While lying on my bed, my fingers brush over the pink, green and blue pastel flower quilt my grandmother made for me when I was only nine years old, and a small smile lights up my face. “She still has it,” I mumble to myself. That’s the same year I started spending summers with her, the year my summers started being fun again.
I love being with my grandmother. Over the years, we would sit out on the porch at night looking out at the lake, calm from any of the day’s activities. She would make her iced tea and tell me the best stories about when she was young. The ones about her and my grandfather were always my favorites. During the day, she’d take me canoeing, hiking, or swimming. We’d make all our meals together and go into town shopping at the Farmers Market on Saturdays for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes I wish I could stay here all year. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are good people; they’re just never around and too busy to take me anywhere or do anything with me for that matter. So, in the summers, the only person I ever did anything with at home was my best friend, Amy. She lives across the street from me in Massachusetts and she’s like a sister to me.
We used to do everything together, well as much as you could when you’re that young. But when we were six, she started going to a day camp, so I would only get to play with her for a couple hours before dinner. I’d spend the rest of my day at home with a nanny who didn’t care what I did, as long as it was inside or in the fenced in back yard, so she could watch her talk shows and soap operas without having to chase after me. When my parents finally realized what was happening, they “rewarded” me with spending the summers with grandma on the lake.
I do love my summers with grandma, but I know I miss out on a lot of things back home. Amy keeps me updated as to what’s going on with everyone like who’s dating whom and what new activity, movies, or songs everyone seems obsessed with at the time. She tells me about parties she goes to and about all the boys. I call Amy my personal gossip columnist, which fits her personality perfect, besides being the complete opposite of me.
At five-feet, three-inches, Amy has blonde hair that hangs in waves down her back and beautiful blue-grey eyes. In my opinion, she’s gorgeous. She’s involved in everything; her favorite being cheerleading. She loves to be the center of attention. I on the other hand have chestnut brown hair and my dad’s brown eyes. I’m taller than Amy by about three inches. My parents don’t have time for me to be in any activities and I hate being the center of attention. In fact, I like the quiet at my grandma’s.
This summer, Amy and I tried our best to get my parents to let me stay home and spend the summer with her before our last year of high school. We used every excuse we could think of. Amy’s parents even offered to let me stay with them for part of the summer, so I could spend some time with Amy. My parents didn’t want me to be a burden to anyone outside our family, so no matter what we said, the answer remained no. We finally gave in to defeat.
The worst part is there’s a cute new guy, Blake who I really want to get to know better. I had just been allowed to start dating when I turned sixteen. But I didn’t have any interest in dating the boys I grew up with when I’ve seen them do everything from picking their nose to throwing dirt at me. I guess I never got over seeing some of the gross things you do as a kid and couldn’t picture any of them as more than a friend.
Then, Blake moved to town over spring break and for the first time, I was interested in a boy. Now, instead of being home with my friends, I’m lying on my bed at my grandma’s house, thinking about them at the summer kick-off party and feeling sorry for myself. I miss everything!
I hear a light knock on the door. “Briann,” Grandma calls through the door.
“Come in,” I reply. “I finished unpacking and I’m just chilling.”
If it weren’t for my grandma’s gray hair, you would think she’s a lot younger than her age. She’s tall and thin, but very strong with gray eyes that sparkle when she’s happy, which seems to me to be most of the time. Her face is defined with laugh lines around her eyes and mouth that I think make her more beautiful. She gives me a small smile and asks, “Do you have everything you need?”
I nod in confirmation before I reveal, “I was just remembering the summer you gave me this blanket.”
She laughs and murmurs, “That was a good summer. I’m glad you’re here. But it looks to me like you’re missing home.”
I can’t help but sigh. “You know me better than anyone,” I relent, looking fondly at her. It’s not her fault my parents send me away from my friends every summer. I do love her more than anything and cherish my time with her, but she’s right. “I do miss my friends, but I’m happy to be here with you too, Grandma.”
“I know, but I also know that doesn’t make it easy to be away from Amy and your other friends. Are there any boys you have taken a liking to?” she prods. I blush and she laughs, gently patting me on the knee. “There is, do I get to hear about him?”
“There’s really not much to tell. He just moved to Mass in the spring. He’s really nice and pretty funny,” I admit and shrug my shoulders with nothing more to say.
