Twelve Years Ago – San Diego
I see her from across the room and she’s stunning. I watch her look around, chew her bottom lip a few times and roll her eyes, and despite the fact that she looks entirely pissed off, I decide to approach her.
She’s far more beautiful up close, and I can feel my heart begin to race as I try to come up with something to say. I take in her brown eyes and the small smattering of freckles that dot her nose. Her skin is tanned and her dark brown hair is pulled back in a loose messy knot making her face even more strikingly beautiful. But for some reason she’s alone. The most beautiful girl at this party is alone.
It’s a party I wasn’t even supposed to be at, but happened upon as I headed home from work. I stopped, filled a plastic cup from the keg in the backyard and went inside. I know a few of the guys here so it wasn’t like I was crashing the party. But as I stand here looking at her, she’s the reason I’m here. I was meant to meet her.
“That look is killer,” I say as I stop in front of her. “I hope it’s not directed at me.” With just a few simple words I watch her demeanor change. She eases and a soft smile forms on her lips.
“Nah,” she says, shaking her head, and I watch her lips as she speaks, suddenly wanting to kiss her, but she adds, “It’s for someone who isn’t here and even if she were, she wouldn’t notice.”
She’s cute, she doesn’t even realize what she said makes it sound a little dirty and I point it out to her with a devious look and a wink.
“Nothing like that, you pervert. My sister.”
“Oh, that’s good because I’m about to hit on you,” I say and add another wink as I step toward her. She shifts, moving closer to me too and it’s in that moment I notice she smells amazing, like vanilla and salty sea air. I want to take her in my arms, press my face to the curve of her neck. I’m getting far too ahead of myself and she knocks me back just slightly.
“Awfully confident for a guy who smells like he’s wearing more alcohol than he’s drunk.”
I chuckle out loud but don’t acknowledge her comment. Thanks to my asshole friend, I was doused in a couple of shots of tequila that he couldn’t quite get into his mouth. It was shortly after that that I saw her and it no longer mattered that my friend was a drunken fool who’d spilled his liquor all over me.
She’s quick and witty making her even more attractive, so I continue this playful banter we have going.
“That stings,” I say, placing my hand over my heart dramatically. “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.”
Bold of me to call her out, and in the process, out myself and the fact that I’ve been watching her from across the room. I could scare her off, make her think I’m some strange stalker weirdo rather than just a guy interested in getting to know her.
“Who says I’m looking for company?” she responds back, her tone playful, yet still somewhat hesitant.
“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,” I say as I notice a few loose strands of hair and I tuck them behind her ear. My fingers touch her cheek as I do and I feel her body shudder from my touch. It’s almost too much, and it’s then I realize I’m having the same affect on her as she is on me. But a part of me can’t allow myself to be that obvious, so I continue with the flirting. “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.”
She laughs out loud at my comment, and it’s melodic and mesmerizing. Her laugh is like nothing I’ve ever heard before and again I’m drawn to her.
“Does this normally work for you?” she asks, and I hear the sarcasm in her voice.
“Yes,” I respond, with a casual annoyance to my voice, trying to hide the fact that I’ve never so openly hit on a girl.
“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,” I say, smiling widely as she nods her head in agreement. It takes everything in me not to cheer out loud at my victory of winning this girl over.
“Wanna get out of here?” I ask, reaching for her hand and lacing my fingers with hers. Her hand is soft and warm; it feels tiny in mine, but somehow completely perfect.
“I don’t even know you,” she answers, looking away from me, but I know she wants to go. She’d have walked away already if she didn’t want to.
“You know me better than anyone else at this party,” I tell her, giving her hand a little tug and she begins to follow me toward the door.
I stop on the front porch but the music is loud and the conversations of the people are even louder, so I take it as an opportunity to get closer to her. I lean in, my mouth next to her ear, my heart racing as I take a deep breath. She smells amazing and it’s hard to get the words out. She has my thoughts a fucking mess, yet I manage to tell her my name and what comes next is the honest fucking truth. “My name’s Elliot and I can’t believe the most beautiful girl at this party is about to leave with me.”
My pick up line is the fucking worst, but I can see it’s worked despite what she says next.
“You’re full of shit,” she yells, but there’s a smile plastered on her face. A huge grin that makes her eyes practically glow and her nose wrinkle up. I want to kiss her nose, her lips; I want to know everything about her. And she’s completely right about me. I am full of shit, but whatever I’m doing is working and I just want to get her alone.
“Probably, but I promise we’ll have a great time,” I say and we walk away from the party hand in hand.
