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Stuck Between Two
Author's note: Came up with the inspiration when I went beach camping last summer.
Don’t even start with me. Just stop. Don’t remind me of the summer. Last summer. I don’t want to remember. Do you remember? I do. But please, don’t remind me. I don’t want to know. Last summer. Damn it. I promised myself I wouldn’t be reminded. But I can’t help myself when I think of you.
Do you remember when you first met me? You smiled. I smiled back. But turned away quickly. You couldn’t help but to come up to me and ask me my name. I told you.
“Payton,” I said.
And you replied in the sexiest voice, “Hot. I’m Brayden.”
Brayden. No, what a hot name you had.
“How long will you be out here?” you asked me.
“All summer,” I said with a smile. That pleased you.
We were at the beach that whole entire summer. Me in my beach house and you in yours. Me with my cousins and you with your guy friends. Each of you with your own girlfriends, except you. Then you found me, out of every girl you could have picked at the beach, that summer. But you stuck with me. And thinking to myself, it was hard to believe. But it was real. And I don’t know how much more real it could have gotten. But it was, until you got mad at me one humid night, when I was with you, at your house. I was next to your friend, Chad, whose girlfriend had dumped him while she was there, and left, a week before that night. She just packed up and left. Without saying one word to anyone. And he didn’t stop her. He just let her go. But that night, in your house, you got mad. Really mad. Because you saw Chad holding my hand. And I let him. But you wouldn’t let me explain.
“Brayden, let me explain,” I said.
You just stared at me.
You grabbed Chad by the collar of his shirt, punched him, and gave me a disgusted look.
Chad whipped his lip to see if there was any blood. I got up and went to your side to hold your arm back from punching him anymore.
“Brayden, please just listen to me, will you?” I said again.
“Dude, what was that for?” Chad asked.
You just ran out of the house without saying a word. Everyone went looking for you that night. But nobody could find you. For days. I stayed at your house with everyone as we continued to look for you. But still, you were nowhere to be found. Finally, on the last day of being at the beach, I found a letter from you on the chair outside of my house. You said:
I’m sorry I just ran off like that and never came back. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. But I didn’t go far. I just purposely stayed away. I shouldn’t have gotten like that with you. You didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t mad that Chad was holding your hand, for whatever reason. I just couldn’t handle anything anymore. I wish I could tell you what I mean by that. But I know you’re leaving and it’s not something I can explain to you over a letter, or note. Whatever this is. And who knows, I’ll probably be gone by then. We’ll never know. The number I have now will be disconnected. So you won’t be able to get a hold of me. Ever. But I’m really glad you were the girl I got to spend half of my summer with. Thank you. I hope you grow up and do great things with and in your life.
That was the last time I had ever heard from you. And you were right; I did lose all contact with you. I don’t know where you’re right now, or what you’re doing. Or if you’re even alive. I try not to think of last summer, because it hurts too much to know I’m never going to see you again. But I hope you’re out there somewhere, doing just as okay as I am.
Here I am at the beach, this summer, again. This time, I’m with all my friends and their boyfriends, except myself. And this time, I don’t have anyone to look forward to seeing every day. Because here I am, still wishing, hoping, that maybe you’d finally show up and come back to me. So we could pick up where we left off last summer.
I walked out to your old house. It looked empty and I didn’t bother going any closer. I stood there for a few minutes, thinking, remembering. And then walked back four houses over to mine.
“Payton,” my friend Shelah said.
“Yeah?” I replied.
“Get happy! It’s our summer. We’re out of school Pay! College life now baby!”
She was enthused. I still wasn’t.
I shrugged. “Yeah, I know.”
She frowned and nudged me. “Come on you big butt, have some fun and lighten up a bit.”
Her boyfriend Dylan wrapped his arms around her from behind. That reminded me of when you randomly came up and wrapped your arms around me. Her reflection with him reminded me of us. I let out a sigh. Tough luck.
I sat down on the long five seated couch (even though we always squished about ten people on here). It was still light out, almost near dinner. Four lovely couples scattered out throughout the house were all occupied doing random things. What fun this was going to be. Not.
“Payton, I got an idea. Why don’t you and I go out, in like twenty minutes and go get fire wood so we can have a bon fire tonight,” Shelah encouraged.
“Alright, I’ll be here waiting for you,” I said.
“Okay! Come on Dylan, we gotta go in for a quickie,” she giggled. Ew.
“Only twenty minutes, babe?” he frowned.
“No. I have to leave in twenty, so that means we only have fifteen minutes. Hurry, let’s go!” She dragged him into one of the rooms. Probably their room, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who hadn’t chosen a room yet. If I even got a room at all.
Twenty minutes later, Dylan came out. Shelah wasn’t beside him. He was putting on his shirt as he was walking toward me.
“Hey, Shelah fell asleep. So I’ll go with you.”
“She fell asleep, that quick?” I asked. How was that even possible?
“Yeah. She got out of the shower and laid down and fell asleep.”
“Ohh. . .The shower?” I questioned.
“Uhm, yes? We took a shower.”
Whoops, my bad.
“Ohh, right. A shower. Okay, well you ready then?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
I jumped off the couch, feeling stupid for thinking she meant “quickie” as in sex.
“Do you know what we’re having for dinner tonight? I’m starving,” Dylan said as he walked out the door and hopped down the stairs.
“Nope. I was just thinking about calling in for pizza,” I said with a shrug.
“Ew, pizza. You can’t have that kind of food while you’re at the beach! We have five very lovely ladies here with us and a huge ass kitchen,” he smiled. “I think you girls should cook us guys some real food.” He winked.
I chuckled lightly. “You’re funny as hell. We can cook pizza then. If you want cooked homemade real food,” I emphasized.
Dylan stuck his tongue out at me and flipped me off, “you suck.”
I gave him a playful nudge as we continued to walk along the beach, searching for wood, and passing by your house. We walked in silence for about five minutes and then Dylan ran over to a pile of random fire wood lying in the middle of the sand.
“Look what I found. Score!” Dylan cheered. He bent down and started grabbing it. I knelt down next to him. “Hmm, that’s weird. What’s all this wood doing here?”
“I have no idea but who cares. We found some, so that’s all that matters.”
I shrugged. “True. S***, we should have brought a bag or something.”
“Woman, just grab the wood and let’s go. Before somebody thinks we’re stealing it.”
I stood up beside him and lowered my eyebrows at him.
“Somebody like who exactly? Nobody’s around Dylan.”
He looked at me and laughed.
“Just grab it and let’s go, please.”
I grabbed as much as I could fit into my arms. Dylan did too. And then we headed back to the house, passing by your house, once again.
Shelah was outside sitting on the stairs with her pouting face on.
“Thanks for not waking me up, jerks,” she said.
“Sorry babe. I wanted you to sleep,” Dylan said while placing the wood next to the stairs. He took mine and did the same.
“Sorry Shelah. We had to leave before the sun went down.”
“See, we got back at the nick of the time, the sun’s setting now.”
She looked over the beach and saw the sun setting perfectly with the light reflecting off the sky.
“Yeah, yeah. What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.”
Gez. This couple and their eating habits. No wonder they’re perfect for each other. They’re pigs!
“Make yourself a dang quesadilla. Gosh,” I said. They both laughed.
“Fine, babe, take out the burgers. I’ll barbeque, you guys can chill,” Dylan suggested. Shelah gave him a kiss as she stood up.
“You’re amazing babe.”
She ran into the house to take out the patties.
“Thanks. Hey, I’ll be right back,” I said to Dylan.
“Okay,” he replied.
I walked back over to your house, slowly. But I noticed something different. The chair that was normally sitting outside your house wasn’t there anymore and a burnt out cigarette bud was still producing smoke, lying in the ash tray.
I couldn’t help myself but to take a closer look. So I walked up to the window and looked inside. I saw the couch. The last place I was where I had last seen you. And beyond that couch, there was the kitchen, with a stove. And on the stove was a pot of steaming water. Steaming. And now, I was scared. But I didn’t want to knock. I didn’t want to know what could have been in your old house. So I ran all the way back to my house.
The patties were already on the grill. And Shelah was kissing on Dylan as he had the spatula in one hand, his hand on her ass with the other and a big old smile glued to his face. I didn’t say a word to them. I just walked right past them and into the house. Stevie and Lynn were sleeping on the couch. Ashley and Amber were watching TV. Brody and Austin were playing pool. I guess everyone just got in from their little adventure walk.
I went into the kitchen and sat on a stool. Amber turned around from the couch and looked at me. I gave her a small smile.
“Hey girl, you okay,” she asked.
“Yeah, just extremely bored,” I replied.
“Do you want to go out to the water?”
“Nah, it’s too cold.”
It was pretty chilly out. But that’s the kind of weather I loved at the beach. It all looked so pretty. But of course, the sun was nice too. I tanned really well this time of year in the sun.
“Oh, alright. Well, do you want to sit and watch TV?”
“I can see from here, thanks though.”
I didn’t mean to sound all pushy. But I suddenly had a lot on my mind.
“If you say so.” She turned back around to face the TV once again.
Immediately after being lost in thought for a good twenty minutes or so, the food was ready. And I was starving now.
“Foods done!” Dylan yelled. Brody and Austin ran out of the game room immediately. I stood up and pushed the stool back in its place.
Outside, I saw Shelah off in the distance talking to someone. A young girl, nearly around twelve, maybe. The girl was alone. I walked over by Dylan, who was putting his and Shelahs burgers together.
“Who’s Shelah talking to?” I asked.
He shrugged, “I dunno. A neighbor.”
“She came out of that house.”
He pointed over your direction.
“The house with the light on outside?” I asked.
He meant your house.
I ran over to Shelah. The girl looked innocent enough.
“Hey,” I said directly to Shelah.
She gasped, “Oh hey, you scared me.”
The girl turned red.
“Who is she?” I asked.
Shelah cleared her throat.
“Uhh…Tiffany,” Shelah said.
“Tiffany? Tiffany what?”
Tiffany turned around to face your house.
“Tiffany Allen,” Tiffany said.
Allen…Allen, Allen, Allen…
I gasped dramatically.
“Allen! Oh my…”
I trailed off immediately. And felt a tear. A few tears actually. She was you. Well, not you. But pretty damn close.
“Do you…know Brayden?” I hesitated.
She turned around quickly to face us once again. She looked like you.
“I have to go,” she said. She ran away. I didn’t say anything else. I knew she knew you. And so did you.
Between hidden tears, I managed to collapse onto the floor, bury my face in my hands and cry. Shelah bent down right next to me, put her hand on my back and rubbed it in light circles. She didn’t say a word. Because she knew I knew what you knew. And she knew, like you knew, that I couldn’t handle it.
Shelah lead me back to the house after a couple of minutes. When she set me down on a chair, I closed my eyes. A flashback of us over came my blurry vision. We were out there, by the water.
The sky’s blue today. Brayden has been my everything since he’s found me. He came running back to the water with two bottles of soda. Sunkist for me, Fanta Orange for him.
“Here you go baby,” he said.
I kissed him. “Thank you.”
“Don’t spill any in the water. We don’t want to contaminate the ocean.” He grinned.
He’s a funny guy. He was always so concerned about the needs for others. I mean, since I met him, he’s always seemed like that really handy guy. One who thinks about everyone else but him damn self. And I guess that’s why I was around. To be concerned about him. Even though he proclaims to tell me that I have nothing to worry about, I feel as if I do. Like I’m supposed to take care of him.
He took a sip of his soda and choked. Before I could even ask if he was okay, I started busting up laughing. And he was coughing pretty bad when suddenly, he bent down and bumped his head against mine.
“Oww,” I said calmly.
He jumped up. “S***! I’m so sorry Payton.”
I just laughed it off. It really didn’t hurt that bad.
“It’s okay, I’m alright.”
He kissed my forehead and rubbed it a little.
“Are you alright?” I asked. Finally coming around to see if his choking was going to kill him or not.
“Yeah, I’m fine. But are you okay?!”
“I couldn’t be better.” I smiled.
But we both knew that we could have lived without him bumping my head.
I woke up on a bed. The room didn’t look to familiar. Defiantly not one I’ve seen before. I opened my eyes carefully and saw Ashley next to me. She smiled.
“Hey you,” she said.
I sat up on the bed, struggling to lift myself up because I felt terribly weak.
“Hey. Where are we?” I asked.
“Heaven,” she said in this angelic voice.
“Really? Heaven’s nothing like I expected it to be.”
She laughed. “I’m joking. We’re at Tiffany’s’ house.”
I screamed. Ashley slapped my arm, pretty hard.
“Shut up!” she said. I covered my mouth with both hands. In between, I mumbled, “sorry.”
“What are we doing here?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Shelah told me to bring you over here so the guys carried you. That little girl wants to talk to you.”
I remembered I hadn’t eaten at all. Dylan made this delicious smelling hamburgers last night and I didn’t even eat. I didn’t even know I fell asleep!
“Well, before anyone talks to me, I want some food, please. I’m starving.”
She smiled. “We’re already on it girl. Shelah, Amber and the guys are in the kitchen cooking.”
I gave a little cheer. “Goodie! Oh, I can smell it, it smells bomb!”
She laughed again. I must have been really funny to her.
“You really must be hungry because they’re cooking at our house. You can’t smell anything over here, crazy!”
I frowned. “Dang it.”
Right then, the girl, Tiffany, came into the room, smiling.
“Hey girl, I’ll let you two be,” Ashley said.
She stood up from the edge of the bed, walked out and closed the door behind her.
Tiffany looked exactly like you. Except, of course, in a girl version. She had brown hair, curled, pinned back with a clipped flower. She was mildly short. Beautiful. Just like you. She smiled. I smiled back.
“Hey Payton,” she said.
“Hi,” I said.
She took a seat on the chair beside the bed. Tiffany was very still. Entirely quite. For about three minutes. She had her eyes pointed at the floor. She finally looked up, smiled, and began talking.
“He’s missed you, Payton.”
When she said that, a complete lift came off my shoulders.
“He’s missed you, a lot.” I let her talk.
“He’s always talking about you. But it’s so hard for him. He doesn’t know what to do.”
“He’s alive,” I ask.
“Yes, of course he is.”
“Where is he?”
“Gone,” she said, looking down again.
“Is he here?”
“When will he be here?”
“He’s not coming back Payton.” She looked up again.
The lift came back. The tears came back. I realized I’m an emotional girl. Where are you Brayden?
“He wanted me to give you this.”
She pulled out an envelope from her back pocket.
I took it from her. I began to open it. She stopped me.
“Don’t read it yet. Wait until I’m gone.”
I set it down. “Okay. . .”
She got up. “Don’t go looking for him Payton. He’s not coming back.”
That was the last thing she said to me. And then she left. Who is she anyway? How you do know her?
As she left, Ashley came back into the room. She glanced behind her to see if Tiffany was standing there. She wasn’t.
“Come on, food’s ready,” she said.
I jumped right off the bed and ran quickly down the hall, out the door. My bare feet hit the burning sand. So I couldn’t help but to run down towards my house before it started to sting.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” I muttered.
Bacon, sausage, eggs and biscuits overwhelmed the house with a heavenly smell. I have never been so hungry before in my life. I threw the letter on the counter and grabbed a plate.
“Whoa there buster, here,” Austin said as he snatched the empty plate from me and handed me a full one.
I smiled, “Thanks, you’re a saint.” I gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek. Hopefully Ashley wouldn’t mind. I dug in, and I dug in quick. It was delicious! I ate it to the very bone and nobody disturbed me at all. Once I finished and got up to put my plate in the dishwasher, Brody snatched it from me and did it for me.
I thanked him.
“Did you enjoy it?” he asked.
“Absolutely. Especially the bacon, my favorite.”
He smirked, “Glad you liked it, I made it.”
I laughed. “Very delish.”
I turned and went to go get my suitcase from the car where I last left it. When I opened it though, it wasn’t there. I closed up the car and looked around to see if I might have left it somewhere. It was nowhere to be found.
“Ashley!” I yelled. She came running to my side.
“Yeah?” she said.
“Have you seen my suitcase by any chance?”
“Oh yeah!” she remembered, “I took it up to your room. Come on.”
She made her way back into the house and up the stairs.
“We noticed there was one empty room and none of the rooms were yours so we gave you this one.”
It was a decent sized room. For me. She made my bed and emptied out my suitcase for me. I gave her a big hug.
“Thank you so much. You guys have been awesome!”
She smiled and hugged me back.
“It’s the least we can do for such an amazing friend like you.”
I let go and went over to the dresser where she had set my clothes. I grabbed a completely new outfit.
“So everyone’s going down to the beach today. Did you want to go?” she asked.
“Yeah, but I’ll be down in a little bit. I have a few things to take care of.”
She nodded, “Alright, see you down there.”
She left my room, so I changed. After I did so, I remembered you had given me a letter. And I needed to read it. So I ran downstairs to grab it from the counter. And when I did, I opened it immediately, took it out, and unfolded it. And you said:
It’s me again. Hi. It’s been a year. A complete year. With a brand new cause. And brand new things. I’m always thinking about you. Tiffany let me know you were back in town. So I just absolutely had to write to you. You probably forgot about me. I could imagine you probably moved on and have a boyfriend. And who knows, you probably don’t even remember me. Maybe you’ve forgotten about us and don’t remember what we did last summer. And how much it meant to both of us. How much it meant to me at least. I know you’re getting this letter and I could imagine you’ve only been here for two nights, but that doesn’t mean I’m around, because I’m not. I sent her this through an email so she could print it out and give it to you. Tiffany had only gone over to your place to make sure it was you and immediately she let me know. I miss you Payton, a lot. Oh yeah, so you don’t completely freak out, Tiffany’s my niece. My brothers’ daughter. Him and her are spending the summer there this year, since that is originally their house. They own it. Anyway, about me. I’ve been alright. You’ve been on my mind every single day since I walked out the house last time you saw me. It’s been hard. And yes, I’m still alive. I’ve been working for my grandpas’ construction business and I do part time work as an animal trainer at the zoo. Exciting, right? I haven’t gone to college yet. I’m just not ready to. I haven’t had a girlfriend, I can honestly say that for sure. I’ve been a good boy, ha! About the boys, they’ve been good. Chad and I keep in contact from time to time, if you were wondering about him by any chance. Ha! Again, just kidding. I guess he has a new girlfriend. Nick and Lacy are still together though. They’re going on two years. Good for them. I’m living on my own. Not too far from where you’re at now but not to close either. I know it’s easy to say, “Well, if you miss me so much, why don’t you just come see me while I’m here,” if you’re even thinking that at all. But just like last time, it’s not that easy to explain. And I still can’t do it over a letter. Maybe one day we will meet up again. Who knows? Let’s not rush into the fact that you’re a beautiful and amazing girl. Because you are, Payton. And I would die to see you again. But I’m a little too busy with work and stuff. Hopefully you’re still doing well and keeping up your goals in life. This must be your graduation trip. Congrats young lady and welcome to adulthood.
That’s it? That’s all you had to say to me? Really? I couldn’t even believe it! Wait, why the hell am I still trying with you if you won’t even come damn see me! So guess what I decided to do? Write you back. I ran up to my room to get my laptop. I decided to write it there. I let my computer load and then clicked on Microsoft Word. I began:
I don’t know if you’ll get this or not. Hopefully you do. It won’t be too long, but hi. It’s been awhile. I read your letter. Thanks for that. But the funny thing is, I didn’t feel anything for it. It kind of surprised me, considering you had been on my mind every single day since the day you walked out that door. I really appreciated that . . . not. Why the hell can’t you just tell me what’s going on that’s keeping you from coming back? Do you not understand how much this is ruining me? My whole entire senior year was s*** because of you. Because I couldn’t get over what me and you had done. And I swore I wouldn’t admit this to anyone or myself ever again, but you completely changed my life and I had to get rid of it. Whatever that means, I don’t know how else to explain it to you. Hopefully you understand or else that’s for me to know and for you to never found out. Because obviously you’re more concerned about work and other things then trying to figure out how maybe I have been and been feeling. But no, obviously not like you care, the least. I’m sorry if this came off completely rude. This was definitely not the way I wanted to start the first conversation me and you have had in over a year. But I’m upset Brayden and you don’t get that. I’m in love with you and I’ve been hurting every single day.
I was considering not saving it and deleting everything I had just written. It did sound a little rude if you ask me. But I mean, it was all true! And you definitely needed to hear this. So I ran over with my laptop to your house. I knocked. Tiffany answered.
“How can I help you?” she asked.
I panted for breath, then said, “I need Braydens’ email. I have to send him something.”
“No can do. I’m not allowed to give it out.”
“Fine then. What’s your email? I’ll send it to you so you can send it to him.”
“Let me type it in.”
I opened it up to the sending page and let her type in her email. Why can’t you just let me speak to you head on, damn it!
“There,” she said.
“Thanks. Get it to him ASAP, please!” I said.
Before I got completely out of her view, I turned around.
“Oh yeah, Tiffany, you’re beautiful,” I said. She grinned. I thought she ought to know that. After all, if you’re truly a beautiful person inside or out, then you should know that. It’s a wonderful thing to embrace in beauty.
The girls and I had our beach towels laid out all side by side. We were tanning with our hair up, sunglasses on. The boys were all playing football along the wet sand. A few other people were out on the beach as well, even though this was privately owned property. I thought over my current situation I was in as I laid there. You’re not so sure of this yet, hopefully you get my letter. But what I meant by “get rid of it” plays a big factor on your part. So then I remembered when it happened.
It was the most beautiful day of the summer today, I can guarantee it! And Brayden and I decided that we’d spend it together. My cousins went down town to shop and his friends were all walking the beach. So we had both houses to ourselves. Which to choose from. I was pretty young still. Only seventeen. And I barely found this out, but Brayden’s eighteen and just graduated high school. No wonder he was out here for the summer. We both sat on his couch with our arms and legs sprawled out, not knowing what to do.
“I’m hot,” I said.
“Me too,” he said.
“What do you wanna do?”
“Hmm,” he thought, for awhile.
“I don’t know, what do you want to do?”
I hated when the question was put back on you. That’s why you ask it in the first place, so you don’t get asked first without knowing how to answer it.
“Well I intentionally asked you first so I wouldn’t have to decide.”