She nods her head and informs me, “You know there’s a nice-looking young fellow I’ve seen quite a bit the past month out on the lake in our cove. He always waves to me when I’m sitting outside. He looks about your age. Maybe there will be someone else to entertain you this summer besides me.” She grins and winks at me. “Besides, I’m getting too old for some of the things you like to do, I can hardly keep up with you.”
I smile, shaking my head at her. “You’re more than enough to entertain me Grandma and you’re not too old! You know I love to do anything with you.” I wonder what she thinks a cute boy my age looks like. I shrug thinking he’s probably a fifteen-year-old with skinny arms and glasses that don’t stay on his nose. “I think I’m going to get some sleep so I can get up early and go kayaking. I haven’t checked out the lake yet.”
“Ok, I think that’s a great idea! While you do that, I’ll make you your welcome breakfast,” she proudly announces and gives me a quick hug. “I love you. I’ll see you in the morning dear. Goodnight,” she murmurs as she stands up, closing the door as she walks out.
“I love you too, Thanks for having me.” I call through the door, “Goodnight!”
My phone beeps with a text. I pick it up seeing a message from Amy, “Wish you were here! Brett has the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen in his backyard!”
I text back, “Wish I was there too, but hope you’re having fun without me!”
Before I set my phone down, it beeps again. “I will and I’ll be sure to keep you posted. I miss you!” I sigh and put my phone away. I don’t want to see anymore messages tonight. I’ll talk to Amy tomorrow.
* * * * * * *
The next morning, I wake up just as the sky begins lightening. It has to be way too early to get up! I’m about to go back to sleep when I roll over and blink a few times. Realizing where I am, I startle myself awake. I throw on my new pale pink and chocolate brown bikini. I love the colors with my pale skin and chestnut brown hair. It’s also the first summer I actually have enough in my bathing suit to fill out a bikini and I want to show it off, even it’s just for me. I don’t think I’m the shit or anything, but I’m comfortable with myself. I guess you could say I have my good days and bad days. I throw an old pair of jean shorts over the top of my suit, slip my feet into my black and white flip flops, and rush out to the kitchen to leave Gram a note letting her know where I am, so she doesn't worry.
I place a rubber band around my wrist to throw my hair up later and slip out the back door down to the lake where my green kayak sits waiting. Bending down, I pick my life jacket up out of the center of the kayak just as the sound of light splashing alerts me, signaling someone might be paddling close by.
I quietly step towards the shore and freeze with my mouth hanging open. Through the trees I see the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen and he’s no scrawny fifteen-year-old! He already seems to have a nice golden tan. His light brown hair has sun-kissed blonde highlights hanging messily, but perfect just above his eyebrows. Sunlight begins peeking up on the other side of the lake and seems to be reflecting off him, making him appear to be shimmering. He’s so close to the shore I can actually see his muscles rippling from his movements, with his arms bare and then hiding under a light blue t-shirt.
I concentrate on closing my mouth and squinting to see if I can tell what color his eyes might be when he stops and places his paddle on top of his blue kayak and starts looking around the lake. That’s when it happens. I guess I’ve been unconsciously inching closer to the lake, and I step too close to a wet rock. I awkwardly slip and lean forward trying to catch my balance. Letting out a helpless squeal, I lean too far and fall right into the lake with a splash.
I hear a loud chuckle erupting from what I can only assume is the beautiful boy in the boat. Looking up, I glare at him, red as a cherry tomato, with my face feeling like it’s on fire! He smiles, taking my breath away and gestures to my life jacket. "You know, even if you can't swim, the water is only about a foot and a half deep there," he advises.
I just continue to glare at him as he inches closer. He easily jumps out of his kayak holding out his hand to help me up, still smiling. "It's okay. I won't push you back in," he teases. I reluctantly reach for his offered hand. He pulls me up a little too hard and I bump into his chest. I feel his muscles tense as I use my free hand in attempt to brace myself from impact. "Sorry about that," he mumbles, smirking at me, not appearing sorry at all. I feel tingles shoot from our connected fingers all the way down to my toes.
"Blue,” I mumble, staring into his eyes. I panic seeing the strange look he gives me. “I mean thanks,” I quickly amend. Pulling my hand away, I take a step back, and almost lose my balance again, but he grabs my elbow, steadying me. "I was just about to head out in my kayak."
