At the Beginning a "Leave the Pieces" Outtake
I grinned as I took the last steps of my high school career and accepted my diploma. Looking over toward my family I could see that they weren't making a big to-do like some of the other families had as their graduate accepted their diploma, but I knew they were proud of me.
I had struggled through most of high school. Whether it was from too much structure or lack there of I wasn't sure. I only knew that after this summer I would be headed abroad. Travel had always been my go-to escape, even if it was just to get on my bike and head down to the lake. I was always headed somewhere.
When my parents found out I wouldn't be attending or even applying to college, they were disappointed to say the least. I had high hopes that though they seemed okay with my ambitious travel plans that they wouldn't worry too much.
Spending the summer with my sister and her husband, Carlisle, seemed to be the best segue way into adulthood. They had a spare room and had graciously offered to let me stay there before my semester abroad. Even though I wasn't going to study, I kept calling my trip that in my head because I knew I would be learning just the same. Unfortuately my parents did not see it that way.
"Nae!" My sister Esme shouted at me from across the gymnasium. She and Carlisle had driven up to Tennessee to see me graduate and I would be leaving to go back to Florida with them first thing tomorrow morning.
I couldn't wait. This was my chance to get away. To spread my wings and fly.
From the minute my feet hit the white sand of the Florida Gulf Coast I knew I had found the one place I would want to call home. Not that I had any intentions of settling down anytime soon, but maybe, someday.
I had gone to bed early last night, with the intention of rising with the sun this morning. My body had other ideas as it woke me up just before the sun came up, so I hurried to the beach to get a jog in before I spent the remainder of my day of lounging by the pool and having a lazy day at the beach.
Esme had married into money, though I knew that wasn't the reason she married Carlisle, I couldn't help but thank the fact that he came with many good things. Including a love for my big sister that rivaled most romance novels.
Carlisle's family owned many pieces of land up and down the Gulf Coast, but the one they had chosen to live in was just on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. Among the benefits that I could see of living here was the fact that there was an Air force Base just a few miles up the road.
I knew what Military men were like...love 'em and leave 'em might as well be their motto. While I wasn't interested in looking for a guy for just the summer I knew that getting involved with one would lead to a world I had only ever dreamed of. They were known for being uprooted every few years, but that's exactly how I saw my life. Some would call it nomadic, but I didn't quite agree with that term. I only saw it as accepting change, embracing it even and I was looking forward to the great unknown.
I had been out, wandering along the water for a few hours when I came upon the largest shell I had ever seen. At least a foot in length, I believe the technical term for it was a Conch shell, but I had only ever seen the small ones in souvenir shops. The shell was flipped so that the inside could be seen and I was looking directly at a living organism that was inhabiting this huge shell.
Though I wasn't necessarily a girly girl, I still had no desire to pick it up but I squatted down to get a closer look.
"You know it's illegal to take that, right?" A husky masculine voice startled me from behind. I had been so engrossed in the sea creature that I hadn't heard anybody come up. I turned around and was met with the most gorgeous guy I had ever laid eyes on. He was tall, with dark short cropped hair and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. Bluer than the water washing over my feet.
"I didn't know that," I whispered as I blushed. Thankful that I hadn't had any desire to actually pick up the sea shell.
"Yeah, you can pretty much take whatever you want from the beach except living seashells."
You could tell I had spent little to no time on a beach as I had no idea there was even such a thing as a living shell. I always assumed that if it was on the beach without water it couldn't possibly be alive. He must have seen the surprise, or was it a doubtful look I was portraying. Whatever vibe I was giving off, the poor gorgeous guy started to ramble on about the differences among several living shells that tended to wash up onto beach shores.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled with a shake of his head. He bit his lip for a brief moment before his tongue peeked out and I knew I wanted nothing more than to feel his lips on mine in the near future. "You must think I'm a complete dork for knowing all this stuff about shells, but I find the beaches here fascinating."
"No, I just don't have any reference as I've spent all of my life landlocked."
I giggled. I don't know where this guy was from, but he certainly wasn't a dork in my book. Not even close. No nothing about him screamed geek. His muscular physique and military style hair cut screamed soldier.
"So you're not from around here?" he asked.
I shook my head, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear that had fallen from my pony tail.
"I don't believe we've been properly introduced. Second Lieutenant Charles Robert
Swan the third."
"I don't think I've ever met a third before," I giggled as I held out my hand. "I'm Renee Marie Platt, the one and only." I smiled as he lifted my outstretched hand to his lips and softly dusted them across my knuckles.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Second Lieutenant Charles Robert Swan the third."
"Charlie, please...call me Charlie." He smirked, his eyes never leaving mine.
