Classes were over for the day, and I was so freaking excited. I mean, I’m always excited to get out of school, but today I was way more excited than usual because this afternoon I had a date with my girlfriend. Now, usually this would make me more nervous than excited, but when Shelby had told me that she wanted our next date to be a paintball trip, I couldn’t believe my luck. I’m sure plenty of girlfriends have gone paintballing with their significant others, but I’d never had a girlfriend suggest anything like it before, so I was really excited that I had found one who would. And now that the day had finally arrived, I hadn’t stopped smiling since breakfast.
When I got home from school, I rushed upstairs to change into some clothes I knew my mother wouldn’t mind me getting paint splatters all over. I finished getting dressed and texted Shelby that I was ready when she was and went back downstairs to wait for her reply. I got it about ten minutes later. Then you’d better come to get me, because I’m ready for battle , it said. I was practically running out to my car as soon as I’d seen it.
I arrived at her house only a few minutes later (I may or may not have driven a little over the speed limit to get there quicker) and hoped out of the car to get Shelby. After I rang the doorbell, I could hear rapid footsteps thumping down the stairs by the front door, and when she finally threw the door open, I couldn’t help but stare. She looked every bit as combat ready as she’d claimed in her sports shorts and sweatshirt. Her hair was up in one of those messy buns that look really complicated but aren’t, and she’d put on what appeared to be her rattiest pair of tennis shoes. She must’ve caught me staring because she just chuckled a little and shoved playfully past me to head to the car, leaving me to watch her from the doorstep. It took me another minute to snap out of it and dash back to the car after her.
Just a short while later we were pulling into the lot at the paintball park. I’d been telling Shelby how excited I was for close to the whole car ride there, and I think she was happy to see me so ecstatic, but it also seemed like she might’ve been a little nervous about the whole thing. I made sure to drop a couple of helpful tips as we left the car and made our way towards the park entrance and guaranteed that I would always be right by her side for the whole paintball battle. The guys in the front office signed us in and took our payment, then got us outfitted with all the gear we’d need in the park. I thought I looked pretty good in my new pads and goggles, but Shelby looked way better. She always does.
After that, they gave us our guns and a bunch of paintballs as ammunition, which got Shelby a little less nervous. She’d never really seen one before, and I could tell by the look on her face that she thought it was pretty cool. Next, the guys marched us out to the center of the park where a bunch of other participants who’d been armed and suited up was waiting. There they explained all the rules and took some questions from the less experienced members of the crowd. Shelby and I had the same color of paintballs, which meant we were on the same team, the purple team, though the instructors did mention that there could be a single winner if only one member of your team made it to the very end. I felt kind of bad that Shelby was a first timer. She probably wouldn’t make it very long, but I vowed to myself that I would be a good boyfriend and try to help keep her in the game for as long as possible.
Before we all knew it, the guys had called go and set us loose on each other. I immediately grabbed Shelby’s hand and dragged her behind a big crate sitting nearby so that we would have a little cover while we devised at least a little bit of a game plan. She flinched as a couple of shots hit the other side of the crate, but I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Listen, Shelby,” I said urgently, “I think it’ll be best if you kind of stay behind me a bit, and when we make a break for that cabin over there, you can lay down some cover fire to scare the other players, while I try to hit those guys up on the walkway up and to the left, okay?”
She didn’t have time to answer, because in the next instant one of the guys from a different group appeared on top of our crate grinning deviously down at us. I was startled at first, then just plain confused because I hadn’t even aimed before he was already tumbling backward off the crate with a bright purple splotch in the middle of his chest. When I whipped my head around to see if my girlfriend had just outshot me already, I found that she’d already moved on to her next target.
I must say, I was ridiculously impressed. For all her anxiety earlier, it seemed like Shelby had suddenly turned into some kind of one-man paintball hit squad. She took out the three guys on the walkway that I’d mentioned before, tricked another couple into firing at an old tire she rolled across the clearing while she snuck up behind and managed to get the drop on them. There were two other girls who’d ducked beneath a window in one of the shacks, but Shelby got them too.
She’d taken out every single player that hadn’t already been shot by someone else, and when she turned to me with her hair falling in her face and her clothes covered in dirt, I don’t think I’d ever loved anyone more. When she crooked a finger at me from the doorway of the shack, it was all I could do not to trip over myself to congratulate her. As soon as I’d met her in the doorway, however, she spun me around and backed me into a corner of the shack, pressing a long, sweet kiss to my lips. I had just closed my eyes to savor the moment when I heard the thwack. I groaned and looked down to see a single splotch of purple over my heart and two mischievous blue eyes grinning up at me.
“I told you I was ready for battle,” she winked, “and it looks like I win.”