Chapter Forty-Three: Dawn

June 17th

I'm currently on a plane to Stoneybrook. Jeff is asleep (he must have gotten NO sleep last night), so I thought I'd get out my journal. I don't need my little brother reading my less than regular exploits. I've hardly written at all in the past few weeks. I've been so busy.

Busy with Justin mostly. And the end of school, but it's so relaxed that I skipped a couple days. Not full days, just classes I don't need. Amazingly enough, I got all A's in PE. I think I've attended maybe two PE classes since January.

In the past two weeks, Justin and I have been to the beach three or four times, and we keep hanging out in Hollywood and going to clubs and stuff in LA (he's been sneaking me in, which is fun). For some reason, Dad hasn't had any problem with this. Probably because it's not like Justin and I are dating, and he likes Justin. And he doesn't know that I've been sneaking into clubs, but that's really not the point.

Justin and I keep doing these things because, while I'll be back at the end of the summer, he's probably never coming back.

Yesterday was the hardest day. It was our last day together. I went over early, around noon. There's not much sense in going over earlier, since he sleeps so late. Ever since he didn't have classes anymore, he's become a regular bum. Okay, I know he's packing and stuff, but he pretty much doesn't leave the house unless I drag him out.

I didn't bother knocking or anything. He never locks the doors and he's pretty much always expecting me. Today wasn't an exception. Justin was standing in the kitchen fixing breakfast. Pancakes and sausage.

He looked over his shoulder. "Hey! Want some food?"

"No, thanks, I ate earlier." I was slightly nauseated by the smell of sausage anyway.

"So," he said, sitting down across from me at the table with his plate. "What's the plan for today?" He drowned his poor pancakes in sugary syrup. He must have noticed some sort of odd look on my face. "After you throw up from watching me eat breakfast, I mean."

I laughed. "I don't know. The beach?"

Justin's eyes lit up. "No! I know what we're doing. Are you wearing a bathing suit?"

I nodded.

"You know my neighbors with mister sexy pool boy?"

I nodded again.

"They're out of town for the week. We can use their pool."

"We're allowed to use their pool, or we just happen to be using it while they're away?"

Justin shrugged. "They didn't say I couldn't use it."

"But they didn't say that you could."

"Right."

"That sounds sneaky."

"It is," he said, smiling.

I grinned. "I like it."

He laughed. "I have been a horrible influence on you, do you know that? When I met you, you were a nice, normal girl, and now you're..."

"Yes?" I prompted, waiting for something good.

"Not so normal." He shrugged. "Not that your eating habits were ever normal." He speared a sausage with his fork and waved it at me.

"Gross!" I said, laughing. "So we're going to climb the fence and use their pool?"

"Of course not, that would be undignified. We're going to pick the lock on their gate." Justin shoved a mouthful of saturated pancake into his mouth.

"Do you know how to do that?" I asked. I couldn't think of a time when I had picked a lock, though it was possible, from all of the detective "work" I had done in Stoneybrook. I'm pretty sure I COULD if the situation called for it.

"No. Come on, Dawn, I've lived in upper middle class suburbia all my life. When the hell would I have needed to pick a lock?"

"Then I'll do it," I said.

Justin grinned. "I AM a bad influence!"

"You are!" I giggled and decided not to bring up being a teenage detective. Justin wouldn't think it was silly to stupid, but he would certainly tease me about it. I didn't want to bring that up on our last day together.

Justin went upstairs after he was finished eating and changed into swimming trunks and brought a couple of towels down with him.

We went outside, and I paused. "Do they have any large dogs?"

"Nope. A chatty little rat of a thing that they took with them," Justin replied.

"What about the pool boy?"

"Bribe him with a threesome."

I laughed, but I couldn't help but blush a little. I picked the lock with a bobby pin that Justin had (why Justin had a bobby pin, I don't know). It was a lot easier than I was expecting it to be.

"They need a better lock," Justin said. "I should let them know."

"And tell them how you figured it out?"

"No one ever has to know."

We went into their backyard. Justin's neighbors had put a tarp over the pool, but otherwise, they left it in perfect use. We pulled back the tarp.

Justin tossed me a bottle of sunscreen. "We want a healthy California tan, not skin cancer."

"Definitely," I agreed. I plopped down on my towel and started spreading sunscreen over my arms.

"Remember this time last year?" Justin asked.

"What happened last year?"

"When you're friends... well, are you still friends with any of them? Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Claudia. It's almost to the day that they visited."

I raised my eyebrows. "That's right. I'm still friends with Stacey and Claudia, and it's good thing, or it would be a horrible summer." I paused and looked at him. "How do you remember exactly what day it was?"

