Twelve Years Ago- San Diego
He smiles at me from across the room and even his gorgeous eyes and beautiful smile can’t wipe this filthy look from my face.
I’ve been awkwardly standing here for at least two hours wondering where the fuck my sister is and if she’s ever coming back.
When my dad sent me out to California to help her get settled in her new apartment, I expected it to be everything awful and more. So far it’s been even worse than expected.
I’m at a frat party, in a disgusting house with a slew of drunken assholes, none of which I know, and my sister has disappeared with a guy she just met. I should probably be worried. That’s why I’m here. My dad sent me to be the voice of reason, to be her keeper, but I couldn’t give a shit.
“Alice needs your help,” my father said as he practically shoved me onto the airplane.
“She doesn’t need my help,” I retorted back, my teenage attitude in place. “She needs therapy.”
“Nora,” he added firmly, “Alice is trying to find herself. The death of your mother has been hard on her. Right now she needs a friend and who better to do that than her younger sister.”
“So paying for her to “find herself” in California is your way of helping her?” I asked, quoting his term back to him.
The death of our mother was hard on both of us, my father, too. It wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. She had been sick for a long time, eventually losing her life to brain cancer. It was a struggle for all of us and still is. But like everything in life, you move on, try to make the best of what you have. I have my father, a wonderful, hardworking man with a serious love for his daughters. We have never wanted for anything and while it had no adverse affects on me, it made Alice feel like the world owed her something.
Our mother died the summer Alice was to leave for college, and instead of carrying on with her life, Alice opted to wallow by taking the year off and traveling around Europe. She came home with several tattoos, a serious drinking habit and a possible STD, which she still won’t admit to.
And here we are, two years later and Alice is still attempting to move on with more tattoos, more alcohol and more boys, but now she’s in California.
She appealed to my father’s sentimental side and his inability to say no to his daughters, by telling him she wanted to spend some time living where our mother once lived. Telling him it might help her connect with her and find the strength to move on.
Alice is a master manipulator and has a flair for the dramatic, but I have to hand it to her, it’s paid off in her favor more times than not.
But here I find myself, alone, without Alice, although I’m supposed to be assisting her in “finding herself” and just the thought has me incredibly pissed off.
I have my own life and my own chance to “find myself”. I say this like I mean it, yet the idea is so fucking stupid I can’t believe I even thought it. I’m heading off to college in a few weeks, where I don’t need to find myself. I know what I want to do and I’m ready to start my life. A life that doesn’t include Alice and all her drama.
I have to stick this shit show out for one more day and then I’ll be back in Boston, living my quiet existence.
As of right now, despite the gorgeous blue eyes of this guy, I’ve had nothing to distract me from wanting to get home.
I watch him as his smile remains and he makes his way across the crowded room to where I’m standing with a beer in hand and a don’t-fuck-with-me look on my face. It begins to fade the closer he gets and I hear his slight chuckle just as he’s about to reach me.
I can’t help but smile when he stops in front of me and says, “That look is killer. I hope it’s not directed at me.”
“Nah,” I say, shaking my head, my harsh demeanor already fading fast. “It’s for someone who isn’t here and even if she were, she wouldn’t notice.”
I watch him shoot me a curious but devious look, and I immediately process what I’ve just said. I laugh out loud and he grins shamelessly at me. “Nothing like that, you pervert. My sister.”
“Oh, that’s good because I’m about to hit on you,” he says and adds a wink as he steps closer to me.
“Awfully confident for a guy who smells like he’s wearing more alcohol than he’s drunk.”
“That stings,” he says, his hands placed over his heart. “But I’m not sure you should be so particular in your choice of company, seeing as you’ve been standing here alone for the better part of two hours.”
This boy is cheeky and part of me finds him strangely endearing. He’s cute in that California surfer way. A deep tan, bleached out hair, a pair of low-slung shorts and a lovingly worn-in t-shirt. But what gets me is his perfect smile and striking blue eyes. There’s a kindness to him, an almost natural way that makes me feel instantly comfortable in his presence.
“Who says I’m looking for company?” I quip back and he laughs.
“You’re a tough one, but I’m always up for a challenge.”
“I’m not much of a fighter and if you’re looking to get laid, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“Oh, again with the witty remark,” he says as his fingers tuck a few strands of hair behind my ear. When his fingers brush my cheek, an electric shock runs through my body causing me to shudder at this touch. “Of course I’m always looking to get laid, I’m a guy, but with you, I’d rather know what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours.”
