”

Brandon looked at Kate with his eyebrows raised. How long did you say it will take to get there? We’re supposed to be running cross country.”

“Don’t worry. When you guys see this, you’ll be thanking me you aren’t sweating on a track field.”

“Let’s wait-out the rain,” Kate suggested. The boys agreed and huddled under a tree.

“Do you think Mr. Turnbow will care that we’re missing track practice?” Brandon asked.

“The man won’t know and if he did know, he wouldn’t care,” Jeff said. He spends half of his time on his cell phone making sports bets and talking about the horses. I don’t know how the man got a job teaching PE and coaching.”

The rain stopped and Jeff took the lead once again.

Friends are special, but there are so many things that can break friends apart. Brandon and Kate new this and Jeff… well Jeff was always going to be Jeff. He stood out in school in the wrong ways because he didn’t recognize authority.

The forest path led the teenagers next to a creek. Rain droplets hit the surface like mortar shells, plopping up and rippling outward. A Mallard and his mate floated between the drops, oblivious to the strangers.

Soon they reached a river and an enormous cliff that loomed above them. The sun broke through the clouds and a rainbow shot across the valley.

“It isn’t much farther,” Jeff said. “We’ll need to hurry. It’ll be getting into the twilight hours.”

The path twisted deep into the woods. Brandon and Kate were nearly ready to ask if it might be a good idea to turn around when blue skies greeted them and a field stretched in all directions at their feet.

“I’ll get it ready!” Jeff shouted.

“Get what ready?” Brandon asked. Kate exchanged looks with him.

Jeff ran ahead and disappeared over the hill.

Brandon and Kate walked to the spot and stared below. An enormous circus tent was propped up in the distance, and next to it was a hot air balloon floating one or two feet off the ground.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 1 Mystic Balloon

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