I looked at him. He looked at me as he smiled. Then leaned in and kissed me. And from there, we found out what we were going to do. And we did it.
As time had pass, we had made it from the couch to his room. He laid there. I laid there, eyes open and glued to the ceiling.
“That was fun,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said breathlessly.
“You gonna be okay?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I think so.”
See, he figured out that was only my second time. Ever. And he reassured me over a million times that everything was going to be okay. And that he was glad I wanted to do it with him. And there’s no doubt about it. I wasn’t going to go off and regret it like most other girls do, or did. I was ready for it, with him.
“Let’s do it again?” he asked.
I laughed. “No, that’s enough for now.”
He didn’t complain, which was good. It showed he respected me, which was also good.
“So now do you want to do?” he asked.
We both laughed.
After remembering what you and I did, I couldn’t forget. That’s part of the reason why I’m hurting so bad. How could you not know? Suddenly, after being on the beach for a good forty-five minutes, I felt a heavy push on my back, with four legs crawling over me. I immediately flipped over and looked above me, the sun shining straight on my face.
“What the hell was that?” I shouted.
I heard running. And someone yelling, “Buster! Buster!”
I looked to my right. Of course. I looked to my left. Yup. A man running after his dog. Buster stopped once he ran into Brody. He played with the dog for awhile. The man came up to me.
“That’s why we privately own this part of the beach, sir. So we don’t have damn dogs running around,” I proclaimed.
He looked at me apologetically.
“Ma’am, I’m so sorry. He just got loose,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
“I’m Zack by the way. I live two houses over that way. This won’t happen again, promise.”
He pointed the opposite direction of your house. He looked young, knowledgeable, cute, smart.
“Alright, well I’m Payton.”
He smiled. “Alright, good to know.”
“Hey! Is this your dog?” Brody yelled.
Zack looked over. “Yeah! Thanks man.”
Zack ran over to Buster and turned back to say, “Nice meeting you.” Then he took Buster, him and Brody did that guy high five- handshake, and off he went. All the girls were in “awe.”
“Wow Payton, he is cute!” Lynn said.
“Yeah, he was pretty cute,” I replied.
I didn’t want to openly admit that I was still into you and totally not looking for someone to hook up with this summer. Not like I was looking for anyone to hook up with last summer either. It just happened.
“You should totally get on that s***!” Amber cheered.
I shrugged. “Eh, I’m not really looking for someone to get with.”
They all looked at me in disbelief. I hadn’t told any of them what you and I did last summer. I wouldn’t dare to. They would freak.
“You’re freakin’ crazy girl. He’s a cutie!” she said.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
A few pointless days later, still no word from Tiffany about if you’d replied, I decided I’d go out to see if Zack was around anywhere. I hadn’t seen him again since that incident with his dog. I was up bright and early this morning. It was a little foggy outside. A boat was off in the distance of the sea with its bright lights on. I put on jeans and threw on a sweater. My hair was still curled from yesterday, so it was all cute and messy.
Before I went out, I made myself a cup of coffee. Once it was done, I threw a few packs of sugar in and some creamer. Then I threw on my shoes and went out the door, trying not to slam it, just in case people were still sleeping. I didn’t want to wake anyone up. I’m extremely ready to do something with my life. I would so live out on the beach. If I asked, my aunt and uncle would totally let me live in that house. Last summer when we came out here, only my cousins and I stayed here. Their parents went to Chicago or something. But my oldest cousin was twenty- four back then, so she was old enough to watch over us. But yeah, my aunt and uncle would totally let me live at the house. And the college I got a full ride scholarship to is over here, so I would just go there. I wouldn’t have to pay for anything! I’d be one hell of a lucky girl. I could throw the best damn parties in the city! I at least want to get married before twenty- five, so I could look for a husband while I’m out here. And we could raise a family. And I could get my life started! But no, it sounded that easy, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t that easy because of you. What happened to us being together forever? What happened to us moving to Oregon and raising a family together? What happened to you loving me? Was I just supposed to drop all that and move on? I mean, if you would have stayed and not ran off like you did without me ever seeing or hearing from you again, we would be raising a family right now.
I walked west of the house, the opposite direction of yours, because Zack said that’s where he lived. I was thinking about going up to his door and knocking or something, but I wasn’t sure who else was staying with him. Maybe he was married, or with his girlfriend. But why else would he tell me where he lived? Oh, probably to let me know he owned property here, too. Yeah, maybe that’s it.
What I decided to do was wait on the little bench outside his house. Hopefully he would come out. I faced the sea. Shivers ran through me. It was extremely cold outside. I couldn’t stop thinking of last summer. And I had another memory.
Brayden had all his friends with him this summer. One of his best friends, Nick, well, that was probably like his blood brother. Anyway, he was cute! I mean, not as hot as Brayden, but he was pretty damn hot. He kind of kept eye- balling me a lot ever since I’ve been around Brayden. He even had a girlfriend, Lacy. But Lacy kept eye- balling Chad. But Chad was dating Brianna. But Brianna was acting sort of weird and it seemed like she didn’t want to be there. Anyway, it was just the six of us this summer, just hanging out. My cousin Jenny would come hang out with us from time to time, but she mostly gave Brayden and me our space. Besides, she was keeping her eye on some guy she had seen when we first got here. Nick was super sweet. He made sure everyone had what they needed before anything else went on. One thing I liked about Brayden was that he’s super sweet, but he also has that playful- mean side to him. Whenever he got mad, it was hot!
All of us where chilling at the carnival just outside the beach. We had already gone on all of the rides, played all the games and took pictures in the photo booth. I was sitting down at a picnic bench while Lacy, Brayden, Chad, Brianna and Nick were waiting in line for food.
“Hey,” I heard a familiar voice say.
I turned around. It was Nick.
“Hey Nick,” I said.
“Why are you over here alone?”
“Oh, saving the table for us.” I made it simple, but that wasn’t the real reason why I was over here.
“Oh, well can I join you?” he asked.
“Sure.” I couldn’t say no. That would have been rude. But I really wanted to be alone.
He sat down across from me. That stupid carnival merry- go- round music kept repeating over and over again. It was pretty annoying.
I wasn’t too sure what Nick was looking for, or at, but he kept looking around like he was trying to make sure nobody was watching us.
“You okay?” I asked him.
He didn’t answer me.
“Nick,” I said. He still didn’t answer.
“Nick, hello?” I said again while tapping his hand. He quickly caught my hand with his other and didn’t let go.
“What are you doing?” I asked, trying to take my hand back, but he wouldn’t let me. He looked at me suddenly.
“Payton,” he began, “you’re beautiful, you know that?”
I knew Nick had always had an eye on me for something, but I didn’t know why.
“Well thanks,” I said. He still had my hand cupped between his.
“You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re funny, you deserve so much more then . . .” he faded off because he heard Brayden yelling around the corner, “Woo! Free food!” He snatched his hands away and stood up. Brayden came over to us and set down the food and kissed me.
“Hey babe,” he said.
“Hey,” I say.”
“We totally got half of our meal for free. It was awesome,” he chanted.
Bradyen was such a goof ball.
“Why?” I asked, wondering what crazy lie they came up with to manage that.
“Oh, they messed up on our order so they cut half the price for us. Saved me twenty bucks, thank God.”
He sat down, and we ate. And as Nick sat across from me, again, he stared. And Lacy and Brayden never even noticed.
I wasn’t too sure if Zack was ever going to come out. Maybe he didn’t even live at this house. Or maybe he had left early this morning. But all of a sudden, I hear a bark. And more constant barking. And then I knew that was Buster. And Zack yelled, “Shut up!” I laughed. Buster continued to bark. I heard the door creek open.
“God damn it Buster, pee then!” he yelled. Buster ran out and ran over to me.
“Payton?” he said.
I turned around and pet Buster.
“Hey boy,” I said to the dog. “Hey Zack,” I said to him.
Buster kept licking my hand. He was one friendly fellow.
“What are you doing?” he asked as he came down to me at the bench.
“Just wanted to stop by. I hadn’t seen you around.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I know. I figured I’d stay in so Buster wouldn’t disturb you guys again.”
“Oh! You didn’t have to do that!” Now I felt terribly bad for getting all defensive with him the other day.
“Hah, I’m only kidding. I went out for a few days. I had some work to do.”
“Oh alright. You work over here?”
“Yeah, I do live here you know.”
“Well yeah I know that but you don’t just come here for the summer?”
“No. I permanently live here. I’m going to college over here at Pacific Valley University, so I stay here.”
I was extremely shocked. Pacific Valley is where I had got my scholarship too.
“No way! I have a full ride scholarship to go there!”
He grinned. “Really? That’s awesome! It’s a great school. I really like it. I’m about to start my third year.”
Wow. Well he must be old.
“I know. I heard it was a really good school. And I could either live in the dorms or at the beach house right here and it would be perfect!”
It really would be perfect and I could honestly say that’s the truth.
“Wow, you have it good! You gonna go?”
I kind of shrugged, giving a weary expression.
“Well, I don’t know. I want to, I should, but I’m not ready to be on my own yet.”
“You won’t be on your own, completely. I could show you around and stuff. If I did it, you can too.” He smiled, I smiled back. He was sweet.
“How old are you then? Twenty- four?”
He laughed hysterically, almost falling over.
“Do I really look that old? I just turned twenty.”
Whoops. I felt bad, again. He really knew how to make my feel guilty.
“I’m so sorry. I just thought, you know, since you live alone and all.”
He sat down at the empty space next to me and took hold of the now wild Buster.
“It’s alright. And yeah, this used to be my parents house but once I turned eighteen, they gave it to me and moved. I’m their last kid so they decided to do what they were going to do.”
“That’s cool. Good for you,” I said. I smiled again, this time looking deep into his hazel- green eyes, memorizing him. He was gorgeous. I couldn’t help it, looking at him. He was way sweeter then I suspected him to be. I had hoped he wouldn’t be one of those creeper stalker guys, since for all I know, he could have been. But it totally isn’t like against the law for me to hook up with him or anything because I’m an adult now. But that’s not what I want. If anything, I want a guy who’s going to respect me and not get me pregnant for the life of me. I mean, we both know what I mean. Or at least I hope you know by now.
“Alright, I’ll seriously put more thought into it and consider it this time. I promise.”
He then smiled again. Although, his smile had never really left his face because he seemed so damn happy for some reason.
“Good. So you doing anything today? I know it’s kind of cold and all,” he mentioned.
“Nope. Probably just staying in.”
“Yeah, same here.”
He kind of just kicked the sand with his foot, looking down from me. I saw him bite his lip.
“Well, you want to hang out or something?” he finally asked.
“I thought you’d never ask, I’d love to,” I said with a smile.
He jumped up and took my hand.
“Cool. Come on.”
He ran into the house as I followed beside him and Buster did too. He grabbed his keys, threw on a jacket. I set down my coffee cup and he lead me out front to his car. A beautiful car too, I must say.
“Holy mother of. . .” I said in awe. He chuckled.
“What?” he said sarcastically.
“Beautiful car,” I said as he opened the door for me.
“Thank you,” he said as I got in and he ran to the driver’s seat.
“It was my dad’s but he didn’t want it anymore so he gave it to me for my twentieth birthday.”
Seriously, he must have been rich or something. But I didn’t want to ask and sound nosy.
“Awesome. I wish my parents had nice cars like that. They just helped me buy a cheap used one.”
He kept both hands on the wheel as he backed out of the drive way.
“Yeah. Cars are really expensive. But I’m lucky enough to have parents who saved up their whole lives.”
Yeah, luck for sure. Everyone’s been lucky enough to have parents who could afford to buy their kid a car. Except mine. As always. I guess I can’t really blame my parents though. We did have a difficult time for the longest while when my dad lost his job and my mom only worked three eight hour shifts a week. I didn’t understand how we were living but we managed it somehow.
“Yeah, you are really lucky. I can’t imagine it,” I said.
He still had both hands on the wheel. And he looked even hotter driving his already beautiful car.
“So what brings you out here this summer?” he asks me.
Nobody knew my real reason. And I wasn’t about to tell him it was because of you. So I told him the story I told everyone else why we should come out here and they had all agreed to it.
“Graduation vacation,” I said. I’m guessing he completely understood because he laughed.
“Of course. Whole house to what, four young couples and that means you can do whatever the hell you want? I get’cha,” he said. His grip sort of tightened around the wheel. His speed increased rapidly.
“Yeah, technically. I just wanted to get away from home and I love it here. I was here all last summer.”
“I was in Italy all last summer with my mom.”
How adorable. Italy with his mom. See, that’s the kind of things I wish my mom and I did together. Went on vacation. But we couldn’t afford that either. And I know it wasn’t their fault. Things just happen.
“Awesome. Did you guys have fun?” I asked him. We were still headed to where ever he was taking me. This road looked familiar.
“Yeah, mostly. She had wanted to go so badly and I had to do a project for my history class on Italy so I went with her. I was taking a few summer classes online.”
“Wow, well that’s good. I’ve never been to Italy. Always wanted to go though.”
“Oh it’s great.”
Way to rub it in.
“So which one of those guys on the beach was your boyfriend?” he suddenly asked.
I looked at him. He looked at me for a second and grinned.
“Which one?” he said again with a smirk.
“None of them,” I said with a nod.
All his tension that I noticed he had built up, released instantly when I saw his shoulders lower.
“Really? You don’t have a boyfriend or what, he just couldn’t come?”
“I don’t have one,” I said swiftly.
“Oh,” he said. “Well I figured a young attractive girl would be going out with one of those big hunks,” he laughed.
“Oh, so you think they’re attractive? I see,” I said playfully.
“Totally. Brody’s his name, right? What a babe!” he said jokingly. I laughed along with him.
“Yeah, he’s cute, but definitely not my type. And he’s dating one of my best friends.”
“All of them like you, I guarantee it. They just don’t want to hurt their girlfriends’ feelings and they all know they can’t have you.”
I looked out the right side window, out onto the border of the sea. We continued to drive along the coast. Maybe you were somewhere out here. Maybe, just maybe, one day sooner or later I’d come across you. And all of a sudden, I felt a jolt.
“Whoa,” Zack said.
I jumped. “What was that?”
More jolting, shaking.
“An earthquake?” he guessed.
I screamed. I hate earthquakes. He pulled over to the side of the road. Cars raced past us.
“What are you doing?!” I yelled. Probably over exaggerating just a little much but I didn’t care at this point.
“Well, you screamed. We’re having an earthquake and under those conditions, I can’t drive,” he said. Right.
I got out of the car and slammed the door. The wind was dramatically blowing. He rolled down the window and yelled, “What are you doing Payton? Get back in here!”
The shaking had stopped. Earth was fine. I got back into the car. My pocket buzzed. Shelah was calling.
“Hello?” I said into the phone.
“Where are you Payton?” she asked.
“Sorry, I forgot to tell you. I went out with Zack.”
She gasped. “The guy with the dog the other day?”
“Well where are you? Did you feel that earthquake? Are you okay?”
“Yes Shelah. Enough with the million questions. We pulled off to the side of the road.”
“You’re in the car?!” she screeched.
“You’re in the house?!” I said sarcastically. “Shelah, I’m fine. I’ll text you when I get back. Bye.”
I hung up the phone.
“Who was that?” Zack asked.
“Shelah. She was just making sure everything’s okay,” I say.
“Oh alright.” He started the car back up again. Neither of us said a word to each other as he drove a mile more up the road, turned left into an empty parking lot, and turned off the car.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to come here but never had anybody to come with. So I figured I’d bring you along.”
I got out of the car, he did as well. He had brought me to a deserted parking lot and at the very end of it was a Ferris wheel. It was exactly identical to the one at the carnival I was at with you and everyone else last summer. Zack followed after me as I walked towards it.
“How long has this been here?” I ask, hands in my sweater pocket and rushing closer to it.
“Uhm, about ten months I’m guessing. It usually opens on Saturdays but nobody really knows about it.”
“Where did it come from?”
“I wish I knew.”
I finally reached the destination after walking the parking lot for what seemed like an eternity.
“Why did you want to know?” he asked.
I reached the border gate. Everything looked so empty. It’s not like it was surrounded in dead bushes and trees. It was the most beautiful scene I had ever seen in my life. It was surrounded with blossoming trees and many flowers. It seemed completely unreal.
“I’ve been on here before, on this ride,” I said, looking closely at it, remembering. He looked at me like I was crazy or something.
“Last summer, at the carnival.
“They had a carnival along this road out here. Last summer, when you were in Italy. I remember it.”
“I don’t remember anyone saying anything about any carnival here last summer. Are you sure?”
And then I remembered. If Zack had lived in that house for a long time now, had he seen you around anywhere? Had he met you before? Or gone to a school with you once in his life? But I didn’t ask him, you know. Because I didn’t want to ruin anything between us. I felt like a complete whore.
“Oh alright. Well yeah, it’s pretty, huh?”
I walked around and traced the big circle. He stayed in one spot and watched me. And of course, I had another memory of us.
Over the hills and far away laid a young city girl with so much to say. A whole life ahead of her, afar in a place. Where she had surrounded her life with a face. A boy and a girl in eternity forever. From the moment they both said that they’d be together.
Chad and Nick were out surfing. Brayden wasn’t too far behind them. He was sitting, legs over, on his board, looking hotter than ever. He definitely had the nicest body out of all of them. I didn’t get along with Lacy and Brianna too much. They were nice girls and all but they didn’t want me going after their guys. I mean, why would I? I am way to into Brayden to be falling for any of their guys. After that encounter with Nick last week, he’s been looking at me a lot. I was pretty creped out by that. Every time I noticed him turning to look at me, I would turn the other direction or go to Brayden. The boy was freakin crazy. A huge ass wave was about to come crashing down on all three boys. Chad was definitely the surfer type boy. Brayden was only doing it for fun. And Nick really didn’t know what he was doing. Anyone could tell he looked completely clueless out there. Brianna walked out to the water and called, “Chad honey, I’m gonna go in and change! It’s too cold out here!”
Cold my ass. It was like a hundred degrees out here.
“Uh, okay!” Chad yelled as the wave overcame them.
Brianna pranced back into the house. Not exactly the boyfriend committed type, I could tell. Once she wasn’t in view anymore, Lacy turned to face me.
“You know where she went, right?”
“Inside the house?” I said, unsure of why she was asking.
“Yeah, but she’s going to lock her room and sneak out front.”
“To go see Angie, duh!”
She looked at me as if I was stupid. How the hell was I supposed to know who Angie was? And why was she sneaking out to go see a girl?
“Angie, a girl?” I asked dumbly.
“Yeah. Angie, a girl. Brianna’s bi.”
My face completely dropped. Like to my knees dropped.
“Eww, she is?!” I screamed.
“Yeah. Be quite though. Chad can’t find out. Don’t even tell Brayden that I told you.”
I nodded. Brianna, bi? No way. No wonder why it looked like she didn’t want to be here.
“She’s going to leave. Right now. Gone, forever. Well, not forever. Just leaving with Angie. Like literally, packing up her things and leaving.”
“Why? We have to tell Chad!”
“No. we can’t. He can’t know. If you even think about telling anyone, you’ll be sorry.”
Alright. Death threats now? This girl has got to be kidding me.
Right then we saw Chad running up to the house.
“Wait Chad, where are you going?” Lacy hollered.
“Bathroom!” he yelled as he continued to run. Hah, busted.
“No! You can’t go in there!”
“Sorry, have to.”
Before Lacy could even get up to catch up to him, we all heard the door slam shut.
“She’s going to get caught,” I said.
“Hopefully she left already.”
Brayden was making his way up t me. Nick was still being his nerdy self out in the water.
I hopped up to wrap my arms around the soaking wet Brayden. I had a rush of butterflies going through me. He kissed me.
“Hey,” he said with that breathe taking smile of his.
“Hi,” I said.
“I’ve missed you.”
“I never left,” I said coolly.
He smiled again, kissed me again, and I laid my head on his chest. We all heard another slam on the door and a now very angry Chad yell out, “F*** you!” He was extremely aggravated. Like completely pissed.
You and I rode this thing so many times that day. At night, with the cool breeze rushing against our skin, lying against you as you cradled me in your arms so I’d feel safe. So I know that you’d catch me if I fall. When I reached the front, I climbed over the gate into the entry way. Luckily, there was just a big enough opening for me to fit in. I climbed into one of the seats. I sat there and pictured you next to me. You, looking into my eyes and telling me how beautiful I looked. That’s what I kept picturing in my head. Zack climbed over the fence minutes later. He made his way in to sit next to me. My hands were on the seat bar railing. He rested his right hand on mine.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
“A lot,” I said.
“Anything you feel like talking about?”
I nodded. Nothing I wanted him to find out. I wasn’t trying to hide anything; he just didn’t need to know.
“Well, if you ever need to talk about anything, you know I’ll always be here for you to talk to.”
He put his arm around me and brought me closer to him, causing me to crank my head to the left and lay on his shoulder.
“Thanks,” I said.
With that, realizing how absolutely amazing Zack was, and how absolutely amazing you were, I started to cry. Not too noticeably though because I didn’t want him to think anything was wrong, but a couple of good tears came out. And it felt good. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. I was completely surprised nothing happened during that earthquake we just had either. But of course, like all good books and movies, it started to rain. Typical.
“Ah s***, it’s raining,” Zack mentioned the obvious.
“Yeah. So let’s stay here,” I said between sniffles.
“Are you crying, Payton?” he asked.
I nodded. “No.”
He pulled me away slightly and looked into my watery eyes.
“Yes you are! Why are you crying?”
I couldn’t help it. Damn.
“A lot Zack. But I really don’t want to talk about it, please.”
He didn’t say anything more. Instead, he brought me closer to him again, kissed the top of my head, lifted himself out of the seat and put his hand out for me. I took it and pushed myself up and out of the seat. We both hopped back over the fence, very carefully so we wouldn’t slip. We walked back to the car with his arm around my neck and I was cradled all next to him. Maybe this was what true friends were for.
