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If there was one thing she had learned from him that summer, it was the phrase, ‘no regrets.’ Loosely translated it meant that whatever you did, no matter how horrible the situation turned out, you would never regret it. This also meant that there would never be coulda, shoulda, wouldas.
She knew that this outlook on life was not always healthy. True, she would only be young once, but in 20 years she didn’t want to wince at this point in her life. Worse, she absolutely did not want to be sitting in a jail cell when she should have been married and worrying about her 16-year-old daughter going on dates.
But, on the other hand, she did not want to think back and wish that she had played a part in the senior prank. She also didn’t want to think how her summer would have changed if she had had the guts to ask the lifeguard out. Those were the kinds of things she would regret, that things that Nathan would say she shouldn’t regret because she should have done them.
Ahh… Nathan. Just thinking about him made Beth dizzy with glee. Granted, she hadn’t seen him in nine months, but the memory of him was still very vivid. His chocolate-brown eyes and his smile that seemed to light up the room was something that Beth remembered about his face the best. Beth had always loved the way he had wanted to do things and explore. Of course, half the stuff he had wanted to do had been slightly dangerous and it had taken a hysterical Beth for him not to do it. And always, after each outcry of Beth he would say, “But Beth, don’t you want to do it now so you don’t regret it tomorrow?”
Just the way he had said that phrase made Beth want to agree with him. But whoever heard of jumping off a cliff in the shallow water below? It was just plain crazy! Nathan just shook off her worries, pecked her on the cheek, and jumped. She had been so worried! Her worries were useless though.
Within seconds he had resurfaced, laughing like a three-year-old. Nathan then climbed up the cliff. He then tried to coax her to jump, but she hadn’t budged. She had done every last thing he and the other kids had done, even if it went against her best judgment. And frankly, swimming in the ocean at 3 a.m. without clothes on was definitely against her better judgment; especially when everyone wanted to swim to the little island a mile out.
But she just could not do this. It scared her, the heights, and the water waiting to swallow her up at the bottom. Nathan had been understanding, but she could tell he had been disappointed. So, after that moment, she had vowed to do everything he wanted to do. By the end of the summer, Beth could be called a daredevil. She did things the craziest boys in school wouldn’t do, let alone her friends.
On her last day with Nathan at camp, for this was where she had been all summer, she wasn’t really sure how to say good-bye. But it turned out she didn’t have to start because Nathan beat her to it.
“Beth… this is really hard, but I wish I woulda…”
She had to stop him right there. Beth had taken Nathan’s face into her hands, as if she were going to kiss him. Instead, she leaned right to his ear.
“No regrets,” she had murmured. Beth hadn’t seen it, but she knew Nathan had smiled.
“No regrets,” he had repeated.
And there hadn’t been any. Not at all. She had dated, for the span of a summer, a cute boy, and she had done several things that, admittedly, in 20 years she would be happy she did.
For instance, at first, she hadn’t wanted to kayak to several different islands. She would have preferred to stay at camp in her nice, cozy cabin. But then she had thought of all the fun she would be missing. Beth had decided to go, and besides, Nathan was going.
It turns out that the weather was terrible, but she had stayed up late laughing because of the nasty weather they had. On the plus side, Nathan had wanted to be in the same kayak she was in for the whole trip. Really, she was glad she had gone. She had, as Sophia had put it, “made memories to last a lifetime.”
And, to top it off, Beth had many stories to tell her friends, half of which they wouldn’t believe. Luckily, she had many more pictures than stories.
I wasn’t until her best friend Kelly had asked that one question.
“Do you have any regrets, Beth?”
The answer “No” was on the tip of her tongue, but to her shock a completely different answer was said. An answer that surely would have Nathan cringe. Beth realized, for the first time, that she did have a regret. Just one. She realized that she had not given Nathan enough credit. She had thought Nathan had just lived in the moment, resulting in his motto, “No regrets.” In the beginning of the summer, she had thought it plain foolish but over the weeks she had learned to love it. Perhaps she had learned to love it because it was true. Perhaps, Nathan had learned the same lesson Beth was just now learning. If only she had listened to Nathan, then she would “have no regrets.” But she couldn’t possibly explain all this to her friends in the span of a free period. So she stuck to the simplest explanation she could. She just said, “Yes.”
Her friends could tell that she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, explain the dawning comprehension that had appeared on her face. Kelly later on wormed out one small, tiny detail from Beth. When pressed for news Kelly claimed that Beth “had had an epiphany.” She didn’t know what the epiphany was, but Kelly had reason to believe that it was to do with her asking Beth if she had any regrets.
However, from that moment, Beth did everything: from attending parties to playing school pranks. Even if the consequences were severe, Beth said that she had fun doing it. Many people observed that year that Beth was living life. But Kelly put it best.
“She doesn’t want to regret not doing anything.”
Which brought Beth back here, 9 months from September, at this cliff she had refused to jump off with Nathan.
“My only regret,” she mused. True, she was at camp and this was probably not allowed. But oh well. She could already hear someone running along the path and she certainly did not want to get caught. She was definitely scared and was thinking of just forgetting the whole idea until she heard a familiar voice say, “But, Beth, don’t you want to do it now so you won’t regret it later?”
Beth mustered up her courage and jumped. On the way down she said to herself, “You don’t want to regret not doing this 20 years from now.” That was when she was submerged in the water. When she popped back up to the surface, she looked up and saw a pair of eyes she recognized.
“Any regrets?” he murmured to her when she climbed up from the path. She shook her head earnestly.
“No regrets, Nathan. None whatsoever.”