"Don't you need a kayak for that?" he questions, smiling wryly. I glare at him again and gesture to my kayak back on the bank behind the trees as I gather my now somewhat wet hair up into a ponytail. He guides his kayak towards the shore and jumps out of the water to grab mine before I'm even done with my hair.
"I can do that," I call out.
"I'm sure you can," he concedes, his smirk still on his gorgeous face. I just stare at him as he slides my kayak effortlessly into the water over the rocks.
"We have a ramp right there, so you don't have to pull it over the rocks," I inform him, pointing towards the ramp.
"Yeah, but you're already in the water over here," he observes, glancing at the ramp and back over to me allowing his eyes to quickly sweep down my body. "How about some company? I can show you around the lake," he suggests, smiling even broader.
I can’t stop my laugh from escaping. "I know my way around pretty well, thanks."
"Well, then, can you show me around a little more? I've only been here for a short time, and I would love to know some of the secret spots around here," he proposes, raising his eyebrows in question.
I roll my eyes and grin. "Ok. I just like to take it slow in the mornings though if that’s okay with you. I usually go along the shore and kind of check everything out. I was going to watch the sunrise, but guess I'm too late for that now," I acknowledge. I crinkle my nose and look out at the already rising sun across the lake.
"Is that why you jumped right into the lake without your kayak?" he teases, smirking. I roll my eyes again, not bothering to respond. "I'm Christian, by the way," he introduces himself, reaching his hand towards me with a full-watt smile. I dig my toes into the muddy bottom and take a deep breath to keep myself from falling over as I slowly reach for his hand. "And you are?" he prompts.
"Sorry,” I mumble, shaking my head at my awkwardness. “I'm Bree. I guess I wasn't expecting to see anyone this morning. I'm still waking up," I claim, hoping he'll buy my lame excuse.
"Bree, I like that,” he mumbles. “Is that short for anything?"
"Briann," I confirm.
I realize I’m staring into his electrifying ice blue eyes again and still holding his large hand. I quickly drop my gaze and pull my hand away, turning to step into my kayak as a blush consumes me from head to toe. He watches me get in before climbing back in his own kayak. “So, where to Bree?” he prompts, still smiling.
I take a deep breath to calm my shaking hands, then another so, my voice hopefully won’t come out shaky. “Where were you coming from?” He points behind us and I suggest, “Then, let’s keep going this way.”
I dip my paddle into the water and a chill goes through me, feeling my whole body shudder. “Are you okay?” he questions.
“Just cold,” I retort.
He nods and smiles mischievously, his eyes sparkling. “Let me know if you need anything to warm up.” Afraid to respond, not quite sure if his comment was all that innocent, I just nod my head, listening as his chuckle rumbles over the water. The sound has my nerves practically consuming my whole body.
After a few minutes, he breaks the silence. “So, how do you know the lake so well? I haven’t seen you around here at all this past month.”
I almost breathe a sigh of relief with the change of topic. “My grandma lives here,” I inform him, pointing back to her house. “I’ve spent every summer with her since I was nine.”
“I think I’ve seen your grandma. So, you’re here for the whole summer?” he probes. I nod my head in confirmation. “Well, it looks like my summer just got a whole lot better,” he happily admits, giving me another heart-melting smile.
I feel my whole body flush from head to toe. “What about you? Where are you from?” I question, trying to move the attention away from me.
He pauses like he's contemplating his answer before he responds. “All over really; most recently Maryland and now here before I leave for college. We move around a lot for my dad’s job. Every couple years he seems to get a promotion that comes with a move.”
“That must be hard,” I state simply.
He shrugs. “You get used to it and now I’m off to college, so I guess after this summer it won’t matter much anyway.”
“Where are you going to college?” I inquire.
“University of Southern Maine, I like it up here.” We paddle quietly for a few minutes. Then he asks, “What about you?” I must look confused because he smiles and prompts, “Future plans?”
I nod my head and inform him, “I have one more year left of high school and then I’d like to come back this way as well, University of Southern Maine is actually where I’d like to go, if I get in. I want to be close to my grandma and they have a ton of programs to choose from,” I explain. To myself, I can’t help but think it’s also far away from my parents. It’s not like they’re ever around anyway.
