(Note: Just to clear up any confusion, there was a chapter posted before this. Make sure you read it! :D)
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When I first came to Mineral Town, all I'd wanted to do was leave. So it felt strange that now there was something to miss about this place.
Popuri hugged me when we reached the end of the dock. Though things had gotten better between us, they weren't perfect—but I hoped that time could heal at least most of the wounds.
"I'll miss you," she said to me, smiling sadly. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing that you'll be missed.
"I'll miss you guys, too," I said, glancing at Rick with a small smile. She leaned towards me again, and I thought she was going to give me another hug, but instead she whispered in my ear.
"I think you're good for him."
She pulled back, beaming at me. I blinked, at first not understanding, but as soon as I did I felt the blush form on my face. "Um, thanks, Popuri." She nodded and then, sensing Rick and I wanted a few moments alone, strolled away casually, standing out of earshot.
"Thanks for all your help," he said, with a timid smile.
"Well, it's not like I had a choice…" I bit my lip, laughing nervously. "Um, but. I was really glad to be here with you. And Popuri. And…you know…" I trailed off, wishing I knew what to say. The ferry would be leaving soon.
Rick took my hand, and I stared at my fingers wrapped in his warm, callused ones, and I wondered how I could have made it all summer without really seeing him until now, the end, when it was too late.
"We can take it slow," he said, still holding onto my hand. "And we can write. And I'll call you, if you like. I mean, unless you don't want to, which is fine—"
"No, no, I want to," I interrupted eagerly, nodding my head. "I'll call you, too."
"Good," he answered, looking relieved. "And besides, you'll come back next year, right?"
I smiled and nodded again. "Yeah, I will."
"Good. Well…" And I watched him tilt his head towards me and he kissed me. I kissed him back, trying to say with the kiss what I felt shy about putting into words. I'll miss you, but I'll come back, that kiss said. I'll see you again. And I want to see you again.
Then there was the sound of Popuri clearing her throat, and I smiled, letting my lips hover against his for one extra moment. Then I hoisted my bags onto my shoulders.
"Bye," I said, the sadness of it all finally hitting me.
"Bye," he replied, nodding at me before turning around to join Popuri, who was waiting for him halfway down the dock. I watched them walk away and then turned back the ferryboat. I stood there for a few more moments, still not ready to board although I was the only passenger and I was probably pissing off whoever drove the ferry.
"Claire, wait!" I turned to look at who was calling me, almost relieved for another delay. It was Kai who was jogging towards me.
"Hey," I said to him, surprised. I had stopped going to the beach at night all together in the last few days; I'd felt drained of energy, and besides, now that Rick and I were…well, whatever we were, it felt wrong to spend so much time with Kai.
"I just wanted to give you this," he said, panting slightly, and then held out a flip-flop. My flip-flop. The flip-flop.
"Is this a trick?" I asked suspiciously, not moving to take the shoe immediately.
He chuckled and shook his head. "No, I swear. Though I never got your story, I still think you should take it."
I rolled my eyes and took it, turning it over in my hands. This flip-flop had been responsible for a lot of what happened that summer. "Well, thanks. Though you know I'm coming back next summer, right?"
"Oh, I know. I'm sure I'll find another way to blackmail you into hanging out with me," he said, sounding confident. I laughed. "Anyway, in the end, things turned out pretty well for you, huh? You got the best friend back and the guy. What a finish."
"I don't know what you're talking about," I mumbled, blushing and turning my head away.
"Uh-huh. Well, just because I know when to admit defeat, and how to bow out gracefully—" Suddenly he broke off, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him he dart forward and peck me on the cheek. "—Doesn't mean I want to. Or that I will," he finished, a satisfied expression on his face.
My mouth dropped open and I didn't have a reply.
"See you next summer, Claire," he said, grinning before he turned and strutted off like nothing had happened. He lifted one hand up as he walked away, a final goodbye wave.
I stared after him, rooted to the spot although the ferryboat horn honked behind me impatiently. I pressed a hand to my cheek where his lips had been.
And so ended my summer stuck on a tiny island.
And, I thought, the start of many more to come.
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And the exciting announcement iiiis...Summer Skin will have a sequel! Yay! When I first started this fic I actually wasn't planning on one. I never dreamed that I'd want to take this story any further. But the fact is, I've grown attached to Claire and I think that there's more I'd like to tell :) You can go to my profile for more information. Thank you :D I'm looking forward to your opinions on the matter (though I'll be writing it no matter what anyone says :P)