"That was the same day I came out," he replied, shrugging.

"A lot has changed since then," I said.

He nodded and sat down next to me on the towel. "Probably for the best."

"I hope so. I'm really not looking forward to the summer. I don't want to spend the whole time battling with Mary Anne, avoiding her in my own house."

"You could always try and make up with her," Justin said.

"Yeah, and Hell could freeze over. I guess I'm probably going to end up hanging out with Stacey and Claudia all summer. I hope that works out okay. I hope that things don't go crazy with them, because I don't think I could handle it."

"It'll be fine," he said soothingly. He took the sunscreen from me and spread it across my back.

"It'll probably go crazy."

He laughed. "Probably."

I decided that this conversation was going downhill fast. I didn't want to think about the summer to come. At least for me. So I cleared my throat and said, "You have to be looking forward to staying in Oakland for the summer."

"Yeah, it's going to be really busy. I'll be spending most of my time trying to get settled there, and once I do, it'll be time to start school. School doesn't start until the middle of September, though. So I have plenty of time to spend with my family. That's weird. My family. I don't know the last time I could really say that and mean it." Justin looked uncomfortable. "Come on, let's swim."

So we did. We swam and splashed around. I think I prefer the beach, the sand, the ocean, but the privacy was nice. On summer days like that, right when Vista and Palo High have both let out, the beach is packed.

Especially because of what happened next. I REALLY preferred the privacy right then.

We were in the shallow section of the pool and Justin took my hand under the water. I looked at him, and we sort of stared at each other for a minute and waded a little closer to me and kissed me.

I don't know what Justin and I have been the last couple of weeks. We haven't been dating, there's no point in dating, since I'm going to be gone the rest of the summer, and when I come back, he'll be gone, but we've been something.

Either way, he kissed me, and I kissed him back.

"I'm going to miss you," he said, running his fingers through my hair.

"I'm going to miss you too," I said. "I don't know what I'm going to do when I get back. I kind of lost my friends."

"Nah, you just lost your way. You know you'll always have Ducky and Amalia. You're a lovely girl, Dawn-"

I giggled.

Justin smiled. "You can always make more friends. You should check out the GSA, they're a great bunch of people. I could shove the sports program on you. I don't think you have anything to worry about when it comes to friends. It was selfish of me to hog you all to myself the last few months."

"It's okay. I didn't mind. And those are good ideas, I think I will start going tot he GSA in the fall."

"You know that Kevin would do anything in his power to have you on Student Activities."

I laughed. "As long as I don't vote for Under the Sea of bright orange flyer's, right?"

"You have no control over that, it's all the seniors. If it sucks, you can blame it all on the seniors. Though Kevin will be a senior, so you know everything will be classy and perfect."

"I guess I shouldn't be worried," I said.

Justin shook his head and kissed me again. "No, you shouldn't. Not at all."

We got out of the pool and dried in the sun, chatting back and forth about nothing. We were always really good at that, and it killed a couple hours. We pulled the tarp back over the pool and went into Justin's yard. I had my towel wrapped around my waist, and Justin had his around his shoulders. We were holding hands as we walked around to the front of his house.

There was a car I'd never seen before parked in the driveway. It was shiny silver, and looked brand new. The only cars I'd seen nicer than that were driven by Maggie's parents. When they drove and didn't take a limo.

"Justin-"

"Sh-t," he mumbled. "My mom."

"Your mom? I thought-"

"That's what I thought too. If you want to go home-"

"No," I said, cutting HIM off this time. "I'll go with you."

We went inside and I realized that I'd never met Justin's mother. She was standing in the kitchen (that was a mess, Justin hadn't bothered to clean up from breakfast), looking annoyed.

"What are you doing here?" Justin asked.

"It's my house, I was making sure you weren't taking everything," Mrs. Randall replied.

"What do you care?"

"I care because I bought everything in this house. There are things I want out of it."

"I'll be out of it soon enough," Justin snapped. I'd never heard him sound so nasty in my life.

"That's not what I meant. I want my dishes, I want my living room set, and the dining room set."

"I already packed most of the dishes, sorry. But the furniture you can have," Justin said. "I'm taking the downstairs TV, the one in my room is shit."

They sort of sounded like my parents splitting up all of their belongings after their divorce.

Mrs. Randall sighed. "Justin, this isn't what I wanted out of this. I hoped that we could-"

"Hug and it'll all be better?"

"Well, no. I thought we could be civilized."

I squeezed Justin's hand, and he sort of jumped. I think he had forgotten I was there. He looked at me, and I tried to send a sympathetic face. Something that said "At least give her a chance."