“They’d be crazy not to accept you,” he claims, quietly. I blush again in response and quickly look the other way. “So, are there any secret coves or something like that around here?”
For the next hour we paddle around the lake, while I point out a couple hidden coves and another spot where a stream comes down into the lake during wet weather. We find the stream hardly running down the rocks today, barely a light trickle into the lake. I slowly start making my way back towards my grandmother’s house with Christian close behind. When we get back, I fiddle with my life jacket and pull my kayak up onto the rocks trying to think of something to say. I’d really like to see him again. “Um, thanks for the company,” I finally murmur, smiling shyly at him.
“Thanks for the tour,” he responds. “Would you like to do it again tomorrow? Maybe we can bring some food and go out for a while longer?” he proposes.
“That sounds great,” I concur, sounding a bit too excited. I force myself to take a deep breath and look back at him. “Same time?”
“Yeah, is six am too early? I’ve found it’s my favorite time on the lake; it’s so quiet.”
“I agree. It’s the best time to be out there.” I smile and give him a little wave. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye, Christian.”
“Goodbye, Bree. I’m looking forward to it.” He grins and waves back. Then he drops his hand back on the paddle over his kayak. I’m almost at the house before I hear the light splashes in the water, indicating he’s leaving. I feel myself blush, realizing he must’ve been watching me.
I walk into the kitchen still blushing and a small smile on my face. Grandma doesn’t even glance up, as she acknowledges, “I see you met that nice looking young fellow I was telling you about.”
My eyes widen in surprise. “How did you know?”
“Well, if that smile and blush didn’t make it obvious enough,” she teases, deepening the red in my cheeks, “I saw the two of you paddling up to the house. Did you go swimming already?” she inquires looking curiously at my now damp hair and clothes.
“Sort of. I slipped in,” I admit, wrinkling my nose. She laughs and I can’t help but join her. “Can I help with breakfast?” I offer.
“No, go clean up and then we’ll eat while you tell me about the boy you just met.”
“Ok, thanks Grandma.” I rush to my room and jump in the shower looking forward to Grandma’s strawberry waffles. Well, if I’m being honest, I’m looking forward to daydreaming about Christian and hopefully spending a lot of time with him! I smile to myself thinking, it’s going to be a fantastic summer with him around.
The next day I wake up early and throw on a light blue bikini along with a cute pair of white jean cutoff shorts. I appraise myself in the mirror before I throw a pale purple tank top on over my bathing suit. I don’t want to worry about tan lines if we’re out for a while, which I’m hoping will be the case. I take a little extra time brushing my hair up in a ponytail instead of just using my hands to do it. I brush my teeth and then give myself one last look before I run to the kitchen to put some food together. When I open the refrigerator, I find an insulated collapsible bag with a note attached.
I packed you some food for breakfast and lunch, just in case you’re gone for a while. There’s enough for you to share and it should fit perfectly in your kayak. Have fun and don’t worry about me, I’m meeting a friend before lunch and I have some errands to do. I’ll see you for dinner.
Love you, Grandma
P.S. Don’t forget your water and sunscreen!!”
I can’t help but smile. I had so much fun talking to grandma last night. As we were chatting, I told her about his dad’s job, and she realized she’d already met Christian’s mom at the local market the other day. I’m sure that’s part of the reason she’s not so worried. I grab my things and head outside.
When I reach the dock, I put my things in the front of my kayak and pull it over to the ramp. I walk down the dock and peer down the lake and see him already paddling towards me. I feel my heart pound against my chest and my body starts to tingle with nerves, traveling from my heart all the way to my fingers and toes. He looks towards our house and sees me, lifting his hand in greeting. I do the same, feeling my tingles turn into a heated blush. I’m glad he’s not close enough to really see me. I stride back to the ramp concentrating on not tripping over the old wooden planks and looking like a fool again.
I throw on my lifejacket as I wade into the water. I step into my kayak taking a deep breath and slowly blowing it out as I settle. I start to paddle away from the dock without looking and startle at the sound of his deep voice, “Good morning.”
I look up at him with a shy smile, “Hi.”