Chapter 4 I jumped up and down for literally thirty minutes, I swear. And the whole entire time, your letter was in my hands. Like, I couldn’t even open it, I was shaking so bad. Alright, I calmed down. So as I lay out on the side porch, bathing in the sun, I read your letter. And you had said: Dear Payton, again, Yes, I got your letter. Yes, I’m really sorry, really. The first thing I’m going to say is, I’m glad you remember me. Like, really glad. Because I almost thought you forgot about me. Second thing is, I can completely imagine how much you’re hurting, because I am too. Still, to this very day. You don’t think I regret leaving you? You don’t think I tried finding your number and looking for you so I could call you, at least write you a letter to say hello? Because I tried. Really hard. And I honestly thought I’d lost you forever. But just my luck, you came back. Hopefully not because you were still looking for me. I hope you’re out here for yourself. But just know I definitely miss you and wish we could pick up where we left off last summer. I think it’s time I tell you why I left. And I’m going to stop being a pussy about it and just tell you over this letter. I was a complete and utter fool. Honestly, I was. Every summer I went out there with a couple of buddies and we all hooked up with random girls we knew nothing about. But last year was way different. And at first, I was like ‘yes, another hot beautiful girl,’ like the moment I first saw you. But once I talked to you, the third time around, I was completely trapped between head and heart. I had never been in love before. I tried not to let my feelings get to me because I was way too young for lovey dovey s*** and all that. I made sure I told nothing about myself to any girl so they wouldn’t get emotionally attached to me and so I wouldn’t feel bad about leaving them. I’m not the type of guy to con any girl into doing stuff. If they don’t want it, fine by me. I at least have that much respect. But I just want you to know, I wasn’t trying to lead you into doing anything with me. In fact, I know I would have been just fine without doing anything at all because just being around you completed me every day. I didn’t want to hurt you, but I was scared. I was scared of myself. Because like I said, I had never been in love before. But I gave my heart out to you. I wanted to be the one you spent every day for the rest of your life with. Deep down inside and all. I didn’t stop to realize what I’d be walking away from. I do know I loved you though. Terribly. But I ran away from my own guilt. And I’m terribly sorry. The other thing I really f*ed up on, a lot and I was praying wouldn’t come true, was getting you pregnant. I ran away from that, too. We never even talked about it. We didn’t use a condom and I had no idea if you were on birth control or not. I should have been smart enough to ask. I should have not been as stupid as I was. I shouldn’t have run away from you like I did. But I did, and I regret every single bit of it. I know I could have been more responsible. More liable for my own actions. I put you through hell and I’m so sorry. That’s the last thing I wanted to do to you. You meant the world to me. You didn’t deserve that. I guess there are just some things you never know about someone until they finally stab you in the back with it. God, I feel terrible. I think I’m even crying, I don’t know. I can barely see what I’m writing, my visions so damn blurry. But I’m sorry Payton. I wish there were some way to make it up to you. Like, there’s not even a way to make it up to you. This isn’t something you just make up. It’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life and I hate that. But I would like to talk face to face so you know I mean all of this. One week from today, meet me at Tiffany’s house. I want to see you. If you don’t want to see me, I’ll completely understand. I’ll just take it as a no show. But I really do hope I’ll get to see you again. Yours Truly, Brayden P.S. - Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I was trying to figure out a way to say all this the right way. What a freakin asshole! I cannot believe you just actually said that to me. But at least you were being honest. No. You were being dumb! Stupid for all I can say. Wow. What an asshole. Brayden, why would you even go off and do that? Did you not think I was scared, too? Yup, that’s part of you not considering my feelings. F***. I don’t want to see you. There’s absolutely no way I could see you now. You’re horrible! You just left me in the flippin dump. And I was just supposed to accept that? Why did I accept that anyway? After you left, I should have just been done. But I fought for my own will, for you. Hoping the fact that you left me was actually worth something important. But no. You were scared. And you ran away from it. I hope you know that you made me kill our baby. How fucking stupid of you. God, I was pissed. I wasn’t even enjoying my tan anymore. I heard the side door slide open and shut. I peeked over to see who it was. “Hey Pay,” Shelah said, kind of dully. “Hey Shelah. What’s up?” She had on her pouting face. I lifted myself up to a sitting position. She came over and sat next to me. “I’m really upset. Dylan’s being an ass.” “Not typical. What happened?” Dylan was never a jerk to Shelah. He loved her more than he loved his dog. And that was a lot! “I was on the phone,” she began. “With?” I asked. “You remember Landon, my ex from two summers ago, right?” I thought over it for a second. I don’t even remember the last relationship she was in. She and Dylan have been together so long. “Kind of. What about him?” I questioned. “Well, he called me yesterday. Dylan over heard me talking to him. It was all just pretty crazy. He didn’t like it all too much.” “Yeah, I know how that goes. I completely understand. Did you say anything that would have made him upset though?” “No. Not at all. But I mean, I might have said I missed him around since he moved so far away and all. I haven’t seen him since junior year.” I nodded. Maybe she shouldn’t have said that in a complete manner where she knew Dylan might have been around. She was helpless sometimes. And I honestly completely understood. “He’ll get over it in time. I promise,” I say reassuring. “No, probably not. He’s been like this since last night. I tried talking to him about it. Just wouldn’t work.” “How’s he been acting towards you?” “Sarcastic. Jerkish. Just a whatever attitude about everything. Like, I tried making it up to him by offering to do it, but he rejected me! He never rejects me on that s***.” “Jesus. He must be upset.” What kind of girl just has make up sex?! Oh. A lot. Duh. “He is. Ugh, Payton. I don’t know what to do!” I stood up and looked down at her, while gathering your letter, my towel and my water. “He’ll get over it. Just don’t do anything more.” I left it at that and walked into the house. I wasn’t really in the mood to see anyone or do anything. I was just thinking of taking a shower or something, or maybe a bath. Or maybe even neither of those. But after I put my glass of water in the sink and my towel on a chair, I get an incoming phone call on my cell. I answered it on the third ring. “Hello?” I said. “Payton?” my mom asked. I sit down on a chair. “Yeah. Hey mom, what’s up?” “How are you sweetie?” “I’m good mom. How are you?” “Listen, I didn’t want to bug. But your dad and I are out here and Uncle Jordan said that we could go stay in the house for awhile with you guys for just a week or so.” I think my heart skipped a million beats. Because now I was extremely nervous and I didn’t want to say yes, but they’re my parents and this isn’t my house. So I don’t make the rules. “Uhh, yeah sure,” I said. She sounded extra cheerful now. “Great! Be there in fifteen minutes.” The phone disconnected. I was left with a beeping tone. I ran throughout the house, pounding on every door and yelling, “Everyone go to the living room, now!” A crowd of rushing adult teens all boomed out of their rooms. Some with towels over their body, some with clothes on and some with blankets wrapped around them. “What’s going on?” Brody yelled as they all rushed down stairs after me. Shelah and Dylan were already in there, talking. Thank God. “Is everyone here?” I asked, looking around as they were all looking around too and nodded. “Yeah, everyone’s here,” Amber said. I inhaled. “You aren’t going to like this. Which means I better make this quick. My parents will be here in less than fifteen minutes and they’ll be staying with us for a week. So everyone go get dressed and clean up your s***, pronto!” Everyone started chattering and protesting out loud. So expected. “You’ve gotta be kidding me! Are you serious?” Stevie said. He never talked but he sure had a lot to say about this. “Yeah, so come on guys, please go,” I said politely. Everyone rushed to go clean up. Shelah and Dylan stayed where they were, looking at each other. Then, as I was standing there, not sure of which direction to head to, Shelah said with a hurt and disgusted look, “I hope you’re happy.” She got off the couch, threw the pillow she was holding to his chest, walked past me with a little smile and then ran up the stairs. “What was that all about?” I asked Dylan. “F*** her,” he said and went outside. This didn’t look good at all. Before I knew it, fifteen minutes had past and I heard the doorbell ring. I paced to answer the door, me still being in my bikini and all from tanning. At least my parents were completely cool with the fact that I had a bunch of friends with me and they were willing to stay. That’s how they are though. They really don’t care and when it comes to it, they’re big party people. I opened the door to reveal my lovely and lively parents. Of course, my mom opened up her arms for me to hug her. So I did. “Come here sweetie. Momma’s missed you so much,” she said. I hugged her; she nearly squeezed me half to death. “Hi mom. I’ve missed you too. But it’s only been three weeks.” She pulled me back and held a tight grip on my arms. “But you’re growing up to fast!” she was definitely exaggerating. “Alright, that’s enough Cindy. She’s eighteen for Christ sake,” my dad said. Oh how I loved the man. I smiled at him and gave him a hug. “Hi daddy,” I said. “Hey pumpkin.” He kissed my head. “How’ve you been?” I lead them into the house with their bags and everything. “Really good! I met someone,” I said. They looked shocked. “A boy?” mom asked. “A man. Boy. Guy. Yeah, whatever you want to call him. He’s twenty.” Neither of them looked surprised. “Good for you! Who is he? Are we gonna meet him?” she asked. I shrugged. “Yeah, if you guys want to. I might be staying with him at his house while you guys are here so you can have my room.” Mom looked worried now. “Oh, you don’t have to do that for us! We’ll sleep out here on the couches,” she said. I looked at her directly. “Well, I just might,” I said. She looked up at my dad and he just shrugged. “Alrighty then. Now that that’s all taken care of, let me show you to my room. Trust me; the bed’s big enough for the two of you.” It really was. A giant king sized bed. Even though all the beds in this house were king sized. They followed me up the stairs. “I’ll take my clothes out later, or probably just leave them in here and come get them when I need them. So I’ll probably be walking in and out of here a few times a day,” I said. They both nodded. When we finally reached my room, I totally forgot I left it a complete mess. “Shoot,” I muttered. “What?” dad questioned. “Nothing. Be right back. Stay right here,” I said as I went in to clean up real quick. After nearly two minutes of intense picking up, I finally let them in my room. I’m pretty sure they weren’t too fond of it either. It was clean enough for me, so it should be clean enough for them. “Thanks Payton,” dad said as he smiled. I smiled back. “You’re welcome. Now, if you need me, I’ll be two houses over that way.” I pointed towards Zack’s house. They nodded and I shut the door. But I forgot I wasn’t in any clothes, so I reopened it by knocking first. “Hey, forgot my clothes.” I grabbed an entirely new outfit, went in the bathroom to change and then finally left the room. I realized that I didn’t even think Zack would let me stay and I hadn’t even asked him but I’m sure it would be okay. I knocked on Zack’s door after gathering up my thoughts and all. He didn’t answer so I knocked again. And then finally, he did. “Hey,” I say. He looked surprised to see me. He had shorts on and a t-shirt. “Hey, what’s up?” he asked, inviting me in. He shut the door behind us. “Well, surprise, surprise. My parents are in town so I was wondering if I could stay here with you while they are visiting.” Okay, now he definitely looked surprised. “Really? Of course you can!” he said enthused. “Really? Alright cool,” I say coolly. “What are they doing out here though? If I may ask.” “They said they were out here visiting me but I know they only came out here to check up on me. I won’t let them have it their way though, so I told them I was coming over here.” He chuckled. “You’re sure an aggressive girl.” I smiled widely, “A devious little devil.” “Cute,” he said with a grin. He took me up to his room that I had never been in before. “It’s kind of dirty since I wasn’t expecting anyone to come over or anything like that,” he said. I examined his room. “It’ll do,” I say. “Did you want to sleep in the guest room?” he offered. I nodded,” Yeah, probably. I move around a lot at night.” He nodded back in agreement. “Perfectly fine.” We went down the hall to his guest room. There were probably only three rooms on the top floor and one on the bottom. But his house was beautiful. A perfect house for any occasion really. Even a wedding! Since he had this amazing aisle to walk down. And just like the other houses along this beach, every wall was basically glass. Hence the privately owned part, so there were no disturbances. “Well, here you are. Your room. Do whatever you like, I just have one request. If you plan on bringing any guys over, do let me know, please,” he smiled lightly. I laughed. “No guys for me Willis. You got nothing to worry about,” I said. “Cool,” he relaxed completely and I gave him a big hug. His hugs were amazing, honestly. They were comfortable, relaxing, and just wonderful. Alright Payton, cool it. “Thank for allowing me to stay,” I say. “Not a problem,” he said. Zack and I had spent several days together since we first met. He is extremely amazing. Nearly almost as amazing as I thought you were. But you sure showed me wrong, completely. I mean, he’s completely shown me the definition of what a real boyfriend should be, even though he’s not my boyfriend. How amazing is that! “I’ll be in the garage if you need me,” he said. I gave him a smile, “Thanks.” I rested upon the bed I’d be sleeping in for who knows how long. And I had another memory about us, one I was trying to stop myself from having, but I couldn’t. *Flashback* He and I were standing there, on the deck, looking out to the sunset. The most beautiful sunset I had ever witnessed. We were holding hands. He kept glancing at me. I remembered every moment of it as if it were our last moments together. “Hey, babe?” he said. “Yeah?” “I love you,” he said, while looking at me again. I looked at him also, kissed him. “I love you, too.” Was it love that he and I had for each other? I believe so. Could it have been something more? Maybe. I wasn’t too sure though. All I knew was that I didn’t want to let him go. He brought me closer to his side. “Payton,” he called again. “Mhm?” “Did you know that you’re the only girl for me?” I felt a smile creep up on my face. And I got all warm inside. I hope I was the only girl for him because he’s most definitely the only guy for me. He was bringing me closer to love. *Present* I hated having such an amazing memory. You know why? Because I remember stuff like that and I don’t want to go back to those days. It just makes me think of you more and I can’t afford that. I can’t make myself believe you actually meant all that after finding out what you did to me. I still think to myself. God, how could you.
My parents have been here for four days, three nights now. Tonight’s their fourth night. Guess what they decided they wanted to do? Yeah, that bon fire none of us had got around to yet. I guess that’s what they were going to come in use for while they were here. It was mid afternoon. I was cleaning up parts of the house. Zack had come over a week ago to officially introduce himself to everyone staying at this house. And tonight’s the night that he is going to meet my parents. Of course, if he’s up to it. He came knocking on the door. My parents were out shopping for tonight.
“Hey,” I said, unlocking the door for him.
“Hello beautiful. What’cha doing?” he asked, giving me a hug.
“Cleaning. My parents want to throw a party with all of us, so we’re gonna do a bon fire and volleyball BBQ thing in a couple hours.”
“Yeah, so you’re staying. Because you’re gonna meet them tonight.”
He looked surprised and nervous.
“Am I?” he questioned.
I shook my head, continuing to clean the dirty living room.
“Yes, you are. So, whenever you’d like, go get cleaned up and come back over here at five.”
He grabbed me from the back of my torso and whispered in my ear, “Only if you sleep in my bed tonight.”
I turned around, smirked and hit him with the towel that was in my hand. He began laughing.
“What was that for!?” he said playfully. He slapped my butt, intentionally. I wacked his arm with the towel again. He tried grabbing me but I started running so he wouldn’t catch me. Then he stopped and just looked at me, smiling. And walked out the door, just like that.
Four fifty- five hit the clock and everyone was helping inside and outside. My dad on the BBQ along with Dylan, who in fact still isn’t talking to Shelah. And the girls and my mom were in the kitchen chopping up lettuce and getting all the condiments together. I was putting on my amazing playlist of music on the loud speakers. Can’t have a BBQ without some music to go along with it. The side door slide open as I was bent over looking for the iHome next to the TV. I felt someone come up behind me and lift me up. He swiftly turned me around.
“Hello,” he said with a grin.
I wrapped my arms around his neck.
“You came,” I said with a smile. Being in his arms felt completely right.
“Of course I did. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know. You just walked out earlier.”
“Yeah, to go get ready like you said to, duh!”
I laughed and completed my hug.
“Payton sweetie, who’s that?” my mom said.
I jumped back and remembered why I had asked him to come over in the first place.
“Right, mom,” I said, while leading Zack by the hand over to my mother.
“This is Zack. He’s who I’ve been staying with.”
Her smile widened and she shook his hand. He politely smiled, introducing himself.
“You’re the guy she’s been talking about, eh?” mom said.
All the girls had their eyes on him in awe, again. I guess I can see why. After all, he did have a beautiful tan and huge muscles.
“I suppose so,” he looked at me with one eyebrow raised. I just smiled.
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, looking back and forth between Zack & I.
“You to ma’am,” he said.
I took his hand again and lead him outside to my dad.
“Daddy-O!” I yelled. His attention turned to me.
“Yeah hun?” he said, glancing at Zack.
“This is Zack. The guy I was telling you about the other day.”
“Oh yeah!” he whipped his hands off with a cloth and leaned over the grill to shake Zack’s hand. Zack was fairly nice about all of it, too.
“Nice to meet you sir,” Zack said.
“You too, son.”
Son. The word sounded kind of funky. I mean, I know it’s just a word that older men use when talking to a younger boy, but it really did sound odd. Considering that Zack was nothing like a brother would be at all.
“Pay, go ask the girls if the stuff is done in there because we’re just about done out here,” dad said.
I walked back inside and I noticed Zack stayed out there and popped a squat next to Dylan. When I walked back in though, Shelah was on the couch, literally, bawling her eyes out and my mom was rubbing her back in light circles. She was trying her best to comfort and calm Shelah down. I rushed to Shelahs side and pushed my mom out of the way. Not that hard though, I wasn’t that rude. I wrapped both arms around Shelah and cradled her into me. I lipped to my mom “what happened?”And she mouthed back “Dylan.” I kept her into a tight hold for a little longer and then whispered, “Come on, let’s go talk.”
She carefully stood up as I held her grip together. She was completely unstable. She must have been trying to hold in something this whole time. I led her over to the game room where there was one comfortable couch that we both sat on. She whipped her eyes with the palm of her hand, smearing all her makeup over her face. I didn’t really want to say anything to her because whatever it was that was going on between the two of them, I definitely knew what it felt like to talk about it and it hurt even more. I took hold of her hand and squeezed it gently. She was so fragile. Inside and out. But she definitely had a big heart. The two of us go way back. Elementary back. I could tell you her story inside out. She could also do the same for me. She sniffled a couple of times, gasping for some normal air. I spoke, finally.
“Want to talk about it?” I asked. She shook her head.
“There’s nothing to talk about. It’s done.”
“You and Dylan?”
She nodded again, holding back tears. I knew what she meant. And that just didn’t make sense or add up at all. She and Dylan had been together for nearly twenty months. That’s a long time. And that one phone call she got blew everything up for them? It just wasn’t right.
She sat there, crying for another ten minutes or so, and I didn’t let he go because she needed me. If I were in this situation, I knew she wouldn’t let me go either.
She sat up and lifted up her head. Between sniffles, she managed to say, “You said he’d get over it Payton. He didn’t.”
I shook my head. “He’s dumb Shelah. I know, it doesn’t seem right. He really has no excuse to be like this. But he blew something amazing and if he can’t see that, then obviously he wasn’t worth it in the first place.”
She nodded. Hopefully she’ll realize that. Then I remembered I could share with her a similar story because you had done the same thing to me, which made you a total douche bag.
“Shelah, you know, I understand what you are going through. You remember how last year I was pregnant?”
She shook her head.
“Well, he wrote me a letter. The day you came out to tell me that Dylan was being an asshole to you. Well, that’s the same day that I got the letter from him and it blew me away! Honestly.”
I stood up quickly. “Wait here, I’m gonna let you read it.”
I ran over to my room upstairs and grabbed the letter that I hid in a drawer.
The letter was sort of wrinkly. I had squished it up into a ball because I was so angry with what you had said. But I unfolded it because I also felt bad and I knew I would need it for future references some day. I was still deciding on whether or not I was going to go see you in three days like you wanted me too. I really didn’t want to. Because I knew I had to stand my own ground. But your beautiful figure and how you made me feel, and remembering how in love I fell with you, it was hard to resist. And I knew somehow, some way, I was going to give in. But was I going to regret it?
When I got back to the room, Zack was in there sitting next to Shelah, shaking his head as she opened up to him and talked. I tried to not making myself visible so they could continue to talk. I didn’t want her to all of a sudden stop talking just because I was in the room. And this way I also got to hear what they were talking about. I know, bad me, snooping. She sure as hell had a lot to say. And the funny thing was, she had a lot to say about how Dylan is such a freak and retarded and an asshole. She was confident about saying it all, too. In some areas, she even made Zack laugh at the way she said something or acted out how Dylan would have reacted. It just all didn’t make sense. But I know she was only trying to do it to feel better about herself. I probably would have done the same thing.
After fifteen minutes of standing there and listening to the two talk, Zack probably have seeing me and all, they finally both got up, gave each other a hug and walked towards the door.
Shelah immediately gasped once she saw me.
“Payton! How long have you been standing there for?”
I smiled innocently. Zack just chuckled.
“The whole time,” I said.
She looked up at Zack. She was so short next to him and so tiny.
“Did you know she was there the whole time?” she asked him. He nodded.
“Jerks.” She put on her pouting face again. Zack seemed to make her happy. Maybe they’d be good for each other. He wrapped her in a sideways hug and she leaned against him.
“I’m sorry. You’ll be alright,” he said.
I saw a light smile spread across her face, which for some reason made me smile and happy. Happy for her. Happy for him. And just happy in general.
I remembered the note I had brought down for her to read. But I didn’t want Zack seeing it, so I didn’t show it to her.
“Come on, I think the foods ready,” I said.
We all walked out, filing behind each other, leaving me in the very back. I folded the paper up and put it in my back pocket. This would be an interesting evening.
After dinner, stupid jokes, making memories, and a bon fire, we all called it a night. The night ended up turning out a lot better than I expected it to be, considering Dylan and Shelah didn’t even talk. But Zack and Shelah did. A lot. And it didn’t make me mad one bit, or jealous. I mean, I was a little sad that he barely talked to me. But it’s not like anything between us was going to get serious or anything. We were just friends for all I was concerned. I talked to Dylan here and there, and my parents chatted it up with everyone too. It was a good night. One night of my summer I will definitely not forget.
“Hey,” Zack said as he approached me from behind as I was unfolding the covers back from my bed.
“Hey,” I said, turning around to see him without a shirt on.
“Can we talk?” he asked.
I sat down on the bed and patted a spot next to me.
He came over to me and sat down. My body jolted with an electric shock. A good shock though. Something along the lines of butterflies. But it sort of felt weird too. Because even though Zack had this amazing body and he was sitting next to me on this bed like this, I still didn’t think of him as anything more than just a really good friend. He was a great guy and all. Probably one of the sweetest, nicest boys I have ever met. I was just confusing myself.