I’m not even certain where to take her other than the beach. It will be quiet and secluded by now, giving us time to talk. I can’t take her back to my apartment, at this hour, it will be filled with people, especially girls and that’s the last thing I want to deal with. My roommates would definitely not understand my sudden attraction to this girl that has nothing to do with wanting to get laid.
She’s quiet, but it’s a companionable silence and I love it. I love the way her hand feels in mine and the way she walks next to me, how she can say not a damn word, but it speaks volumes about her feelings.
I stop off at a food truck I eat at regularly and order for us. I don’t ask her what she wants because the tacos are the best thing they have on the menu. I grew up on this food truck, eating here with my father when I was younger, spending nights out with my friends and ordering food, and now I’m sharing it with her. She’s the first girl I’ve ever wanted to tell about my life, to share the things I love with, and I’ve only just met her.
I hand her a plastic cup but say nothing, and she takes it with a small smile on her face. Carrying the bag in my other hand, I take her hand and nod my head toward the beach.
This place is home to me and despite the darkness and the silence, I find comfort in all of it. I slip off my shoes when we hit the sand and she does the same. Her hand dropping from my grasp for the first time since leaving her to order the food and I immediately miss the contact.
Again in silence, we walk to the south end of the beach, near my tower where I’ve been working for the last year. It should be my career, a beach lifeguard for Orange County, just like my father and sister, but I plan to finish school, leave the beach and find something that belongs to me. Something different and new, something that makes me want to be a better person. Maybe this girl next to me is the only reason I need.
We sit down on the sand and I watch her wriggle her toes into the sand, burying them in its warmth. I look at her and neither of us speaks, there’s so much beauty in everything around us including the silence.
I reach into the bag and pull out the two tacos, I hand one to her and keep one for myself. She eats without ever questioning and we listen to the sound of the waves and the stillness of the beach.
I’m the first to speak and it breaks through the silence with almost too much force, but when I watch her turn to face me, her eyes focused on mine, her face intently listening, I realize she wants me to speak.
“I’ve never found someone who enjoys silence as much as I do,” I say, and she closes her eyes and slips her hand onto my knee. I swallow hard at her touch, which is now fucking with my head and my ability to speak.
“Sometimes there is more said through silence than you can ever say with words,” she says and I nod my head. I couldn’t agree with her more and right now I need the silence to gather myself, the warmth of her hand on my knee is almost too much. “My name is Nora,” she suddenly blurts out and I cough loudly, my taco getting stuck in my throat. She hands me the cup and I take a long drink as I watch her take her hand off my knee and push her fingertips into the sand.
“That was strangely awkward,” I respond, laughing.
“It was,” she says, laughing, the sound once again affecting me. “But I just realized I never told you my name.”
“You intrigue me, Nora. You’re like no one I’ve ever met,” I tell her as I lean back, my hand coming to rest next to hers. The tips of my fingers brush the top of her hand and I leave them there. I could’ve watched her all night. She was just so different from anyone else at the party. “The way you stood at that party, not talking to anyone, yet you looked completely comfortable, totally okay with being alone.”
“Maybe,” she says, but she looks away from me slightly and I reach up and tuck her hair behind her ear again. My touch brings her back to me and I can see her beautiful eyes trail over my face and I wonder what she’s thinking.
“So what are you doing here, Nora?” I ask, looking out onto the vast darkened ocean.
“It’s that obvious?” she asks, as she giggles a little.
“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?” she questions with an almost insulted tone, and I worry I’ve upset her.
“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,” she says and I notice her shy away from me. She’s nervous, but in a cute way and I find it adorable and sexy all at the same time. “But I’m just a simple girl from Boston with dreams of being a writer.” She’s anything but a simple girl, I think to myself.
I lay back on the sand, tucking my arms behind my head, almost an invitation for her to join me and she does. She nestles herself against my body, her head fitting perfectly along the crook of my arm. My heart is beating hard against my ribs and she rests her hand right over it.
“A simple girl couldn’t make my heart race like this,” I admit, astounded by my honesty, and I cover her hand with mine. Is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve just met?
“I never thought I’d be swept away by a boy from California I just met,” she whispers, her voice low and nearly lost among the sounds of the ocean. But I catch it and I hear so much truth in what she says. She feels it too.
I kiss the top of her head, my lips lingering there and she shivers from my touch. I pull her closer, wrapping my free arm around her small frame. There’s an intimacy with Nora I’ve never felt with anyone else. A simple gesture, just the touch of her hand makes me want to be near her…always.
“What will you write about?” I ask, genuinely interested in what she has to say.
“I don’t know, but I feel like it’s what I’m meant to do.”
I few seconds later I ask her for a pen and she sits up, grabbing one from her purse. I want her to remember this moment, I want her to remember what she loves, so taking her hand, I rest her arm across my lap. My fingers are softly holding her wrist in place as I pull the pen cap off with my teeth and spit it off to the side. I look up at her, her eyes intense as she waits, and I begin writing.