“I guess this means you’re ready,” he grins. “Would you like to lead the way?” I nod and we make our way along the shore, paddling together. We both remain pretty quiet, paddling and taking in the sights; the houses, the landscape and the animals either just waking up or heading to their homes to sleep for the day. Christian spots a bald eagle flying from its nest in a tree at least sixty feet tall! It’s incredible to watch it spread its wings and then fly down near the lake, searching for food, before snapping a fish right out of the water. Honestly, we stay relatively close to the edges of the lake to see any of that.
We begin making our way out into the middle of the lake, seeing the shades of green of the mostly pine trees surrounding us, with only a few lighter patches where more trees have been taken down for homes. It’s always incredibly quiet and peaceful in the mornings, except for maybe the soft calls of the loons and the jumping of some fish here and there.
After a while, Christian points to one of the little islands in the middle of the lake. The whole thing is probably twenty-five feet across. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry, how about eating some breakfast over there?” he suggests. I again nod my head in agreement.
We paddle over to the island, and he jumps out pulling both his kayak and mine with me in it up to the shore. He turns to me and smiles, holding out his hand to help me out. I grin and take his hand, my heart rate speeding up instantly with his touch. “Thank you.”
We both remove our life jackets and toss them in our boats before grabbing our bags. He glances at my bag and starts laughing. “Wow, you like to eat a lot, huh?” he jokes.
I feel myself blush again, and I quickly explain, “My grandma packed the food for me. She said she packed some for lunch too in case we were out for a while and enough to share.” I didn’t think it was possible, but I turn an even deeper shade of red as his smile broadens, while still holding my free hand.
“That was very thoughtful of her. I’ll have to thank her when I bring you home. Oh, hold on,” he mumbles. He sets his small bag down and drops my hand. My fingers tingle, instantly feeling the loss. He grabs a large towel from his kayak and lays it down on the grass and sand, spreading it out for us.
“Great idea. I didn’t even think of that.” I sit down and he sinks down next to me propping his knees up and banging them gently into mine. I freeze and stare into his beautiful eyes that seem to sparkle just like the sun on the lake. He has the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen. I’m completely mesmerized. Feeling as if my heart begins pounding outside my chest, I see the corners of his lips start to curve upwards and I rip my gaze away from him and out to the water.
He clears his throat before asking, “So what do we have to eat? I’m already thinking my granola bar and water will be too boring.”
I open the bag grandma packed for us and peek inside, pulling out food as I go. I set down a bowl of fruit salad, a couple bagels and croissants, peanut butter, her homemade strawberry jam, waters, pretzels, and some sandwiches in the bottom, I’d assume for later. She really wasn’t planning on me coming back for a while, giggling to myself at the thought as I gently shake my head in disbelief.
“What are you smiling at?” he questions.
“Just my grandma,” I admit, eyeing the bag.
“This is quite the feast,” he concurs, maintaining his focus on me.
I feel my blush heat my face immediately and I have to look away. I grab a knife and start spreading jam on a croissant and nibbling on some fruit. “So, what do you like to do besides kayak?” I prompt, changing the subject.
He reaches for a bagel and peanut butter before answering me, “Well, I love sports, but I never really play besides when I hang out with my friends. I guess I always moved so much; it made it difficult to play. I don’t like going from team to team and constantly starting over. I really love anything outdoors. I love to go hiking, biking, skiing in the summer or winter,” he lists, grinning. I guess I just love being outside. How about you?” he inquires and looks at me expectantly.
“I don’t really know,” I admit, shyly. “I love being outside too. I guess I like to hike,” I answer, shrugging my shoulders, anxious for his reaction.
He raises his eyebrow in question, “You guess?”
“Well, I was never allowed to be a part of any club, team, or sport. My parents were always too busy to drive me anywhere and didn’t like to burden other people with having to take me, so I pretty much go from home to school besides hanging out with my best friend.” I elaborate, feeling even more awkward. “I’ve always loved coming here though, where I can do so much, but everything that I’ve learned about this kind of stuff is from my grandma,” I trail off when I see him staring at me with wide eyes. I can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking.
He nods his head as if he’s making a decision. “So, that’s what we’ll do then,” he states.
“What?” I prod.
He grins, declaring, “We’re going to spend the summer having fun, doing things and trying things together.”