“What did you need to talk about?” I asked.
He looked at me. I could feel the tension between us. But I didn’t know what it was.
“Payton, I have the strongest feelings for you.”
I believe my heart stopped for a fraction of a second. Maybe a minute. I wasn’t too sure. The words coming out of his mouth made it seem so unreal. He’s never said anything about me like that before. At least not to me.
“You do?” I said hesitantly.
He shook his head. His hazel- green piercing eyes flooding my memory just like they did the last time I stared deeply into his eyes.
“Yeah. I really do.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t expect something like this to come from him. I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard how much someone likes me, but not like that. Not like the way he said it, flat out. And for some reason, that’s what made everything so much more real. Even though it felt so unreal. And right then, I couldn’t hold myself back. I leaned closer to him and he did as well and we both collided into each other’s formation. Sparks flew in the air. My head got light headed, as I’d like to say, it filled up like an airhead with empty space. He took his hands and reached up from the back of my hair line and gripped his hands onto my hair. I took my hands and cupped his face into them. We kept that kiss going for awhile. And it felt amazing. Those were the first pair of lips I had touched since last summer with you. Because that was the first thing since you that actually felt right.
After a minute or two, he pulled back. I didn’t want him to, but he did. There was a smile on his face and I guarantee there was one on mine too but my lips were so numb, I couldn’t tell.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a cocky apologetic tone.
“What for?” I asked breathlessly.
“Letting go. I needed to breathe.”
“That’s okay, but I wasn’t finished,” I said, playfully hitting his shoulder.
“Oh, you weren’t?” he raised an eyebrow. I nodded. Then he smiled again and leaned in to embrace me with another airhead filled kiss. And magically he gently pushed me back in a laying position, climbed more onto the bed. And things started happening. Not anything to bad though. Just simple making out.
I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. It was magical. It was breathtaking. It was something I’ve wanted to feel again for so long. Zack wasn’t you, but he was everything you weren’t.
Chapter 6 I woke up and I couldn’t believe I had slept ten straight hours without waking up once. That hadn’t happened in a very long time. To my biggest surprise, I had fallen asleep with Zack next to me, but he wasn’t there when I woke up. I was still in my shorts and tank top from the bon fire last night. I had a dream about you last night. It was a pretty weird dream. Zack was in it too. He played the role of my boyfriend. You didn’t like it one bit. But you were trying your hardest to be as happy as you possibly could be for me. Even though you wanted me back so badly. But I didn’t want you back. I wouldn’t take you back. But that’s when I finally made the decision that I was going to see you again. Just to see what you’d say. I got off the bed and went to the bathroom. As I was about to open the door, Zack walked out of the door with a towel over his neck and shoulders. He was sort of caught by surprise but never the less smiled that adorable smile of his. “Hello beautiful,” he said. That made my whole face entirely red. “Hello handsome, how’d you sleep?” I asked. “Amazing. What about you?” “Fantastic!” We both laughed and he gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Did you just get out of the shower?” I asked. “I did. Were you about to take one?” “Yeah.” He handed me his towel. “That’s the only one left. It’s still clean. The rest are in the washer.” I folded it over my arm and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be right out,” I said, walking in the door as he walked out, and then closed the door behind me. My shower didn’t last long. I made it as quick as possible so I could get back to Zack. Something about today seemed different then all the rest. Maybe it’s because he kissed me for the first time last night. Or maybe it’s because he told me how he really feels and now I know that maybe he could be something more than a friend. Because all the feelings I got when he kissed me felt completely right. And I wanted to feel them again. Just as I was going back to my room to change my clothes, I heard a loud noise coming from downstairs. I raced down in my towel and once I hit the floor on the first level, I heard a big “F***!” I raced to the kitchen and saw Zack leaning over the sink with running water over his hand. I went over to stand beside him to see what had happened. When I looked down at his hand, it was completely bloody. “Zack what happened?” I asked furiously. “I f*ing stabbed myself with the goddamn knife!” he yelled. “How did you manage that?” “Trying to cut the turkey to make lunch for us.” I tucked the end of my towel into the inside of my towel and reached my hands over to Zack’s to help him with his hand. “Here, let me help you.” I led him over to the dining table and made him sit in a chair. “Put pressure on this for a second,” I told him. I went over to the medicine cabinet where he kept the first aid kit and pulled it out. I took out the wrap and bandages and something to clean off the blood. I got back over to him and began fixing up his hand. That first aid class I took in school really paid off at times like these. “Thanks,” he said with a light smile. I looked up at him and smiled too, “You’re welcome.” It cleaned up pretty well and he let me do what I had to do without saying a word. He just sat there and watched. “Done,” I said. He lifted my chin up and gave me a soft kiss. “You’re amazing,” he said. I smiled. “Thanks.” I put the things away and he got back to making us lunch. I ran upstairs to go put some clean clothes on so I wouldn’t be walking around in a towel. A thought or memory of you hasn’t popped up in my head since I’ve been staying with Zack. Not that I never thought of you, because I hadn’t forgot you, but I haven’t had any flashbacks of us recently. Part of that I can imagine would be Zack takes all the pain, frustration, memories and fear away from me. When I’m with him, I feel at ease. Like nothing else matters. Like no one else matters. And that’s part of what I love about being with him. A while later, nearly twenty minutes of getting ready, I jolted back down the stairs. I heard no yelling or screaming, which means all signs well, Zack hadn’t cut his self with a knife again. As I reached the kitchen, I saw a cooler sitting on the counter but Zack wasn’t in sight. I gave a quick peek inside the cooler and saw a two people lunch course in it. I heard a throat clear and I quickly shut the cooler. I looked up and saw Zack standing there with his arms crossed. “Excuse me miss,” he said. I raised an eyebrow. “Yes?” I replied. He came over to me and snatched the cooler from the counter. “Come on, let’s go,” he said as he took me by my hand and led me out front to his car. “Where are we going?” I asked. “Oh, you’ll see.” He backed out of the driveway and slowly sped up to a constant speed. All eyes were on the road. Both hands on the wheels. His band aid looked a little bloody. “Zack, don’t you think you should go to the ER and get that cut checked out? It’s still bleeding,” I say. He quickly glanced at me and smiled. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “Are you sure?” I asked. The cut was deep. He had basically cut into his flesh. “Yeah. It’ll heal on its own,” he says reassuring. I shrugged it off. He was a tough guy. I’m sure he could handle it. We weren’t driving the same direction we drove the last time I was in the car with him. A lot of what we’ve done together has been here or within walking distance. He’s even taken me on a bike ride along the coast. It was scary at first but very beautiful and relaxing. He had just wanted to take me out for the day. Not that he hadn’t taken me out before but this time it was different. He got me involved. And then we had lunch from a taco stand and surprisingly it was delicious. And then we cooked dinner at home and watched movies together. Where he was taking me now was already a ten minute drive. “Are we almost there?” I asked. “Yeah, we’re here,” he said as he pulled into a boat dock parking lot. “You have a boat?” I asked. He didn’t say anything. He showed the guy at the parking stand his pass and the man let him pass through. Zack found a parking space and once he turned off the car he jumped out of it with the cooler in his bad hand. I jumped out right after him and he took my hand. We passed by tons of boats. Some were absolutely gorgeous and some looked like they shouldn’t even be running anymore. The boats had ridiculous names but one that really stood out to me was Novella. And that’s the boat that Zack took me to. “Novella, beauty, I’ve missed you so much,” Zack announced as he approached the boat. “Novella. Such a beautiful name,” I say. He set the cooler down and helped me up the ladder. “Here she is,” Zack said with a pleasant smile. “It is yours?” I asked. “Family’s’. But I take it out a lot more than anyone else has.” “Do you take every girl you meet on lunch dates on your boat?” He laughed. “You would be the first girl that’s not in my family that has ever been on this boat, honestly.” I felt special. To be the first girl to have ever been on this boat that wasn’t family. I felt special to be taken out to a picnic lunch, with Zack. Anyone else it probably wouldn’t have mattered. But this was Zack I was talking about. He was someone worth being with. Worth loving. “Well that’s very sweet,” I said with a smile. “To be honest, you’re the first girl I’ve actually liked this much, or at all, since my senior year of high school. I’ve hung out with other girls, kissed them. But never got into anything serious just because I didn’t like them.” This definitely showed that he was more than worth loving. “Wow. Well, you’re the first since last summer for me, too. I had a terrible senior year to be honest. So much happened.” Zack still didn’t know anything about you. Or the baby. He still didn’t need to know. I still didn’t feel like telling him. Just yet. “Why, what happened? If I may ask.” His question took me by surprise. I mean, I at least should have figured he was going to ask me why it was terrible, but I had no idea how I was going to answer it. I guess I could tell him how the year just dreaded on, but wasn’t everyone’s senior year supposed to be amazing? “Just so many things to choose from. I worked really hard for that scholarship to Pacific Valley but I’m having such a hard time deciding if I want to go.” He sort of frowned when I mentioned that. I know he’d like me to go. Because it would mean we get to see each other through the school year and we’d be close to each other. But the only thing stopping me from going was still you. You shouldn’t be the reason why I hold myself back from doing anything. But you are. And for some reason, after all that happened, I still can’t seem to let you go. “Well, you should go. I mean, it’s totally up to you. Like I’ve said, it’s a great school. But I support you in whatever you choose to do,” he says. His reply took me by surprise. He was leaving me with a lot of surprising responses. I appreciated the fact that he would support my decisions. And after thinking about it for a quick second, I know that if I didn’t go to Pacific Valley, I’d regret it. And I knew I wouldn’t be alone. “Thank you Zack, I appreciate that. Don’t worry, I’ve still been thinking long and hard about going. I’m pretty sure I will.” His smile returned to his face. That adorable smile that always left me speechless. “Good. So, have you ever been on a boat before?” he asks me. “No, I haven’t,” I said. He looked shocked. But it was the honest truth. Nobody I knew had ever had a boat. So I have never been on one before. This would be my first time.” “Wow. Well, welcome to Queen Novella,” he says. He went over to the driver’s seat to start up the boat. Its’ engine roared. “Why is it named Novella?” I asked him. “It’s my great grandmas’ middle name. And novella means long, and my great grandma lived a really long life. She was a hundred and two when she died. So we named it after her.” The outside of the boat was all white. Only half the boat was spaced out for people to sit. The other half was all the hood of the front. “Come on, follow me,” Zack said. He bent down and opened up a door that was on the floor. He went down first, and once he was down, he helped me down. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What he was showing me was completely incredible and beyond me the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I mean, it was beautiful and so amazing. “You have got to be kidding me, a boat house!” I yelled. He chuckled. “Yeah, a boat house. Nice, huh?” he said. “Freakin’ amazing Zack! This is beautiful!” See, this is what I was saying about the rich stuff. His car was gorgeous, his house was gorgeous, he’s gorgeous, and now his boat! “I’m glad you like it.” No joke. There was a bed, a dining table, couches, a little kitchen, a bathroom and plasma screen TVs against the walls! It was like a miniature house. I have never seen anything like it before. A small town girl like me living in a lonely world. I honestly took the midnight train going everywhere since I didn’t have a car. My world was never exposed to anything this fancy. The only fancy I got was my friends’ cars and the beach house. “I more than just like it. I could live in this thing. It has everything!” I proclaimed. He laughed again. I didn’t understand why he found so much humor in what I had to say. “Do you want to stay here tonight?” he asked. I shot my head in his direction. “Are you serious?” I questioned. He nodded. “Yes!” I screamed and ran into his arms and tightened him in a hug. He gently pushed me back to give me a kiss and stupidly I did one of those leg pops that they do in the movies. “Alright, we’ll stay here. Come on,” he says as he goes back over to the ladder. We both get back up to the top deck and he sits in the drivers’ seat, telling me to sit down on one of the couches and hold tight. He steers the boat away from the dock and we slowly move out into the ocean. It was such a beautiful day out. Definitely perfect boat weather, I could imagine. “Just sit back and enjoy yourself Payton,” Zack yells over to me as the boat races to an incredible speed. The wind against my hair, that amazing rush of wind, the whole entire idea of feeling completely free at that moment in time, was just insanely moving to me. Nothing went wrong that whole entire boat ride. Nothing went wrong as we sat there and had lunch together and talked. He made the most delicious turkey sandwiches ever and he had cut up fruit for the both of us to share. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen anyone do. And it made me happy. That night we stayed out on the boat somewhere off in the distance of the shore. That was the second night in a row that I had laid on a bed with him. Zack made me happy. And I knew it. I didn’t want to let him go.
“One week from today, meet me at Tiffany’s house. I want to see you.”
That week has finally come. I don’t know if you still remember. And I haven’t said anything to anyone about you saying you want to see me. I told Zack I was going to stay the night at my house last night, just so I’d be able to wake up early the next morning and quickly sneak my way over to Tiffany’s house. So quickly, I make my way over to Tiffany’s at around eight in the morning when I know everyone’s still asleep. I wasn’t sure if you were there yet, but I didn’t want to take the chance of leaving later in the day and everyone asking me why I was headed to her house.
I was nervous. Extremely nervous. Because if you were there, and I was there, and we were facing each other face to face for the first time in a year, then I’d be extremely speechless, extremely pissed, and extremely excited all at the same time. And I didn’t know how you would react, or how I might react even though I think I know how I’d react. I have no idea what to say to you. Or how to say it to you. Or if I should be mad at you because I really don’t want to be. But I am.
I went up to her door anyway. And I knocked silently at first. But after nobody opened the door, I knocked a little harder, and instantly the door swung open and reviled Tiffany.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly.
“Did you come to see Brayden?” she asks.
“Uhm, yeah. Is he here?”
She gestures her hand for me to come in the door and I close it behind me.
“Yeah, unfortunately. You weren’t supposed to see him,” she said in almost a whisper.
“Why not? He wanted to see me,” I say.
“I know. But he wasn’t supposed to.”
“Because he promised himself he wouldn’t and I was supposed to help him keep that promise. Shows how much he really loves you though if he couldn’t even keep his own promise.”
You had promised yourself you would never see me again. I kept wondering to myself how long have you been promising yourself this. And when did it stop? You said you had been looking for me; did you break your promise then? Or did you make that promise after you stopped trying to look for me?
She led me over to the room where we both stayed in the first time we had sex. So many memories flooded through my head all at one time but it was too hard to pin point out any one in particular. When she opened the door, there you were. Body facing the other direction as you were typing something on a computer.
“Brayden,” Tiffany said. You immediately turned around. And the moment your eyes locked on mine, I stopped breathing. And maybe, for a second, you did too. We looked at each other, Tiffany just stood there.
“I’ll let you two be,” she said, leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
You spoke first, in the lightest voice, “Hi. . .”
I spoke, my voice completely shaking, “Hey. . .”
Moments of awkwardness past between the two of us as we just stood there not knowing what to do or say. You got up off the chair and came over to me, extended your arms out to give me a hug. I awkwardly wrapped my arms around your torso and you wrapped your arms around my neck. And a flashback came to me, immediately.
Music was a big part of my life. It was also a big part of Braydens’, or so he said it was. I didn’t have any favorite band or artist in particular because since I was a music lover, I was open to all sorts of music. I would literally drag myself around my house singing and dancing to the most random songs while cleaning. I wasn’t too much of a Justin Bieber fan. I only really enjoyed one of his songs called Never Let You Go. Brayden and I dedicated that song to each other because it described the way we felt for each other so perfectly.
I waited for him outside his house as he finished getting ready so we could go on a hike. Moments later, he came out and grabbed my hand. When he’s with me, it’s like an angel came by and took me to heaven. And every time I stared in his eyes, it couldn’t get any better.
“You ready?” he asked.
“I’m so ready!” I said.
He gave me that amazing smile that swept me off my feet. That’s a smile I’d never forget. Every time we’re together, I think to myself, I’ll never let you go. Nobody else matters but him and I, because life is too long and our love is too strong.
We both pulled away at the same time. You dropped your hands to your side, I crossed my arms.
“It’s good to see you,” you said.
“Yeah, you too,” I replied.
“You look amazing,” you said.
“Thanks. So do you,” I say.
This was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but I wasn’t picturing this.
“Payton, I’m so sorry,” you began, “For everything. You didn’t deserve it. And now that you’re finally here, in front of me, it just seems so unreal. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. But here you are, right here. And it’s like a dream come true.”
I looked down at the floor.
“Yeah, here I am. And there you are. I’ve been waiting for the moment where I’d finally get to see you again. But it doesn’t feel like the way I pictured it feeling. And I don’t know why that is,” I said.
You nodded. “I understand. I could imagine it’d be hard for you. Considering what I had done to you. And like I said, I’m sorry.”
I sighed. “See Brayden, I don’t think saying sorry is enough. Like you’ve said before, this isn’t something you can just make up. This is permanent damage to me and my heart. This permanent damage between the both of us. No matter how hard or how bad I wish things would go back to the way they were, now things won’t. They will never be the same.”
That was so hard to say. I couldn’t believe I actually said it either. This is what I worried about. I was never really a person to spill my emotions or feelings out in person like that, although I have done it before.
You nodded again. “I know, I know. I want that, but I understand why it’s so hard for you to forgive me.”
“It’s very difficult Brayden. Like, you don’t even know.”
“I have an idea. There are a lot of people I had to choose to forgive in my life.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t deny that you haven’t felt what I’ve felt before. Because maybe you have, how would I know? I don’t know what goes on inside of you.
“So that’s the reason you walked out on me, huh? Because you were afraid? And you punched Chad, why? Because you were upset? Because you said you weren’t mad that he held my hand for whatever reason. So why did you punch him?”
“I was mad Payton. He shouldn’t have been touching you at all. I mean, I wasn’t necessarily mad at that, but it pushed my limit. I couldn’t handle the pressure I had been feeling for the past couple days prior to that, so I blew up, and I just left. I was running away from my problems without looking in to solving them with anyone.”
You made sense.
“You know, he had just lost his girlfriend Brayden. I know he didn’t run after her, but do you know how hard it is to lose someone you love because they didn’t feel the same for you and left you for the person of the same sex? No, you don’t. So he was hurting. And I was comforting him.”
You nodded several times. “I know, I know. It was all just a big mistake. But Payton you don’t know how hard I’ve been trying to see you so we could make everything right again.”
“You made me kill our baby,” I said to an extended point.
We both looked into each other’s eyes at that moment.
“I didn’t make you kill anything. You let it go,” you said.
That hurt. Completely. I had never thought of it that way. I never thought of it as me making that decision to let it go and not raise our baby on my own. I was too afraid. And if I’d have kept it, I’d have no idea where my life would be right now. I felt that border line push of tears at the surface of my eyes. I was no different then you at that point. I ran away from my own problems, too.
“I just wish you were there, so we could have made that decision together Brayden. You don’t know how hard it was for me to find out I was pregnant. And I didn’t even take the time to consider having it. I just made the choice right then and there to get rid of it.”
Hearing those words come out of my mouth stung my heart. That’s when the tears started falling. And I felt terrible.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
You saw me crying. Because this crying was the noticeable crying of sobs and lose of air. You didn’t say a word, you just came over to me and gave me the tightest hug you could give me, and I let you. Because being in your arms was the first and last place I ever wanted to be from there on out.
I wish I knew how long it was before we finally let go of each other’s embrace. But I know I’m not exaggerating when I say it was forever, because it was. We both stood there for an eternity as I cried into your arms and you rubbed light circles on my back and told me it would all be okay. As long as I was in your arms, it would be okay. And I was sure of that.
When we did finally let go, you smiled at me, I smiled back and that brought back all the feelings I once had for you. I was no longer upset, sad, or mad at the fact of you running away from what you had. Because you found it again. We found it again. And I knew that if we both worked at it, we could pick up where we left off last summer. Or maybe even have something more.
You took my hand and we left the room. We went to the living room, the last place we had both seen each other before now. It felt good, to be holding your hand again. To know that once again, you could be mine. I would take you back any day now that I really think about it. Because you’re the only guy who’s ever made me feel whole, complete, safe, happy, wanted, appreciated, and loved.
“You want to go on a walk?” you asked me.
Without even thinking, I said yes. You took me outside. We were still holding hands. I thought of our song. It replayed over and over again in my head. It’s going to be okay, I thought. The moment we hit the sand against our feet, I screamed inside. If anyone saw me holding your hand, I’d be dead. But this is the part where I didn’t care. Because I wanted to be with you so bad.
“So you missed me, huh?” you asked.
“Yeah, always have. You missed me?” I asked back.
“Of course I did. I’m so glad I’m here with you right now.”
“When did you promise yourself you’d never see me again?”
You raised both your eyebrows.
“How did you know that?” you asked.
“Tiffany told me,” I replied. You laughed.
“Of course. I promised myself after I left last summer, but I couldn’t last more than a month so instantly I started looking for you, and there was no hope. I was going to give up, because I seriously just thought there was no hope at all. But look where not giving up led me, straight to you.”
You had this big smile on your face as you looked at me. I couldn’t help but to blush and smile back. I’m always smiling at you, and you’re always smiling at me. And that’s what I loved. That we never really argued or fought about anything. And no matter what we had both just been through, it felt like we’ve been with each other forever. Like we never had that time apart. Because you just knew how to make me feel so comfortable around you, so loved, so wanted. It amazed me. And I absolutely loved the feeling you gave me.
Of course, as you and I were walking along the beach, in the direction of my house, I saw Brody, Dylan and Amber outside. Dylan and Shelah still weren’t talking. I was hoping they wouldn’t notice me, just so I wouldn’t have to answer all the questions I just knew they’d throw at me. But I was the unlucky one, and I heard Dylan yell.
“Hey Payton!” he said. I looked over to him. You stopped walking, so I stopped too.
“Yeah?” I said.
Dylan and Brody both came running over to me.
“Hey, who’s this?” Brody asked.
I looked up at you; you gave me a weird but curious look.
“Dylan, Brody, this is Brayden,” I said.
Both of them gave you a handshake.
“Where’d you meet him from?” Brody asked.
“That house.” I pointed to Tiffany’s house. They both gave me a shocked look and looked back between the two of us.