I laugh loudly at his blatant come-on. This is getting ridiculous. “Does this normally work for you?” I ask, my tone slightly mocking.
“Yes,” he responds indignantly.
“Well, you’re gonna have to step up your game if you think I’m even going to consider talking to you.”
“You’re already talking to me.”
“You’re a shithead.”
“But you like me,” he says and without thinking about it I nod my head. “Wanna get out of here?” His face is serious but welcoming, and when he takes my hand in his, weaving our fingers together, I’m certain I would go anywhere with him. The responsible side of me is screaming I shouldn’t dare leave with him, but there’s a side of me that wonders what it might feel like to be reckless, to be like Alice.
“I don’t even know you,” I answer, looking away from him before he sees my eyes and calls my bluff. My cheeks grow hot and something stirs deep inside my belly. I want to go with him.
“You know me better than anyone else at this party,” he says, tugging me toward the door and I follow willingly.
He stops on the front porch of the large Craftsman frat house before turning to me and smiling. The music is blaring, and the loud conversations make it almost impossible to hear him, so he leans in close, his hot breath tickling my neck as he says, “My name’s Elliot and I can’t believe the most beautiful girl at this party is about to leave with me.”
Shit like this doesn’t affect me, well normally it doesn’t, and I can’t figure out why I’m suddenly enchanted by this boy and his awful pick up line. “You’re full of shit,” I shout.
“Probably, but I promise we’ll have a great time.”
It’s the best offer I’ve had since I landed in San Diego and with one more day left to suffer through, I’m going to take a chance on this.
We walk down the sidewalk hand in hand, neither of us speaking, but the silence is comforting. After the loudness of the party and spending the past few days listening to Alice drone on about her wonderful life, I’m good with silence.
Elliot stops off at a food truck that’s selling the best tacos in La Jolla according to the hand-painted lettering on the side, and orders for us. Never asking what I want or if I’m even interested in eating. He says nothing to me, just smiles and pays for the order, afterward handing me a plastic cup as he tilts his head toward the beach.
It isn’t late, maybe around nine o’clock and while the beach is shrouded in a dim light, it hasn’t stopped people from continuing to enjoy the day.
We walk out onto the warm sand and I slide my flip-flops off as soon as we do. Taking them in my free hand, I follow Elliot to a quiet spot on the south end of the beach.
I sit down next to him and push my feet into the sand, warming my toes and finding comfort in the softness as it covers my feet.
He reaches into the bag and pulls out two tacos, handing one to me and keeping one for himself. Again, we eat in silence, the only sound being the waves lapping at the shore as they surge forward and then recede. It’s the most peaceful sound I’ve ever heard.
But when Elliot’s voice cuts through, melodic, almost musical, like he’s singing to me, I swallow hard and fight back the need to tell him to talk to me forever.
“I’ve never found someone who enjoys silence as much as I do,” he says and it makes me close my eyes, relishing the tone of his voice paired with the sound of the ocean.
“Sometimes there is more said through silence than you can ever say with words,” I tell him and he nods his head. “My name is Nora,” I blurt out and Elliot coughs, nearly choking on his taco. I hand him the drink we’ve already begun sharing and he takes a long sip.
“That was strangely awkward,” Elliot says, laughing.
“It was,” I add, laughing right along with him. “But I just realized I never told you my name.”
“You intrigue me, Nora. You’re like no one I’ve ever met,” he says and I feel his hand brush mine as it rests alongside my body, my fingertips tucked neatly into the sand. “The way you stood at that party, not talking to anyone, yet you looked completely comfortable, totally okay with being alone.”
“Maybe,” I say, knowing I was anything but comfortable there. Alone I’m good with, but alone in an unknown place, not so much.
He shakes his head and turns to look at me. Although it’s dark, I can picture his beautiful face and something about it makes me smile.
“So what are you doing here, Nora?” he asks, looking back out at the water. I like the way my name sounds on his lips, so pure, so simple, but like it means the world to him.
“It’s that obvious?” I ask playfully.
“Only mildly. You just seem like you belong somewhere else. Somewhere bigger than here. Somewhere you can get lost.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I question, curious as to who he thinks I am.
“You have an aura about you, like one day you’re going to do something great, something far bigger than you’d ever find in this coastal town.”
“Thank you, I think,” I say feeling oddly self-conscious. “But I’m just a simple girl from Boston with dreams of being a writer.”
Elliot lays back, his arms tucked behind his head and I find myself settling against him, my head resting in the crook of his arm. I can feel his heartbeat pulsing hard in his chest and I rest my hand gently over it.