I look up at him and give him a small smile in return. “Together?” I question. He nods his head in confirmation and then stands up. He dusts his hands off, clapping them together, before reaching down for my hand. I place my hand in his and he tugs, swiftly pulling me up.
“Yup. And we’re going to start by jumping into the lake to cool off,” he announces.
“I don’t know if I want to go in right now, it’s still a little chilly,” I claim and shrug my shoulders.
He chuckles softly with a glint in those beautiful eyes and proclaims, “Well, I think we need to seize the moment.” He drops my hand and pulls his shirt over his head, tossing it onto the blanket. I think I completely stop breathing at the sight of his amazingly sculpted body, even more knowing he’s only eighteen. He grabs me around the waist and pulls me against his bare chest causing me to gasp. I tense at being so close to him.
I barely start to shriek as I finally realize what he’s doing. He runs into the water laughing as he falls sideways into the lake still holding me tightly. He releases me as we crash beneath the water. I quickly pull myself to the surface, since I didn’t get a good breath, but at least I remembered to hold it before I went under.
When I look behind me, I find him grinning so big, I can’t help but smile back at him. I splash him in the face and swim away laughing. I feel him grab my foot and pull me towards him. He turns me around with ease and I feel my breath catch again. “Are you starting trouble?” he teases, grinning. I just smile back because I can’t seem to form words around him. He lifts his hand to my cheek and caresses it lightly with his thumb. “I sure hope so,” he whispers, staring intently into my eyes.
I glance down at his lips and then back to his eyes barely breathing. My heart pounds so hard, it feels as if it will beat out of my chest, while butterflies have a field day inside my stomach. Cradling my face in his hands, he slowly closes the distance between us. I feel his soft, smooth lips gently brush mine in the lightest and sweetest kiss. Goosebumps spread throughout my whole body. He notices instantly and pulls back, stepping out of the water as he weaves his fingers through mine and leads me out of the water behind him. He grabs a towel and offers, “Here, you’re cold,” as he wraps it around my body. He rubs my arms up and down for a minute, trying to warm me up.
I’m finally able to mumble, “Thank you” never letting my eyes waver from his. I shake my head a little like I’m trying to get the water out of my ears, but really, I’m trying to think of something to say instead of dreaming of kissing him again. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I finally ask, curious about his family.
“Yeah,” he nods in confirmation. “I have two older brothers and a baby sister. Theresa is actually going to be a senior in high school this year too. Both of my brothers are away at college and pretty much stay there all year, just coming home to visit, wherever home is at the time. My brother Matt is in Texas at Baylor and my oldest brother Jason goes to West Point in New York. He of course is following in my father’s footsteps,” he grimaces slightly. “How about you?” he questions, quickly averting the attention back to me. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“No, lucky me, I’m an only child,” I answer with a tight smile.
“Don’t look so happy about it.” He pauses, gathering his thoughts before continuing, “Having brothers and sisters is not all it’s cracked up to be. They’re great, but we fight a lot and there’s always something or someone to live up to.” He takes a deep breath and sighs heavily. “Anyway, what about your parents?”
I look down at my lap and shrug before I respond. “They’re okay. They’re never really around. They’re always away on business or something. That’s why I come here every summer. I had a nanny for a few years when I was pretty little, but she spent most of her time watching soap operas and when my parents found out…” I trail off, shrugging my shoulders. “I guess sometimes I feel like my grandma is more of my parent than anyone, she’s amazing.” I turn my head slightly to peek at him, noticing a sad look cross his face; I’m sure it’s sympathy for me, so I quickly change the subject. “Anyway, I love it here and I couldn’t be happier spending my summers with her,” I paste a smile on my face and glance at him.
He grins back at me. “Well, I have to say that this summer sure looks like it’s bound to be incredible.”
The sound of a motorboat gets my attention and I look out at the water skier gliding behind the boat. “Maybe we should head back towards the shore with the motorboats coming out. The lake is going to start getting busy.”
“Sure,” he agrees reluctantly and starts cleaning up our food. “If we stay near the shore with the kayaks, we could go a little longer,” he suggests.
“That sounds good,” I happily concur. We pack up and head back towards the shore.
As we glide along the edges of the lake, the feeling of calm sets in again. “So, where’s your house?” I prod, curiously.