Once in a Full Moon


Chapter One Harvest Moon

To my dad, who always liked werewolves, and to my husband, Eddie, for romantic strolls in the moonlight

"Beware of a kiss under the full moon.

It will change your life forever."

- Dr. Camille Meadows

Chapter One Harvest Moon

It began underneath the haunting glow of a full moon.

I was deep within the woods with my boyfriend, Nash, my best friends, Ivy and Abby, and their boyfriends, Jake and Dylan, all of us huddled around a campfire and telling ghost stories. It was unusual for us to venture off into nature, as we spent most of our time in the safety of suburbia. The guys were acting brave, but we girls were cringing with fear. We were totally isolated - no hikers or campers were anywhere in sight. The fire pit and a few flashlights were our only sources of light in the dark night. I was snuggled against Nash, Abby was holding her boyfriend Dylan's hand, and Jake had his arm around Ivy. The logs crackled and the heat from the fire kept us warm in the crisp, late-autumn air.

"This is so freaky," Ivy whispered to me. "I still can't believe you convinced us to come out here. There isn't a store for miles."

Ivy was out of her element and doing her best to assuage her discomfort by sipping a latte and snuggling up to Jake.

"If only it wasn't so dark," Abby said, stretching out her long, lean legs on a blanket. "We could hike, too."

"I can think of better things to do in the dark than hike," Dylan said, tickling her waist.

"That's the whole point," I said. "Isn't it more romantic, underneath the moon and stars?"

With winter approaching, it was only going to become darker and colder, and I wanted to take advantage of being outdoors with my friends.

"Romantic?" Ivy sighed. "I'm cold, in the middle of nowhere, and frightened to death by these ghost stories. This is your idea of romantic?"

I didn't have to respond. She already knew.

"Of course it is." Ivy grinned. "Always the dreamer! I guess that's why you're my best friend."

"Hey!" Abby said, sitting up.

Ivy and I had been best friends before Abby joined our clique. Sometimes Ivy forgot her manners.

"I meant to say best friends," Ivy corrected. "You both are."

"Catfight!" Dylan said. "Let me record this." He brandished his cell, but Abby was over Ivy's slipup as soon as Ivy gave her an apologetic hug.

"Anyway," I said to Abby, excited that I might have stirred up some interest. "Maybe we can come here again during the day for a hike."

She gave me two enthusiastic thumbs-up.

"Let's get through the next few hours," Nash said, finishing his s'more, "before we plan on any further 'Celeste Parker excursions.'"

Normally I would have rolled my eyes at Nash's playful jab, but I was grateful that my boyfriend and his posse finally gave in to my suggestion for date night.

I'd been suggesting outdoor activities that didn't involve an opposing team or a goalpost for ages. I wasn't an avid outdoorsy type or anything, but I did prefer to do other things with my friends besides going shopping or watching sports. The reason the guys were game was the promise of food and the potential of scaring three girls to death.

"Well, I think we should listen to Celeste more often," Jake said, devouring the last Rice Krispies treat I'd made for our outing.

My friends acted as if I possessed superpowers for making the simplest of snacks.

Shadows danced menacingly against the trees. The October night skies of the midwestern town of Legend's Run were beautiful. Stars glimmered like ten-carat diamonds. I'd have wished on one that this night would never end, but I'd settle for savoring the memories when I recorded these moments in my worn-out spiral notebook journal: the fresh air, my best friends giggling by my side, my date holding my hand.

Nash squeezed me extra tight. I wasn't sure if it was because he was truly having fun or if, instead, he was wondering what he was going to gain by agreeing to this experience. He knew better than to press me too hard, but that didn't stop him from trying. Nash massaged my fingers and wrists and I was in heaven. I returned his smile. It was a spectacular night.

"This is awesome," I said. "We must do this again. See? I do have great ideas."

"Yes, great," Nash concurred. Then he whispered so only I could hear: "And we could make this night even greater."

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