“A simple girl couldn’t make my heart race like this,” Elliot says, his hand covering mine.
Suddenly my heart is beating in time with Elliot’s, fast and heavy, throbbing in my ears, thumping against my ribs. Almost like it’s trying to escape, like it feels too much too soon.
“I never thought I’d be swept away by a boy from California that I just met,” I murmur, keeping my voice low in hopes that he doesn’t hear the truth behind my words.
When I feel his lips touch the top of my head, my entire body covers itself in goose bumps and a shiver runs up my spine. Elliot pulls me closer, wrapping his free arm around my body. There is something far more intimate in his kiss than if we had kissed each other, than if we had had sex. It’s almost a declaration of his true feelings, of the person I realize he is. I trust him completely.
“What will you write about?” Elliot asks, his hand now stroking up and down my arm.
“I don’t know, but I feel like it’s what I’m meant to do.”
Elliot doesn’t respond immediately, but a few seconds later he asks if I have a pen. I pull one from my purse and hand it to him. He slips out from under my body, sitting up next to me; he takes my arm in his hand. His fingers are warm against my skin, his touch light, as I watch him pull the pen cap off with his teeth and drop it off to the side. He straightens my arm out, resting it on his lap; he begins to write on my forearm.
“Just in case you ever forget why you wanted to be a writer,” he says and kisses me softly on the lips.
I’ve been kissed before, hell I’ve even had sex before, but none of those times ever ignited sparks in me like the touch of Elliot’s lips to mine. And when I read what he’s written on my arm, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to walk away from him.
write what you love
“Thank you,” I whisper, my words swallowed by the sound of the waves. I rest my hand on Elliot’s cheek before kissing him again, but nothing about our kiss grows needy or desperate. The kiss is slow, our tongues entwining gently, his hands cupping my face as we separate breathlessly.
“Come on,” Elliot says, grabbing my hand and pulling me to my feet. I can hear the happiness in his voice and I know he’s smiling.
Elliot jogs down the beach, me trailing behind him giggling as I stumble trying to navigate the beach in the dark.
He stops suddenly taking me in his arms and swinging me around. My feet leaving the sand as he turns in a circle making me laugh like crazy.
My face is buried in his neck, my arms cinched tightly around his shoulders as he laughs and says, “Nora, you make me want to know everything about you. Tell me everything. Your deepest fears, your biggest regrets; I want it all.”
He smells of coconut and the ocean, a smell that will always be unique to him. I press my nose to his neck, breathing deeply and trying to remember what he smells like, what it feels like to be in his arms, what it feels like to be this happy. It’s a feeling I want to hold onto forever.
Elliot sets me down and races up the ramp to a lifeguard tower. I stand confused, looking up at the tower when he reappears with a few blankets in his arms.
“Do you want to sleep out under the stars?” he asks and while my first concern is safety, I toss the thought aside and respond, “Yes.” Not even questioning how he knew there’d be blankets in that tower or why it was open.
My father would kill me if he knew what I was doing right now. I’m supposed to be the sensible one. Fuck that, why does Alice get to have all the fun?
We hit up a convenient store just a few yards shy of the beach. Picking up snacks, drinks, a pack of gum and somehow scoring a fifth of Jack before returning to the beach.
Elliot lays one of the blankets out on the sand and we lie next to each other, cuddling close and covering ourselves with the other blanket.
We pass the bottle of Jack back and forth, each of us taking a deep swallow until I feel myself grow lightheaded.
We chat mindlessly about everything, except what normal teenagers would discuss. Left out of the conversation is where we’ll attend college in the fall and friends and high school stories. They all seem inconsequential. Only sharing our ages, Elliot being nineteen and me eighteen.
All the light has gone from beach along with the people, only a few left walking dogs or packing up. It’s well after midnight and we polish off the last of the alcohol, both of us buzzed, me more than Elliot. Giggling and joking as he talks about what it would be like to live off the grid in Alaska and me poking him in the side wondering how a boy raised at the beach would fare in that environment.
“You’ll never make it,” I say, hiccupping at the end, making Elliot let out a deep, throaty laugh. It’s sexy as hell; everything about him is. It’s his natural way that attracted me to him, the ease he has with himself.
“And you would?” he says straddling my hips and pinning my arms above my head. “You just admitted to me you’re afraid of the dark.”
Having his body looming over mine sends my mind into a tailspin, I can’t think straight, and when he leans in close, his lips brushing my neck as he whispers, “Don’t worry, I’d protect you,” I’m done for.
