This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
There was always something about these kind of nights, the ones where it seemed as if time was at a standstill. Tomorrow we’d think of this night and wish we could go back to it. Just us, the stars, and the crashing of the waves.
“What are you thinking about?”
I looked over at Justin, seeing his curiosity about my silence peeking over the curliness of his brown waves. Smiling, I shook my head, knowing that I couldn’t put this moment into words. He just had to feel it.
“I’m just wishing that this night never had to end,” I finally said. My eyes watched the fire dance, warming my slightly shaking hands that held the bottle of beer my lips couldn’t seem to finish.
“I get you. It’s weird seeing this beach so empty at night. It’s hard to believe that everyone else exists right now when you have a sight like this be so quiet,” he said, breathless.
I studied his profile, looking at all the features I’d known for years. The green eyes that would no longer be able to watch the sunrises over here on the West Coast with me anymore. His hands that would no longer hold all the seashells I’d find on this beach when we’d go searching for treasure.
My throat felt swollen as I asked, “Do you think you’re ever going to come back?”
I knew I wasn’t supposed to ask, I wasn’t supposed to make it real. Our plan was to have one last moment to remember, but in this moment we were only supposed to think about tonight. Not tomorrow, when I’d still be here, drowning in these endless pits of sand while he would walk away, the sand afraid of grabbing his hand and dragging him back to me.
He glanced back at me, his eyes betraying nothing, “I don’t know. Maybe, it depends if I have time to come back.”
My ears seemed to ring, the brisk wind telling me that I shouldn’t feel hurt by his words. I looked back out to the ocean and took a drink out of the bottle, needing something to keep my fingers from trembling. We were silent for a few moments, letting the night speak for itself in this moment.
It was strange to see how beautiful tonight really was, the stars were in every constellation, trying to distract us from the path we were heading. Trying to get us to look up and move our minds closer so we could understand the things that were so far away.
“So that’s it? After tomorrow you’re gone for good? No surprise visits? You’re just gonna get up and never look back?” I willed my voice to sound hard and angry, to be accusing and to make him mad enough to look at me. To turn around and look at me and tell me that that wasn’t what he meant, to tell me that I took it the wrong way.
I got only silence.
I nodded to myself, understanding quickly what was happening. I tried to watch the waves to distract myself, to move myself away enough that I wouldn’t take it personally, but my eyes were blurry with unshed tears. I wiped at them feverishly, frustrated that this moment was ruined, that I’d look back on this moment years from now and only remember my tears. I would remember our years together as friends, best friends and as lovers. I would remember it all painfully, but I wouldn’t regret it. I would cry at the parts where I’d miss him the most, and I’d laugh at all the memories that would remind me why I loved him, but the biggest memory would be tonight. The parts where he didn’t want to come back, the tears that only I seemed to cry, and most of all the emptiness I felt knowing that the next few weeks would be the worst I’ll ever have to endure.
I turned my body towards the fire, needing some kind of warmth to get me to stand up and leave — to warm me enough that I’d have the courage to be the first one to leave. He’d be the one who broke my heart, who left without wanting to come back, the one who gave up without even trying.
But I’d be the one who left first tonight, not the one who stayed by the fire till it died out in the morning, crying over the fact that he left first. No, he wouldn’t have that.
“That’s it then? We’re done?” I asked, my voice breaking.
Silence, a curt nod, “Yup.” His voice wavered, it broke.
I nodded, let the tears slip down my face, got up, and left.