“This is Brayden!” Dylan exclaimed.
“Yeah,” I said with a smile.
They both started laughing from amazement. I knew they both knew about you, I just didn’t want to tell them that you were back.
“Wow! What are you doing here?” Dylan asked you.
“Came to see Payton,” you said.
Dylan and Brody both chuckled. I would have too if I were them, especially with knowing what they know about you and what you’ve done to me.
“Yeah, he came out to see me,” I said again.
“That’s cool. I’m glad you guys finally got to meet up again. Congrats,” Brody said.
“Thanks man,” you said to him in a polite and calm voice.
“You know who’s going to be excited to hear about this?!” Brody said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Za. . .” Before he could even finish the word that I knew he was going to say, I gave him a death look and he quickly shut up.
“Who?” you asked, because you didn’t understand what he was about to say.
Brody shook his head. “No one, I was kidding.”
You looked confused but shrug it off.
“Are you three the only ones up?” I asked.
“No, your parents are up watching TV, and Ashley and Austin are up too,” Dylan said.
“Lynn and Stevie still sleeping?” I asked.
“Yeah. Or, I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Shelah?” I probably shouldn’t have asked about her. I knew Dylan didn’t like talking about her.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in like a day.”
“I saw her last night,” Brody said.
“Well she better had not left anywhere.”
“She’d be stupid if she did,” Dylan said.
I glared at him. He sure was an ass sometimes.
“Be nice to her Dylan. She’s an amazing girl.”
I still never knew the complete story of why he broke up with her. I never really questioned him about it, partially due to the fact that I was always with Zack and not really around the house.
“Yeah, but she blew it.”
I just shook my head. He was dumb.
“Alright well I’m going to continue walking now. Tell everyone I said good morning,” I said as I started pulling you along with me.
“Nice meeting you guys!” you yelled after them.
“You too!” they said at the same time.
“They seem like nice guys,” you said.
“They are. Very great friends of mine, since seventh grade, all of them,” I say.
You laughed. I wasn’t sure why you thought that was funny.
“That’s good. But unless you’re careful, you lose them after your senior summer.”
“I know so. I basically lost all mine.”
“Who do you still talk to?”
“Chad from time to time. And sometimes Lacy. She’ll tell me about Nick, but Nick went in the army and I haven’t heard from him.”
“Chad hadn’t heard anything from Briana since she left?”
You nodded. “Nope. But I know she’s straight up lesbian now.”
“That’s crazy,” I said.
“Yeah I know. It’s sad too because Chad really liked her. But like, he didn’t want to know that his girlfriend was bisexual at the same time as he was dating her. I’d hate to find that out.”
“So you’re saying if I was bi, you wouldn’t like me or want to be with me anymore?”
You gave me a crooked smile, “Oh but my dear, you aren’t my girlfriend.”
You winked at me. I laughed.
“Yeah, but if I was and you found that out about me, would you leave me?”
You shook your head. “See that’s the thing, you’re amazing Payton. I would do anything just to keep you and show you that being with me is the only reason why you’d be completely straight. Because there would be no room for anyone else but me.”
For some reason, that made me completely happy. I think that was the cutest thing I had ever heard come from anyone. That topped all the cute things you had ever said to me. It was sort of weird, but it was cute. And it made me smile, big time.
All of a sudden, I heard a door being slammed shut. And I realized, as we were walking, that we were passing Zack’s house. I was afraid that slamming of the door came from his house. And that scared me.
“Someone’s angry,” you pointed out. Yeah, angry, big time. And it was my fault.
“I guess so,” I said, pretending like I had no idea what just happened or why it happened. I would have to deal with that later. Right now, all I could think about was you. And how at this moment, you were the only thing in my sight that mattered.
You and I talked and walked along the beach for hours. You bought breakfast for me at one of the diners we came across while walking. It was nice. It brought back memories. We had a lot to catch up on. I told you that I might be going to school out here. And you said you were thinking about returning to school too. You told me that you were working crazy hours at work, but you were able to find some time off in order to come out here for a few days. I knew I wouldn’t have long with you, but you promised you’d return back as much as possible, because you were never too far away. I agreed to that, that I would see you as much as you were able to. We both promised to make it work this time. I knew that by doing this, I would have to let go of Zack. We never talked about making ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend again, because we wanted to take it slow so we can get used to the fact that we wouldn’t be with each other every day. But we did talk about staying true to each other no matter what. You went back to your house as soon as we got back from our walk, and I returned back to mine. I wasn’t sure if I should go over to Zack’s to see what was up with him or not. I wasn’t sure if he had seen me with you, but suddenly I felt terrible. Because I had kissed him, and I led him to believe I wanted to be with him. At the time, I really did. Because I didn’t think anything would have come out of seeing you again. But I was wrong. I stood corrected. And sadly to say, I’d pick you over Zack any day, just because I was so used to the way we were, how I felt around you, and what we used to be together. I wanted to feel all that again. And I was on my way to having it. I decided to go over to Zack’s house. Some of my things were still over there anyway and I still needed a place to stay. I mean, I knew I could always stay on the pull out couch in the living room at my house, but I didn’t feel like it. I walked up to his door and lightly knocked. He didn’t answer. I knocked aggressively the next time. Still no answer. I tried opening the door, like I had done several times this past week just to get in the house. But it was locked. I looked inside the windows to see if anyone was even home. The TV was on and a light in the kitchen was on too. So somebody was here. But I wasn’t too sure if it was Zack. I knocked on the window this time and saw him coming to the door. He opened it and he had no expression on his face at all. “What do you want?” he asked. “Uhm, to come in and sleep?” I said. “I don’t want you staying here anymore, you can leave.” “Why?” “You know exactly why Payton.” “Because you saw me holding another guys hand? Is that why? Because I finally have him back, yeah?” He scuffed. “Have him back? Who the f is he?” “Brayden. The guy I’ve been crying about for weeks. That’s who.” “So there’s been another guy this whole time? Just lagging around here and you see him whenever he’s around, is that it?” “Zack you have no idea. It’s not even like that. I was going to tell you eventually. .” “Eventually? Wow, real nice. You know what Payton, you had me going. You led me on real good.” “Led you on?! How was I leading you on?!” “Uhm, asking to come over and sleep here? Holding my hand? Kissing me? Is that not considered leading on to you?” “Uh, no not really.” He shook his head. “I can’t even believe this right now. You’re so damn selfish.” The vibe I was getting from him, the way he spat out each word, was hurting me inside. Selfish was not a word anybody wants to hear come from anyone. “Is that really how you think of me?” I asked. “Yeah, as a matter of a fact, I do. Now you can leave Payton.” He started shutting the door on me but I stopped it with my hand. “Wait, can I at least get my things?” I asked. “Make it fast.” I dragged myself into his house, trying not to let my emotions take over me. Maybe I was being selfish. Maybe I should have thought about what could have happened and not started anything until I knew for sure. The difference between Zack and you wasn’t very different. The only real difference between the two of you was that you’re the only one who made me feel completely different than the rest of the guys I’ve been with. Zack just felt like more of the best friend type. I should have stuck with my instincts when I first had them. I gathered up my things in the room he let me stay in, but I did it very slowly. I didn’t want to leave. I knew I had to, but I didn’t want to. I turned around, because I knew he had followed me up here so I’d leave. “Zack, please, just let me stay. I’ll talk to you, and I’ll explain everything to you, I promise,” I said. I wasn’t ready to tell him everything, but I didn’t want him being upset at me like this. He meant too much to me. “I don’t want to hear your bullshit Payton,” he said. “It’s not bullshit Zack, I promise.” “I don’t care what it is; I don’t want to hear it. You did me wrong.” “You don’t understand Zack, that’s not what it was at all. Would you please just let me stay? I’ve had too many people walk out on me in my life.” He sighed. “Fine, but this is your last night,” he said. I gave him a big hug. He sort of forced the hug around me, but then he loosened up. “Come on, let’s go fix dinner before you start talking,” he said. We both walked out to the kitchen. I never meant to do him any harm, and I just wanted him to know and understand that. It was hard to accept that Zack and I would no longer have this thing going like we had been for a couple days now. It sort of did, in a way, feel right. And the unfortunate thing was, you were back, so now I couldn’t give this thing between him and I any more time. Which in a way, sucked. I thought about Sunday night, during the bon fire, how Shelah and Zack were talking so much and I thought the two of them would look cute together. They would be adorable together, honestly. They seemed to have clicked so well. I was just afraid that Zack wouldn’t have any feelings for her since he had so much for me. But it’s not like it couldn’t happen, and maybe if Zack continued to see me with you, he’d eventually get over me and start moving in on Shelah. Although, I still didn’t know how Shelah felt. I hadn’t really been around her enough to know if she’s still hurting over Dylan or not. I’m pretty sure she is, because I knew how long I hurt over you. But Zack seemed to make that all better for her when I had first seen them talking. Zack and I were standing around the island counter in his kitchen. He was cutting the meat, getting all the fat and bones out of the way, while I was cutting up vegetables. I felt the urge to ask him what he thought about Shelah, so I brought up the courage and asked, hoping he wouldn’t get the wrong idea. “Hey, Zack?” I said. “Yeah?” he says. “You know Shelah, my best friend, right?” “Yeah, what about her?” “What do you think about her?” “What do you mean what do I think about her? She’s a nice and cool girl.” “Well, do you . . . like her?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t really know her that well. I only talked to her that one night at your place, that’s it.” “Well, did you like talking to her?” “Yes Payton, but why do you keep asking?” “Just wondering.” He played it cool. So did I. So now I have an idea that maybe they could work out together. I still wasn’t too sure, and I wasn’t about to push it any further. After he seasoned and cooked the meat, I grilled the vegetables, and we both set the table, we sat down and ate. As we sat down and ate, I talked. Legitimately to him. “So you’re saying that when you told me on the boat that your senior year sucked, you were meaning it because you didn’t have Brayden anymore?” he questioned. “Correct.” “And you’re telling me that he got you pregnant?” “Exactly.” I actually told him that you got me pregnant. Besides Shelah and you yourself, he was the only person that knew. “Wow. That’s a lot to take in. . .” he said, fading off. “Yeah, I know, I told you. It wasn’t what you thought.” “Nope, not at all. It’s actually worse then what I thought. I mean, I support you and I totally understand. I don’t like the fact that you led me on though and had me believing you actually wanted to be with me.” “That’s the thing Zack, I did want to be with you. But I didn’t think about what could have happened between Brayden and I once I saw him again. I didn’t think it was going to go down that way, it just did. I really like you, but he had my heart first.” Zack shook his head and continued to stab at his food and shove it down his mouth. I couldn’t help but to watch him; I had completely lost my appetite. The food was delicious, I just didn’t want it. “It’s cool. I shouldn’t have even bothered with you. I mean, you’re a great girl and you are different than the rest. But this is exactly why I don’t give my heart out to anyone. Because shit like this always happens. I try to be the good guy and in the end I get walked over. It’s cool though, I get it.” He rambled on about that, trying to make me feel bad, I knew it. But I wasn’t going to give in. “Zack, if you’re trying to make me feel bad, it’s not working. I already told you I really wanted to be with you but I can’t be, so I’m stopping it now.” “What gets to me though is that you said you were going to tell me eventually. So if I would have never seen you walking with him, were you just going to come back here and still not tell me?” I gave him a remorse look. “Well, yeah, maybe. But I was trying to spare your feelings from being hurt. I was only keeping it from you because I didn’t want to hurt you.” He shook his head again, looking a little more upset then before. “Go figure. Like I said though, it’s cool Payton. Don’t even worry about it.” I looked down shamefully. “Oh yeah, and after tonight, don’t ever come back to my house. I wish you the best of luck with Brayden and your future with him though, most definitely. Like he has anything to offer you anyway.” You didn’t have anything to offer? Is that what he was telling me? And he did? Yeah, he did. He has so much more to offer then you do. And it’s not just because he gets handed half the things he has, because he works for the majority of it too. But with you, you’re dedicated and determined. You work to make something happen. It shows in you, a lot. “He has something to offer me Zack. Passionate love.” “And I don’t?” he snapped. That took me by surprise. “Well I never said you didn’t. You’re just not the one for me.” “You said so yourself you wanted me as well. What happened to that Payton?” He said that in a forceful and mean tone. Then he slammed his hands on the table, shaking it, and scooted his chair back. “I’m sick of getting walked over. I’m done. Leave.” My heart started pounding a million times faster. I was scared. Of him. I didn’t say a word. Because I was so scared. I just got up and walked out. Not even bothering to grab my stuff or anything. I slowly walked back to my house, watching each foot as I took a new step. My heart was still racing, my hands were shaking. The truth is told.
I ended up waking up on the floor. I don’t know whether I cried myself to sleep on the couch and moved to the floor, or if I literally lied down on the floor. I know I cried at some point last night after I left Zack’s. I just wasn’t sure when, I was too frightened. I woke up really late as well. It was nearly twelve o’clock when I picked myself up off the floor and went to the kitchen to check the time. Shelah was in the kitchen baking a cake.
“Hey girl,” she said.
“Hey,” I said, rubbing my eyes, smearing even more make up over my face.
She looked up at me. “You look awful. You okay?”
I shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Tell me about it. What’s wrong?” she said, as she finished putting the cake batter in a cake pan. I shrugged again. I didn’t really want to talk about what I just went through. But she’s my best friend. I tell her everything. And she needed to know.
“He came back,” I said, laying it straight out there.
“Who?” she questioned.
She dropped the cake pan and the spatula.
I nodded. “Nope. He came back. He’s over at Tiffany’s right now.”
I picked the cake pan up, put it in the oven and put the spatula in the sink. She stood there in amazement.
“Does he look at all the same as you had last seen him?” she asked.
“To be honest, he got a lot hotter. He’s more muscular then he was last time I’d seen him.”
“I’m pretty sure he thinks you got a lot hotter too. I think you did. But of course to me, you’ve always been hot.”
She gave me a smile and a wink. I chuckled.
“Thanks. Maybe, I don’t know. But yeah, he’s back. Not for long though, he’s only here for four days, then he has to go back to work. Well, now three. He came back yesterday.”
“So are you going to go see him today? What about Zack?”
Hearing his name hurt. Hearing it come from Shelah hurt. Remembering what happened last night hurt.
“Zack knows. Everything.”
“What do you mean by he knows everything?”
“He literally knows everything. Everything that’s happened between Brayden and I, he knows.”
“So you’re saying he knows about. . .” she circled the air pregnant belly around her stomach. I shook my head. She looked shocked.
“How did he take it?”
“He’s upset, about everything. He said he supports and understands me. But I feel so bad. I shouldn’t have started anything with him. I feel terrible. He really liked me.”
She nodded as she looked down. Her hands were laid on the counter.
After a moment of silence, I built up the courage to finally ask her about Dylan.
“Hey Shelah. I know we haven’t really talked about this all too much, but do you want to tell me what really happened between you and Dylan?”
She continued to look down. She nodded in agreement. I could tell she would start to cry.
“He cheated on me Payton.”
I gasped. I felt terrible for her.
“What? With who?” I asked.
“Some girl he met out on the beach one day. It was before your parents came out. He wasn’t going to tell me but I forced it out of him. He’s been telling everyone lies. I didn’t do anything to him, he just wants to put the blame on me and make me look like the bad guy. But I’m not Payton, I swear I’m not.” She started bawling instantly. I comforted her in a hug. I know how tough it must be for her. I couldn’t believe Dylan would do something like that to her. He didn’t seem like that type of guy. But anything’s possible. Anything could happen when we least expect it too. I held her against me, rubbing her head in circles, and she cried out her poor little heart.
“Don’t let what he says get to you. You know the truth and that’s all that matters. You hear me? You’re better off without him if he’s just going to lie to you like that. He made the mistake and you know not to take him back.”
She sniffled a couple times and muffled, “But you know how stupid I am. If he wanted me back, I’d take him back!” She started crying more.
I slightly pushed her away by the shoulders to look in her eyes.
“Shelah, he lied to you. He cheated on you. He’s making you look bad. Do you really think you should take him back?”
“No, I know I shouldn’t. But I would.”
“And see, that’s where you’ll go wrong sweetie. Just please remind yourself what he did to you. You don’t deserve that. There will be a guy out there who will never treat you like that. You just have to be willing to wait for the right one.”
“I believed he was the right one Payton. He was so perfect.”
“Was. But obviously he isn’t. He isn’t worth it Shelah.”
She sighed. Her tears were no longer falling as bad as they had been. She calmed down. I knew she’d be okay, she was smart.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be fine. So, how is Brayden anyway? Do I finally get to meet him?”
I smiled widely, my body feeling up with an overwhelming joy. My best friend would finally be able to meet the love of my life.
“Right now,” I said with a pleasant smile.
“Right now? Are you sure?” she asked.
I took her by the hand and ran out the door, heading over to your house. A moment later she gasped.
“Payton! The cake is in the oven, it’s going to burn!” she exclaimed.
“Crap, go turn off the oven!”
She ran back in the house and minutes later she ran back over to me.
“Alright, it was done anyway. I just took it out.”
I took her hand again and walked over to the front door. My heart was racing. I could imagine hers was too. Once I knocked, it wasn’t very long after when you finally opened the door. You smiled, I smiled back. You looked at Shelah with a smile, she smiled too.
“Brayden, this is my best friend Shelah. Shelah, this is Brayden,” I said, finally introducing the two of you. She looked happy to meet you.
“Very nice to meet you Shelah,” you said, as you put out your hand to shake hers.
“To you as well Brayden. I’ve heard so much about you, it’s nice to finally meet the man Payton’s always been talking about.”
Shelah continued to smile as she looked back and forth between the both of us. Both of your boats floated. They floated well, right in the same direction. Shelah knew one day she would have to let go of me so I could start my future like she had once had. Shelah was too easy. Fragile. Young. And she let herself, her guard, go down at a very young age. She could’ve had so much more then what she did have. Never the less, Shelah was preparing herself for something mental. Something in the near future, not too far, to come her way. And it was going to sting. You and I both saw that in her eyes.
“Are you okay?” I asked her.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” she questioned.
“You look a little tensed up,” you said.
Shelah gave us a weird look.
“Tensed? No, not at all.”
She tried loosening herself up a bit.
“Really, if you’re not okay, we’re here to help and talk to you. You know you can tell me anything Shelah,” I say.
You nodded, reassuring the both of us. She sighed and her shoulders lowered.
“No, I’m really not okay,” she finally said.
I took hold of her hand.
“What’s wrong Shelah?” I ask.
A light smile appeared on her face as she looked between you and I once again.
“I’m so happy for you. But you know where I stand. And it hurts.”
I had told you about Shelah and Dylan before. But I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you what actually happened. So, while you were clueless, I mourned for her. Because now we were making her jealous. And I didn’t want that for her.
“Let’s go back to the house, just you and I,” I suggested to her.
She shook her head. “No, I’ll go back. You stay here and have fun. It was nice meeting you Brayden.”
She turned quickly as she slipped her hand away from mine. I watched as she made her way back to the house. Once I lost sight of her, I gasped. You turned me around to face you and smiled that breathtaking smile. I smiled back. And then you took me by the chin and our lips collided. I couldn’t help the sparks that flew. They were revived. We were revived. We were finally restored. My hands crept around your neck and gripped the back of your hair line. Your hands crept around my torso and you pulled me closer to you. Those kisses, I missed so much. These kisses were the real definition of a kiss. This was real. This felt real. Once again, our memories filled up my memory.
We stood outside his house, staring into each other’s eyes for an eternity. His face, his figure, was so mesmerizing. He’s freaking gorgeous, I thought. I was so lucky to be his. He snapped out of our stare, leaned to kiss my cheek, then my forehead, then my other cheek, leading me to believe he was going to go on. But he didn’t. He straightened up and flashed me a cocky smile. I smiled but shook my head.
“You’re such a tease,” I said.
He tapped his finger on my nose, “I know.”
And then he leaned in for a quick kiss. I took him by the shirt collar and didn’t let go. I stayed there, holding our kiss, for as long as I possibly could. And he let me. Because he moved his lips with mine and we did that for who knows how long.
I had totally forgotten how bad I looked. I was still wearing the same clothes from the night before, and make up was smeared all over my face. I probably smelled like B.O. which would be really bad because you’re right in front of me and I was sort of forcing you to look at me this way. I’m pretty sure after all that time we had spent together last year; you didn’t care what I looked like in front of you. And I cared what I looked like in front of you. Once we pulled away from that kiss, I said, “Brayden, I’ve got to go back to the house and put on some new clothes and take a shower.”
You took my hand. “Why?” you asked.
“I look like crap.”
“Babe I don’t care what you look like. You look beautiful to me, all the time.”
I smiled, figuring you were going to say that.
“Thanks, but really, I feel gross. I’ll be back in about half an hour and you can come over and meet my parents. Sound good?”
“Sweet. I’ll call you over soon,” I said, giving you a quick peck on the lips.
I walked at a decent pace back over to my house. It was already one o’clock when I got back in.
See, the thing about coming out here was that everyone has been doing their own thing. That’s what it was supposed to be about. That’s what it was like for me last summer. It’s kind of like I’m reliving last summer but with different people. And now, the same amazing guy.
I was afraid. My parents haven’t met you before. They knew about you, somewhat, but I tried not to tell them too much about you and how much you really meant to me. They knew nothing about the pregnancy, I kept that to myself. They really didn’t have any background history on you at all. And I wasn’t sure if I should be terrified of what their reaction will be, or if I should be happy that I finally get to show you off to them.
I didn’t let it get to me as I cleaned myself up and tried to look half decent to introduce the three of you to each other. I was rehearsing in my head what I would say to them. How I would say to them that you came back. That you weren’t able to be in contact with me for some other reasons then what you really left me for. I guess I would have to give them the same reason I had given to everybody else. You just walked out without explaining anything to me. Because really, that’s what you did. And barely, until less than a week ago, is when I found out why you really left.