“Just in case you ever forget why you wanted to be a writer,” I murmur, my lips just inches from hers and I lean in and kiss her gently.
It’s fucking insane the connection I have to her the minute my lips touch hers. It’s powerful and while I would normally be thinking about how I could get her pants off, that’s the last thing on my mind. I just want to be close to her. I want to be with her forever.
When we separate, she looks down at what I’ve written on her arm:
write what you love
“Thank you,” she whispers, her hand resting on my cheek as she leans in and kisses me again. It’s as intense as the first time, but neither of us takes it any further. For some reason, I feel like I have the rest of my life to be with her, but tonight I’ll learn everything about her.
“Come on,” I say, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet. I’ve never been happier than I am right now.
I’m running down the beach toward my tower with Nora lagging behind me. She’s giggling and it’s an amazing sound that stops me suddenly. I take her into my arms, hers wrapped tightly around my shoulders as I spin her around just listening to the melodic sound of her laughing.
The warmth of her skin is pressed against my neck and her lips press small soft kisses between each of her giggles. I can’t get enough of her.
“Nora, you make me want to know everything about you. Tell me everything. Your deepest fears, your biggest regrets. I want it all.”
I set her down and run up the ramp to my tower, leaving her alone on the beach for a few seconds. I grab some blankets even though I know what I’m about to ask her is a long shot. I’m willing to try anything just to keep her near for as long as possible.
“Do you want to sleep out under the stars?” I ask when I return and without even a breath in between she immediately answers, “Yes.”
Since we’re in for the night, we head over to the convenience store a few yards from the beach and pick up some things. A buddy of mine is working the counter and he slips me a fifth of Jack and gives a little nod toward Nora, as she looks at a magazine. She’s stunning even in the hazy lights of the store and when she looks up and smiles at me, I nearly fall to my knees. She makes me weak.
When we get back to the beach, I lay the blanket on the sand and Nora sits down as I take a seat next to her. Covering our legs with the other blanket, she moves close to me and I wrap my arm around her.
I’m the first to take a drink from the bottle and I pass it to Nora and watch her shoot back as much as me. We continue to pass it back and forth, each of us taking long swallows until I feel it go to my head. Nora is drunker than me and I hear it in the way she speaks, carelessly and effortlessly.
She talks and I listen as she tells me she’s afraid of the dark and that she’s eighteen years old and she loves the smell of coconut. She could never have an abortion but she’s pro-choice and she wants to live all over the world and travel and see the Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef, eat in the cafes of Amsterdam and walk the streets of London. She wants to get married to someone who loves silence as much as her and she wonders if she could live without human contact. I memorize everything about her, committing everything she loves to memory, everything she’s told me is important and wonderful and perfect just like her.
The beach is quiet now. There’s no one left but us and we finish off the last of the Jack. She’s laughing at me now and it’s sexy as fucking hell. I tell her I want to live off the grid in Alaska and she pokes my side, teasing me, telling me a California native has no place in the tundra.
“You’ll never make it,” she says, hiccupping at the end, letting me know just how drunk she is, but she doesn’t seem to care. I love her casualness, the relaxed comfort she has by my side. I laugh back at her comment playfully, but decide to take things a little further.
“And you would?” I say, challenging her as I straddle her hips and pin her arms above her head. “You just admitted to me you’re afraid of the dark.”
As she’s pinned beneath my body, her arms stretched above her head and her dark brown hair spilling out around her, I’m certain I’ve never felt this way about anyone. My attraction to her is beyond words and I’m overcome with a need to protect her, to keep her safe and to make her mine.
Nora tilts her head up, exposing her neck to me, she closes her eyes and I lean down pressing my lips to her neck as I trail kisses along to her ear, I whisper, “Don’t worry, I’d protect you.”
I don’t expect what happens next as Nora’s lips crash into mine, bruising me with their force, but fuck if I don’t want her just as badly. Her hands are on my shorts, undoing the button and the touch of her fingers against my skin makes me feel like I might explode. I’m hard as a rock now and I know there’s not a chance she can’t feel what she’s doing to me. I shift nervously, but she pulls me close, her mouth colliding with mine once again. She slides her hands under my shirt, dragging her nails down my back making me gasp out loud at her touch. I want to be as close to her as possible, so I slip my hands under her shirt, caressing her skin as I kiss her neck, tasting her, taking in every inch of her. I want her so fucking bad and with each moan that leaves her lips, it drives me closer to her. I need to be inside her.
