Moolight cast a romantic glow across the sand, the water, the man.
“Adam, where are we going?” I was half-walking, half-running beside him, carrying a pair of gold sandals in one hand. There was nowhere special on this stretch of beach, but he seemed to have a goal in mind. His gaze was serious and focused ahead.
I was a little out of breath as the humidity and awkward pace strangled the romance of the night and made it hard to breathe. It frizzed my hair as well, but I was trying not to think about that. No matter how great I may look at the beginning, it never lasted long: my make-up somehow disappeared; my hair flattened or frizzed; I’d get something on my clothes. Adam, on the other hand, always looked impeccable.
I had tried so hard tonight. My make-up had been perfect, dramatic eyes since they were my best feature; my hair straightened since I hadn’t known we were coming to the beach; my favorite jeans and fitted, turquoise sweater. But nature didn’t care how hard I’d tried; I only hoped Adam did.
He abruptly stopped walking, face me and took both my hands in his. “I have to talk to you about something.”
I ignored the alarm bells going off in my head and allowed my heart to leap with hope. Finally, after three years of waiting, this was it.
“Yes?” I asked.
He cleared his throat, looking at the sand. I waited for him to get down on one knee.
“I’m in love with Maggie.”
The smile froze. The crashing of the waves amplified in my ears. I pulled away from him, backed up a few steps, tripped and fell. I started laughing. “Right. Very funny.”
He reached down to help me up, but I scuttled backward like a crab.
“But you don’t even like Maggie.” I stood on my own, backing even further away from him. Maggie, I thought, fucking Maggie.
“Well, I didn’t.” He looked away and put his hands in his pockets. The moonlight reflected brightly off his hair and chiseled jawline. “But we’ve been talking, going to lunch, and I’ve gotten to know her better. We actually have a lot in common.”
I felt nauseated and swiped at the sand on my butt to distract myself, focusing on my task as if getting every grain of sand off my hands was a matter of life and death. “You have a lot in common.”
“And you’re in love with her.” He’d never said those words to me, but I had been confident he felt them.
“Yes, I’m in love with her.”
“Okay.” I had nothing to say. What could I say?
I turned away from him and started walking in the direction we had come from.
Lightning suddenly split the sky, and it started to rain. Perfect.
I kept walking. Blocking him out. Blocking his voice out. Pain roared through me as his words sank in, making me want to double over to keep it from tearing me apart.
“Wait.” He grabbed my arm, the rain making it slick, easy to pull away and keep walking.
I wanted to stab him in the heart and push him into the ocean, make my pain disappear with his body.
“Wait.” He stood in front of me. I walked around him, staring straight ahead.
No, I wanted to kill her, make her disappear so he’d have to turn to me.
God, that was so pathetic.
“Kallie.” He was behind me now and hooked his arm around my waist, holding me in place.
I stopped, the tears unstoppable now and mingling with the rain on my face.
He held me close to his body, and I savored the feeling, hating myself, hating him, hating her, hurting so badly that I didn’t know what to do, wanting to get away from the pain.
“Kallie,” he whispered.
I slid through his arms to fall on my hands and knees, burying my fingers in the wet sand, looking for comfort.
He kneeled by my side. “I’m sorry.”
I snorted out a laugh and tipped my head up toward the rain, the cool water falling harder, soaking me, soaking him. I felt weak and tired and sad and hurt and angry. The emotion built on years of friendship, of loving him, of doing everything for him that he ever asked, of dreaming of a future, surged through my body; the hope I’d lived on washed away by his words, his pitying tone of voice, and replaced with shame.
I cut off my emotional circus and faced him, looking him in the eyes. “Really? You’re sorry? For what?”
“For hurting you.”
“Gotcha.” I looked away and pushed myself up.
“I want to love you, but I don’t. I’m sorry.”
I walked blindly in the direction we had come from, or at least I hoped I was.
“I care about you, Kallie. I don’t want it to end this way.”
Why did he keep talking? I needed him to stop talking.
“I want to go home,” I stated.
He trailed behind me, now blessedly silent.
I kept walking and hoped frantically that his car would come into view. I didn’t think we’d walked that far. I finally spotted it – standing alone in the parking lot under a light, looking like salvation. I hurried up the hill, not going all the way to the steps but taking the more expedient hill, stumbling and falling, getting up and moving, dirt now plastering my wet pants and hands. I didn’t care.
He hesitated to let me in the car as I stood facing the passenger door, focused on it as if I could will it open. Why wasn’t he unlocking the car? Why was he just standing there? I couldn’t ask because my throat was tight with emotion, and I did not want to break down.
Maybe he didn’t want me to get his car because I was plastered with mud and dripping water. Tough. The lock clicked open. I glared at the hand that reached out to open the door for me and practically tore the door off the hinges opening it myself.
The beginnings of guilt-ridden explanations choked off and angry words held back hovered and swam in the car between us, but nothing was said.
An eternity passed and then my apartment building came into view.
I walked majestically, at least in my own mind, to the building, but, once out of sight, I leaned against the first wall I reached and sobbed, my body trying to shake itself apart. When the tsunami stopped, I stumbled to my own apartment, my own door, and privacy. I stripped off my clothes, curled into a ball, and held myself tightly in the dark.
Cold, shivering, holding every cell together with my arms and sheer willpower, I stayed that way through the dark hours. I was brittle with the pain which was too deep now to even cry. My head pounded, my throat was tight, and time became meaningless.
My swollen, tired, burning eyes noticed light filtering in the bedroom window. I forced myself up and into a warm shower. The warm water thawed everything, and I melted to the floor.
He loves me.