The past was the past and I wasn’t trying to bring that into our future either. I was still hurting, mentally. Last night’s incident with Zack went completely wrong. It was not supposed to go down that way. I would love for him to understand what I was going through. But he didn’t even understand. He still had no idea about my pregnancy. He still had no idea I gave it up. He has no idea what I have gone through. But part of me didn’t want to tell him because I was afraid of him not talking to me anymore or thinking of me differently. I didn’t want that. Not that he was talking to me anyway, but it would still scare me to tell him. I didn’t want you finding out about Zack. So I was very careful as to what I said to you or anyone about him. I would have to wait until after you were gone to confront him again. He would be mad, I was sure of it. I mean, after all, he said he never wanted me back again. And that hurt.
I slowly walked down the stairs, hearing a low chatter coming from somewhere down below. When I turned the corner, I saw Shelah standing at the door, grabbing a box from Zack. She turned and noticed me, giving me a remorse look. He didn’t even bother looking my way. I didn’t want to see him. Seeing him and not being able to speak to him was devastating. He had become such a best friend to me. Somebody I knew I could go to, to hold me in their arms when no one else was there. But that’s what you were for. You are who I always really wanted. And I realized that I had only been that way towards Zack because I was mentally pretending he was you. None the less, I would have imagined the consistency in it and either way, I would have encountered a bitter situation. Zack just wasn’t for me and the both of us had to accept that.
Zack had left, and Shelah handed the box to me. She smiled and I smiled back, but my emotions really hadn’t wanted me to. I was more hurt then happy. Hurt that I was keeping so many things from people other than myself. Hurt I was keeping things from four of the most important people in my life. And I just couldn’t figure out what to do.
“Did he say anything about me?” I asked her. She shook her head.
“No. Nothing. He didn’t even say this was for you, he just handed it to me.”
I nodded my head in sadness.
When two people become incredibly close to each other, it’s really hard to let them go, or watch them go. I’ve had it happen to me before plenty of times. But only once with the one I loved. I wasn’t ready to let someone else go. My parents have always been there for me. They’ve never let me down when I needed them. Any given situation, they were there. But have parents who were always there, kind of got annoying. Not saying that I didn’t appreciate the love and support they gave or showed to me, because I did. But that wasn’t the case. I was more the type of girl to be independent and learn new things on my own. So having them find out new things about me sort of worried me that maybe they wouldn’t support me because it wasn’t something they would want to support.
I wasn’t about to waste any more time. I was ready to show you off to the world. Off to everyone who once knew about you being the guy I had met but never really knew you at all. It was time to let my light shine because we are long lost lovers and now that we’re finally with each other, nothing else really matters.
I knew you still didn’t have a cell phone, because I wasn’t able to get in contact with you and I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to contact you that way. I wouldn’t understand why you wouldn’t want us contacting each other since everything was fine between the two of us now. But those are the kinds of things I would never be able to understand. That was just to complex for me.
I took the short journey over to your house. I can’t explain to you how many times I have been to and past this house that I sort of felt like it was my own. I still remember the first day we met. It was just the two of us that summer. I don’t remember there being one day that I didn’t spend with you. We were with each other every day, all day. I spent the night at your house some nights, and some nights you’d sneak into mine. Those were the late night summer nights that I would never forget.
I knocked on your door and you quickly opened it.
“Ready?” I ask you. You smiled.
“Sure am beautiful,” you said.
You took my hand and we walked back over to my house. This was magical. We were magical. I had always seemed to get butterflies every time I was around you and when your hand was in mine, or when we’d give each other those long lasting passionate kisses. Those were my favorite. I’d hope they were yours, too.
I led you into the house. It didn’t look like very many people were here. I knew my parents had to be somewhere around here. I still wasn’t sure when they’d be leaving. They have been here longer then they said they’d be. It’s not like it bothered any of us, we all seemed to be doing our own thing still. They were just like another one of us. They fit along well with the group of us kids.
“I remember this house,” you say.
“Yeah. I missed it. I couldn’t pass up the chance to come back here again.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
I still hadn’t told you my real reason for coming out here because you had said in one of your letters that you hope I didn’t come out here for you. I did, and I’m sure deep down inside you figured the same thing. But I wasn’t about to admit that was the truth.
“So am I,” I said with a pleasant smile. I was truly glad I didn’t, because I would have never found you again.
I roamed throughout the house, still holding your hand. I had just seen Shelah here no less than fifteen minutes ago and suddenly she wasn’t here anymore.
“Where is everyone?” you asked. I shook my head and shrugged.
“I dunno. They’re all losers, they probably ditched me.”
“Well, I didn’t ditch you.” Your grip tightened on my hand. “And I never will again.”
I believed it the moment I heard it. I put my trust in you instantly.
I looked up at you and gave you a kiss. I grabbed your other hand. After a minute, we heard a throat clear and instantly broke apart. I blushed red in embarrassment to find my father catching the two of us together like that. I put a smile on myself to try and act innocent, even though he saw me in action with you, which was probably all bad at that moment. He was going to think I was a freaking slut, I swear.
“Hey dad,” I say. He smiles back at me.
“Hello daughter and friend,” he says back.
“Right dad, this is Brayden.”
He looked shocked. I knew that meant he had remembered who you were.
I nodded my head. He shook your hand.
“Nice to meet you sir,” you said.
“You too kid.”
It felt awkward for a second. I wasn’t sure what would happen now.
“Oh yeah dad, where is mom?”
“Lying out on a chair outside reading a book.”
I led you by the hand out to the lawn chairs. Mom was out reading a book, like dad had said and her headphones were on. I had to tap her on the shoulder to get her attention and that startled her. She took her ear buds out of her ears and looked at me. She also looked shocked to see you.
“Mom, I wanted you to meet someone. This is Brayden.”
She gasped. I figured she would. “You’re kidding!? This is him?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
You gave her a smile, stuck out your hand to shake her and said, “Hello ma’am.”
She looked pleased with your manners.
“Hello Brayden. I’ve heard some things about you. Where you been all my life?”
She didn’t say that in a creepy tone, like where girls say to a really charming or sweet guy. But she said it in one of those tones where I knew she was referring to where you have been all my life, since she was clearly in it, too.
“Ah, around. I had a lot to take care of this past year. Work.”
She nodded. “I see. Well it’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Same here Mrs. Hein.”
“So what are you guys doing?” my mom asked.
“Hanging around. He came out yesterday, he only has till Saturday and then he has to leave again.”
She frowned. “That’s too bad. Oh! That reminds me. Your dad and I will be leaving way early tomorrow morning.”
A mixture of excitement and sadness overwhelmed me. Yeah, I wanted them to leave. But they had also been such a big help too.
“Yeah. We want to go take a trip up the coast some more. So, we’re gonna head out early tomorrow and head up there.”
“Will you guys be like, staying in a hotel or something?”
“No. We’re renting a beach house each night,” she said in that sarcastic tone.
I smirked. “Very funny mom.”
She laughed. “Yeah, we’ll be staying in hotels. Hopefully we’ll find some good deals on a one bed room. Worst comes to worst, a Motel 6 will have to do us for the night.”
“Yeah. Hotels are way expensive now days. I don’t understand why. They’re not even that amazing.”
“Tell me about it.”
I didn’t say anything else to her. She put her ear buds back in, and we walked away. They took that well. I was surprised. So you met my parents. No big deal.
I didn’t want anyone to think that I had completely dropped Zack for you. They all knew how bad I had originally wanted you back. But they also knew I had started getting into something with Zack, too. They liked Zack. He fit in. You were like them, in some ways. But they were all sporty guys. Brody, Austin and Dylan were all on the football team. Of course, Dylan being the quarterback. Austin, the linebacker. And Brody, the wide receiver. Stevie was the basketball pro. Your thing was biking. BMX and Motocross. That was you. And that was hot. I’m pretty sure if you asked Brody, Austin, Dylan and Stevie about BMX, they wouldn’t be able to tell you anything. Other than the fact that it was biking. Sports took up their lives. And nothing else. Shelah and Amber were the supportive girlfriends on the bleachers cheering for their man. At least, back then, Dylan wasn’t stupid enough to date the head cheerleader. I think he was talking to her at one point before he and Shelah met, but nothing got serious. He found Shelah and that was the best choice he could have ever made. Until now of course. Things went completely downhill.
After I introduced you to my parents, I took you to the Ferris wheel Zack had taken me to a few weeks ago. I knew I wasn’t going crazy when I had told Zack that I had seen it before. You clearly remembered it as well.
“Why do you think they just left this Ferris wheel here?” you asked me. I hadn’t thought about that before. I wasn’t exactly sure why they would’ve left it here. It sure didn’t make sense to me.
“I’m not sure. What used to be in this parking lot?” I asked. I figured he’d known since he basically used to live out here at one point in his life.
“Just a parking lot. It never really made sense to me why a random parking lot was just sitting here.”
“Do you suppose something used to be here a long time ago?”
You shrugged, spacing out a little but then snapping back into reality. “There could’ve been. I sued to come here with my brother and we’d ride bikes. It came in use.”
Whether we said few words to each other, a lot, or none at all, I still felt completely happy around you. Just your presence completed me every day. You took my hand and led me to one of the seats. Jumping into one of the empty seats, I followed right in behind you. I replayed the time Zack and I did this. You put your arm around me and I leaned into you. You kissed the top of my head. You rested your head on my head as we sat there. I wished so badly I knew exactly what you were thinking. I wanted to really know how you felt about me. But Id didn’t even have to ask. It’s like you read my mind. And you told me.
“Payton?” you said, taking me by the chin and making me look into your beautiful crystal blue eyes.
“Mhm?” I replied, taking in your beauty.
“I just want you to know how I truly feel about you.” My eyes lit up as you said that.
“You’re amazing Payton. I’ve told you this before. You’re beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, sweet, kind, forgiving. I am so glad, so happy that you forgave me for leaving you.
“I am so lucky to have you. The luckiest damn guy in the world. Any guy would be lucky to have you, to have you in their arms, to kiss those sweet bubble tasting lips of yours, to intertwine their fingers in your soft hand, to lay with you and make you smile. And I am so happy I get to be that guy.”
You made me cry those joyous tears. Those happy tears. You didn’t ask me why I was crying, but instead, kissed away every tear. I grabbed your face in my hands and kissed the living hell out of you. I couldn’t afford to let you go. There is no way in hell I would let you.
“Brayden, take me away with you, please. Let’s just get married,” I said, begging. I know it all sounded too fast but we were both out of high school, and I knew I couldn’t live without you.
You smiled. “Give it time my love. I’d be honored to be your husband. But give it time.”
I wasn’t sure what ‘give it time’ meant to you. Like, give it time for you to ask me to marry you or give it a long time because we were both still young.
“How much time?” I asked.
You shrugged, smoothing your hair back. “I don’t know. Only time will tell.”
Timing was everything. You were right.
You gave me a kiss. And for the first time, in a year, you said to me those three beautiful words that I knew you meant every time you said them, “I love you.” My heard couldn’t be any more complete.
“I love you, too.” And I meant every word it as well.
I held on to you, not wanting you to leave. You leaned up against your car. I leaned into your chest, looking up at you.
“Don’t go Brayden,” I said.
You brushed my cheek with your hand.
“I know beautiful, but I must.” You gave me a kiss on my head.
“Please don’t say you have to go because I need this more than you know,” I pleaded.
You chuckled. “Pretty little lady, walking down the street, oh how you’re in my heart so deep. I love you more than life has known, and in this all you have shown. You truly care so much for me. Escaped the fate which is finally free. I need you now, right here and always. Just like we were back in the old days.”
I blushed. You always knew how to make me fall in love with you all over again.
You kissed my head again. “I love you Payton.”
Handing me a slip of paper, you opened your car and closed it as you got in. You rolled down the window and smiled. I leaned down and you gave me a kiss.
“Call or text me any time you want to talk. I promise I’ll come see you again before you leave.”
I had totally forgotten about that. I only had less than a month out here before I had to make up my mind whether I was going to start my first term off at PVU.
“You better,” I said.
You kissed me once again and I stood back as you backed out of your brothers drive way. Tiffany was standing on her front porch. You waved to her; she waved back with a slight smile. And then you sped off. I watched as you moved out of my view. One tear falling after another. At least this time I knew you were leaving. But it still hurt just as much. I had a flashback of that night once again.
He stepped out the door in a hurry. Nobody could stop him. Not even me. It’s not like he had even said he was going anywhere either. He just got up, took Chad by the collar, and left. Chad was defenseless. Brianna was a stuck up little brat. I was only being kind to him and Brayden took that all out of proportion. I was afraid he would never understand what really went on. I ran out, chasing him down as far as I could go.
“Brayden, please, wait. Where are you going?” I exclaimed.
He didn’t look back. He kept walking, no, running down the shore. I couldn’t stop him. And then he disappeared out of my sight.
Chad and Nick ran out after the both of us.
“Payton, where’d he go?” Nick asked.
I shrugged, not even thinking where he could have gone. “I don’t know.”
Chad lightly hit Nick on the arm and ran towards where ever Brayden could have gone. “Come on man, let’s go find him.”
They both ran off looking for him, leaving Lacy, Brianna and I behind.
When they returned, an hour or two after they left, Brayden wasn’t with them. I began feeling the tears surface to my eyes.
“He’s gone?” I asked them. They both looked at me, sadness in their eyes, too.
“Yeah,” Chad said. But I never lost hope.
That was the last of you, for God only knew how long. I was terrified of who I would have to face next, Zack. I still didn’t want to. I was broken and abandoned because of him. I took a look at myself in the mirror. I’m not perfect. I knew that. But I was I damn Hein girl for goodness sake. We’re strong. Come on Payton, you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for woman. Snap in to it! I wasn’t going to put up a fight with myself anymore. Zack would get over it. Zack would understand. He will. And he’ll also realize that leaving me wasn’t worth it. My expression hardened. I fell down on the bathroom floor. I’m so selfish, it’s not even funny. I buried my face in my hands and had a meltdown. I knew Zack wouldn’t. So how could I even bother? That little voice in my head was speaking, pushing me, and telling me to go. No, I kept telling myself. He won’t take you back.
I regained my strength after ten minutes of letting out all that was built inside me. Finally, without even realizing it, my feet were guiding me to Zack’s. I felt like I was betraying your trust. I was instantly feeling guilty at a rate beyond an understandable rate.
I knocked on his door. No answer. I knocked again. Again, no answer. I knocked once more. Again, no answer. I knocked on his windows. I saw him on his couch, watching a re-run of That 70’s Show, as loud as he possibly could. His ignorance was starting to piss me off. He was acting childish and I didn’t like it. I pounded on his windows this time. He didn’t even turn around! Ugh. I knew he head that.
I wasn’t going to give up. I decided to protest outside his house and sit on the bench, dialing his number. He didn’t pick up. Not even after the tenth phone call. Nor did he reply to the five texts I sent him. I didn’t think I was going too overboard either.
I was dreading ever coming over here. I got tired after some time and I lay on the bench. Three hours later, I heard the door open and a familiar voice speaking to someone.
“Yeah, on the bench, passed out,” he said. “I really don’t want to . . . okay, fine.”
I decided to play stupid, pretending like I was still asleep. The door slammed shut and immediately I lifted myself up and looked towards the door to find him facing me. He had a bored look on his face. He looked so beautiful though.
“How long are you going to lay on my bench?” he asked, not moving any closer to me.
“As long as I have to until you finally stop ignoring me.”
He raised his hands. “I’m not ignoring you now, so you can leave now.”
I shook my head. “No, I mean, until you talk to me.”
He shook his hand. “I’m not talking to you.”
“I don’t want to.”
I knew it. I just had a feeling he was going to say that and sure enough he did.
“Please Zack, just talk to me, please.”
My words couldn’t be any more calm in a begging sort of tone. I pleaded. I begged. Yeah, I was begging. I needed to talk to him.
He shook his head again, folding his arms across his chest, protesting.
“Why, Payton? Why should I sit here and listen to you?”
“Because I care about you Zack.”
He scoffed. “Care about me. Sure you do. Is that why you left me for him? Where is he anyway? Why aren’t you with him?”
I lowered my eyes to the ground. “Gone,” I said in a hushed whisper.
“Hmm?” he questioned again.
“He’s gone,” I said, a little louder.
He threw his bead back in laughter. “He’s gone! And you think you can come back to me, pretending like it never happened and you think I’m going to accept you back?! You’re pathetic Payton, really.”
His words couldn’t be any more brutal. You’re pathetic Payton, really. They replayed over and over again in my head.
“I wasn’t pretending like it never happened Zack.”
Zack grunted. “Really? So you beg and plead then?”
“Yes I beg and plead! What else must I do!?”
He didn’t say anything. Nor did I. It was silent. Silent for a long while. Maybe he was debating. Maybe he was considering talking to me again, just one. Maybe he was feeling guilty or thinking he was wrong, not me. He looked debatable. I was only hoping that’s what he was doing.
Finally, he spoke. “Shelah’s looking for you. She wants you home.”
That was all he said. I nodded my head, stood up and left. Leaving everything between Zack and me behind.
Two weeks have gone by since you left. I was going crazy without you in my arms. Let’s not forget all those times we’ve spent together. I can’t let this place bring me down. You’re out on the coast so come find me. I’m waiting for you. I was dreading the fact that summer was nearly over for me. For everyone, really.
Shelah is headed off to college at the end of August, along with Dylan. They’re both going to UCLA, which is probably all bad for them since they still haven’t talked. Who knows, maybe they’ll reunite in college or something. Austin and Brody are both going to USC, the revile school of UCLA which isn’t too keen because Dylan, being their best friend, is going there. Stevie and Ashley are going to Princeton. Amber and Lynn are going to Charleston. And I, I am going to PVU.
I finally had decided that’s where I’ll go. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else. Otherwise I’d be to far from you. I had already talked to my uncle and parents about it. I’d be staying in the dorms during the school week and at the beach house on the weekends or whenever my uncle has to leave for a business trip.
The only thing was, Zack. He had been on my mind every day. I’d see him outside, surfing the waves, running the beach, walking Buster. It’s like he was trying to get himself noticed by me. And if that was the case, then he was sure being noticed because I was noticing him. Shelah had gone over there a few times to talk to him. About what, who knows? But she talked to him. And each time she came back, she looked a little bit happier then before.
I knew that if they give it enough time, he’d fall in love with her, just as she might fall in love with him, and then we’d have nothing to worry about. But that still wouldn’t change the fact that he didn’t want to talk to me.
As I roamed around the house, picking up everyone’s filthy messes, I heard someone knock on the door. When I reached it and opened it, nobody was there. But lying on the porch was a piece of paper under a rock. I picked it up and read it. It was addressed to me.
I know it’s been awhile since we’ve talked. I didn’t want to talk to you, I couldn’t. I’m going to make this short and simple. Meet me at my house tonight at 8.
Oh wow. He actually wanted to talk to me? This was kind of shocking. It’s been two weeks and he’s finally come to his senses? Maybe that’s what he needed though. Maybe that’s what Shelah had been over there for half the time, to try to convince him that he needed to talk to me. Then again, maybe not. I knew she was my best friend and all but I doubt that’s what she was over there for. I never asked her.
I did myself up. Regaining my posture, my strength, my understanding, and my thoughts. I just wanted him to understand and stay my friend. I needed him. Especially since I was going to PVU, where he promised he’d help me out through my first year there. PVU is a four year college and it’s huge! It being right by the beach, it had to be huge. And expensive. It was like the rich kid college. I was surprised I had even gotten a scholarship to go there. It overwhelmed me.
I didn’t want to come across to him as flirty. I just wanted to gain his friendship and trust back. It was nearing eight. The night was cold and dark. I left a note for Shelah, telling her I was going for a walk, and not to wait up for me if anything comes up. She was always worried and wondering about where I was at. But that showed me she really cared about me and that’s all I could ask of her.
When my parents had left a few weeks back, you formally said goodbye to them and to both of our surprise, they both said that they hoped to see you again soon. I was hoping that soon would come real soon. I was missing you like crazy. But back to reality. Zack. I needed him back.
I went over to his house, taking in the cool air and light breeze. Once at his door step, I didn’t even have to knock; he was already standing there with the door open.
“Zack, I’m so. . .” he put a finger to my mouth. And then he took me by my arms and pressed his lips to mine. My body was too weak to pull back. I didn’t want to kiss him. I didn’t want him back like this. I hoped to God that’s not what he was thinking this while time, that I wanted him back like this. He finally pulled away, his eyes closed with a light smile on his face, and letting out a sigh. I stood there, staring at him, not exactly sure what to say at this point.
“Uhm, hi?” I said,
“Hey,” he said sweetly.
“What was that for?”
“Had to get that off my chest. I was craving your sweet bubble gum tasting lips.” He cocked a smile.
So you weren’t the only one who thought my lips tasted like bubble gum. I don’t even like bubble gum!
What just happened was completely bizarre and not, to the least, what I expected.
“Uh, thanks,” I said confusingly.
He brushed his hand against my cheek.
“What’s wrong beautiful? Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“Well yeah but this isn’t what I meant when I said I wanted to talk to you,” I say. He took my hand, smiled politely and led me into his home. I followed.
“I know, but what Brayden doesn’t know, won’t hurt.”
I stopped dead in our tracks. “Zack, no. he might not know, but I will.”
He chuckled. “Silly girl. Don’t be silly.”
I tried to force my hand out of his but he was holding on to it too tight. The harder I tried, the tighter his grip got. I could barely feel the pulse in my wrist.
“Zack, let me go!” I exclaimed.
He wasn’t acting himself. Something got into him. But I wasn’t sure what.
“Let go now or I’ll scream for help.”
He gave me a stern look. “Do it. Who’s going to come to your rescue Payton? Your little boyfriend? Oh, that’s right. He’s not even here.” I stomped my foot on his as hard as I could and punched him in the stomach with my free hand, only to have him grab that arm, too.
“Do you really believe you can hurt me? You have no power over me Payton.”
“You’re an asshole Zack.”
He laughed again. “I only want to talk to you, just like you wanted. Is that too much to ask?”
I glared at him. “This doesn’t look like talking to me Zack. Kind of seems like you’re trying to take advantage of my weakness.”
He let go of my hands and I buried them in my pant pockets immediately.
He ran his hand through his hair and whipped his face with his hand.
“I’ll be right back. Sit down and please, stay,” he said, in an apologetic calm voice.
I sat down on the couch as he walked in his downstairs bathroom.
I missed it here. The day where I’d cook for him, or he’d cook for me, or even when we’d cook together for each other. Those were times I’d never forget. I was surely going to miss them.