Nora’s hands return to my shorts and I stop her before she can push them down. We’re obviously both drunk and I need to be certain this is what she wants before we go any further. I pull my wallet from my back pocket and the condom that happens to be stashed in there. It’s cliché as fuck, but I’m grateful it’s there.
“Are you sure?” I ask her before opening the condom. I need her to be sure. I don’t want this to be something she regrets later. It’s something I will remember the rest of my life and I want her to feel the same way.
I’ve slept with more girls than I care to admit to, but right now Nora is the only one who matters. I wait for her response, my heart beating recklessly in my chest, my breathing erratic as I hear her breathe out the word, “Yes.”
Her hand slips into my shorts and my breath catches in my throat as she wraps her soft hand around my dick and begins stroking gently. I’m going to lose it soon, so I remove her hand and replace it with the condom.
She moans loudly and when she exhales, she says, “Yes,” once again. There’s no mistaking that we both want this. I look down and our eyes lock and I see in her eyes all the desire and need that I’m feeling.
Her hands tangle in my hair as I slide mine underneath her, undoing her bra. Right now I wish we were somewhere else. I want to see her beautiful body, I want to take her in and taste her and worship her.
I slide her panties to the side, my fingers trailing down the inside of her thigh as I slowly enter her. I groan out loud at the feeling of being inside her and I pull out and slide back in a second time.
“Fuck,” I moan and Nora claws at my back, her hips grinding against mine as if she needs more. “Slowly, Nora,” I murmur, needing to savor every second with her.
“I need you, Elliot,” she says, breathlessly, her chest rising and falling rapidly beneath me.
I begin to move, slowly at first, but as the need takes over I find myself driving into her, each moan that falls from her lips makes me even harder. Her legs are wrapped around my hips as I move faster. I reach between us, my fingers finding her because I’m not going to last much longer. And in that second, we come together.
I’m exhausted, collapsing next to her; I cover us both with the blanket and listen to quiet stillness of the night. The stars dotting the blackened sky as Nora breathes softly next to me.
“Why does it feel this way?” she whispers, her head resting on my chest as I run my fingers through her hair. “This intense.”
I don’t even have to think about my answer. I’ve known it since I first saw her at the party, I knew it when she left with me and I still know it. “Because I was meant to find you,” I tell her, completely certain about my words. Nora is the girl I’ve been looking for. She was always supposed to be mine.
Her eyes close and her breathing slows, and when I think she’s asleep, I whisper, “I think I’m falling in love with you, Nora.”
I fall asleep wondering if you can truly fall in love at nineteen with someone you just met.
The answer is yes.
The sun is just beginning to rise when I wake up and find Nora still asleep beside me. I’m smiling so much my cheeks hurt. I guess I thought she might have disappeared before morning, that maybe just maybe I dreamed the whole thing. I’ve never met someone who makes me feel this way, like I want to be around her always.
Soon the beaches will be filled with tourists and surfers, lifeguards and people walking their dogs. I need to get Nora back to my apartment, but I’ll let her sleep a little longer. We still have some time.
“Don’t wake up. Sleep, my beautiful girl,” I say, whispering in her ear as her eyes flutter open. I run my fingers down her cheeks and her eyes close slowly, but a small smile tugs at her lips. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get coffee.”
I kiss her softly as she mutters, “No. Stay, please.” It’s a plea that makes it so fucking difficult to walk away from her, but I need her to know this isn’t just a one-time thing for me. I need to show her that even though we just met, she means everything to me.
“I promise, I’ll be right back. I can’t live without you, Nora.”
I jog away from her, looking back a few times until she’s no longer in view. I hit up the convenience store, grabbing two cups of coffee and two donuts. I’ve had a huge fucking smile on my face since the moment I met her and I’m sure it’s not going away anytime soon. I know there’s a small flower stand about one block over, the opposite direction of where I left Nora on the beach, but I’ll make a quick stop and get back to her.
I pick up a bouquet of daisies and quickly make my way toward where we spent the night. As soon as I hit the sand, I scan the beach for her, for the place where I put down the blankets but there’s nothing. No sign of her. Just the empty blankets.
I feel my heart stop in my chest, a dull ache of panic takes over. I call her name, my voice strained as I call again and again.
I search the blanket for a note, something to tell me where she went, why she left, but I still come up empty handed.
Maybe it wasn’t what I made it out to be. Maybe I fucked up along the way, drove her away. Maybe it was just a one-night stand. But I know that isn’t true. There was something between us and there still is.
I need to find her.
I stand staring out into the vast emptiness of the ocean, my chest tight and my hand clenched around the flowers. This isn’t over for me, and after what we shared over the last few hours; it wasn’t over for her either.
The flowers fall from hand, the waves pulling them out into the ocean. They disappear from my life just like she did.