What happens next is completely predictable, at least in my mind it is. I lean up and kiss him hard, my hands immediately going for the button on his shorts. My fuzzy brain is trying to process exactly what is happening as my body reacts before I have time to consider what I’m about to do.
I’ve said no, plenty of times, even to my most recent boyfriend back home, who eventually dumped my ass because I wouldn’t put out. It wasn’t like I was a prude. I’ve had sex with a few guys, but here in the darkness of this beach with Elliot, it comes down to one simple thing. Desire.
Before I can shove Elliot’s shorts down his hips, he reaches into his back pocket, removing his wallet along with a condom. I push his shorts down, my skirt pushed up around my waist, as I hear the rasp of the foil packet being torn open.
At this point, too far gone to turn back, he still asks, “Are you sure?”
Knowing he needs a response, needing him to know this isn’t a drunken mistake that I will regret in an hour, I look up at him, our eyes locking, our breathing remarkably steady and although I know the risks of what I’m about to do, I hear myself breathe out the word, “Yes.”
So there is no mistake about my decision, I say it again.
“Yes,” I moan out, my hands tangled in his hair.
Fueled by lust and probably alcohol, I know I’m making a choice that can’t be taken back and in this moment, I don’t ever want to.
I feel him slowly enter me and pull out, sliding in gently once again, our breathing growing labored and our mouths exploring each other. All of it coming together beautifully and simply and so right that I know my life will be changed forever.
Afterward, we lay together, our arms wrapped around each other, the sound of the waves and the salty sea air mixed with sweat and sex, a lullaby that soothes us to nearly sleeping.
“Why does it feel this way?” I ask, my voice nearly inaudible over the sound of the ocean. “This intense.”
Without pausing to think Elliot replies with, “Because I was meant to find you.” My eyes fall closed, a loose smile on my mouth. His words far more perfect than anything that has ever been said to me. And as the stillness of the night covers us, Elliot whispers, “Good night, sweet girl.” But then among the rushing waves and as sleep tugs at me, I feel like I hear Elliot say, “I think I’m falling in love with you, Nora.”
I dream of a life with Elliot; a quiet existence of comforting silences and the peace of having someone love you.
I wake the next morning, early, the sun just beginning to rise as Elliot presses his lips to my neck. Soft, tiny kisses easing me from sleep. The murmur of his voice soothing me.
“Don’t wake up. Sleep, my beautiful girl,” he says, whispering in my ear. His fingers trail down my cheek making my eyes close. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get coffee.”
His lips touch mine in the briefest of kisses, before I mutter back, “No. Stay, please.”
“I promise, I’ll be right back. I can’t live without you, Nora.”
His words make me smile and I drift off to sleep once again.
I wake only a few minutes later to the sound of my cell phone ringing. It takes a few seconds for me to register exactly what it is. My head is clouded with the haze of sleep and a slight hangover. I fish through my purse, pulling it out, I answer with a groggy, “Hello.”
“Where the fuck are you!?” Alice screams down the phone.
“Alice…” I start, but she cuts me off.
“Get your fucking ass back here. Now! Your flight leaves in an hour.”
“Fuck!” I yell out in response, scrambling to my feet as I grab my shoes and run toward the road.
“Dad is going to fucking kill me if you miss your flight. I can’t believe you were so irresponsible.”
I can’t even respond to her. If this isn’t the pot calling the kettle black as she continues to berate me for behavior that is completely normal for her.
I hang up on her profanity-laced tirade as I run to the convenience store where Elliot and I were last night. I can’t leave without telling him goodbye.
But he isn’t there. I panic knowing Alice is waiting for me and my flight is leaving, but I can’t just leave Elliot without an explanation.
I run back to the blankets waiting for a few minutes, pacing the beach and calling his name, but I get nothing.
I can’t wait any longer. My phone ringing obsessively in my purse, the sound unnerving as the minutes tick by. And when my phone rings for the fifth time, I unwillingly leave the beach, running for Alice’s apartment.
Unable to think straight, the tears begin to fall until I’m sobbing, deep, chest constricting sobs.
I should’ve left him a note. I should have missed my flight. I should have told Alice to fuck off. So many missed opportunities.
And as I board my plane, I wonder if Elliot is hurting as much as I am. A deep stabbing pain in my chest, my heart aching as if it’s literally broken.
It never crossed my mind to tell him my last name or to ask his. Everything about him had my mind in a lustful, cloudy haze. His voice, his smell, the way he made me feel; it all made me weak, but in such a needy, desperate way. And maybe if I had just pulled it together for a second I wouldn’t have lost something that could’ve been amazing.