He came back minutes later and popped a squat next to me.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hi,” I said back.
“I’m sorry Payton, honestly. I didn’t mean to do that to you. I’ve just been going through so much lately.”
I nodded my head. “It’s okay. I understand. Just next time, don’t scare the living hell out of me like you’re going to rape me or something. You were really beginning to freak me out.”
He nodded, too. “I know. That’s not even how I wanted that to come across. I don’t know what got into me.”
I grabbed his hand and intertwined it in mine.
I smiled politely at him. “It’s okay. Don’t stress it.”
He smiled back. “So, what did you want to talk about so badly that you wouldn’t leave me alone about?” he smirked. Cocky boy.
“Us, Zack. I can’t stand not being around you. It hurts so much. Just being here, remembering all the days we spent together. It hurts.”
“Yeah, I know. I really did mean to kiss you though. Sorry if you didn’t want that. I just really missed it.”
I nodded. “I know, it’s okay. I really did mean I just want to be friends, too.”
“Alright. Hey, I should let you know. I decided that I am going to go to PVU. I made up my mind a few days ago.”
“Really? That’s great,” he said calmly.
“Yeah. Are you going to walk me through my first year like you said you were?”
He sighed, looking deep into my eyes.
“I’m moving Payton.”
An overwhelming wash of paid fled over me. Sadness. Hurt. Regret. But more hurt.
“Really? Why?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“My parents want me to sell the house. We went bankrupt.”
I gasped. “You’re kidding!?”
His expression began flickering. Suddenly, he cracked a smile.
“Nah, I’m kidding. We’re rich hun. My parents have money coming in left and right sweetie.”
I glared at him, once again. “So you’re not moving?”
He shook his head. I hit him on his arm playfully.
He laughed. “Sorry. But of course I’ll walk you through your first year. Or second year, if you forget. But only under one condition.”
“Which is?” I asked.
“You have to let me meet your boyfriend.”
I think my heart stopped completely. For maybe a minute. Was he being serious?
“Are you being serious?”
He nodded his head. “Absolutely. I want to meet him. I’ve heard some stuff about him. He seems cool.”
He’s heard stuff about you? From who? How? And that’s when I remembered. Shelah.
“Did Shelah tell you?” I asked.
“Yeah, she did.”
“What did she tell you?”
He shrugged. “Stuff. Just who he is. Was. She told me he was someone you met last year.”
“I would have told you that. But you didn’t want to listen.”
“I know. That’s why you’re over here right now. Because now that I do know, I understand why you did the things you did.”
“How was she able to get that through to you?”
“Same way I was able to get things through to her. We both had something to share.”
“What way was that?”
“By talking Payton. what you went through, so have I. I went through exactly what you went through, three years ago. That’s why I never really did the whole relationship thing for the past couple years. I was afraid she’d leave me, like my last one had. I know that doesn’t always happen, but she just got up and left without ever saying anything to me again.
“I thought she loved me, I loved her and that’s why you leaving me was so hard. Because I had let myself begin to fall for you and you were just leaving me. But I realize and understand why you did it. I would have done the same thing if that one girl I loved, finally came back.”
I didn’t even think of that. I had no idea Zack had gone through something so similar to me. Two worlds collided right there. He was just as lost as I was. I squeezed his hand and leaned against him.
“I’m sorry Zack,” I said.
“Don’t be, it’s the past.”
“I know, but believe me; I know how bad the past hurts.”
“It sure does.”
I leaned against him for a while longer. Silence was in the air.
I ended up falling asleep on his couch. That wasn’t my intentions. I got up once the sun was fully raised. My hair was a mess.
Zack peeked out around the corner from the kitchen.
“Morning, you hungry?” he asked.
I stood up. “Yeah but I should get going. I don’t want to intrude on your space.”
I didn’t feel like it was my place to be there anymore.
“Nah, you’re fine. You can stay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Then yes, I’m starving. What’cha making?”
“French toast and bacon,” he said.
“Yum, my favorite.”
Zack and I talked for three hours last night before I had fallen asleep. We talked about everything. He told me more about his past with the girl he was in love with. Her name was Shelby. Shelby Kline. A young beautiful blonde, green eyed girl, so he described. She sounded like a keeper. I told him more about you, at least the stuff that Shelah already hadn’t told him. I even told him about the pregnancy, just so he would understand the true reason why you left. He wasn’t upset either. He was sympathetic and understating more than anything. At least I knew I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets; he was as well keeping things from me. I was grateful for him nonetheless, even after those two weeks we didn’t speak. I was also grateful for Shelah for talking to him and helping him understand and accept me back.
The smell of the bacon was getting to my most noticeable first sense; my taste buds.
“Is the food almost done? I’m getting impatient,” I said.
“Just about. Can you take out the syrup, whipped cream and milk for me please?”
I went to the refrigerator and grabbed the three ingredients he requested. I set them on the table as he finished up the last of the French toast. He also set two plates, two cups, and two forks and knives out for us. He came over and set the finished food down.
“Dig in,” he said.
I dug in. Quick. I was able to finish four French toast and at least six strips of bacon.
“Dan, you were hungry,” Zack said.
“I sure was,” I said, stuffing the last of the French toast in my mouth.
That afternoon, Zack and I spent some time together going over those main events that would take place during my freshmen year of college. He told me I’d be taking an English class, and math class and a science class; depending on what I was going to major in. he said I’d have to write a ten page essay on how we as people can make a difference in the world and what we can do to change it. Sounded pretty typical. I wanted to major in English and minor in Social Work. A part of me has always wanted to help people in need.
I told Zack I’d let him meet you as soon as you came back out. I was sort of afraid of what he might say or do, but he sounded convincing. I guess that’s all that mattered. I was afraid of what you might say or do. I didn’t want you thinking I was hiding anything from you because I really wasn’t, I just wasn’t telling you everything. Then again, I always said that. What really was I doing?
I passed through that day in an instant. Everything had seemed to go smoothly between the two of us. Zack openly admitted that for the past two weeks, something had been going on between him and Shelah. Though, they both promised not to tell anyone and he swore, anyone, what it was between the two of them. I played the silent treatment with him, threatening that if he didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t talk to him. Then he proclaimed that I’d have to do the same with Shelah, which that wasn’t fair. I couldn’t just not talk to her. It also didn’t work on him. He didn’t mind that I wasn’t talking to him. Why would he? I’m always talking. I’m pretty sure me not talking meant the world to him. So I gave up.
“Then why can’t I know? She’s my best friend, I must know!” I pleaded.
He shrugged. “Then have her tell you.”
He wasn’t going to give it up. He was really beginning to make me upset.
I went back home that night, hoping in all regards to get an answer out of Shelah.
“What’s going on between you two?” I questioned.
“Who?” As if she didn’t know.
She shrugged, “Nothing.”
“Yeah, right. Like that’s nothing. Seriously Shelah, come on, you’re my best friend. You’ve got to tell me.”
“Nothing’s going on Payton, we’re just friends.”
“Just friends. Fine. But friends with benefits.”
She shrugged again. That whore. “Maybe.”
“You two are having sex?!”
Her face hardened. “I’m not sleeping with your goddamn boyfriend!” she yelled.
Boyfriend? “What do you mean, boyfriend?”
“You know what I mean. Your boy friend.”
“My friend that’s a boy?”
“Why are you yelling at me and getting all defensive? I just asked you a question.”
She shook her head. “Sorry, didn’t mean to. But yeah, we’ve done stuff. But I haven’t slept with him.”
“You better not have. I never even slept with him.”
“Really? Even after spending a whole week and a half at his house?”
I cocked an eyebrow. “I had my own room, thank you very much.”
“Yeah, sorry again.”
“So how is he? Any fun?”
She shrugged, again. “He’s alright, at whatever he’s done. I still miss the way Dylan handled me though.”
Of course, she still missed him. She had to. He was someone to love. Well, every part of him before he slept with that girl. I’m pretty sure the reason he’s been ignoring Shelah is because n his heart, he knows he made a mistake and he’s probably super angry with himself that he doesn’t want to feel like he’s hurting Shelah any more then he already has. And Shelah was probably messing around with Zack because she seriously thinks Dylan doesn’t care anymore so she’s trying to move on and heal the pain. But I honestly haven’t seen Dylan happy once during the whole time they haven’t been together. And if that was the case, they needed to both realize that. And I felt like it was my job to get that to happen.
“Shelah, why are you fooling around with Zack? Your answer isn’t going to offend me or make me mad. It has nothing to do with me, I just need to know.”
She looked dead into my eyes. “Because Dylan doesn’t care about me. And I need to move on.”
I knew it.
“That’s the only reason?”
I stormed out of the living room, where Shelah and I were sitting and went in search for Dylan. It took me five minutes to find him, laying on Brodys’ bed, tossing a ball in the air. He’s been staying with Brody ever since he and Shelah broke up and Amber moved into Shelahs’ room with her. The sacrifices friends make for each other.
I cleared my throat and he immediately sat up and looked at me.
“Hey Pay,” he said.
“Hey Dylan. What are you doing?”
He shrugged. “Nothing really, just bored.”
“Yeah. Hey, can we talk?”
He patted the space next to him. “Sure, about what?”
I took a seat next to him. “You . . .cheated on Shelah, right?” I asked hesitantly.
He frowned. “Yeah.”
“And how come you haven’t tried fixing things with her? Do you not want to?”
“Then you do realize that you’ve spent a month without the girl you love because you won’t go fix things, right?”
“She won’t take me back. She hates me Payton.”
I laughed. “No Dylan, she doesn’t. Yeah, it hurts her that you cheated on her and just the fact that you haven’t tried to talk to her is what hurts her the most. But she loves you Dylan. She can’t let you go. And she’s willing to take you back if you show her why she should.”
His eyes lit up. “Really?”
“No joke Dylan. Just show her you can.”
He leaned over and took me in a bear hug.
“Thanks Payton, I’ll go talk to her right now.”
He stormed out of the room. I’d leave them alone.
I laid back on Brodys’ bed in all hopes that they’d finally see the truth.
When I saw you at my door, I ran into your arms. You caught me and twirled me in a circle, kissing me passionately.
“Baby, you’re back!” I said with the biggest smile on my face.
You laughed. “Yeah, I am. For the last remaining week of your vacation.”
“A week?!” I said enthused.
You cocked a smile. “Yup. Don’t get to excited little lady.”
We both laughed. You and I both knew what happened when I got too excited about you.
“Brayden, I’ve got to tell you something.”
“What’s up beautiful?” you asked, leading me into the house.
“I’m staying out here.”
“You are? How?”
“I got a scholarship to PVU, like five miles away from here. I’m going.”
You looked happy. “That’s great! So does this mean you can come live with me?” You asked with a smile.
I had never thought of that before. I do remember you saying you were living on your own. But I had never thought about living with you. I thought it over in my head everything that could go wrong if I did live with you. Then again, it’s not like I haven’t lived with you before. But I was about to start college and it might not be a good idea. I’d have a hard time concentrating on my work because I’d always want to be next to you. Even though I already wanted to jump to the conclusions of marrying you.
“You live that close to here?” I asked.
“Ten miles easy,” you said.
I nodded. “Well, I’m staying at the dorms and coming back to the beach house on the weekends or whenever my uncle has to go out on a business trip. I guess it would never hurt to go visit you one weekend.”
You smiled. “No, it wouldn’t.” You kissed the top of my head. I took in your scent. Being next to you sent shivers down my spine.
I then remembered the one thing I promised Zack I would do. Introduce him to you. Zack had gotten the memo that Shelah and Dylan were back together and soon enough, he backed off. They ended up moving back together in the same room, which Brody and Amber fairly happy about.
I put a hand on your chest. “Brayden, I have to introduce you to someone.”
“There’s someone else living here that I don’t know about?”
I shook my head. “No, someone else living a couple houses down whom I became friends with.”
“Alright, lead the way baby,” you said with a smile, giving me a quick peck on the lips.
We walked hand in hand over to Zacks’ house. Thank goodness you didn’t remember that this was the same house with the angry guy.
“How come you didn’t introduce me to them when I was out here last?”
I couldn’t tell you the truth. I had to lie.
“They were out of town.”
You nodded your head. You believed it.
I gave several knocks on the door before he finally answered it. He had a smile on his face. His beautiful smile.
“Payton! Good to see you,” he said. Dang, was he extra cheerful.
“Hey Zack,” I said pleasantly. “This is Brayden.”
You two both shook hands. A firm hand shake too. Almost as if either of you wanted to attack the other. This is what I was afraid of. Afraid that somehow you would know him and we, at some point, hand something going on between the two of us. Like somehow, you would know him, from the past, at all.
“Zack? You look familiar. Are you parents that owners of the Calosco company?” you asked. What the heck was Calosco?
He smiled brightly. “They sure are,” he said.
His parents owned a business? That’s what I get for never asking about how he was so dang rich.
“What’s Calosco?” I asked.
“You don’t know what Calosco is?” you questioned shockingly.
I shook my head. “No.”
Zack answered. “Payton, my name’s Zack Calosco. My parents own a company called Calosco. They’re the top name brand company around this area for kitchen appliances.”
No wonder he liked to cook and he was so dang good at it. That explained his beautiful kitchen appliance sets, too.
“You’re kidding?” I said, shocked now, too.
“Nope. I guess I forgot to mention that.”
“Heck yeah you did!” I exclaimed.
“Sorry,” he smiled innocently.
You were still shocked that I didn’t know about that company. I gave you a ‘what?’ look.
You shook your head. “Crazy.”
“So!” Zack shouted. “How about we go into town and have lunch and get to know each other, yeah?”
You looked at me, I looked at you, and then to Zack, who was looking at the both of us. You nodded your head. I smiled at Zack and said, “Sounds good, let’s go.”
We took Zacks’ car over to a restraint by the pier. This was a different pier, one we had never been to together, and one I’ve never been to at all.
“I love this place!” you shouted, jumping out of the car and running to my door to open it.
You held your hand out for me to take it, I did. You were being a gentleman, cute.
“Me too, it’s my favorite place,” Zack mentioned.
Why hadn’t either of you taken me here before?
“Never been,” I said dully. You held my hand as we walked to the receptionist. It wasn’t too crowded.
“Hello, how many?” the lady asked.
“Table for three,” Zack said politely.
“Right this way,” she said, eyeing you a little too much. Yeah, she was eyeing you, not Zack, you. And she had that stupid fake smile on her face. I already didn’t like this place just because of the stupid waiter. She led us to a booth, where I got the wall seat and you slid in next to me, Zack sitting on the other side. She handed us three menus, took out a pad and pen and asked, “What can I get you guys to drink?”
You already knew what I wanted. I was entirely impressed that you still remembered. Zack ordered himself a Coke. I wasn’t much of a fan for dark soda. Coffee and tea did it for me.
She departed from our table, leaving with the stupid fake smile and winking an eye at you. you were being polite so you smiled politely.
“Girls,” you said.
I raised an eyebrow at you. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
You smirked. “Can’t get enough of me,” you said.
I rolled my eyes, “Right.”
Zack just sat there, trying not to laugh.
“Boys,” I said sarcastically. Neither of you could hold back your laughter.
Zack and you got along well. Really well. Too well. It was to my liking, I suppose. But it was kind of odd, too. I wasn’t sure if Zack was being serious about everything he had said. I learned that he also liked BMX and biking. You two connected in that area. And even planned to go to the next show together. Were you two going to become best friends? I wasn’t sure. It would be cool if you did. But I didn’t want him taking up you and you taking up him. I loved the both of you, you more than him. But I needed the both of you in different ways. You stayed at my house with me that night.
“Well, that was fun. Zack’s really right,” you said.
I nodded my head as I slipped off my blouse and put on a tank top.
“Yeah, he’s a sweet guy,” I said.
“How is it you didn’t know his parents owned a company?”
I shook my head, rolling my eyes and throwing my hair up in a bun.
“He never told me.”
“You never asked.”
I threw my hands up in the air. “I didn’t know I had to!”
You grabbed my hands and pulled me closer to you, inclosing the distance between us. You grabbed me by my face and gently kissed me. I wrapped my arms around your neck and you made your way down to my hips, pulling me in until you couldn’t pull me any closer. You pushed me down onto the bed, pushing me further back so you could get on too. You put both hands on either side of me as I cupped my hands around your beautiful face. One of your legs was in between the both of mine. You didn’t want to be uncomfortable, I understood that. What I loved about you is that you took control. Not once did I have to do anything. I found that hot. I’ve always loved a man in control.
This time, we made sure we knew what we were doing. We didn’t want another ‘accident’ to happen. I was on birth control. Ever since the abortion, I had to be. You still brought a condom, just to be even more safe and sure of what you were about to do. That showed me you cared and you were actually being smart this time. You released from our kiss and smiled at me.
“You ready?” you asked.
I nodded my head.
You gave me one last kiss and that was the end of any conversation for who knew how long.
I couldn’t even imagine what it was going to feel like after a year of not doing it. Yeah, we had only done it once together, but that one time we did it was, at the time, the best moments of my life. This had just topped that by far.
“Wow. I forgot how amazing that felt,” I said breathlessly.
You chucked. “Yeah, me too.”
You brought my hand up to your mouth and pressed your lips on it. I was dead beat tired. I wasn’t sure about you. I’m sure you could have gone for more, but I had had enough.
“Do you like a man in control?” you asked.
I smiled. “Boy, do I!”
You laughed. “I can tell, but you know. . .” you began, “I do love a woman who can handle a man.” You winked. I sat up and stared into your eyes, slowly cracking a smile.
“To bad. So sad. Hope you don’t get to mad. Be glad! Not mad. So I won’t end up being sad.”
You smiled, leaning up to give me a kiss. I cuddled up next to your side.
“You’re crazy, Payton,” you said.
“Yeah, I know.” I sighed. Sleep had finally reached my body.
I honestly couldn’t believe today was the day all of us were going home to depart for the rest of our lives. Friday would be the first day of the rest of my future.
Zack wrapped me in a bear hug once he put his share of my things into your car.
“I’m going to miss you!” he said, nearly squeezing me to death.
“I’ll be back on Wednesday,” I said reassuringly.
“You promise you’re not going to change your mind last minute and leave me?!”
I laughed. “I promise Zack. See you in two days.”
You were driving me back to my home eight hours away from here. Living up north of California was surely not my favorite thing at all.
Zack let go of me. He shook your hand.
“Alright, be safe kids,” he said.
I chuckled and so did you. Zack was older then both you and I. So in a way, we were kids compared to him. Then again, we weren’t. He was only two years older than me and one year older than you.
Shelah galloped over next to us, giving me the biggest hug she could ever give me.
“I’m going to miss you so much Payton!” she said, tears already falling out of our eyes.
“Me too Shelah. Promise to come visit when you can?”
We stayed in that hug for a long time. Graduation day was hard enough. Knowing that we wouldn’t be together in school for the next four years was the hardest thing of all times.
“You ready Payton?” you asked. We released from our hug and I nodded, whipping away the last of my tears. I laughed lightly and smiled at her, as I entered the car.
“Bye everyone!” I shouted, before pulling away from the house.
They all waved after me, knowing I wouldn’t see them again, for a very long, long time
“Told you that you were going to lose them all after graduation vacation,” you said.
I nodded, because you were right. I was going to lose them, no doubt. You and I both knew that. I didn’t hear Zack mention to me once about any of his friends from high school and I sure know you hadn’t either. The only thing you told me about the friends you did have, the ones I met, was where they went after high school. Not once had I heard about them again. The friends who seem to last a life time are the ones you meet after high school. Why? I don’t know. I know Shelah and I will always be best friends. But it won’t be the same, at all. At least her school won’t be too far from mine. Maybe there will be a slight chance we come across each other, one day.
“I know. It just sucks, you know?” I said.
You nodded. “Trust me, I know.”
You grabbed my left hand with your right hand as you steered the wheel with the other.
We had decided that you would drive me up to my place so I can get my things for living down here and then you would bring me back down. My immediate living conditions were being paid for, but food, new clothes, school supplies and appliances, that wasn’t coming in the package. My parents said they were going to give me five thousand dollars for the first year. I wasn’t sure how that was going to pay for clothes, food and transportation. Since I didn’t have a car, I’d have to take taxis or the bus. I sighed, rested my elbow on the window shield and pressed my head against my hand. Stress, hear you come. I wasn’t going to like this.
I fell asleep for the next four hours. I felt bad once I woke up, that I had left you in complete boredom for four hours, all by yourself. But I wasn’t a fan of long car rides either, so in a way, I didn’t feel bad.
“Good morning,” you said with a smile.
“Morning,” I said, stretching out my arms.
You kept taking glances at me while you were driving and you couldn’t help but to smile as you did.
“What?” I asked.
You chuckled, “Nothing.”
“Why do you keep looking at me?”
You smiled, “Because you look cute when you wake up.”
I blushed. Cute. How could I look cute?
See, those were the things about guys I’d never understand. You guys just had a way with things that confused the living hell out of girls. And I speak for all girls when I say this.
“Thanks,” I said, directed more as a question than anything.
It looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. I knew where we were though, at least, the city.
“How far do we have left to go?” I asked.
“Well, considering I’ve never been to your house before and I’m doing this all by GPS, it says we have another four hours to go.”
Technical. Figures. I was considering going back to sleep. You began switching lanes, nearing an exit.
“I have to use the bathroom and I’m starving, so we’re going to stop at In n Out, you down?” you asked.
“I’m more than down,” I said.
You got off the freeway and pulled into the In n Out parking lot. I didn’t quite understand why there was an In n Out right next to almost every major off ramp. I guess they were just a smart company. More people are likely to stop there to eat. I was starving at this point.
You pulled into a parking spot and we hopped out of the car. You grabbed my hand, opened the door for me.
“We’ll order first, and then I’ll pee,” you said.
“Me too,” I replied. We both laughed. The way we are together didn’t feel any different than the way we were together. If we were going to, I would label ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. I mean, we might as well. I’m going to be living fifteen miles away from you.
You kissed the top of my head, leaning me into you with your arm around my shoulders.
Once it was our turn to order, I ordered for myself and you ordered for yourself. You paid. I guess we would have to see how things turn out when it finally gets to that point, less than a week from now.