"Alright, and you can call me Renee or Nae. That's what my sister calls me. Oh shoot," I swore as I reached down to pick up the shells I had collected this morning. "She'll be expecting me back at the house for breakfast. It really was nice meeting you, but I've got to get back to the house."
Great, now I was the one doing the rambling.
"Can I see you again?" he asked as he reached out and caught my arm before I took off.
I looked up at him. Startled by his close proximity. I could smell his subtle cologne as it mixed with the sea salt in the air.
"I mean, if you would do me the honor of giving me your number I would like to call on you and arrange to take you out, Renee Platt."
The boy did know how to make me blush. I could only smile and nod as I recited my sisters phone number to him. Hoping that he remembered it by the time he got somewhere he could write it down.
When I didn't hear from Charlie for a few days I worried that he had forgotten my number and started to think I would never see him again. It was probably for the best as I didn't have any desire to stay around past the summer, even if he was the most gorgeous, sweetest gentleman I had ever met.
My thoughts turned to the morning I had met him. When I'd gotten back to the house to help Es fix breakfast she acted as if she could tell I had enjoyed my morning.
"Did you find anything interesting on the beach?" she asked.
With her enunciation of the word interesting I knew she had figured out that I wasn't flushed and breathing heavy just from my jog back up to the house.
"Um, yeah, I guess so."
"You guess so?"
"I found this huge seashell that was still alive."
"A living shell, huh? That's all you found?"
"You didn't let me finish." I loved my sister dearly and I wanted to tell her about Charlie, I really did. I just wasn't sure how much to tell her.
"What's with that blush? Was there a guy checking out this shell too?" she asked with a wink.
"Does he have a name?"
"Charlie. Charlie and Renee. That sounds like it has a nice ring to it," she laughed.
"Stop it. I'm not telling you anything," I joked as I playfully swatted at her with the spatula.
I didn't tell her about his full name or that his upbringing rivaled that of royalty and political aspirators. I kept that to myself and decided to enjoy the time I had with the handsome soldier.
Later that day Charlie called upon me and after a brief chat with Carlisle with Es squealing in the background I got an opportunity to talk to him.
"Sorry about that," I apologized. He didn't need my sister's husband acting like my surrogate father and interrogating him.
"He just cares about you, I don't mind. Listen, I was hoping you didn't have plans tonight. I know it's last minute, but I ended up with two tickets to some local band that's playing down at the pier."
"Charlie, it's fine. I don't have any plans tonight."
"Well then, would you be my date to the concert?" he asked and I could hear the smile in his voice.
"I'd love to."
Charlie picked me up a few hours later in a cherry red rag top Camaro and looked handsome as ever in his jeans and button up white shirt.
"You look beautiful, Renee."
He lifted my left hand and brushed his lips against my knuckles.
"Thank you," I whispered, sure my blush was in full bloom as I stared at Charlie.
He drove us over to the pier and the music could be heard from miles away. I was glad he'd left the top down, it made me feel wild and carefree.
Charlie had apparently made reservations at a little Italian place near the pier and we sat outside, enjoying the music and making small talk.
"So what brings you to the Gulf Coast for the summer?" he asked as soon as the waiter had left with our orders.
"My sister and her husband. He's studying under some world renowned heart surgeon for his rotations and they invited me along until I head overseas."
"Peace corp?" he asked as he realized I wasn't going to be here forever.
"No, just heading over there at the end of the summer to see the world."
"I hope to one day be stationed somewhere else."
"Is that why you're here? They stationed you at MacDill?" I asked. Not really sure how the military worked.
"Yes and no, they have a school here that I'm finishing up some classes at before they appoint me to my next base."
Our talk didn't turn much deeper than that and then it was time for us to hit the concert. The music was okay, but it was the liveliness of the crowd and the atmosphere that fueled my thoughts. I loved how alive it made me feel to be surrounded by the sounds and smell of the water, the music, the people and Charlie. He paid close attention and whenever I would shiver whether from the cold or just the chills from having him so close he'd wrap his arms around me and sway to the music.
On the way home he pulled off into a deserted old movie theater and killed the engine. We climbed over the back seats and laid there, staring up at the stars.
"I really like you, Renee," he whispered into the dead silence.
"I like you too."
"My thoughts aren't very gentlemanly right now," he admitted honestly as he lightly grasped my chin and turned my face towards him. "Can I kiss you?"
With a slight nod, his lips were on mine and all the passion I'd felt as we'd listened to the music with his arms around me erupted. I pressed my lips more firmly against his, wrapping my arms around his neck and leaning back, pulling him on top of me. My legs acted very unladylike and made a nice little resting place for his lower body as we shifted down into the backseat.