He sighed, but he didn't listen, or maybe he didn't read it correctly. "Mom, we've passed that place. We passed it a long time ago. I don't know why couldn't just let me leave in peace. We're not going to make up, and no matter why you showed up here, I can't really forgive you for anything. The least I can do is hope that you respect that. All I ask of you right now, is that you leave."

She stared at him, and I couldn't blame her. Justin had told me the odds and ends of his relationship, or lack of, with his mother, and I knew that it wasn't good. I don't know why she was there, maybe to make amends. She probably expected him to yell at her. It had to be even worse to hear him speak to her calmly, like an adult.

Justin stared back at her, but he didn't say anything.

She walked past him, and as she did, she paused, and said, "You've become an adult and I can't take any credit for it." And then she left. I could hear her sniffling as she did.

"You just made your mother cry," I said. I didn't mean it as a judgment, it was a statement of fact. In case he wasn't aware.

Justin let go of my hand and sat down at the kitchen table. "I know. It's not the first time." He was quiet for a moment and slammed the flat of his hand against the table. "Why the hell did she show up here? What did she think it was going to prove? It did nothing, she made her effort too damn late!"

I sat down next to him. I didn't know what to say, I'd never been in a situation where my parents just didn't care. My parents live on opposite ends of the country and no matter where I am, I know that they care. Even my step-parents, I know that they care. I can't even imagine what it's been like for Justin.

"Maybe I should go," I said softly.

"No," he said, sounding normal for the first time. "Don't. It's your last day here. After the airport tomorrow-"

"Oh, Justin, you shouldn't come to the airport," I said.

"I shouldn't?"

"With my family, and it'll be embarrassing. Besides, the last time I see you, I want to kiss you, and I'm not going to do that in front of my father. And it's going to be like six in the morning, and I know you. You're going to be going to bed at six in the morning. Let's just do this now, and do this here."

He nodded. "Okay."

We didn't do much for the rest of the day. We went over to my house and Justin helped me pack. I had everything organized, just not in my suitcase. It's so hard to pack for two months.

"I got you something," Justin said. "Hang on a second, it's out in my car."

I waited, bouncing on my bed, unable to contain my excitement. What could Justin have gotten for me?

He came back in with a brown paper bag. "It's guy wrapping."

I laughed and took it. I opened the bag and it was a brand new journal. Most of my journals are notebooks. I have a nice one that the BSC (when we were the BSC) gave me when I spent some time in California before I moved out here for good.

"Is this leather?" I asked, fingering the cover.

"Yeah, it was the only thing that wasn't cheesy. I figured, I was the one who spent the money on it. It's not like you bought it. And you can tell everyone that I bought it for you, and you're not promoting the death of cows at all," Justin said. He sat next to me on the bed. "I wanted to get you something nice."

"You shouldn't have," I said. "It's not like I got you something."

"That's not true," he said. He leaned over and kissed me. It was such a nice kiss and then we got interrupted. Thankfully, it was by Carol.

"Hey, guys- whoooooops!"

We pulled away pretty quickly.

I coughed. "Yeah?"

"It's time for dinner, if Justin wants to stay, that's fine," Carol said. She gave me a great big wink and left.

"Well, that was humiliating," I said.

"Not that bad," Justin replied. He took my hand. "Can I stay for dinner?"

"Definitely."

After dinner, Justin and I stood outside. I was leaning against his car, and he was leaning against me. I could practically hear Carol shoo-ing Dad away from the window. Seriously, what were we going to do outside in plain view of all of our neighbors.

"It's weird to think that when I get back, you won't be here," I said. "You won't be here, Sunny won't be here."

"Sunny?" Justin asked. "Are you worried about Sunny?"

"I am. I've spent the last two years doing nothing but worry about Sunny. It'll be kind of nice to not have that worry anymore. I can concentrate on my life instead of making sure she's not dead or screwing up her's. Not that I did a very good job of it."

"It was never your job to make sure Sunny didn't screw up," Justin said.

"I promised her mother I'd look after her," I said.

"Then shame on Mrs. Winslow," he said, and I nearly gasped. "She should have never given you that responsibility. Sunny's life is Sunny's life and you can't control it. She would have rebelled even more if you had tried. Really, in the last six months where you and Sunny haven't really been friends, has your life been any harder?"

"Not really," I admitted.

Justin took me in his arms and changed the subject. "It's going to be weird that tomorrow you won't be here. I'm going to miss you."

"I'll miss you too," I said.

We kissed, and then Justin got in his car. We didn't say good-bye. He waved and I waved back and went inside.

"You okay?" Carol asked.

"I'm fine," I replied. It was the truth.

I finished packing and went to bed.

It's a long flight to Stoneybrook. It's going to be a long summer.

But I'll make it.