We spent, no more, than a half hour eating.
The remaining of the car ride ended up with us talking about what I was going to college for in the first place. We talked a little about what you wanted to do. You had somewhat of an idea, but you weren’t too sure. Zack was going to school to major in psychology. I think he wanted to be a Case Manager. He is very good at understanding people’s emotions and actions. He is also very good at helping people through their problems.
“Well, what do you like to do?” I asked you.
“Spend time with you,” you smiled.
I smiled back.
“Well yeah, but you can’t do that for a living.”
You frowned, “Why not?”
“Because you can’t do me.”
You winked, “Oh yes I can.”
Disgusting. I glared at you, “Brayden, really. What do you like to do?”
You laughed, “Bike.”
“Is that really a career option?”
“It could be. I was sponsored in high school. Won twenty three out of twenty seven competitions in my age group. Stupid Ian Parks won the other four. Nobody else had a chance against us. I was the best though, obviously.”
“Dang, that’s awesome. But could you really do that for the rest of your life? And would it be enough to support a family?”
“My whole life, no. And by supporting a family, you mean you, then yes. An entire family, no. I’d have to find a different job and we’d probably have to get you working too.”
“Is it going to pay the bills?”
“Hopefully isn’t an answer. You’ve got to be sure.”
You sighed. I could tell you were getting frustrated.
“See, that’s why I didn’t go off to college right after high school. I’m better off sticking with what I have.”
I grabbed your hand, looking at you.
“Think about it Brayden,” I said.
We both fell silent.
We finally pulled up to my house, sometime later.
“You live here?” you asked
“Yup, small town little home.”
“I like it. It’s nice.”
An unfamiliar car was placed in the drive way.
“Your parents have a really nice car,” you mentioned. It was nice. Really nice. Too nice.
“That’s not their car, I don’t think. I don’t know whose it is, unless they bought themselves a new car.”
We both got out of the car at the same time and my mom ran out, dad following behind her with a video camera. A video camera?
“Payton!” my mom yelled, extending her arms out to tighten me in a hug.
“Hey mom,” I said, wrapping my arms tightly around her.
“I’m so glad you’re home! For the two days you’re home,” she said with a frown.
“Me too, it’s good to be back.”
She gave you a hug as well. Dad came up and wrapped me in a hug. He was the best guy to give hugs to.
“Hi pumpkin,” he said, kissing the top of my head.
“Hey daddy,” I said.
I held on to him tight for as long as I could.
“Payton, congratulations,” he said as we released from our hug.
“For what?” I asked.
He turned his attention to the car bestowed in front of us.
“That beauty,” he announced with a smile. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to think.
“That’s mine?” I asked unbelievably.
“It sure is.”
I wrapped him in an even bigger hug than before.
“Thank you so much dad!” I exclaimed.
I could hear you and my mom laughing in the background.
“You’re welcome,” he said.
“You didn’t have to do that for me, dad.”
“Did you think your old pops was going to let his one and only daughter take a bus to school every day?”
I half smiled, “Sort of.”
He laughed, “Nah kiddo. Your dad has you taken care of.”
He never let me down. Oh, how I loved the man.
He handed me the car keys and I raced to get in the car. I put the keys in the ignition and the car roared to life. The feel, the smell of the brand new car. I couldn’t even imagine the cost of this beauty. It was all black, inside too, with leather seats. It felt amazing. I was beginning to think it was a dream. My dad tapped on the window and I rolled it down.
“How do you like it?” he asked.
“Take it for a spin, yeah?”
I smiled, “Definitely.”
I signaled to you to get in the passenger seat. You did.
“You ready?” I asked. You nodded your head.
I pulled out of the driveway and off we went. The pedal barely had to be pressed on to get the speed up to fifty. The break barely had to be pressed to make it go back down to zero. I was going to love this car, I was already sure of it.
“Damn, that’s nice,” you said, examining the feel of the car.
“Totally agreed,” I said, going off into infinity. And I never wanted to stop or turn back.
Last night passed by every single one of us in a flash. My dad, mom and you all got along really well. They actually had more to talk about with you than they had with Zack. Why? I don’t know. You are amazing and I love you, but Zack had so much more going on for him in his life then you did. Maybe you just had more potential. Maybe you were just way more interesting to them then he was. Because he had his life set. You didn’t. They could relate to you more. They started young and from scratch, just like you. I was just thinking they wanted me to be with someone more like Zack, because he was someone that I could rely on. I overheard them give the best advice they could give to you. Or anyone for that matter. “Love isn’t easy to find. Not everyone gets a chance at true love. But if you’ve found that true love, be with her and never let her go or give up. Life only happens once and you make do with whom you love. Because without it, nothing will ever make you truly happy.” They said it exactly like that, too. You looked at me and smiled. Meaning, I was your true love. And you were mine.
The only thing I could hope for is that they’d be happy with me being with you. That’s all I wanted, was for them to accept me with you. And as I hoped, I had another flashback. Something I haven’t had in a long time, ever since you’ve been back.
Brayden and I have spent every single day together since we laid eyes on each other. He is my dream come true. My true love. Eight weeks with him was far too much to know he is who I want to spend the rest of my life with. I’d only hope everyone else would think so, too. I wasn’t sure my best friend Shelah would have anything against it. Her boyfriend and she have been together for almost a year. She always supports my every decision. That’s what I loved about her. That’s why she is my best friend. But my parents on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t even sure if I ever wanted to tell them about meeting him, ever. But I knew that if I wanted to marry him, I’d have to tell them, eventually. I can’t hide that kind of thing from my parents.
Brayden was up to bowl. He was damn good at it too.
“Guarantee a strike right here, right now,” he said with a breathtaking smile.
“Do it,” I said, winking.
“Watch and learn beautiful.”
He prepared himself in an outstanding pose and walking up with the ball in his hand. The ball rolled with a spin. It curved, not even looking as if it was to hit the pins at all, but I was wrong. So wrong. And sure enough, he got a strike.
“Holy shit,” I said amazed.
“Told you,” he said with that breathtaking smile again.
I jumped up to my feet.
“Alright, alright, watch and learn.”
I took my ball and walked up to toss the ball into the lane. It was going, nice and straight. My excitement was rising. And just as you’d think it’s about to hit the pins, it literally slides over and goes in the gutter. Like how is that even possible? It’s as if a freaking ghost came over to my ball, lifted it up and put it in there.
“What the heck!” I shouted, furious.
I felt his arms wrap around me from the back. I twisted around in his arms and locked my hands around his neck with my pouting face on.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
He said, “yup,” and gave me the most gentle kiss ever.
“I watched and learned nothing,” he said with a smirk.
I frowned upon him again and he gave me another soft kiss. Reminding me it was just a game, not to get so butt hurt about it, because nothing else mattered but him.
Before I went to the kitchen to see what was for breakfast, I uploaded Owl City’s new album unto my iPod. Angels, being one of my new favorite songs, is amazing. Adam Young’s yells when he says, “wake me if you’re out there,” is absolutely heart melting. I love it. I was humming along to Alligator Sky when you knocked on my door.
“Hello?” you said.
I turned around and burst out, “where was I when the rockets came to life and carried you away into the alligator sky!”
You looked confused, “Huh?”
I giggled to myself, “Nothing. What’s up?”
“I need to go to the store. You want to come?”
“For what?” I asked.
“Your mom needs a few things to prepare dinner. She wants to make something she hasn’t made in a while but she’s cleaning right now so I told her I’d go for her.”
I thought about it for a second and then agreed to go. Knowing you, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between two different yogurt brands or spaghetti sauces. You were going to need some womanly advice. According to all guys, the kitchen was the only place women were good in and at. Cooking. The last song finished uploading. I grabbed my phone, keys and wallet and followed you to the hallway.
My mom was washing dishes.
“Hey mom, we’ll be right back,” I said.
“Okay, take your time,” she said, focusing her attention on what she was doing.
“Can we take my car?” I asked as we went outside.
I got in and you did as well. Yesterday’s drive was completely peaceful and amazing. I drove over to the nearest market, one I used to walk to all the time with my mom. It felt good to finally be able to drive there instead.
“It feels like forever since I’ve been over here,” I said.
“Well, you were gone for three months,” you said.
I shook my head, “No really, forever. My mom and I used to come here all the time when I was younger.”
The memories flooded throughout me. The reason I never really had much respect for my mom is because when I was ten, I had been at school and asked the teacher if I could use the restroom because something down below me felt terribly odd, and warm. I had thought maybe I pee’d my pants or something, but I was ten, fully and well capable of using the restroom when I knew I had to use it. So that wasn’t it. When I checked myself after pulling down my pants and panties, I saw a puddle of stained blood. I had remembered my mom mentioning it once to me that this was called my dot, AKA, my period. But she never got into full detail with me. I was freaking out, not sure of what to do. And instead of going back to class, I ran to the nurses’ office.
“Excuse me,” I said in a pleasantly sweet voice.
“Hello sweetie, do you have a pass?” the nurse asked.
“No, but I think this is an emergency. I need to call my mom.”
She looked confused. “Why? What’s wrong honey?”
I gave her a worried expression, “I think I started my period.”
She nodded, fully understanding what I was going through. My mom had told me that this is one of the days of every woman’s life that they would remember for the rest of their lives.
When my mom arrived at the school five minutes later, she had someone bring my stuff to the office and pulled me out of school. When I got in the car, she sat there with her hands in the steering wheel, looking tense and really pissed. She snatched her head in my direction, her eyes piercing through mine.
“You stupid girl, you made me pull you out of school because you think you started your period?” she shouted.
I began to speak, “I. . .”
“No, shut up. Did you start or not?”
“Well, I am sitting in a puddle of blood right now.”
She threw her hands up in the air.
“Ew! Get the hell out of my car and off my seats!”
Without saying a word and scared to death through her piercing words, I opened the door and jumped out of the car.
“How come you didn’t ask the nurse for a pad? Or put some damn toilet paper down there?”
“I didn’t know I had to mom.”
“I went over this with you Payton.”
“No you didn’t, mom.”
“Stop saying ‘mom’ like that!”
She bent down to grab a newspaper that was lying on the floor and set it on the seat.
“Get in and let’s go. And don’t you ever make me take you out of school like this again.”
“Would you have liked me to sit in underwear full of blood all day?” I asked.
“You better watch yourself smart aleck,” she snatched and started the car to drive off.
Ever since that day, my mom and I had it all wrong. For eight years. She’s nice, sure. And cool, I guess. But behind closed doors, when no one’s watching, not even my dad, she’s a real bitch. And that didn’t start happening until that very day at my school, eight years ago. She tries to make up every mean moment she’s had with me, with a good one. But I don’t let her have it her way. I’m a grown up, an adult, an independent woman, and I will wake charge of my own life.
“Are you going to tell me?” you asked again, snapping me out of my flashback.
“Oh, yeah, sorry,” I began. “Childhood memory,” was all I said.
You nodded, realizing I didn’t want to say much else after that.
We walked hand in hand into the store, grabbing a grocery cart to push around with us.
“So what’s she making?” I asked.
You pulled out a list from your back pocket and handed it to me. I opened it up and scanned my eyes down the list. All the ingredients she wanted him to buy were to make my favorite dish. Ground beef potato enchiladas with green sauce and cabbage and broccoli salad.
“Would you happen to know?” you questioned.
I nodded, “My favorite dish. Ground beef enchiladas.”
You licked your lips fully and patted your stomach, “Mmm, sounds delicious. I’m already hungry for some.”
I giggled, “Pretty delicious, indeed.”
That trip to the store didn’t last long. And soon after, we were headed back home.
I absolutely couldn’t let any more of the day pass by me. I was leaving tomorrow around twelve and I had to get all my stuff loaded and packed in mine and your cars. Thank God you came along because one car wouldn’t have been enough room for all the crap I had to take back with me.
I had already accomplished filling up three boxes. Those three consisted of shoes and jackets only. I was packing for four years, plus some. Not just a summer vacation anymore. I took out another box and bent down to pick up some clothes just as I heard someone clear their throat. That took me off guard and I turned around quickly to see you leaning against the door frame, looking me up and down.
“You’re beautiful,” you said, making me blush.
“Thanks,” I replied.
You came over to me, wrapped your arms around my waist.
“Can I help you pack?” you asked.
Help would be nice, but I didn’t want you to have to go through all my stuff and think I’m weird because I still had stuff in my closet from like, ten years ago.
“No, it’s okay. I think I got the hang of it.”
You gave me a kiss. A soft kiss. And turned away from me, going to a box.
“I insist, really. I’ll take over the closet; you get your clothes situated.”
I smiled, not pushing the situation.
I cleaned, you cleaned. You laughed at some of the things you found in there, like love letters about my imaginary boyfriend from back in sixth grade and a rabbit stuffed animal that was eating a carrot. And then, suddenly, you mouthed out three simple words, loud enough for me to hear from across the room where I was at.
“Oh my God.”
I turned around.
You were holding a picture. A small rectangular picture. And through the back, I could tell exactly what it was, as your eyes glowed. Glossy with sadness.
“It’s her, or him,” you said in a small voice. I could feel the rush of sadness and hurt flow over my body too.
“Yeah,” I said softly.
I had totally forgotten I kept that picture of the ultrasound. I totally forgot it was in my closet, otherwise I would have never let you clean it out. But the evidence was right there in front of your face. And I couldn’t hide that from you now.
“It’s so . . . tiny,” you said amazed.
And just like that, I saw one sparkle come out of your eye, as you wiped it away, terribly failing at me not noticing. That was something I couldn’t hold back either. That was my baby. Mine and yours. Ours.
I walked over to you and knelt down on the floor next to you. You brought me in closer to you and kissed the top of my head as we both looked at the photo together, tears streaming from our eyes.
“I’m sorry,” you said softly.
“Me too,” I said.
I’m going to miss it here, a lot. My hometown has always been very important to me and the fact that I won’t be living here for the next for years, frightens me. I’m not used to living on my own. I’m not used to feeling so alone. This is definitely going to be a new life experience for me. And I wasn’t exactly ready for a roommate either. Sure, I got along with girls. But they weren’t my number one pick either. So, a roommate was going to be different, very different/ college is a whole new step in life. I’m finally growing up and shaping into the woman I’ve always wanted to be: free independent and making my own choices. Living at home has always held me back from being that person one hundred percent. At the same time though, I knew I was still just a teenager and living under my parent’s roof. But does being held back really keep anyone from going off and being a rebellious person? For crying out loud, I got pregnant at seventeen. Held back my ass. Or so I thought.
Maybe things would turn out a whole lot better for you and I. maybe we’d finally be able to connect in a way we haven’t yet connected before.
We’d finished loading my car and yours with all my junk. My mom was crying. That woman. Trying to look like the innocent one.
“Remember, when you first enter the school. Call me. At night. I want to know everything about your first night there,” she managed between tears.
“You act like I’m moving to a different country mom, I’m only eight hours away,” I said while rolling my eyes.
“Eight hours to long Payton. You’re my only child.”
She was right, I am her only child. I am her only grown up adult child.
In many ways, I’m much like my mother. She’s only thirty-five and my dad’s thirty-six. She too, had me when she was seventeen, so if I were to have had a baby with you at seventeen, my mom and I wouldn’t be that much different from each other. The only thing that would be different between us is that I would be a cooler mom, and I probably would still be attempting to go to college. She didn’t.
“Yeah, I know,” I said, giving her a lousy hug. On the other hand, my dad got the longest hug possible. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to him until Thanksgiving or even Christmas or at all. He has always managed to surprise me. Always. How he did it, I don’t know.
“Are you ready?” you asked me as I finished saying goodbye to my parents.
“More ready than ever,” I said.
You smiled, shook my parents hand, but my mother insisted on a hug and got in your car.
“Drive safely you two,” my dad hollered after us.
And we did. For eight hours. Two bathroom breaks and a meal. When finally we arrived back to Pacific Valley. Doomed for a whole new adventure.
We stopped at my uncle’s house first. I wanted to thank him for allowing us to use the house while he was away this summer. I also wanted to introduce him to you. So we followed suit and knocked on his door. He answered with a welcoming smile.
“You little trouble- maker! You kept the house clean, thank you!” he exclaimed.
I laughed, “I had to Uncle Tony. Because if not, it would have been totally rude, duh!”
He nodded, “How are you doing sweetie?”
I gave him a hug and he squeezed me in his arms. The second best man to give hugs in line of my father. It must have run in his family. See, my uncle Tony and my dad are brothers. Great brothers. Tony’s twenty-nine. He’s definitely a fun and funny guy. And made of money. He is the only one out of him and my dad that did go to college. And since I’m his only niece, he spoils me rotten.
“I’m doing great!” I cheered.
He chuckled, “Good. Oh! How do you like the new car?”
Okay, how did he know about the car?
“I love it, but how did you know about it?”
He mischievously smiled.
“You didn’t, by any chance, happen to pitch in on it or something did you?” I asked slowly, suddenly starting to believe otherwise.
“I bought it for you and had it shipped to your house,” he said coolly.
My jaw dropped. Yeah, it was tempting to believe my parents had got it for me, but it didn’t really seem realistic either. Coming from my uncle, I could understand.
“No you didn’t!” I said shocked.
You sort of just stood there; not believing what you h ad just heard either.
“Sure did sweetheart.”
I gave him another big hug. Life couldn’t be any better than this.
“Thank you so much Uncle Tony! It’s beautiful!”
“You’re welcome. And who’s this dude?” he asked, referring to you.
“Oh! This is Brayden. Brayden, my Uncle Tony.”
You guys shook hands.
“I feel like we’ve met before,” Tony said.
“Yeah, you do look familiar.”
“Are you Alan’s’ brother?”
“Yeah! That’s right. You’re my brothers’ friend.”
Weird. Really weird. How much more weirder could this get? How many people know you?
“Yeah. How’s he doing?” Tony asked.
“He’s alright. Settling his life down somewhere in Cabo,” you said.
“Nice. I’d like to live there.”
You nodded your head.
“Yeah, I’ll tell him you said hi?”
“Definitely man, definitely.”
The awkward conversation didn’t carry on very long. Thank goodness. Tony broke it up by inviting us in for dinner. We accepted because, I don’t know about you, but I was starving.
Tony made teriyaki chicken, broccoli and rice and we ate around the kitchen table that I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at before. There were no awkward conversations, just a lot of conversations about biking, because like you, Tony also liked to bike. And I wasn’t sure how good he was, but he proclaimed he was pretty good.
“I was a professional, guarantee it. And nobody else was better than me. Not even Alan,” Tony said happily.
You seemed to disagree by laughing, because you knew how good your brother was and I’m sure you though nobody could be better than him.
“I was too, before I had to stop,” you stated.
“Why did you stop?” he asked.
“My trainer died,” you said quietly.
You kept yours eyes down, starring at your plate. You trainer must have meant a lot to you.
“Awh man, I’m really sorry. I know how that feels. My trainer was like my best friend. I looked up to him.”
You nodded your head in agreement.
“I knew that any other trained would have never lived up to mine. So I stopped. I continued riding as much as I could but I’ve kind of just given up. I don’t even see the point. It’ll get you nowhere.”
I started wondering if you had begun taking what I said to you about a job into consideration. How exactly was that affecting your life? Was it stopping you from wanting to live up to your dreams? Was I somehow stopping you from living your dreams? Because I never want that to happen, ever.
“Why don’t you get out there and ride again? You shouldn’t give up on something you love doing. I did, and hell, I regret it. Not that I’m not happy where I’m at, because I am. But I wish I would’ve kept riding. I’m just too old for that now.”
You shrugged, still looking down at your now empty plate.
What were you thinking?
“I just don’t have the time,” you said.
And Tony agreed. Time was everything. Out of all people, he would know that.
Zack, you and I reunited once again the day I would be heading over to my dorm. I had received my schedule and my dorm room. My roommate was never mentioned though, so maybe I’d be lucky and wouldn’t have one.
Except, I was wrong. When I got to my dorm, there stood a beautiful blonde, green eyed girl. She was absolutely gorgeous. She smiled sweetly and stuck out her hand to shake mine.
“Hi, I’m Shelby Kline.”
My heart instantly stopped beating. This girl is Zack’s ex-girlfriend. The girl he was in love with.
“Do you know . . .” I hesitated. I didn’t think I should mention his name. That would probably bring back memories that she probably hadn’t thought about in a long time and that would be all bad. Or maybe she would ignore my question and pretend she had no idea who I was talking about. Or maybe this was the wrong Shelby Kline, but it couldn’t be, she was the description of that perfect girl he described so beautifully.
“Do I know who?” she asked confused.
“Zack Calosco?” I said softly.
She smiled, “Yes, I know him. But who are you? And how do you know him?”
She smiled. She smiled! Like nothing she had done to him mattered.
“I’m Payton Hein. I’m a good friend of his.”
“Oh! Payton! He’s told me so much about you.”
“Really? You talk to him still?”
She laughed, “Of course!”
Could this get any weirder? Zack had told me he didn’t talk to her any more. Why was she telling me they still do talk?
“He told me you guys didn’t talk anymore.”
She frowned, “He did? Poop. That sucks,” she frowned, “But we still do, so I don’t know why he’d say that. The boy is so charming, who wouldn’t want to talk to him?”
I nodded my head in agreement. She couldn’t be any more right.
“So what went on between you two?” I asked curiously.
“Oh, you know. He was just way too old for me.”
“How old are you?”
“Eighteen, but when we started dating it was the middle of my freshmen year, the middle of his senior year, and he would be going off to college and I was only going to be a sophomore. My parents would’ve never allowed that.”
Zack made it seem like Shelby was his age then and that she just got up and left without any reason what so ever as to why. But Shelby was telling me otherwise. Who was I to believe? And why would Zack lie to me about that?
“So it wasn’t just because you wanted to leave him?”
She shook her head, “Not at all. I loved Zack and to this day, even though I have had other boyfriends, I still do love him. He’ll always have my heart.”
I nodded. Yeah, I was confused. And Zack would definitely have to do some hardcore explaining but right now, I didn’t care. I was just glad that Shelby and I weren’t completely clueless of each other and we’d have stuff to talk about. My concern wasn’t on anything else but that moment. And how much I’d realize that it was a small world after all.