That night when he dropped me off at home, I was smiling from ear to ear and walked awkwardly up the steps to my room, thankful for a wonderful first time.
We spent the next two months together whenever Charlie wasn't in school or working. The love was there, but in the back of my mind I knew it wouldn't last and when I missed my period our time together came to a devastating end.
"Charlie, we need to talk."
"Okay, those aren't usually the words a guy wants to hear from his girlfriend." He tried to add humor to his words, but I could hear the fear.
"Okay, well let's go. I'm sure we can get you there and it's fine if you're a little late. Your sister won't mind."
He was so sweet. Poor, innocent Charlie.
"No, I'm late. I missed my period."
I saw the light bulb go off in his head. Then the scenarios I'm sure that went through my mind were traveling through his.
"Have you, taken a test?"
I shook my head.
"Well, we can go get one and then if you are we can get married."
"What? Charlie we can't get married. You have two more years before you're done with Officer school and I'm headed to Europe next month."
"So that's it, you're still going. Renee, you can't travel with a baby."
"I wasn't planning on it," I whispered. Hoping that was enough of a hint. I didn't want to have to come out and say it. He had to know that I wasn't the motherly type.
"You're going to-"
"You don't have to. I can take care of you," he whispered as he reached out and grabbed my hand. Pulling me toward him, I wrapped my hands around him and buried my face in his chest. The tears I'd already cried came back full force and we stood there in the moonlight each lost to our own demons.
When he said goodbye that night I asked him to give me a few days, but that I would talk to him soon.
Esme and Carlisle were in the living room when I got home and I knew I had to tell her, but I didn't want Carlisle around for that discussion.
"Es, can I talk to you?" I asked. She motioned for me to take her to my room and I shut the door before we both crawled into bed.
She gasped, her hands flying to her mouth.
"I'm sorry, I know it was stupid and reckless. We were careless and I told Charlie I would take care of it. I think he wants me to keep it, but I can't keep a baby-"
I was too busy rambling on about my sad life to notice she was shaking her head until I heard her repeating 'no' over and over again.
"You don't want the, baby?" she asked, tears running down her face. She stood up and rushed to the door. "Carlisle," she hollered. He came quickly, a worried expression on her face as he pulled her into his arms.
"What's going on here? Renee? Esme?"
"I think our prayers have been answered," she whispered and then smiled at me.
"I'm so ... what?"
"Nae, there's something we haven't told you." She looked at Carlisle and he gave her a little nod. "We've been trying to have a baby."
"That's great." I smiled, but she was shaking her head back and forth.
"The doctors, they told me I can't have children. That's where our appointment was yesterday and why we've been kind of keeping to ourselves since then. I didn't want to worry you with this," she explained.
"Do they know why?" I asked. It was cruel that she wanted a baby so bad and yet couldn't have one while I was given something I didn't even want.
"They spouted off several things it could be, but don't you see? This is a miracle, and they say God works fast. He really does." She was beaming.
"I don't know about, God," I mumbled. I was thinking about Charlie's little swimmers and all the times we'd been too careless to use a condom.
"Would you let us adopt your baby?" she asked, with hopefulness in her eyes.
"You want to adopt my baby?"
"Of course, you're my sister so it's half you."
"Es, I haven't even taken a pregnancy test."
"Carlisle, go get one from our bathroom, I think there are some in my bottom drawer."
While he rushed to their room to get the test, I tried to think about what this would mean.
"I can't stay here," I whispered. Realizing that if Charlie knew I was keeping it he'd want to be around for things like doctor's appointments and everything. What kind of rights would I have? Where would I stay? My parents wouldn't want to have anything to do with me, unmarried and pregnant.
"I'm sure Carlisle has some friends we could stay with."
"You'd come with me?" I asked, hopefully. I didn't want to do this alone. Was I really considering this? Yes. I was. For them, I could do this.
"Of course, sweetheart."
When Carlisle got back with the pregnancy test I took one and without a shadow of a doubt I knew my whole plan had been tilted on it's axis. The next morning, Carlisle put a call out to a friend in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma and Esme and I were on the first flight out.
Even though I never saw Second Lieutenant Charles Robert Swan the Third again, I knew I would always have a piece of him within reach. They say you never forget your first love, but I didn't believe he was just my first love. He was the missing piece that made me fit.
A/N - Thanks to PrincessKriss for being such an awesome Beta for both the full length story of Leave the Pieces, but all the other things I've thrown at her as well. This one-shot was supposed to probably go in some sort of a compilation but I just couldn't get it right until now. Thanks to the Country stars Tim McGraw and Thompson Square for writing such inspiring music. I don't own anything, just the time it takes to put the words together.